Thursday, May 8, 2014

a wait in Kalaw

The Burmese government holds a monopoly over its people in regards to tourism. What that means is the following: taxes imposed on hotels and guesthouses are astronomical. Think above 150%. Rooms that in other South East Asian countries would cost between $5-8 US dollars a night, cost $25-35 USD.  And home or monastery-stays are strictly prohibited. All but in one 30-mile narrow stretch of land, that is.

That stretch of land covers vast green rolling hills, tiny villages, and fields as far as the eye can see.  And we thought there would be nothing better than to walk every last inch of it.

So together with Matt and Ruth, a couple we met in Bagan, we hopped a bus bound for Kalaw. Greeting us at the bus stop in the early morning hours of 1:30 was a little energetic old man nick-named Dance. He jumped and skipped as he spoke, excited to lead us to the hotel of our choice, and did a little jig every time we said his name. He said he was a trekking guide, and we wanted him to be ours.

"Dance? No. You don't want Dance to guide you," was the response we got from nearly every person we spoke to in the tiny town.

He's a drunk. An observation we failed to recognize on first encounter. However, his intoxicated state was easy to see every subsequent encounter.

"He'd have been fun for one hour," we all agreed after he approached us a second time asking an unintelligible question with slurred speech. But the other 50+ hours may have taken their toll.

Instead we hunkered down, waiting for the return of the most reputable guide country wide. And in so doing, came across gems easily missed in an otherwise sleepy town.

Take this mammoth grasshopper for example:

Or the super-sized tea they serve in soup bowls:

Then there's the random parade jam session:

And cave temples in which to worship:

But most especially these women, who have garnered our full respect... and then some:

1 comment:

Patti said...

Oh my goodness! I'm gone two Sundays and look what I missed. Your Bagan pictures are breathtaking, worthy of National Geographic.