Two men in a boat

In writing this from a Burmese winery high in the hills anove Lake Inle. The Burma rose is particularly good…….

So of course I did what most tourists do here. Hired a fisherman from the local Intha tribe to ferry me around Lake Inle
KuTu had no English to speak of but he took me to all the spots.
Silversmiths. Blacksmiths. A silk and lotus fabric factory (I didn’t know you could make cloth from the fibres of a lotus stem..4000 for one scarf)

A local cigarette “factory” where three women were making roll ups containing tobacco, honey, herbs tamarind and brown sugar.
I had to try one, not to be rude.
…..hang on isn’t brown sugar slang for….? Oops
All these places were in small workshops in houses built on stilts over the lake
At the moment they are real businesses but in time I suspect they’ll just be tourist locations.
All for show
A monastery on the lake where the monks have trained cats to leap through hoops for little rewards. Cats seemed pretty happy when I was there although i didnt watch the show im told and if they dont fancy being feline basketballs they just go to sleep.
At one point Kutu demonstrated that peculiar way of rowing the fishermen have here.

They stand at the end of the narrow boat with a long paddle dipped in the water
They wrap their leg ,snake like, around the paddle and -making circles in the water – power the boat forwards
But it was when we took a side creek towards an isolated village that he really showed his skill
The creek went through a series of small weirs , ranging from about a foot to three feet in height
The centre of the weir was marked by tree trunks just wide enough to allow a narrow boat through with inches to spare on each side.
With an oath of ” you are kidding me…” from a frightened passenger convinced we were about to ram the trunks, KuTu made it through every time
He didnt even slow down
I turned round to see him sporting the biggest smile I’ve seen yet in Burma.
And that’s saying something

Back in the Hills

Apart from the on board musical entertainment, the bus journey from Bagan to Inle lake in the Shan province was another moment to treasure.
You head east along the plains and flooded fields where farmers still plough driving teams of white oxen across the red earth
As you climb higher into the jungles and mountains the villages become scarce.
The houses are made from bamboo and palm leaves. I saw kids pedalling on an ancient water pump to get drinking water.
A school football match where all the players were wearing the longhyi skirts.
After four hours we stopped for a meal in a lonesome village
I had rice , pork , a Mandalay beer and a Mandalay Rum (the waiter asked if I wanted the bottle..my kind of people)

It cost me three quid
Which means maybe I won’t run out of cash and be stranded here forever
Because that would be a terrible thing ..

Back in the hills

Apart from the on board musical entertainment, the bus journey from Bagan to Inle lake in the Shan province was another moment to treasure.
You head east along the plains and flooded fields where farmers still plough driving teams of white oxen across the red earth
As you climb higher into the jungles and mountains the villages become scarce.
The houses are made from bamboo and palm leaves. I saw kids pedalling on an ancient water pump to get drinking water.
A school football match where all the players were wearing the longhyi skirts.
After four hours we stopped for a meal in a lonesome village
I had rice , pork , a Mandalay beer and a Mandalay Rum (the waiter asked if I wanted the bottle..my kind of people)

It cost me three quid
Which means maybe I won’t run out of cash and be stranded here forever
Because that would be a terrible thing ..
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Love in a bus

Another epic bus journey lasting nine hours brings me across plains and mountains to Inle Lake

More on that another time

But I wanted to post on the bizarre Burmese music videos that play NON STOP on a big screen above the driver.
Today I was forced to watch highlights of a guy I assume is Burma’s biggest “rock star”
He’s about 60. With grey hair and appalling teeth.
Voice isn’t that bad though, if you like your Burmese music in a high register
They showed highlights of his beach front concert. And it was packed out
I thought Johnny Hallyday was odd.
But he’s musical heaven compared to the bloody videos they show incessantly.

Always the same
Moonstruck boy meets girl. She either dumps him or turns out to be married etc
Boy walks around fields/sea shore and in one case a DIY store looking sad and distracted
Staring into the middle distance
Then he goes to her house/place of work and tries to give her a flower/gift.
Usually that happens in the rain and he is inevitably rejected. So he stands on the rain….looking into the middle distance
This happens in every video. . In one of them a guy actually dies of a broken heart and comes back as a ghost…and gets rejected again

Absurd

Who dies of a broken heart?

A spirits Spirit

One if the more curious elements of Buddhism here is the incorporation of Nat worship
They are 37 spirits of people who have died violently or unnaturally.
They predate Buddhism but King Anawrahtra decreed they should be part of the official system of Buddhism so that he wouldn’t alienate people who venerated them

Although he decided there were 37 Nats on reality there are many more
Cycling through the countryside here or even in the city you wil see little shrines or doll house like structures built to appease the local Nat.

In houses they will have un husked coconuts with a red turban representing The Lord of the Mountain
Tree spirits believed to cast influence over a village will be represented by red and white ribbons
They are everywhere here.
But my favourite Nat has got to be Lord Kyawswa
He’s from Mount Popa an extinct volcano which gives stunning views of the plain.
He’s also known as the Drunk Nat who spent his years cockfighting and drinking.
He’s known to say “if you don’t like me avoid me,I’m a drunkard”
He’s the guardian of gamblers and drunks
Ill pray to him …

Pics of Nat shrines ,,.

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