Before this holiday to Burma I hadn’t ventured on a meaningful overseas trip for almost six years – which is far too long.
With travel comes knowledge, perspective and a renewed appreciation for the way of life we too often take for granted in the Western world.
On this journey my friends and I were overwhelmed by the generosity and benevolence of Burmese people, especially on our trek between Kalaw and Inle Lake.
Those we met are not rich in Western terms, but you begin to wonder just who is better off.
Subsistence farming prevailed in most of the areas we visited and at the time there was peace, enough to eat, and that was all people needed to be happy.
You begin to realise that most of the things that annoy or frustrate you in your Western existence are largely insignificant and ridiculous – and you return to that way of life in a totally different headspace.
A culture where I earn a living taking pictures must seem totally preposterous to the Burmese man who mines coal by hand.
I have the freedom and the resources to go and experience his reality, but I doubt he can even contemplate experiencing mine. He just needs to find enough coal to be able to feed himself and his family.
While staying overnight in a rural village on our trek, listening to the breathing of the family bullock below the bamboo floor, I began to list aspects of my culture which would be almost impossible to explain to our hosts.
Reality TV shows, golf, robot vacuum cleaners, black sambuca, leaf blowers, the necktie, triple filtered organic soy flat white coffee, Winnebagos, Paul the soothsaying octopus ….. it was endless.
I also wondered about Western health problems – we observed an almost total absence of obesity in Burma – but what about something like dietary requirements?
How would I get by with my intolerance to dairy products in rural Burma? I reckon I’d just have to harden up, like the 102-year-old woman we met during our trek.
Our guide Alex gave her the left over bread from breakfast – which she soaked in milk and then ate as she has no teeth (and obviously no access to dentures).
She thanked Alex for his generosity, laughed heartily when I took her picture and left us all a litle bit in awe as we wandered off up another big hill.
View the Facebook gallery for part III by clicking here.
In Part IV we reach Inle Lake, observe the unusual fishing methods of the locals and take the high road to Mandalay.