1st Dec 2016
British Colonial Hill Station of Kalaw
We left Bagan at 8am after breakfast expecting a 8 hour travel day. A brief stop after 20 minutes to see them processing peanut oil and palm sugar collection which is interesting to see, and this time I got to try the alcohol as I wasn’t actually driving There are some bonuses to not having the truck!
It’a lovely drive, passing through towns and villages, Watching the kids on their way to school in their dark green longyis and white shirts, the ox & cart making their way down the road, and daily lives in action. The scenery for the first part of the day is not the most inspiring and it’a ll about the people and the culture that you see. We stopped for lunch in a town with no name (on my map at least) and my guide was slightly shocked when I gave everyone an hour to do their own thing and find their own restaurant! He’s not used to our style of travelling, but he joined me to a restaurant and asked me about it. I explained the theory behind it, sharing the love between different businesses and giving passengers the chance to interact directly with the locals. Also, that when we have a big group it can take forever for one restaurant to feed 20 people, so much better that we split up and eat in different paces. It encourages our passengers to be a little bit independent too, although of course we are on hand if they really want our help. Usually though, people are happy to have some freedom and go together in smaller groups to work things out for themselves.
We found a restaurant showing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and I have to admit that Indiana Jones was one of my heroes when I was little and I still haven’t quite gotten over that love of his treasure hunting and adventures. Maybe those dreams of adventure are partially responsible for my lifestyle today.
We carried on up in to the mountains, heading for the old British Colonial hill station of Kalaw at 1,300 metres. The beautiful scenery on the drive up, coupled with the cooler temperatures makes this a pleasant place to spend some time. We arrive just after 3pm which gave everyone a couple of hours to go and explore the town. I introduced them to a good bakery which sells excellent coffee, and gave them a quick orientation, which when accompanied with a map meant they were well equipped to go and explore, even though it really wasn’t to scale. I headed out to explore a little more of the town, and then received a phone call from Piti. The tourist police had arrived at the hotel and were asking to see our passport. they had been informed that we would be using our own vehicle (still stuck at the border although we finally go the new Chinese registration licence today) so I think they were just being a bit nosey. I dashed back to get the passports to show them, and then decided to head for the hills to see if I could get some good sunset photos looking back over the town.
I walked out for approx 2.5 Km and although the photo opportunities didn’t quite materialise, I had some fantastic interaction with the locals in the area. So many welcomes and smiles, the children wanting to play and adults asking where I was heading and where I was from. The people of this country are truly some of the loveliest and kindest people I have ever met anywhere in the world, and they make this country a very special place to travel through. I’m afraid I nearly ended up with a Myanmar husband though, when one man shook my hand and then raised it to his lips for a betel-nut red teeth stained kiss, then wouldn’t let go for a full two minutes which left me wondering quote how I was going to leave without appearing rude! I made my escape as quickly as I could once he had finally let go!
Amazingly for dinner I found roast chicken and (not quite so roast) potatoes in an interesting sweet gravy… not to worry, it was very tasty and a welcome change!
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