My Burmese Days
(with apologies to Eric Blair aka George Orwell)
Rudyard Kipling wrote: “This is Burma. It is like no other place you have been”.
My Shan house style bungalow on the water beside Lake Inle
Myanmar is enriching and enchanting. My journey into Burma, now Myanmar has taken me from Yangon (Rangoon), through Bagan and Mandalay across the Irrawaddy River and now to Lake Inle. Here on the lake it is serene, tranquil and cathartic.
There is no internet access, no mobile phone coverage, no ATMs or credit cards, no traffic lights, no reality shows, no talent or cooking competitions on television, no McDonalds, KFC or Starbucks.
There is no TV or even a phone in my Shan house style bungalow (above). Last night I watched the sunset over the lake and as the hue faded from the hundreds of colourful flowers that line the shore I resorted to one piece of modern technology and played Joan Sutherland’s the “Flower Song” from “Lakme” on my iPod. I think that this might be the closest I shall ever get to Paradise.
Today, I was invited by the head of a village on the other end of the lake to join with him and the other villagers in welcoming a new Abbot for their modest (Buddhist) temple. It is a major celebration. The previous Abbot had died recently and the village has been anxious for this new appointment. There are just three other monks in residence. The temple is a focal point in the village as it functions as school and spiritual centre. The villagers were keen to look after and fuss over me.
They are warm, friendly and generous and not shy to have their photograph taken.
Seated cross-legged on the floor of the school classroom beside the village hall, we shared lots of food - boiled pork, vegetables and steamed rice, eaten with our fingers and we drank hot green tea from plastic cups. Teenage boys in an ensemble played music at the end of the room, a combination of traditional and modern, western instruments. They sang patriotic songs that I’m told would once have got them arrested. “The Lady”, Aung San Suu Kyi has given them hope and optimism.
Despite the difficulties of uncommon language, we communicated with relative ease. This is a special place. I’m already planning to come back.