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Asia » Burma » Mandalay Region
December 20th 2014
Published: December 22nd 2014
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Dusty streets and stray dogs in the restaurants – it’s so good to return to places I’ve never been. The flight from Yangon to Heho was stunning, cruising at altitude above verdant hills, riven with waterways and lakes, forcing the lowlands to glisten in the sun. Then we landed with an almighty thump on the tarmac of Heho Airport, which proved to be an outpost of a disparate farming community. As we drove towards Nyaungshwe, I couldn’t hold a fluid conversation with the driver, as my eyes were glued to the passing parade of Burmese life. I saw slender female frames with a hoe balanced over their shoulder after a day of tilling the fields, with round conical hats upon their heads. There were ox-carts, makeshift tractor-carts, cars, overflowing taxis (which were tray trucks with sitting room in the tray, as well as on the canopy above, or you could just hang on to the rails and hope for a foothold), trucks and bicycles. They were all sharing the road, going in all directions conceivable, but it all worked because no one was in a hurry, so there’s no road rage, just hordes of people leisurely making their way to their destination.

To finally be approaching Nyaungshwe after multiple flights and airport layovers, the sight of Inle Lake cradled by the green hills either side of the valley was a welcome sight. I was where I wanted to be. After checking-in and writing to Caroline to let her know I was safe, I sought out some local cuisine. I ordered a beef dish and a bottle of beer, which totalled $4.20. What came out were ten dishes (ten!) and a longneck of beer. I couldn’t believe the amount of food, nor the price. I ate what I could, then stared in disbelief at all that was left and felt slightly awkward for leaving so much unfinished. There was rice, beef, nuts, a fish paste, vegetable soup, a plate of raw vegetables, dried fish, chili flakes, a hot sauce and something else that I couldn’t decipher or remember.

I returned to May Guest House and organised a boat trip out to Inle Lake for the following day and borrowed the owner’s guitar briefly, before heading to my room and sleeping in a bed for the first time in a couple of days, eager for the following day to begin.


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