Friday, May 3, 2013

Getting my own Rahul in Inle Lake

Breakfast at the Palace
Typical Day in Inle Lake

(This is second of two blogs from Inle Lake. Delayed by lack of internet.)

Here was the scene in Mynamar’s Inle Lake, one of the most delightfully rural, watery, green places I’ve been. Other than the smoky haze caused by slash and burn time in agriculture everywhere here, there was a healthy feeling here of peace and life. 

The hotel was an architectural wooden delight with small villas on stilts though the view was currently low water and mud and greens. You walked back and forth on raised ramps and could watch lotus flowers open and close in early morning as day arrived. The principal building was standing on tamarind trunks and young people were embarrassingly helpful. 
Gathering the Hyacinths 
Girls dorm at Orphanage
But - there was no internet (a storm had wiped it out and it was never revived); very little electricity ( it went of periodically which meant the weak AC also shut down ), no cell service (nowhere in Myanmar on foreign systems), no international telephone service (10 dollars a minute); in general no acceptance of Visa, Amex, or any credit card (any effort at transaction at the places that “claim” to have Visa, were “denied” - not because the card holder didn’t have good credit, but because the store didn’t have a Visa account, I find out, or their machine wouldn’t read the swipe; no acceptance of US dollars (especially if folded or having certain numbers); and we were so short of cash, we had to borrow local currency from the local guide. What is a girl to do? 

The Orphanage Visit
A stilted Monastery
Get out of that place. (An hour and a half to the airport, where planes don’t frequent if there are storms.) Which we did... with a couple of special longhees and a lotus scarf....after a shaky night in a tremendous rain storm. When the lights go off in that place, it is tre dark, Luckily there was a flashlight by the bed. Banana leaves make big noise in strong wind and something broke loose so it sounded like a stage hand trying to make thunder with a metal drum. There was sufficient God sent thunder and cracking lightening as it was.  One could watch the continuous flashes of lightening in the sky (result of such a hot day), and wonder what was going to happen. Cable TV (the only channel one could really see was CNN when it did work), died, but still, local weather coverage didn’t exist, no weatherman taking over to tell you step by step what was happening and where the storm was going and how fast. No signaling App. Ha. Here you just prayed yourself through the old fashioned way and hoping the stilts held up, since that was all that was holding my villa up. The good news is survival, and the air cooled about 15 degrees, and we left at 7 in the morning on one of the marvelous motor long boats I had grown accustomed to.

Heritage House Lunch
Reclining Buddha in marble
The second day in Inle Lake had included a trip to an orphanage where the 30 children, many of whom have parents, are sent down from the hill country to be able to get education, like a boarding school. But there were also children with no families. The facilities surrounded by huge blooming orange-red flame tees were admirable, mostly built by contributions from foreigners and donations were encouraged. As we set in an open assembly room, various of the children, aged 6-18,  stood up one by one and told us their name, where they are from, their favorite hobby, and what they want to be (teachers, mostly, a doctor, and soldier - no NBA or NFL candidates - in fact, they didn’t know about basketball - I’m going to send a few Grizz basketballs and a net.)  One girl wore the jersey of her local volleyball team. All of this was done in a newly learned English. The teachers smiled. The children didn’t. They sat quietly, listening, and a couple asked questions. Only when they returned to their dorms could you hear the giggles and noise of children at play.

Your neck or mine?
Tibetan Prototype 
Back to the boat where after a half hour we stopped at a small fishing village where we could meet two of the hill tribe women famous for wearing brass rings around their neck (something that also was seen in Bangui, Central Africa and also in Northern Thailand). The woman asked if I thought she, with her ringed neck and headdress to imply a dragon, was beautiful. Of course, I answered. She had 25 bronze rings stretching her neck. She will never remove them. They are traditional signs of beauty which the men like. But her neck loses all muscle to hold her head up and it can be very painful. Do they itch or pinch? Yes, and she has a cloth between them and her skin.  Plus she wore silver bracelets up to her elbow and also about six bronze rings just below her knees. Not a comfortable thought to me. Both of the women - who are basically there for tourists - are weavers, and worked on the crude loom while we chatted through a translator. I asked if the younger generation are wearing the rings, but she said sort in a voice of disappointment that they don’t continue this tradition of beauty. 

 We weeded our way through boat traffic and the silt and hyacinth strangling of the passages for the boats to get to a temple where some sort of May 1st activity was happening. Too congested  to go there but I did get a glimpse at the other  huge gold royal barge which was docked in an enormous warehouse and is only brought out once a year, in October, when the king and his family spend 25 days visiting his village subjects. 
Buddha installed

The Other Royal Barge
The Rahul
We did pull up to another extraordinary monastery, only 150 years old, where there are 72 giant gold Buddhas, many prototypes of the region as well as for Tibet, China and Bhutan styles and a few actually in marble.  Most of the Buddha images are made with bamboo frames, then lacquered and finally pressed with sheets of gold leaf. This holy structure sits on 650 teak tree poles, the guide said.

Lunch was in a bouganvillae covered ancient and restored wooden house high up off the river but overlooking all the water activity as well as rich patches of growing tomatoes using the floating garden method.  An enterprising Burmese woman created the restaurant, called Inthar Heritage House and is known for its Burmese cats. Not to eat, please. The Burmese cat breed had lost its purity, and an Shan gentleman decided to bring back pure ones from foreign lands and re-create them where they once were. There are two special bamboo rooms where the cats revive and thrive. We sat on the outside deck, sweating, but a breeze blew through fairly often. All my favorite salads and another one of those fried whole fish (I asked them to please not serve it with the head looking at me) made me realize how accustomed I’ve become to the healthy Asian foods (vegetarian) and wondering how I’d be able to recreate the recipes in my own kitchen.  
The Drum at the en

On departure the next day at 7 a.m., we took the motorized long boat back to the dock (half hour) where we had first arrived. Our car awaited. Roads again. First we had to stop by the monastery to see our three Buddhas cemented in their niches. It was a moment of great laughter and friendship and I was able to give thanks to Buddha for allowing me in his land.  As we drove away, we had the unique experience of seeing another initiation parade coming down the narrow road,  a tradition of Sidhartha, where three young boys are decked out in finery and in this case put on beautiful horses (there ARE horses in these parts - rarely seen) which were also decorated, are paraded with dance and song and acoustics (some young men beat bamboo poles sort of like Grizz fans do when the enemy team is trying to make a free throw.) It’s a time when these youngsters renounce all worldly things and evils. It’s called Rahul in Myanmar - which means, I love this, “attachment is coming to rob me.”  We all could use a Rahu

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

AUDREY,
ENJOYED THE PHOTOS OF YOU. HOPEFULLY, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO HAVE ALL OF THOSE BRASS RINGS AROUND YOUR NECK WHEN YOU RETURN HOME. THEY HAVE TO BE UNCONFORTABLE AS WELL AS BEING UNSIGHTLY.
THERE IS A LOT GOING ON IN MEMPHIS TONIGHT AND IT HAS BEEN RAINING HARD FOR TWO DAY. SUPPOSED TO RAIN ALL WEEKEND. WE ARE BUILDING AN ARK AND OF COURSE, THERE WILL BE A SPECIAL SUITE FOR YOU.
THE GRIZZ CAN WRAP UP THE SERIES TONIGHT IF THEY DEFEAT THE CLIPPERS AT THE GRIND HOUSE.
THE MUSIC FESTIVAL STARTS AT 5:00 PM--THERE WILL BE A BIG CROWD--SHAME ABOUT THE WEATHER.
CONTINUE TO ENJOY YOUR ADVENTURE.
MISS YOU AND LOVE YOU,
GERALDEAN AND JUDGE

Anonymous said...

I know that the visit to the orphanage must have reminded you of the children's live you touch in Memphis. They keep a smile on their faces despite the trials and tribulations that they must endure. You really should write for a travel magazine. You pictures are awesome. I just figured out how to post on this site correctly. Have a safe journey on you travels.


Joponica S. Truitt