One thing I forgot to mention in my entry for Mandalay was our visit to the famous U Bein Bridge. Made entirely of teak wood, it stretches nearly a mile long over a river to the original capital, Amarapura. We strolled along it for a sunset viewing and others in our group took canoe rides under it. It has great historical significance in Burma. We took a bus ride to a mountain town in the Shan state by the name of Kalaw, which was a hill station during the time of the British occupation. In the summers the British couldn’t handle the heat and escaped to the hills. Our hotel was from that colonial era and was very beautiful.
I was sick with a cold so I spent a lot of time resting but managed to go for an evening walk with Rahul, ending up at a bar where they served shots of whiskey for 30 cents. I thought it would cure me but I was sorely wrong and it lingered for a good week longer. That night we were about to doze off when a rousing chorus of Christmas carolers echoed from the lobby downstairs and wound it’s way up the stairs into every nook and whether we liked it or not we were inundated with the sounds of the season. The Shan state has the highest percentage of Christians in the country so we weren’t too surprised by it.
In the morning we went on a long hike in the mountains where orange groves grow in abundance along with crops of tea and coffee. Along the way, we were invited into the home of a Palau tribes woman for tea and she demonstrated her weaving skills on a makeshift but effective weaving contraption. I bought a beautiful scarf from her for $5 and later gave it to Esther, a Dutch woman in our group, who was my secret santa recipient. We have some outrageously cute pictures of Rohan all dressed up in clothes that she made.
The next day we went to Inlay Lake, where I saw more tourists than I’d seen anywhere else in Burma. I spent one whole day in bed recuperating while the others went to a stilt village on the lake. The villagers there live in homes high above the water, most accessed by boat. I heard that they went to a cigar making cooperative and a huge Buddha statue, one of the four most holy sites in Burma. We found a restaurant that we really liked and we had dinner there all three nights we were there. The waitresses name was Lulu and she was a really spunky lady who spoke english well. We found out that her sister, Meu Meu, gave cooking classes and we signed up. First she walked us through the market where we got the ingredients for our dishes and she talked about their different uses and names. She was just as awesome as her sister and when we arrived at her house to cook we were joined by her husband who was equally as helpful and knowledgable. We learned to make various curries, salads and sauces.
We all ended up chopping up A LOT of onions, garlic, ginger and tomatoes which is the base of most of their curries. I really should have taken notes but I do remember that fish curry requires more ginger. There, I learned something! Fortunately, Rahul remembers all things food. After cooking class we drove up the hill to a winery. It was so weird to be at a winery in Burma. Somehow it seemed incongruous to the culture and, honestly, the wine was just ok but the view was great and Rahul noted that it felt a bit like some of the wineries he had been to in Europe. Me and Rahul, Rohan and Jill watched the sunset there with a brother duo from the Bay area whom we had befriended at the cooking class.