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Journeys : Jun Jul 2012
June / July 2012 19 The Pearsons are the well-travelled owners of Hobart independent travel and adventure equipment shop Passion8. They plan, organise and lead our trip as a fund-raiser for the orphanage that they own in a remote area of north-west Burma. Their orphanage’s slogan is ‘CARE – a world without strangers’ – and indeed it’s the warmth and friendliness of people we’d never met before that is a hallmark of our travels in Burma. (For more on Cheryl and Nigel’s adventures in Burma and elsewhere, visit their website at w ww.passion8.net.au ). Over two weeks, seven of us ex plore several regions of Burma (officially called Myanmar) using a combination of mountain bikes, buses, small trucks and internal f lights, travelling with our wonderful local guide, Zaw Win Cho. Our f light from Melbourne v ia Singapore lands in Yangon (previously Rangoon) – we load the bikes, safely packed in large, heavy cardboard boxes, into a local plane and fly to our first destination, the ancient capital of Bagan. The journey unfolds as a kaleidoscope of colour, sights, sounds and unexpected experiences. Everywhere we visit, the beaming smiles and cheerful greetings we receive from local people is a constant delight. Each day’s ride is punctuated by a series of cheerful mingalabas! (hello s!) as we spin through villages and wave to passing cars and trucks, who sound their hor ns helpfully as they approach from behind. Bagan On the eastern bank of the Irrawaddy River in central Burma is a dusty plain dotted with several thousand temples and pagodas, most dating back to the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries AD. Could there be a better way to discover the pagodas of Bagan than in the saddle of a bicycle? After gliding silently in the heat of the day along the sandy tracks that link the clay-brick spires, we relish the chance to step into the cool shade of an open temple, with its five-metre Buddha statue. Sand paintings on canvas are laid on the neatly- swept floor – I choose a design showing the animals that symbolise the days of the week. Zaw tells me that I was born on a Monday and I’m delighted to learn that my birth-day animal is a tiger. Inle Lake Keen gardeners have their eyes opened to new approaches in this remarkable place. Balancing on narrow-hulled longboats, v illagers dig up rich mud and seagrass from the bed of the shallow lake, poling it into their boats until no freeboard remains. Rowing with their legs – a skill unique to Inle Lake – they return to their villages, which are built on stilts above the water, and create floating vegetable gardens using the fertile soil and vegetation. The lake can be windy - to stop the crop from drifting away, the gardens are pinned down to the bottom of the lake with bamboo poles. We cruise by longboat along narrow canals lined with uncountable rows of familiar- looking plants – Inle Lake supplies all Bur ma with fresh tomatoes. We stay in a cool and comfortable lake resort, built out into the lake – as our boat enters the lagoon and approaches the hotel landing, we are welcomed with drums, bells and pipes. Hpa-An Near this inland town in southern Bur ma, at the base of a sheer-sided limestone peak, rank after rank of larger than life-sized gold-robed statues, all w ith identical serene
Apr May 2012
Aug Sep 2012