Trekking in the Golden Triangle
This journey – trekking to remote villages in the Golden Triangle of Burma – was documented by our guest, Anna Quarendon, who fell in love with the extraordinary beauty of the country and its people. Here is an extract from her diary:
We began walking past enormous banyan trees and supersized fig trees. As the day began a column of monks in their dark red robes filed past, and puppies appeared on the path which ran between houses of brick, that were unexpectedly substantial. We were led by Tun and Sawthakalay through the village and beyond, further up a track. It was warm and overcast and the day good for walking. Women flowed past us down the hill like a colourful waterfall, smiling women in their patterned longhis carrying woven baskets down to the market in the town. Later, they would climb back up again laden with fresh fruit and vegetables, and bunches of flowers with which to honour Buddha. The earth beneath our feet was rich and red, the bamboo tall alongside the path where pale lemon butterflies drifted.
A bus took us back along the road, past the patchwork fields of yellow, red and green – where women worked in the fields gathering corn, where children splashed in pools of earth red water and women washed their long dark hair. Small boys rode water buffalo and a man in a blue headdress rode a garlanded horse as he headed for a festival in a nearby monastery. Further along, men with ox carts piled high with cabbages waited by the side of the road for the lorry that would take their produce to Mandalay.
Out in the sunshine, we wandered through ruined temples, small children carrying smaller children still, pleading for us to buy wooden toys, up to the temple where a forest of golden spires pointed to the blue sky. Back along the shaded woodland path to the bus, stopping to buy sand baked rice. Washing hanging from the windows, people weaving in their front rooms, boys swimming in the river in tyres.
Our next stop was the Chaukhigyi Paya. The bus stopped outside a place which looked a little bit like a warehouse, with one side of the huge space open to a covered walkway, where monks walked, children played some kind of tag, and a flower seller sold garlands of fragrant frangipani, waxy and white. Beyond the entrance where we left our shoes was a sight that was immediately and entirely astonishing. The whole length of the room was taken up with a quite colossal reclining Buddha, which had apparently been reclaimed from a jungle of trees and plants. Hard to believe that something quite so huge could ever have been overlooked for it was gigantic. Brightly golden and rising tall, the body lay – the soles of the feet inscribed with intricate and significant symbols, the size of its ears indicating that we were in the presence of the all hearing. It certainly was a presence, like Burma itself – at once magnificent and extraordinary…
Anna travelled with us to the hills around Keng Tung in eastern Shan State as well as the Inle Lake and Bagan.