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A Palang hill tribe woman

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A man from the Shan tribe

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in the market place

LASHIO     I found Daisy, a guide, by the recommendation of a co-worker.  Daisy guided me to Lashio, northeast of Mandalay.  It was an 8 hour drive to this smuggling center between Burma and China.  The morning market began at 5:00 A.M. but I settled on waiting two hours before taking the tour.  I couldn't tell much that was sold there because I looked only at hill tribe women.

The Palang people intrigued me.  Some customs are impossible to comprehend.  The Palang bathed once a year and then they changed their clothes.  I took three showers a day whenever possible.  This custom made no sense.  The women's dresses were unique (very low cut).  If they had been clean, as they were in all the travel brochures, they would have been amazing.

The goal of the trip was to hike to a hill tribe village.  I never set that goal with summer heat and long distances in mind.   Daisy guided me up hill and we got lost.  A charming little Shan man, U Samot, guided us through the winding hill trails to our destination.  There was the concept of going the extra mile, but this guy was with us for miles and hours.  When we gave him 1000 kyat ($3.00), he was thrilled.  He should have been; a teacher's monthly salary was 900 kyat.

We were almost out of water and energy.   Fortunately, U Samot located an ox cart for us to take as a taxi.  One would have thought he would have then said good-bye, but he followed along beside us.  Good thing, too!  When the axle plug popped out and the wheel fell off, he was there with a machete to carve a new peg, install it, and send us warily . . . er, merrily . . . on our way.

Daisy's recommended I see the country by car and by train.  I trusted her. Silly me!  It was beautiful -- and painfully slow.  I couldn't imagine the cattle car section most people rode.  First class, and I really hated to call it that, was reserved for tourists with their guides, military men, government officials, and their families.  The seats were marginally cushioned.   Daisy said the trains hadn't been updated in twenty years.  I doubted they had been cleaned either.

   
Copyright 1998 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.