Borders. Political divisions meant to separate one country from another. The first time I crossed a border was when we drove into Canada from the United States. Six year old me expected the atmosphere to shift as soon as we passed customs with another stamp on our passports. It’s safe to say that I was disappointed.
This time, when we crossed into Burma, I had no such expectations. At first, everything looked just as it did in the Indian side but as we drove into the first town, there were subtle differences that made Myanmar distinct. The language, the posters and most importantly the food. The lunch we were served on the Burmese side of the border was poles apart from the meal from the day before. A myriad of flavour exploded from each dish with every bite. I’ve taken quite a liking to sea weed!
At the restaurant we asked the guide about the white paste that everyone applies to their face. It’s a paste called Tanakha which is used as a face pack to protect the skin from the sun and keep it healthy. It is derived from the bark of a tree which is then rubbed onto a stone block (much how sandalwood paste is made).
On our way to our first night halt in Kalay City, we passed teak plantations, sunflower fields, golden stupas and adorable villages with wooden stilt homes. Even the rural areas seemed clean and well organized. One thing that immediately caught my eye was the lack of electric poles. On closer observation I noticed something wonderful. Almost all homes including tiny huts were being powered by solar energy! It was so inspiring to see how renewable energy sources are being used in rural Myanmar. If they can do it, why can’t we?
After checking in to the Majesty Hotel in Kalay, we decided to go for a little walk before dinner. Unfortunately most shops were closed because
a) it was a Sunday
b) we had arrived just in time for the water festival!
Mummy was determined to find the sarong that locals wear but most shops were either closed or did not have any in stock. Just as we had lost hope, we came across a clothing store where the shopkeeper had a bindi on her forehead. Mum got curious and using sign language, asked her about it. As soon as she mentioned that we were from India, a bright bright smile crept on to her face and she exclaimed “Hindu?!”. Hearing all this commotion, the husband came out to talk to us. Turns out they had moved to Myanmar from Nepal. How do we know this? He spoke Hindi. There’s something special about speaking Hindi in a foreign land. It’s as though we were aware of a secret no one knew about. We explained to them that we wanted to try out the local sarongs and even though they had no sarongs in stock, they offered us their own to try on. She even made the effort to find us ones that would match our shirts. Imagine that! It was hands down the highlight of my day