In the Magical Land

This lake is really beautiful. In the morning, when we were riding a boat to the local market, it looked dreamy, the mountains surrounding it – smoky with low-hanging clouds.
The lake is oddly shaped. Its largest part looks like a lake, but then it narrows into river-like sections. Also, it is quite shallow. Now, at the end of the rainy season, it is 5ft deep, before the rain, it was only 3-foot deep at the most. Maybe that is the reason why in its narrow part, the lake looks more like wetlands than a lake. It is so full of lush vegetation that “roads” had to be cut into it for the boat traffic to pass. The roads a lined with reeds, tall grass, and areas of lotus ponds.
After about an hour, we arrived to the bank where a local market was held today. If Bagan market was ancient, this was prehistoric. We climbed out the boat and hopped between piles of fresh manure left behind by the oxen who pulled the carts with the goods to be sold on the market.
The people at the market were both from the lake and from the mountains. The mountain tribe that made a 2-hr walk from the village to here is called Pa’O. WOmen of the Pa’O tribe wear three-piece outfits consisting of a skirt, a longer garment worn as a top and over the skirt, and the third layer of a shorter garment, similar to a man’s jacket. The clothes are black save for the thin red thread running through the jacket. On their heads, they wear mostly red and yellow plaid throws wrapped around their heads to make turbans. The tribe originally came to this area in the 9th century, from Tibet, fleeing the land devastated by war. They believe, their ancestors were the Mother of Dragons and the Alchemist, whose child was an egg, from which the first Pa’O sprang.
This was another world!
I actually dared to buy some food here – two deep-fried doughy thingies, quite delicious, and costing me 10 cents each. Prices here are for the locals, not for tourists.
That was all I bought, and from here, we navigated our way back to the boat among already drying manure, and then headed to the weaving workshop where the long-necked women of the Kayan tribe work and live. Actually, the Kayan tribe itself lives on the lake, a 3-hr boat ride away, but the four we saw here came to stay on the lake to make some extra money from their weavings, but mostly, from the tourists gawking at them. We were told they don’t mind the gawking because they are very proud of their beauty and their culture. And beautiful the were! With their long necks outfitted in shiny brass rings, they looked like exotic birds. Their distinct haircuts, headdresses, and outfits complete the picture. The oldest woman wore 25 rings, and the young girl had only 4. The rings and the knee ornaments weigh something like 15 lb. I wanted to buy a ring of 18 they had on display, but at $750 a piece, I demurred.
After that, we had lunch on the lake, and visited another monastery, another pagoda, and walking between some stupas and temples in the jungle, in an Indiana Jones setting. Tomorrow, we are leaving this magical place and going back to Yangon.

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