Tag Archives: Lashio
Lashio, finally, my destination. What my guidebook dismissed as a slightly non-descript town (it didn’t even provide a rough map as if to enforce this sentiment), turned out to be pleasantly alluring, if only because it was situated against a hill, surrounded by forests and some fine temples. Getting onto the back of a motorbike taxi with my decidedly bulky 20 kilo back pack on, I tried to keep my balance as the driver sped up the hill in the now pouring rain to reach my somewhat non-descript (but perfectly comfortable) Chinese built hotel where, after negotiating a slightly lower charge (I was, after all, planning to stay one week), and dropping my luggage off, I set out to find a way to get to the Shan State college. I didn’t have to look far, for one thousand kyat (about $1.40 at the time), the hotel receptionist offered to give me a ride on her motorbike… Continue reading
For some years I had wanted to do something like this.
I had been to Burma six years before and, with hindsight, it might have been that taxi journey which stuck in my mind for good. I remember driving back to the capital, Yangon, from a few days’ blissful relaxation by the sea and as the car made its bumpy way up and downhill on this deserted road still under construction, it slowed down at one bend and I saw a group of girls, some of whom looked no more than ten or twelve years old, carrying large baskets full of rocks which they then deposited by the side of the road. Meanwhile, even younger girls would take these stones and chip away at them to make them small enough to then lay on the road, like a puzzle.
As we crawled past, one girl looked up at me. Her hair and lower face were covered by a scarf which protected her from the dust but I could still see round patches on her cheeks, smothered with tanaka, a protective and nourishing face powder which most women in Burma wear. She pulled her scarf down to smile capaciously at my puzzled expression and she carried on smiling as we made our way past. The taxi driver later told me these girls earned roughly the equivalent of 80 US cents for a day’s work.
As we drove on, I couldn’t get that image out of my mind. I couldn’t help that girl, but I couldn’t forget that scene either.
Now, some years later, following online research, I had contact with a church run orphanage in Burma which had offered me the opportunity to spend one week teaching English to a group of multi ethnic students in a college in the eastern state of Shan. I was to travel to Lashio, hardly a popular tourist destination and the last town in that direction that a foreigner could travel to without special permission. China lay another 200 km east. I jumped at the opportunity. Continue reading