The story I’m about to share would be funny if it weren’t so awful. Well, okay, now that I’m no longer nauseous it’s has become a bit more comical.
After Bagan, Berdie and I headed to Inle Lake together with the intention of hiking to Kalaw a few days after. We had to wait a couple of days for the guide we wanted to be available so we explored the lake and surrounding area until he was ready. And this lake was SWEEEEEEET. So different from what lakes I’ve seen! It’s 7-12 feet deep, and 22 km long. And it’s a hugggggeeee resource. There are floating gardens around it, which are literally made from gathering seaweed into bunches with soil and planting things on it. Viola! Floating garden. And the fishermen that fish on it use very, very specific techniques. The use their leg wrapped around the paddle to maneuver themselves around, standing on the bow of their boats balanced on one foot while using both hands with their nets and baskets. We even saw children that were learning these techniques! Even what must have been a two-year-old. It’s a very old-fashioned and enchanting way of fishing. Berdie and I both were so content to just observe them, and could have done so for way longer that we had! These fishermen were also so photogenic. They became just silhouettes against the backgrounds of the hazy sky and hills behind them, the water of the lake so still beneath them.
Also surrounding the lakes were villages of bamboo huts on stilts. Some of them didn’t even have bridges or land (other than their floating garden yards, if you would consider that land!) connecting them to other houses. This meant that each of them had a boat that they would use to go everywhere! Such a different way of living. We were mesmerized.
We were also mesmerized by the way that these people use the water. It is truly such an important resource to them. Not only is it what allows their gardens to exist, or enables them to be fishermen, but it is the water they use for EVERYTHING. For laundry, for washing dishes, for washing themselves. We passed many women in their longyis (sarong-type skirts) tied around themselves under their arms, using water from the lake to pour over themselves. We passed many men crouched by the water doing the same. Almost every single hut had a string of laundry out to dry, and we watched many with their soap and piles of clothes. It was really eye-opening to experience for a lake as such a valuable resource.
Even at the end of our tour, our boat driver took out his soap, jumped in the lake, and lathered up! We jumped in as well, wishing we had brought our soap along too!
A perfect few days leading up to our trek. And this is where things start to go downhill…. (well technically literally uphill, but you know!):
So, this trek is something that I’ve been looking forward to since I started looking into Myanmar! It was supposed to be a really neat cultural experience. And I was leaving it to the end of my time here to make sure that my lungs were strong enough to handle it (meh, they did okay).
So day one of the trek was good. It was uphill, so a bit tiring, but really beautiful. We did quite a climb and the views were for sure worth it. And once we were up past the rocks and trees, we walked the rest of the day through farmland. We came across people working in fields, beating wheat on stones to separate it, using their ox’s to ploy their crops, letting their babies sit and play beside them as they worked. It was for sure an authentic experience, a real look into how people in Myanmar are living! The day of trekking was from about 10 am to 4 pm, with a few short breaks in between. Our guide miscalculated the distance for our lunch spot a bit (thankfully he brought lots of snacks), and so 4 pm is when we finally arrived for that. It seemed to be quite a nice place, and was only a short 30 minutes or so to the village we were sleeping at that night. So we took our time, enjoyed our meals, and when we were done we carried on. I didn’t feel quite right after eating, but the food in Myanmar is super oily and this omelette was especially oily so I figured that made sense. We were just in time to watch the sunset and paused to watched the sun disappear over the wheat fields and behind the hills ahead. We made it to the village just before dark.
Even though we had lunch quite late, the family had made a huge amount of food for us to eat a couple hours after arriving. But I could barely eat anything, despite the fact it was all delicious, fresh, vegetarian food. I was still so full from lunch! I felt so bad not eating anything, so I forced down a little bit of everything that was offered. I went to bed really feeling quite bloated and gross but figured I would wake up and be fine.
Just kidding! I woke up shortly after midnight reeeeeeeeeeeeeally not feeling good. I went out to the outhouse which was a nice long walk across the living room we were sleeping in, down the stairs, through the locked door (top and bottom locks!), around the house and through the pretty sizeable yard to the outhouse. And here, I threw
And if I’m being completely honest, it was a truly disgusting (sorry mom!). But after everything was out of my stomach I figured that would be it and I would sleep the rest of the night and be good for tomorrow.
Ha! And this is where it becomes funny-not-funny:
I threw up
9!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Between the midnight at 5 am. The 8 following the first were significantly less gross, but also significantly more painful and awful. My routine became….
Feel things out/be in denial due to exhaustion and dread
Face the reality and get out of bed and bolt across the room and down the stairs
Struggle with the locks and getting my shoes on
Open the door in just enough time to puke all over the yard
Convince myself I’ll feel better after
Sit on the edge around the house and involuntarily dry heave
Cry a little bit
Slowly crawl back upstairs and into bed
Convince myself it was the last time
And Fall asleep
Over. And over. Again.
I can only imagine what the neighbors thought of this clumsy white girl flying out of the house to vomit and cry repeatedly! Definitely not funny at the time. (D. E. F. I. N. I. T. E. L. Y.) But, now I’m able to laugh a bit!
The next day of trekking was deeeeeefinitely not happening for me, and luckily it was available for me to hop on the back of a motorbike (also not the best for being so sick though!) and get to the next village via that. I was super sad to not follow through with the trek and join Berdie while experiencing the countryside, but it was also a really cool hour and a half on the back of that bike! I saw so much, interacted with many people thanks to my driver who was friends with them, and learned a ton since he was a farmer and spoke a little bit of English! Once at the next village, I crashed HARD and slept the day away. When Berdie and John, our guide, arrived back they checked in on me, and although the worst of it was over and my spirits were up, I was definitely still not doing awesome. Thankfully the house was tiny and our beds were in the living room again and I was able to watch the action from being curled up in bed. The hosts were also super sweet and attentive, giving me a hot water bottle and encouraging me to eat some hot cereal (which I just couldn’t stomach!). The evening was spent chatting and playing around with the guitar and singing! I drifted sickly into sleep quite early.
In the morning I was determined to continue the last day of trekking. I got up, moved slowly, ate a little bit, and was for sure doing better. But, also not really. I started the trek and it was confusing. One second I was like
“I FEEL SO GOOD THIS IS GOING TO BE FINE”
And the next was
“OH NO I THINK I’M GOING TO PASS OUT OR VOMIT OR BOTH”
So, at our lunch break I called it quits and took a motorbike again to Kalaw, booked into a hotel with hot water and crawled into bed. I ate a little bit when Berdie was back, but unfortunately our last night together consisted of me being asleep or whining about feeling so bad (sorry Berdie!).
So definitely not the trekking experience I was hoping for, but at the end of it, I got a solid day in, met (and was taken care of by) two very nice families, had a guide that was helpful to me, had the company of a caring friend, and saw a couple of water buffalos in the river. So, I’m calling it a success regardless.
What’s travel without a horrible puking story – it was bound to happen, right? Now hopefully I’ve gotten it out of the way.
(Shoutout to Berdie who was so dang sweet to me while I wasn’t doing well!)