March 16, 2009

Thazi, Myanmar

The small town of Thazi was like finding a little lemonade stand at the side of a long country road on a hot summer’s day. It was perfectly located between Bagan, from which I had just come, and Kalaw, which is where I was headed. I took the sound advice of another traveler who said it was a great place to break up a long bus ride and also a great place to just catch your breath from all the bumpy, dusty traveling.
Catch my breath indeed, but first I had to lose it. The second leg of my journey to this quiet place was in a local pick-up, where the women ride in the back and the men on the roof. When I arrived, the back of the truck was full to capacity with arms, legs, hats, fruit baskets and babies all lumped together in a colorful and friendly pile of humanness. The driver must have registered my initial surprise when they said that this vehicle would take me to Thazi because he offered me the empty and spacious passenger seat next to him for just $1 extra. Even though I thought that very kind, I graciously refused, instead opting to join the magnificent mosh pit of estrogen happening in the back.
My fellow comrades were quite amused as I finally got my limbs in a position where they wouldn’t be dragged and skinned on the gravel when the truck started to move. We would stop every hundred feet or so and pick up yet another passenger, and just when I thought that we had finally reached a physically impossible capacity, somehow someone would find someway. The whole scenario seemed quite normal for the locals, but for me, it was nothing short of miraculous (I unfortunately do not have photos of this, but I am sure if you saw my acrobatic cirque du soleil positioning that you would think it pretty miraculous as well).
My nice truck mates dropped me off on the side of the road with big smiles and parting hand waves where I then made my way to the only guesthouse, which felt like a little country store with squeaky screen doors, wobbly ceiling fans and plastic fly swatters. I took the hot afternoon as an opportunity, or an excuse rather, to lie in bed and read while listening to the sound of horses clank up and down the one paved road. I only ventured out in late afternoon to find my way to a tranquil lake, where I watched another sunset over another pagoda and relished being the only traveler in town.
As the sun’s last rays reflected golden hues on the surface of the water, my mind was reflecting on the strange details of the moment. There I was, with my legs dangling at the edge of a lake, in the middle of Burma, at a random roadside town, with only myself as company, and yet, sitting in my self-imposed bubble of global isolation, all I felt was peace.

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