I’m a keen adventurer with a passion for exploring foreign cultures and seeing how other people live. There’s really no better time than gloomy January to go for a walk on the wild side, so let’s forget reality and send our minds to Myanmar to explore Burmese homes.
There’s nothing more exhilarating than losing yourself in a hidden land, a place where you can’t be reached by modern technology, where few Western faces have been before and where no-one could possibly imagine what your eyes are feasting on. It truly makes you feel alive. I’ve never felt this more strongly than in the Burmese town of Kyaukme which my boyfriend and I visited two years ago.
By day the dusty streets are thronged with lines of orange robed monks, cheerful market traders and barely a Western face. By night, the town sings to the sound of spluttering generators that occasionally conk-out and plunge the place into candle-lit darkness. Imagine roads dotted with chapati flipping stalls, motorbikes, monks and a huge vats of steaming food.
From Kyaukme we trekked deep into the hills and forest, passing local villages where we stopped off for delicious lunches of noodle soups and sticky coconut bread. Traditional Burmese homes are hand-crafted from bamboo and wood and often sit on stilts above ground.
As the sun cast it’s pink glow across the hills and shrouded the land in a foggy haze, we arrived at our home for the night, a tiny tea-making village hidden in the Burmese countryside. Our guesthouse conjured up a delicious curry packed with vegetables plucked straight from their backyard and we were given a quick tour of the tea-making facility next door. I’ve never seen a night sky dotted with so many twinkling stars or experienced silence and darkness so acute. Truly awe-inspiring.
The next morning we continued our trek in the jungle, winding our way through villages so remote they can only be reached by foot or on a motorbike. Despite the torment that the country has endured and the suffering of its tribes, the locals we met showed the most incredible kindness, inviting us into their beautiful homes and treating us to their home-cooking.
Burma is a nation of extreme poverty and losing yourself in all it has to offer can be like stepping back in time. Tragically, for many of its inhabitants ‘home’ hasn’t been their sanctuary, their retreat from life’s hardships or their safe place. Instead, too many live knowing that their homes can be brutally torn away from them. With Aung San Suu Kyi’s party now in power, let’s hope things start to change and that these people can build safe, warm homes that they can treasure for life.