Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Mrs Walk

After biting my nails all through breakfast, good news came in the form of Alabama Senate race. Buoyed, we set off on a full day's tour with our delightful guide San, visiting Shan villages and Buddhist temples, enjoying a lazy boat ride on the river, and stopping in at the royal residence of the last Shan prince. We also ate a lot of tasty snacks, including a morning bowl of tapioca (Burmese boba) topped with rice pudding and coconut and a bitter greens soup whose mystery ingredient turned out to be stinky tofu.
The Buddha appears in many forms. 
 I liked this Buddha with the elongated ears quite a lot.
 After lunch at Mr Wok, we took a long boat trip up the river to one last village.
It was really peaceful, and the water looked quite clean. Some villagers were bathing and washing their faces. Others were doing laundry.
Look at these mustard greens!
This woman made the best Shan noodles you've ever tasted. The noodles come from organic Shan rice.
Traditional Shan architecture is elegant.
The village has a well, so no running water. But many of the houses had solar panels and satellite dishes.
After the villages, we raced over to Shan Palace, which closes at 5 pm. We met Fern, whose husband is Shan royalty. She told us the story of the Oxford-educated Shan prince from Hsipaw, who disappeared in 1962 after the coup. 
Today we know the story of Sao Kya Seng because his wife Inge, born in Austria, fled with her daughters in the 1960s and wrote a memoir entitled Twilight over Burma. She lives in Boulder today. She is now allowed to reenter the country, thanks to a new administration, but will not allow her daughters to return until she finds out what happened to her husband, more than 50 years ago.
We learned about Shan Palace from "Mr Book," the bookseller I mentioned last night. He and Fern were both refreshingly direct and outspoken about recent history. Fern and her husband Donald, the cousin of the disappeared prince, have lived in the Palace since Inge left the country in the 1960s, to ensure that the military doesn't seize the property. Until very recently, local people were afraid to visit. She is one of 8 sisters, including a Charlotte; but despite this, her mother did not name them after Charlotte's Web.

If you are in Hsipaw, go visit and bring books and news of the world. You'll be glad you did.
 
With daylight fading, we raced off to Little Bagan, where there are several stupas and a monastery. Inside is this possibly smiling Buddha, made out of bamboo.
 Could there be a better omen than the Bodhi tree?
Finally, we could see no more, so we headed to Mrs. Popcorn's Garden. Unfortunately they had no popcorn, so we made do with fruit drinks. (Pam: They should take away the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for false advertising.)

It was a long, magnificent day around town. Thanks to San for making it so memorable and fun! When we return, perhaps she'll be Dr. Walk.