03.01.2017 - 03.02.2017 96 °F
We arrived in Mrauk U after a short flight from Ngapali to Sittwe and then 3 hours by car. The contrast couldn't be any greater. Mrauk U sees few tourists - Kelsey said the book says about 5000 per year. Our guide today said numbers are way down due to fighting in the Northwest of the state. The town itself is hot and DUSTY. The dirt is like powder so all manner of disturbance sends it flying. We are not sure why, but the children have all been greeting us with a hearty "bye bye" instead of a hello or a mingalabar (hello in burmese).
We spent the first day just stumbling around town and even out in the country a bit. Pretty compact area so not too far to wander. Couple pics of the stupas and surround we found by accident:
Had dinner last night at the hotel that consisted of one bowl of sweet sour soup (massive), one plate of sweet sour noodle with burning awesome sauce, one giant beer (640ml) and the the topper - one rum. Not a mixed drink - an entire fifth of rum they brought to the table. So then of course we had to add a coke to the order. Sum total - less than $8usd.
Today we took a boat trip up the Lemro river to visit a few Chin villages - mostly known for their "tattooed ladies". The practice of tatooing their faces (eyelids and all) was once a coming of age ritual and considered a sign of beauty. This is no longer the case and the younger generation no longer partakes. The last of the tattooed ladies are in their 70's and are happy to receive tourists and sell you their wares in exchange for a photo. I felt seriously uncomfortable taking their picture so aside from the one below where I posed with them, you would be better served to google them. The posing came after buying a weaving from one who was a pretty slick saleswoman. The primary things happening on the river seemed to be harvesting and transporting of both bamboo and rock. All by hand. Boats would be anchored in one spot and one/two people would dive below to fetch river rocks by hand and come up to toss them into the boat - 2 or 3 at a time. All day. The bamboo they would cut from the hillside and slide down to the river, stacking in huge bundles and arranging around a small panga-like boat to form a bit of a barge I guess. A little bit of fishing was happening as well - small fish. I think we would call them minnows.
Tomorrow we go back to Sittwe for a flight to Yangon. Two nights there and then back home. This has been altogether different. More so than any place we've been in a long time. I am not sure if western culture just hasen't reached Myanmar or if it has and they have rejected it. Either way, I couldn't be more grateful for the hospitality we have been shown and I hope the Burmese people maintain their obvious pride and confidence in who they are.