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« January 11, 2005 | Main | January 09, 2008 »

January 10, 2005

Aye Chan Tha Inn, Restaurant, Myitkyina, 7:24 AM

Happy anniversary to Kachin State.  At night they turn the electricity off in the hotel, and trying to get to the bathroom is a real struggle if you have forgotten to unpack your flashlight. Came down for breakfast at about 6:00 AM and had a bit of a communication problem with the young man in the restaurant. Finally, in frustration he ran off and came back with an English phrasebook called "English for Hotel". I pointed to the "I would like eggs and toast" line. I had to be careful where I pointed, however, because the line above it said "I would like a dry martini".

The hotel is on a rather busy street in Myitkyina. Unpaved, but still filled with bicycles, scooters, pedestrians, and cars.  Across the street is a restaurant run by the same man who owns the hotel.  All of the food is cooked across the street, and the waiters then have to dodge the traffic, plates in hand, to bring it back to the tables in the hotel.  It was also sprinkling rain early this morning so they also had to jump over puddles and dodge the splashes from the passing cars.  In spite of these difficulties, the breakfast was quite good and served with a smile. Each slice of toast was about two inches thick and the tea was mixed with sweetened condensed milk.


1:20 PM

Back in the room for a brief rest after lunch. This morning we visited Four Red Stars Co., Ltd., the largest rattan business in Myitkyina and learned, among other things, that: 1) there are about eight commercial species of rattan in Kachin State, 2) that two species account for the great majority of the trade, and 3) that one of the species, Mok Su Ma, clings to the host tree by means of adventitious roots from the stem.  No other species of rattan does this. Andrew says it's impossible, but he's excited to get to Shimbweyang to find out.

We now have a good starting list of rattans to look for and collect in the field. We expanded this list at our next visit, the Khin Soe Trading Co. The owner is a Shan women, very hard working, who owns trucks and is a major exporter of rattan to China. She is also a devout Buddhist and feels that her success is the result of her deeds in past lives.  She recently donated two million kyat to a local monastery so they could renovate their pagoda. In response, the monastery now lets her use the several acres of land around the pagoda as a rattan storage and drying area. She also installed a metal trough for treating the rattan cane with diesel (to preserve it) or caustic soda and sulfur (to bleach it). We saw some Mok So Ma cane in her drying fields, she confirmed that it grips the trunk of the tree with roots, and it is, indeed, a rattan.

We made a brief visit to the Director of the Kachin State Forest Department.  Very useful and we got to make photocopies of two 40 year-old books about Burmese rattans written by H.G. Hundley for the Forest Department. The works contain lists of local names of rattan and good information about the distribution of each species.

We then stopped by the Secretary of Kachin State's house to pay a courtesy call.  In his garden he had several beautiful examples of Paphiopedalum wardii, the rare Burmese black orchid. The Secretary is part of the Northern Command, and he is, essentially, the No. 3 man in the state. He was a gracious, laughing, and somewhat disheveled little guy in a rumpled longyi and flip-flops. I liked him immediately. We sat around his living room and talked about the old days and the original tiger surveys. We gave him a Hukaung Rattan Survey t-shirt.

Next we visited the Central Market to buy alcohol (for wet processing the plant specimens), field boots for those who needed them, batteries, and other miscellaneous items. The market was packed with Chinese army shirts, plastic tarps, transistor radios, whistles, and fake samurai swords.  Each post was staffed by either a young woman with thanaka paste smeared on her face or an older man with no teeth and a stocking cap pulled down on his head. Everyone in longyis, even those on bicycles.

7:30 PM

I am at the Manau festival finishing a delicious dinner of barbecue chicken and fried noodles.  They just had a fantastic fireworks display, and the place is swarming with indigenous Kachin in their traditional dress.  Tomorrow we head off to Tanai in the Hukaung Valley.

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