January 11, 2005
Thursday, December 18, 2008 at 2:31PM

Unnamed Guesthouse in Tanai, 6:03 PM (N25˚59', E96˚41')

We left Myitkyina about 9:30 AM in two old white Toyota stationwagons. Both vehicles had bald tires and a tape player. We checked out of the Aye Chan Tha Inn and paid our bill - $40 for Andrew and I and 40,000 kyat for the three other rooms. Essentially the same price, one foreigner room = three local rooms. Andrew has started measuring how much money he doles out in inches of bills. Much easier to keep track of.

Andrew, Saw Lwin, and I were in one car, and the rest of the team crammed into the other.  The journey started out on  a black-top, two-lane highway, and quickly degenerated to one lane, black-top road.  After about two hours we lost the pavement, and for the rest of the trip we were on dirt roads of varying degrees of bumpiness and slipperiness. The day was glorious.  Blue skies and temperatures in the 50's.

We stopped for lunch at about 12:30 in a town called Dumbang.  Burmese curries and a lot of dishes made from animal intestines.  I stuck with white rice and the occasional steamed vegetable. Throughout the whole meal the TV was blaring a Burmese sitcom of screaming kids, gongs, and cymbals, interspersed with Burmese dancing. I can't convey in words how loud the TV was.  Apparently Dumbang has reliable electricity 24 hours a day because a small hydroelectric generator was installed in the river. Loud TV all day long.

Shortly after lunch we entered a wildlife corridor in the Hukaung Reserve and the road started passing through several tracts of really nice forest. Andrew spotted a rattan and we stopped the car, grabbed a collection bag, and plunged into the forest. The forest was loaded with palms. [NOTE:  I resolve not to bore you with the tedious details of all the palms we collect, but if you will allow me this one time] We saw a beautiful Calamus guruba ("kyein ni", or red cane) with flowers, a Wellichia, and a very interesting Pinanga that Andrew has never seen before. We kept stopping the car, and although the drivers were very patient, it was clear that they wanted to get going so that we would arrive to Tanai before it got dark. We did arrive before dark, but just barely, and we were forced to press all of the stuff that we had collected by flashlight.

To paint the scene, most of the house in Tanai are made of plaited bamboo, on stilts, with either zinc or thatch roofs.  Most of the valley visible from the road is in rice fields, and there is a steady stream of bicyclists, and motorcyclists, and people with rice baskets walking along the road.  Most of the women have thanaka paste on their faces and some brightly colored cloth wrapped around their head.  Jewelry is a common fashion accent, as is the skirt with pants ensemble. Because of the cold in the evening, most of the men have on some sort of puffy coat - military surplus is quite common - and a wool cap. Everybody has those wonderful high cheekbones and is invariably smiling.

Two women with baskets just walked up to the Guesthouse where I am sitting on the front porch writing. Their baskets are loosely woven from bamboo and are big enough to hold several small children. They are barefoot, and have tied their shoes to the back of their baskets to keep them out of the mud.  It is starting to get dark.

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