The first day we walk south along high mountains to Lupin. The views down into the valleys are breathtaking, and the tapestry of colours woven by the different crops – green garlic, red chillis – is quite beautiful. We poke our heads into a school with the express intention of distracting the students from all further study. The whole school is in one room, a corner for each grade. One teacher is overseeing it all as the children read and repeat from their books. To think, I get narky when the internet goes down mid-class.
We then “take a look” in the local monastery, which involves being offered giant heaps of fried sticky rice snacks and a neverending supply of tea. The monk lives here on his own, so his brother has joined him to help out and keep him company. Although he’s older, the monk is the better preserved – no kids and a life indoors will do that (er, and his faith, of course). Judging from the breadth of their grins and their reluctance to let us leave, they don’t get too many visitors.
Time to make our apologies as we head to the Danu village of Lupin for lunch. Our mysterious magic chef has somehow appeared before us and whips up a banquet – no worries that we’ll waste away here. Suitably fed and watered, we wait for the sun to fade a little before heading on to the Paoh village of Kyuksu, passing bands of Paoh people in traditional dress walking back from a festival in Inle.
Dinner in Kyuksu is by candlelight, for the chef as well as the diners. The darkness doesn’t faze our chef one bit, and we’re glad for the roaring fire – it’s cold this far up. After dinner we’re invited into a home to chat through our interpreter and drink even more tea. We’re told how beautiful we are, and how tall and how white, and introduced to each new arrival until the small room is crammed with about fifteen people all asking us questions from the candle gloom.
Once we’ve answered the same set of questions a sufficient number of times, attention switches to dressing us girls up in the traditional garb we saw earlier today, a loose black shirt and jacket over an embroidered longyi, topped with an elaborately folded dragon headscarf. I feel a bit daft, especially as I’ve jeans on underneath, but at least I don’t get the feeling we’re the twentieth tour group through that month. The local people do seem genuinely excited to host us, and judging by the volume and frequency of the giggles we’re pretty entertaining guests.
The conversation and candles eventually run out, and we fumble our way back to our quarters and sleep until first light.
From here on July 17th 2011.