Jan Leeming

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Jan's Blog

Computers and the internet are amazing things. One of my concerns with putting together this site was that it could remain current, yet with all my travelling I've often much to say, but little time to say it. Years ago when reading the news it would take me days on end to reply to the kind letters people sent. Now, with the magic of the modern age, I can keep you up to date with what I'm doing and other events in my life.


Date: 6th November 2016


Today a short flight to Heho and then a coach ride up into the Mountain area and the hill town of Kalaw.

After checking in to the Dream hotel we were off for a short coach trip and a walk around a Hill Village. It certainly wasn’t what I expected – I’d imagined rustic huts and something fairly primitive but was met by rather expensive and modern looking homes – the answer was ‘Second Homes’. As the affluent flourished they wished to have a second home in the hills to escape the heat and humidity of the plains – just like the British did in Burma and India. My father, who was born in Conoor in the Nilgiri Hills of Southern India, told me how they would take the Ootacamund (the Ooti) ratchet railway further up the hills to escape the summer heat.

So it is the same the world over. When I bought my flat in a large Victorian House divided into eight apartments, most of us lived here, now only two do and the rest are weekender owners or holiday lets and the whole face of Deal is changing – in some ways for the good and in some ways not. And, of course, locals are being pushed out of the market because of price – a large sum to them is probably a year’s bonus to many a Londoner.

However modern their homes were, the villagers were still very welcoming and prepared a meal in the local monastery. As is tradition in Burma, the tables were only one foot off the ground. I’m happy to say that I could manage it with a few wriggles every now and again but some couldn’t and chairs were brought for them. The meal was predominantly vegetarian which suited me admirably – I love vegetables and the way the locals prepare them is ultra delicious.

Then we had a little free time to wander round the town of Kalaw and were told there was a market. By this time, I felt that I’d seen enough of them but by a happy chance I did end up there and it was the best market of the whole trip – open to the air, clean and with delightful people only too willing to smile at strangers. There were also a few souvenir stalls but not with tacky bought in stuff – all the sale goods were made in Burma from necklaces to silver and mother of pearl wear. I fell for and bought a lovely wood carving which was old (not sure how old) and had obviously had a home on a window decoration or a frieze around a dwelling. There were still vestiges of gold on the wood and the whole piece had charm and ‘called to me’. Later that evening, the hotel restaurant manager declared that my little carving was an ‘Angel’ similar to ours with the role of guarding us and keeping evil away.

We met some other tourists and discovered that though they were very much following in our footsteps there were certain experiences they weren't offered like the meeting with the nuns and tea with a weaving family.  Just You really does go the extra mile.

We dined in the Hotel that night. I chose Nasi Goreng – a hang over from the Dutch colonisation I suppose. There appeared to be a total mish-mash of flavours and cuisine borrowed from Thailand, India, China and other countries which border Myanmar. My excellent Nasi Goreng was 7 dollars and my glass of wine 4 dollars. The wine is local and surprisingly excellent and on a par with many New World ones.

Next morning we had a few spare hours and our Tour Manager had arranged an optional tour.  I nearly didn't go but am so glad I did.  We visited a Pagoda behind which is a cave absolutely stuffed with Buddhas of every size and description.  The cave is very damp and dripping all the time so we had to be careful where we trod as, par for the course we had to shed our shoes and it was very slippery.  Outside the cave there were many gold covered Stupas.  It is amazing that almost in the middle of nowhere you will turn a corner and be hit by the Bling of Gold.

Jan dwarfed by a Buddha and a monk http://www.justyou.co.uk



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