By Sacha Bunnik
After a full day exploring Bagan and some of its temples it was time for Amie and I to head out of the city and spend some time in Myanmar’s (formally Burma’s) countryside.
Our first stop for the day was to a small local palm sugar farm to watch them harvest the sugar and to sample it, of course. It’s not as sweet as our cane sugar in Australia and has a strange nutty aftertaste, but still nice to experience to see how and what they use it for.
We then headed to one of Myanmar’s rural villages. Here we visited a village called Shwezidai, home to approximately 450 people. Without electricity or running water in the village it was like taking a step back in time. They still grow all their own food and live in thatched houses.
We also visited the local school, which was built by foreign aid. Here, Amie with the help of our guide Thynn gave each local child a snack.
We toured the village for an hour visiting different people’s houses and seeing how they live, their animals and what they were growing. As we were leaving we passed a group of girls on their way to the local well to collect water for the day.
Such a striking moment of how different life is to what we live in Australia.
Our last stop of the day was to Mount Popa, a monastery built high up in the mountains. To be honest we didn’t actually visit the monastery itself – rather enjoyed the view of it from a distance given it is perched high on a cliff.
It is possible to climb up to the monastery but it’s only accessible by a steep staircase with over 700 steps. If that wasn’t a deterrent in itself we definitely decided to stay put when we learned that you must climb barefoot, all the while being cheered on by a troupe of monkeys and sidestepping their droppings!
Instead we enjoyed the view and explored the small town at the base of the mountain. Here we were able to shop for local souvenirs, see the monkeys play and have a cool drink, which was a lot less work than climbing up the mountain.
You can visit Myanmar on our 13-Day Myanmar Discovery small group tour.