Dirty doctors

Trip Start Jan 02, 2013
Trip End Apr 25, 2013

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Flag of Myanmar  ,
Monday, January 7, 2013

we moved to Kinpun at the base of the Golden Rock monument today. After lunch we embark on day three cycling. What an amazing day! We spent the day off road cycling along rocky dirt tracks, through streams and villages.
we stop to explore one of the rubber tree plantations along the way. the trees are planted in rows and each one has a section of bark cut away in a spiral shape around the trunk with a halved coconut shell nailed into the bottom. In this collection dish the thick white sap of the tree slowly drips. it doesn't stick to fingers but you can lift it rather like the skin of home made rice pudding.
As we continue along the dusty road we come to a village as the junior school finishes for the day and are almost buried under beaming giggling small children. They trot along side our bikes for a considerable distance before peeling off to their woven grass houses. Everyone is so friendly, coming out of their stilt houses to smile and wave at the huge white people.
In Myanmar the women and children paint their cheeks and sometimes entire faces with yellow paste. It is made by grinding the bark of a specific tree against a stone with a little water sprinkled on and apparently holds the key to the unaging and youthful faces of the Burmese. I'll sent it home by the case load ladies.
We cycle through a stream and all of a sudden Jonny shouts 'Snake!'. He takes a picture of the black and white beast from a distance with the zoom lens and we retreat to a safe distance.
Myanmar has 52 types of venomous snake and the world's highest death rate from snake bites. The two lingering children who have accompanied us since the last village say that snake recognition lessons begin at a young age. They are aware of a very dangerous black an white snake that kills humans within hours and everyone quickly decides that Jonny's discovery is indeed very dangerous and we should move on.

We plough on through the dust and stones until we reach the bridge we need to cross the river but the middle section had collapsed so we have to ride our bikes through the most shallow point we can find. Khin goes first effortlessly gliding through, Jonny follows but for some inexplicable reason the river sinks deeper along the path he takes and he grinds to a halt having to put one trainer clad foot into the water, then both when his wife collides with him. We both have to complete the trail sipping wet and Jon with only two thigh burning gears.
We stop at a roadside shack on the way home for glorious beer. In these shacks which line the roads of Myanmar there are tiny stools, very rarely full sized seats. It was initially a bit awkward for the six foot three Dr Whittle to lower himself down and get back up from these primary school height stools but it gets easier with practice, rather like yoga. The little tea house is inhabited by six men, two dogs, three puppies, a hen and eight chicks. Outside is a tree which the locals are very keen to show us. It's a cashew nut tree and they use a big stick to knock down a fruit with the nuts dangling beneath it, disguard the cashews and hand us the delicious fruit which strips the enamel off one's teeth but had a gorgeous bitter sweet taste. Our guide says these people are sitting on a lucrative tree, the nuts could be sold to the nearby hotels but they don't realise the potential.

That night on closer inspection of the days photos, I discover that the snake is in fact a strip of cloth. Jonny insists that it was a dangerous reptile until he is shown that it is not striped but indeed checked.

The following day with rather wobbly legs we set off to climb up Mt Kyaiktiyo and reach enlightenment by visiting the gravity defying golden rock. This is a huge pilgrimage hot spot for Buddhists who come to stick tiny squares of gold leaf on the enormous rock. Trucks crammed full of devoted pilgrims with their picnics ferry everyone up to the summit but if you are a foreigner you have to travel in a tourist only truck which costs four times the price and get booted out half way to make the top of the mountain on foot. Burmese government sure know how to make us feel welcome.
The 45 min hike is murder on the Achilles and not remotely fun or enlightening but the summit view is quite breath taking. Unfortunately tradition has it that only Jonny can approach the huge boulder as women are not permitted on the closest platform. I wait patiently whilst being asked to pose for photographs with various groups of Chinese tourists. Not sure if it is the tall white European thing or if they think I'm a celebrity. I once had a patient in ITU who thought I was Kiera Knightly but he had just woken from coma after drinking a litre of antifreeze.
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