On the trail of popcorn

Trip Start Mar 03, 2005
Trip End Apr 08, 2006

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Flag of Myanmar  , Shan State,
Saturday, February 4, 2006

Our host in Namhsan, Maysie, woke us at 6:15am so we could get a pickup back to Hsipaw. Tun Tun redeemed himself by persuading a driver not to drive back at night and instead wait until the morning so we could get a lift. The ride back was much quicker than the ride there (about five and a half hours compared with over seven) although it was much more dusty. Our driver was very friendly, and I liked it how he picked up a young boy and gave him a ride completely free of charge. The people out here really helped each other and it was great to see.

When we returned to Mr Charles' guesthouse in Hsipaw we put just about every item of clothing we had into the laundry and each had long hot showers. You can only clean yourself so well when using a bucket of water, no matter how warm it is. However unlike in Namhsan we had to wait, as there were other tourists using the facilities. It felt a little strange to see them again after nearly a week away!

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing, followed by a salad at Tun Tun's restaurant and some chapatis at a stall near the guesthouse. It was great here, sitting with the locals as they watched a kung fu movie. As much as I missed Namhsan I did enjoy being back in Hsipaw as it had a very unique and authentic atmosphere. We decided over the chapatis to spend another full day there, taking it easy by sleeping in, enjoying a western breakfast, visiting the popcorn factory and the black coffee house for another of Maureen's great capuccinos. Secretly, I was just looking forward to another day at Mr Charles' so I could chat with one of the absolutely stunning girls who worked there!

The following morning flew by as I relaxed on the balcony, and before I knew it it was time for lunch. Susan and I then decided to find the popcorn factory. It rated a mention in our guidebook, and some other travellers we met said it was definitely worth a look. We had a bit of difficulty finding it, turning left too early, winding up in someone's backyard mimicking exploding corn to bemused locals and then wandering down a muddy track in the middle of the countryside, but we were in high spirits when a little girl pointed to a house and said 'popcorn' in a very high voice!

It was certainly worth the trip, as a very explosive technique was employed by the family who operated the 'factory'. First of all, the corn was put into a small popcorn cannon along with some sugar, and this was rotated over an open fire for about 15 minutes. It was then taken off and aimed towards a small enclosure. One of the girls then dropped an axe onto the cannon and BOOM! The exploding corn was fired into the enclosure. Hilarious! Finally, the now popped corn was heated a little longer so it became crunchy.

We wrote in the guestbook, bought some popcorn and thanked the wonderful family for the demonstration before heading back to our guesthouse. On the way we witnessed a great sunset below a storm cloud and were later surprised that it actually opened up and rained. For dinner we went to Tun Tun's restaurant where his family prepared a vegetarian Palaung feast for the three of us. The northern Shan state felt very homely to us after eight days, probably because we were fortunate enough to have a guide from a small village who let us stay in his brother's home and meet his extended family! I felt a little sad knowing we had to head back to Mandalay early the next morning.
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