Ruili to Myanmar and back!

Trip Start May 03, 2005
Trip End Jun 08, 2005

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Having arrived at Ruili, I find that it is very much as the Lonely Planet Guidebook says it is. Mind you its very different by day, to its sordid nightime activity. The heat here is tremendousl both at day as at night - Today its 35 degrees centigrade, which works out about 95 degrees fahrenheit.

The villages surrounding Ruili are quite poor, as I stood in one village yesterday, I noticed two local minority girls leaning over a well. I went to look, I saw their father twenty feet down the well, up to his waist in water, digging the silt and mud out of the bottom of the well and passing it up via a bucket on a rope to the girls who would throw it away. The water was dirty, the well small and the man worked cramped, as he attempted to make the well deeper to supply sufficient water for his family. There was no way, I would have even considered washing in it, nevermind drinking it, yet that was their water supply.

Water here is a precious comodity, everywhere, you see the government and agencies using it to water greened streets and parks, washing the dust off the roads, and cleaning the fronts of buildings etc, in the country the water is used to irrigate the land, to help raise crops etc, yet there is no clean drinking water anywhere to be had.

Clean water is piped to hotels, businesses, hospitals and main town houses but you have to boil it before you can use it. Those who can afford it are able to buy mineral water from the variety of small shops every few yards or if they have the option from supermarkets etc. The hotels have large flagons of clarified drinking water available in each room or at least a thermos of boiled water available on request, where as the poor, have to do with the wells, rivers and lakes. The paradox of prosperity in China, and in this region is stark!

Yesterday I cycled to the border with Myanmar, where I had a number of interesting thoughts and conversations with people, which I may share at another time. There is a large official looking border and customs post on the Chinese side of the bridge, about a two miles from the actual border the other side of the riveryet the river is the border - however the bridge and the town beyond it, are Chinese - A Chinese enclave of roughly two miles square jutting out into Myanmar. Whilst the border is open to nationals living nearby, who are allowed to cross back and forth, those Burmese bringing back goods into Myanmar and or Foreign exchange (pounds and dollars ), are taxed absorbantly by thier regieme.

At the far end of the town is a border post for individuals on foot, and 200 meters to the right a vehicle access point. China and Myanmar are separated by a green fence travelling from the river on east side of the valley, to the river at the west side. The fence which goes right up to the river is the official borderline, which in the winter, when the river is at flood is fairly secure, apart from the obvious holes in the fence, found from time to time. However in the summer with the river at its low point (like now), you can see quite easily why there is a problem with the smuggling of Jade, Drugs and other items, etc from Myanmar, and also, why the Burmese are can be found often smuggling basic items, such as rice, shovels, etc back to the the other way.

For a little while as I sat on the river border wall, where the fence ends and the river is supposed to be a barrier. My feet were in another country (Myanmar), yet my backside was in China. As I sat on the wall, I saw numerous individuals, all Burmese, crossing the border illegally with their basic goods, going back in to Myanmar. Climbing a bamboo ladder they made their way out of the People's Republic and into a land of darkness.

My thoughts, dreams and vision were provoked as I saw the remains of a load of rice lying scatered on the floow just over the wall on what was a dry riverbank. It must have come from a lorryload, as there were tracks showing a heavy load had been there, and the remains were obviously several bags that had split as they were thrown down into Myanmar.

Ocassionally as I sat there, a vehicle would drive past on the Chinese side, regularly passing as I sat for an hour or so in contemplation and prayer. During my time in Ruili and the surrounding villages, I have been able to see how life for the poor, particularly the Kachin (Myanmar name), Jingpo in Chinese, the Dai and other groups was very much a day to day struggle. Where the villages near to the town are being replaced by housing for the peoples, the villagers now find themselves living in what we would consider a small garage (car port) in the UK, and this is now home and a place of buisness to many - Many dreaming of their former village life!

Yet life in the surrounding villages is not really life, more a mere suvival - What is it the good book say's "True worship is this, feeding the poor, looking after the widow, etc"! Good news, what good news for these people?
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