The Traveling Tell-All

The CWILL BC question of the week is about traveling.

When I started thinking about past travels, I remembered a hike that Min, Sandy (my sister), and I did on our last trip to Burma. We wanted to walk the trail to Kyaiktiyo, a tiny pagoda perched on a balancing rock on the top of a small mountain.

All of our Burmese relatives told us what a difficult hike it was — five challenging hours, they said.

This is what we said: “Yes, Auntie. Yes, Uncle. We’ll start early in the morning. We’ll go carefully.”

This is what we thought: “We’re from B.C. There’s no way a four-hour hike in Burma is going to be hard. And these relatives… the ones who are telling us it’s challenging? They’re senior citizens.”

Well, we set out early, as instructed. But not early enough! What we had failed to consider in our B.C. to Burma mountain comparison was the heat. Hiking through tropical jungle, for the record, is NOT the same as hiking through temperate rainforest. Three-quarters of the way through our hike, Min had taken to drinking fresh and probably bacteria-infested palm wine with the locals along the trail, and my fair and redheaded sister was doing her best imitation of a tomato.

We staggered… literally staggered… into Kyaiktiyo. We circled the pagoda, found ourselves food, and flopped into our guest rooms. And then, at five in the morning, we discovered the the monks at Kyaiktiyo see some sort of relationship between the balancing rock and the sunrise. So they parade. With drums. At 5 a.m.

We walked down the mountain the next morning with an American backpacker who was the epitome of all that can be wrong with an American backpacker, and a group of young Burmese men with whom we compared animal sounds.

Did you know that in English, roosters say cock-a-doodle-doo, but in Burma, they say “ow-ee-ee-ooo”?

All it takes is a little stroll up Kyaiktiyo to find out.

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