The train rocked and rolled it's way through the countryside. Golden topped pagodas where the local buddhists go to worship are dotted on distant peaks throughout the landscape. Farmers work the fields, children amuse themselves with whatever they can find to play with.
It wasn't long before the empty seat beside me was filled by a local man. We smile and nodded. Kind eyes I thought to myself.
A few hours in to the journey the train stopped. People got off to grab snacks and local food, whilst taking the chance to use toilets that haven't been sprayed with urine and whatever else as the train rocked and rolled on the old rails.
I stayed put. The man returned with a small clear bag of food. I looked enquiringly. He passed it to me and signalled for me to eat it. I nodded, smiled and pushed it gently back towards him. Why on earth would he give me the food he's just bought. He pushed it back, nodded, smiled and wouldn't take no for an answer. He disappeared and reappeared a couple of minutes later with his own portion. Wow. More beautiful selflessness from yet another of Myanmar's wonderful people.
A few hours later I tried to return the favour, but he wouldn't accept the meal I purchased. I gave it to Yael. Apparently the locals don't see it as right to take offerings from the tourists..... I tried.
As we passed by a stunning part of the country, the man beside me, who knew almost no English whatsoever gestured out the window....'Beautiful' he said, I nodded at him in, within half a second the nice gentleman's empty plastic bottle flew past my face, and out the window to settle in the 'beautiful' countryside. The irony of those few seconds made me smile..... But the plastic situation which causes havoc throughout Asia and the rest of the world made me sad. The locals don't even think. But until there are rules in place the countryside will continue to be ruined by empty snack wrappers and bottles.
As we crossed a huge bridge, spanning a deep wide gorge passengers hung out the windows to appreciate the view a little more. The train continued to rock, roll and shudder.
Ten and a half hours after leaving Mandalay we dismounted in Hsipaw (pronounced see paw).
Yael, Laura, Judith and myself sorted accommodation and headed out for food.
The next day we were going to book a trek. Yael booked a two night trek, whilst I joined Laura and Judith on a two day one night trek.
As we wandered the little town, carrying our bag of dirty clothes we asked yet another local, who happened to be working on an engine with his friends and possibly his mother, where we could find a laundrette. The oily handed lady, offered us a good price to wash and dry everything by 7pm. This worked for us. So we handed the unknown lady our clothing and wandered off to grab coffee. Just imagine dropping into a car workshop to enquire about laundry and one of the folks offering to wash your clothes.... Ha ha ha ha! I don't think it would happen in Europe or the US.
Hsipaw is nice. Like many Asian towns it has a market, one big pagoda, with other small ones dotted around here and there plus a monastery. Hsipaw also has a laundry lady masquerading as a 'grease monkey'.
Tomorrow we trek.