I love good food, and luckily for me, a countryside lunch is already planned. Kwar’s friend / our ‘chauffer’ / local pop star, drives the five of us from Saddar Cave in eastern Myanmar to his bandmates home in the nearby countryside. It’s an amazing place, albeit not one I would ever want to live in permanently, since it’s a hot 40’C/104’F and there is no electricity or plumbing.
Water is pulled from the well and the toilet is a perfectly clean squat toilet over a pit– still, I like my western flush toilet. I also like a fan or air conditioning when it’s this hot. The home itself is a small, wooden structure on knee-high stilts, with a small porch at the front door and probably one or two rooms inside. It’s the hot-dry season, and until the rains begin, everything, including the home, is reddish-brown, the color of dust.
However, the location is so calm and quiet, since there is no noise from the road. It’s a peaceful place.
In this heat, the less we move around the better. We relax in a hammock and bamboo chairs under trees outside of the family home. A cow and her calf munch on hay nearby. Chickens peck the ground around us in their quest for bugs. However, I’m looking at the mango trees and Kwar offers to go fruit picking with me. Since the mangos aren’t quite ripe, I learn how to harvest and eat cashew nuts instead. We pick the green, fist-sized fruit with a green, thumb-sized growth containing the nut, while carefully avoiding touching any of the juicy, white sap, since it will burn our skin. Cashews are in the same family as poison ivy, and the oils cause an allergic reaction.
We remove the nut portion and burn off the fruity outer layer by placing it in a small fire. Finally, after it cools, we peel off the thin skin and eat the nut. Adh loves the nuts and burns her fingers three times, too impatient for the fire-hot nut to cool.
Our lunch of curried duck, fried frogs, and river snails is served on the wooden picnic table overlooking the deep fish ponds. The snails are Adh’s favorite, but for me they taste too much like river mud, and I’m not totally clear if they’re still alive. Maybe they’ve cooled since being cooked, or perhaps the liquid they sit in is just a marinade. The snails are removed from their shell by sucking on the shell opening really hard, and I can’t bring myself to suck quite hard enough. Kwar nicely mentions that I shouldn’t eat them, and I happily return to enjoying the crunchy potato chip-like frogs and curried duck. Delicious! Our beverage selection is beer and bottled water.
We laugh through lunch. Kwar answers all my food questions and we Adh entertains us with the sound of puhp every few seconds, as she sucks another snail out of its shell.
After lunch we relax some more before heading out to one last place, a monastery with a special rock. The place name sounds very similar to ‘chocolate’. While there, the sun starts setting and we watch the karst change color in the distance.
About I travel solo, but as always, meet people along the way. In this story, I’d met Kwar, Adh, and their friends at a cave a few hours earlier.
Location Near Hpa-An, Myanmar, located between the Mae-Sot overland border and Yangon.
Safety Safe area and foreigners have visited since at least 2012.
Just before lunch, we’d visited Saddar Cave.