Yoga studies have made me consider feet. And the Burmese have some of the most handsome I've ever seen! The fact that they spend their life in thongs has a lot to do with it I think. Their feet are wide like a bridge, often being too wide for the average thong. And they have strong gaps between proud toes, not squashed or calloused by shoes that are too small or highheels. They are divine.
Despite their good-looks, the foot is a little maligned here. You aren't supposed to touch anyone with your foot and have to apologise profusely if you do. But in risk of becoming a social pariah (or just being considered a mad westerner) I've become obsessed by the beauty of the Burmese foot and have got anyone in the vicinity intrigued too.
And it made for a great conversation starter during the two day journey I've just done down the Ayerwaddy River. There, I saw a man with toes so strong they were like fingers and perfectly utilised in massaging someone's back.
The Ayerwaddy herself is a handsome and significant river. She has long connected the more remote and unreachable northern parts of the country with town centre Mandalay. The Americans and the British used her greatly in colonial times to ship up missionaries and ship out the teak, respectively. The missionaries were pretty successful because there is a strong Christian, particularly Baptist, contingent in the north; and sadly the river is still being used to transport the ripped-out wood today.
The north has been the most rewarding part of the trip so far. I took the 24 hour ride up to Myitkyina, which was quite comfortable in upper class. But the highlight was when I stepped onto the train platform and met a newly-wed couple - a Japanese girl and Burmese guy - who met and lived in Dehli. They'd come home to his parents to have their wedding blessed by the family's Baptist priest.
We met for a minute and they offered me a lift and by the end of the next minute, I'd been invited to the blessing. So in Burmese and I like to think true Christian style, I was a guest in their house, witnessing the prayers and speeches given by the family and joining in the hymns (in Burmese) to the couple. As you'd imagine, it felt pretty special to be a part of.
The next morning, I skipped to Bhamo on a bus. Not much to do in Bhamo except buy a boat ticket, drink beer and eat BBQ, so all was right in Caz's world. The next morning, I hopped skipped on the big barge back to Mandalay, meeting up with a previous travel companion, English Heather, by chance along the way.
We had a truely great time doing very little for a day and a half. We made friends with the kitchenhands, so mostly spent out time in the womb of the boat amongst towers of wheat bags drinking tea, tea, Burmese tea. The routine of read, drink, check out the scenery and show kids how to play with the camera was occasionally broken up by a stop at a village, which signalled it was time to eat. La dolce vita.
We had a great time with a local fan club too. They don't see that many of us up in the north and even fewer girls on their own. So we had a great time playing with the kids, taking pictures, allowing people to look at our books and photos (in Burma, they will just take your things to look at - nothing is private), and having our faces decorated with the local bark sunscreen / make up, called thanaka.
Heather sewed a bag, I ate Mangos with the smallest knife in the world (love you Lindsay) whilst English-girl drank tea with the biggest mug in the world, as mad westerners with strange ways do.
Plus we checked out the feet.