A Land Lost in Time
If there is a place in Southeast Asia where one can truly say that “time has stood still,” that would be Myanmar. Of course Rangoon is a bustling metropolis and Mandalay is a thriving commercial center, but… in the hills and lake shores of the Shan State, while drifting along the mighty Irrawaddy River, marveling at the timelessness of Pagan’s temples or strolling on the pristine Ngapali beaches; there is no doubt that one is thrown into a terrain that has changed very little in centuries. There is rapt imagination in this lost world.
After spending a day touring the mystical temples of Pagan, while dusk was slowly approaching, my wonderful guide took me to a secluded village nearby. (Much of today’s Myanmar still exists as in this village.) As the evening approached, shepherds returned home with their small herds of sheep and goats, and the dusk was kicked up over the setting sun. We spent some time there before entering the village at the local watering hole, watching young girls in bare feet collect cisterns full of water to be hand carried to their homes. These girls make several trips for their family and elderly neighbors, as this is the only source of water for the village. I asked why the girls were doing this hard labor, and was told that the men were in the fields tending the animals. These village people were not used to seeing Westerners and were curious but shy. This, however, all changed when I came around a bend in the village to find a group of young boys playing soccer in a sand lot, proudly wearing Barcelona and Real Madrid jerseys. We kicked the ball around and they immediately invited me into a fevered pitch of a game… all barefoot what more! This brought on a few onlookers, and great excitement soon spread through the village.
It was a wonderful moment; in so many ways it represents the real Myanmar and the pace of life outside the big cities, evoking images of a time passed.
All this was affirmed the next day as I drove again at dusk back to Mandalay. Half way through the trip, the headlamps in the car failed. For a moment this was a real concern, but quickly passed as I realized there was hardly another car on the road. Why would there be? Time was standing still and I was somewhere, on a road, in the heart of Myanmar, lost in the magic of that country.