Kengtung (also written Kyaing Dong) lies in the Eastern Shan State within the area that is also called the Golden Triangle. Only recently one of the land borders nearby has been opened (Tachileik, Myanmar – Mae Sai, Thailand). From within Myanmar it is still only accessible by plane. Thus, the number of visitors is still relatively low and accomodation options for tourists/Foreigners pose a central problem for me here as well.
Turning up last year in Kengtung as my critical, sceptical, ever-asking self (this did not change much) I was lucky enough to run into someone who adopted me as his sister right from the start. He was super patient and helped me with whatever he could. His talent for taking care of people and organizing so well made me call him “brother/a-ko” during the first days. It is the term with which you would adress a male person around the same age. Only days later I randomly asked his age (learned from this experience to do it earlier now) and it turns out he is much younger than I thought (and he never said anything of course). As addresses solely refer to the age the proper term is “little brother/maung lay”. In general it is very helpful to always be able to address everyone in a very friendly and familiar way, an absolute door-opener.
Together we tried to find villages in the surrounding area where frame-loom and back-loom weaving is done. As we succeeded in that, Kengtung was set as part 2 of this ongoing research.
So, now I am here again. Thanks to mobile technologies my little brother and me were able to keep in touch during the past year. Nonetheless it is not a matter of course that he managed to organize a house for rent already and between his two jobs makes space in his life for my popping-up, too. We see familiar faces in the villages and monastery, check out the house and meet old friends in town.
This time the preparation is very different from field site 1. With the Myanmar I speak by now I can get along in Kengtung, but in the villages around several languages are spoken. This is also the reason why I chose this to be the second part – my hope is that I can find someone who can translate from Myanmar to one of the languages, as I cannot assume that English is an option here and as much as I would love to speak all of those languages myself I have to be realistic. Also, the fundament I could lay in terms of literature research is very sparse. But the organizational stuff that cost me quite some time in Mandalay is already taken care of and compensates it a little I hope.
Big thank you to my little brother!
Of course – one has to eat to live and as some people told me that they don’t really know what there is, I I will put a little bit of easy-to-get and easy-to-eat together.
Here are some of the vegetarian options (have no clue about correct English phonetic spelling…)
Bae Bau Si
Steamed bread with red or yellow bean filling (little sweet), mostly transported in a big aluminum box on the back of a motorbike with a loudspeaker.
Steamed (white or black) rice pancake mostly served with salt, oil and crushed peanuts and sometimes in the sweet version with jaggery filling. Spotted them often in front of pagodas, steamer made from pottery ware or aluminum.
Parati and Nan Pyar
Either savoury with a small portion of curry or beanpaste as a side or with sugar e.g. Most likely to find in Teashops or at their front. Parati is baked in some oil, Nan Pyar without.
Sweet thick fluffy pancakes topped with white poppy seeds (don’t have a picture at hand but will add it later). Various places: markets, pagodas and along the street.
Always good: Fresh Coconut!
Also good: fresh coconuts are always somewhere around, they will ask you whether you want to drink or also to eat them.
Do I miss something you would like to add? Please feel free to comment below!
Usually, it is a strange thing to do. In general, you don’t bring your parents – or any relatives for that matter – to work. But dwelling in the in-between of my professional and private life everything is different. Ever since the first mentioning of my mother’s upcoming visit to the people around me I am asked frequently when exactly she is coming. Everyone wants to meet her and “shake hands”.
Finally, she is here now. The first day in Mandalay we said hi at the anthropological department and the next day we toured most of the weaving sites that I frequently visit. For my mother everything was new, for me it was new to explain the different sites (a good chance for reflection) and everyone seemed very delighted that – as promised – we actually came visiting.
Some conversations and a lot of pictures taken later, we ended the day at the pagoda hill in Sagaing with Z.’s family. A very typical thing to do, whoever tells me about a special day or event – visiting a pagoda is always part of it and I felt very happy that for us it was the same now, too.
The pagoda area reflects this idea: It is not only a spiritual place that you visit in solitude and quiet for devotion, but it is also a lively place full of families, friends and couples. Street stalls are all around, selling flowers to offer to the Buddha or one of the shrines, snacks, handicraft articles and shiny Chinoiseries to take home as a souvenir.
Already in the past year, pagodas were always my first resort when I arrived at a new place. Because it is right in the middle of life, so that it is easy to connect here – which I feel is one of the strongest differences to the Christian churches I am used to, where silence is the most important thing to obey to and the holy area is not made to show it’s ties to the profane.
Thus, after showing respect to the Buddha there is also time to enjoy the view and take selfies.