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  • We took a trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake.

    Once in the mountains, our guide talked freely about the country - from the internal politics of the junta and its locally fostered opposition to the farming of the fragile ferrous land which is endlessly hand tilled. There used to be Burmese tigers roaming this area but it's been greatly deforested and there's little to stop the fertile topsoil sliding slowly into Inle.

    That night we stayed at a Buddhist monastery. If you can't find anywhere else to stay in Myanmar then the monks will put you up. The first think we noticed was that - aside from the local women who were working at sunset to pound the earth into red bricks - there were no adults. The one senior monk who lived here had a stroke two years ago and is now resting indefinitely in a hospital in Yangon leaving his pupils behind. Four young monks, no older than 13, have the run of the place.

    We slipped off our shoes to inspect where we were going to sleep for the night. The monks peered over the balcony and laughed at us. One of us had worn sandals and after a day traipsing through the red dust it had left a stencil, like Burmese tiger feet. One of the boys stood away from the rest and looked toward the setting crimson sun.

    I wondered whether he was contemplative, melancholic, angry or lost.
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