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GATECRASHING A MYANMAR VILLAGE WEDDING!

PHOTOS ON TWITTER
First of all, apologies for the lack of photographs. Myanmar internet ia extremely limited and slow. And from my phone, I cant seem to upload images. But no doubt you’ll have followed my beautiful image series so far on Twitter @anishahbbc and Facebook A Niche World.

GETTING TO KALAW IN MYANMAR
Kalaw in Myanmar is accessible by car from Heho airport. Serious Trekkers can walk from Inle Lake. I take a short plane there.

SOECTACULAR PROPERTY IN THE MOUNTAINS
If you stay at Amara mountain resort in Kalaw, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a magical British summer garden. It’s akin to a quintessential English countryside manor home with landscaped gardens, delicious allotment growing strawberries, lettuce and bountiful blossoms painting the fairy tale a palette if vibrant fuscias & vivid reds. Picture-postcard villas are converted into spacious suites with a stunning communal lounge complete with library of books, for a lazy afternoon’s reading in the sunshine. Home from home, Amara was built this way, dating from the British colonial times in the country. It’s a British legacy I’ve seen all over the world, such as North India’s Shimla.

Frequented by Europeans, I hear English, French and German accents. It’s a hidden paradise and a true gem. If you can’t stay here, visit for afternoon tea in the natural gardens. I’m transported to an Oxfordshire summer home. And it feels great.

SUITE MORNING VIEWS
My suite opens up to views of sunrise through a scattering of tall trees. Watching the fresh sun rise over the mist-clad mountains, peeping through the trees to warm my face, casting a radiant glow over the village of Kalaw below, is unforgettable.

STUMBLING UPON A VILLAGE WEDDING!!!
Next morning begins a ‘light trek. ‘ A few hours in and few hours back out. The way in is rough and uphill. Uneven footing creates a challenging hike. But on our way along narrow lanes through vast dramatic mountain scenes and forest, a villager who owns a large orange plantation joins us. He tells us he’s walking up to the village to attend a wedding. My ears prick up, face lights up with glee. On the scent of a Burmese wedding, I’m motivated to get there.

ON THE TRAIL OF A MYANMAR VILLAGE WEDDING
At the top, the entire village is a ghost town. We follow the feint sounds of bells and horns. Passing wooden homes that house several generations of families separated only by a wooden partition, glimpses of local life are clearly visible. Glutinous rice dries on verandahs on bamboo platters, open doors reveal basic means, copper pots and pans are stacked up outside homes, dogs roam sniffing for traces of food, wooden homes are built on stilts, beneath which firewood sits; the foundations of a kitchen where meals are made.

FROM STRANGER TO 1 OF THE FAMILY; OVERWHELMING KINDNESS
Approaching, the sounds get louder. Children encircle an ice-lolly stand, choosing their treat for the day. As we approach the house, it’s clear the entire neighbourhood has convened here. I shyly and respectfully stand to one side. But the instant I’m spotted by two beautifully dressed traditional women, I’m ushered in to meet the bride! Thrust in front of her, I thank her and tell her she looks beautiful. After that I ask for photos. Within seconds I’m one of the family! I’m ushered into the house and served drinks, offered food and the talk of the town. Everyone is so incredibly welcoming and friendly, I’m made to feel right at home. As a guest, shocked the bride herself asks me to sit and , several times, asks if I’m ok and will eat. Her friends are all genuine smiles and beautiful glowing faces. My guide translates to say they think I’m beautiful. I instantly tell her no but that she really is. The genuine warmth and hospitality is slightly overwhelming and I’m moved to tears at the thought of leaving! It’s just not an experience I’m used to in England where the emphasis is always on privacy, solitude and seeking isolation. To watch an entire village come together, swap stories, laugh, cook and eat together, and open up their home to a complete stranger with such passionate feeling is simply beautiful. This experience I will never forget. In fact, I have vowed to somehow get my photographs of her, to her! My guide says she may visit again this year should another group of tourists want to trek. I’ve asked her to trace this girl with the photos and hand them to her. With such simple and basic means of living, they didn’t have a photographer for the day. It was and truly would be my honour!

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