The village is awake early here in Kawkariek. It’s 5:15am, the sun is bright and the piercing groaning and rattling from the trucks shakes through into your bones. I pull on my bright pink body covering poncho, pull my dress down past my knees (to fit in in conservative Myanmar) and go to wander the morning Market.
I look left, I look right. Scooters are everywhere. They are on the wrong side of the road. They are pulling out from the road side at any angle. They are carrying 2, 3, or sometimes 4 people, all sandwiched together. No one is wearing helmets. They seem to almost overrun the small village. They go wherever they want to go. It’s quite tough on the brain so early in the morning having to watch out for your life like this. But it’s all ok. They sound their loud blimmin horn to let you know they see you. Wherever you go. A piecing horn follows you.
The Market is loud, noisy, haphazard, frantic, smelly, super dirty, but I love it.
I buy a huge hunk of watermelon for 10c and say no to a bag. I bite into its juicy goodness and it runs all the way down my hands and off my elbows. A few young girls giggle at me. I smile back at them as the juice drips off my chin.
The Market is full of fresh fruit and veggies and I struggle to find the raw red slabs of dead animal flesh rotting in the already hot sun. I’m suprised, and feeling really glad. I marvel at the bright colours of the appealing looking veggies and I buy a selection of cucumbers, tomatoes, mint, parsley, basil, corrinder, and lemons. All of that set me back 50c.
It looks yum, and totally appears Vegan.
There’s the similar rice noddles in sweet soya and sticky rice delights as I see all through SE Asia. So delicious and totally Vegan.
I feel like I’m in Heaven.
I buy a few pieces – they’re only 10c each! I buy one of everything, from different stalls around the Market. I need to share the love. And I believe it would be rude not to try their delights. Everyone is so friendly, so so smiley and they appear to love that I’m eating their food.
Ok that I’m devouring their food.
No ones seems to be walking and eating like I am though. No one. But they all point and smile boldly indicating their approval. I feel welcomed and approved.
I almost stumble into my new short friend from last night. He is very excited to see me again.
I tell him that I’m going to stay another night here, the words tumble from my mouth.
I had been struggling with the idea to stay at the same place twice, feeling like I needed to keep moving. However a deep part of me quietly whispered to me
“Stay. This is what you love so much about travel. There’s no rush. If it feels good, then do it.”
I recognised that voice, or more so I recognised that feeling.
From past experiences I knew I needed to honour that feeling. It was what you might refer to as your initiation, your gut, your higher self.
The real you.
It was never the loud voice in your head, but more the deep quiet knowing, more a slight feeling than a self assured direction. I knew if I followed that feeling, it would guide me safely and into the best experiences for me.
I realised the power and importance of following my intuition over 10 years ago when I first set off on my first real solo backpacking experience.
I arrived in Bangkok in a 4 person dorm and went off exploring on my own, despite the social scene I was invited to at the Hostel. I went to bed early as I wanted to be up early to run and get out adventuring, and I remember just feeling funny about the Thai guy in our room.
I vividly recall him giving out cookies to the guys in my room. I politely turned him down.
I also remember waking around 2 or 3am in a slight panic and finding my small backpack with my valuables in it that was on the edge on my bed, and reassuringly putting my feet on it and then went back to sleep.
I woke early and went for a short run, the heat already stifling.
As I came back into the room I noticed the Thai guy and all his gear was gone. The young German guy sleeping above me the night before had shown us his jail cage lock for his large backpack, gloating that he’d left it caged like this for over 6hours at an Airport. It was unable to be stolen, he’d told us.
There was no backpack in the room.
I panicked and tried to wake the German guy
“Did you put your backpack somewhere? It’s not here. Your backpacks not here dude!”
I can barely wake the guy, he’s groggy, and seems like he’s not even sure where he is.
I run downstairs and notice all the staff are still asleep. They look up at me and then put their heads back down to sleep. It’s awfully strange. By this time it’s almost 7am.
As I go back upstairs again the German guy has come to life and in a almost scarily droning voice, almost like he’d had a stroke. I have no idea if he’s speaking English but he certainly isn’t expecting his bag to be gone. He’s frantically searching for it in our tiny room. He’s wearing tiny boxer shorts and that appears like all he actually has to his name now.
I go back downstairs to tell the staff and everyone is in a half groggy, half frantic state searching around the room.
“What’s happened? they ask.
“My laptop is gone!
All the money is gone!” they cry out.
I tell them about the bags missing upstairs and tell them I think the Thai guy in my room has done it.
I hear crying and a kinda wailing noise coming from upstairs. I follow the sound to where the lockers are. All the doors are open, and the broken locks are scattered on the ground. A Japanese woman is in hysterics in tears being consuled by a guy.
She turns to me “Did you have anything in here?
I shake my head no.
I recall my in the middle of the night scramble to find my backpack, relived.
But I strangely feel guilty. I’m hurting for them.
More people come upstairs and see that the lockers have been broken into. Shocked, distraught and angry, the whole Hostel wakes up and people are in a fluster trying to make sense of what has happened.
From what I can gather it appears I’m one of the very few that have not been impacted.
I help the guys try to log onto their bank accounts to stop their credit cards. Everyone is so drowsy from what seems, being drugged from the cookies the Thai guy gave them.
I shudder at the thought if he’d managed to steal my bag. Day 1 into my trip and pretty sure it would probably be over before it started.
After I help as much as I can, I get out of the Hostel. It’s a horrible place of destruction and devastation.
I reflect on my feelings about the Thai guy, about why I didn’t join the party and why I woke at 3am to grab my bag. It’s a huge learning experience about trusting my gut and going with my feelings.
I realise my intuition was guiding me, and I honour to listen to it throughout the rest of my 6 month long trip.
It obviously protected me.
Sometimes I was successful, some other times I didn’t listen and I paid the price. But I was always successful in learning.
Travelling as a woman by yourself in a foreign developing country, my intuition is what I take heed on the most. And it would be my number one tip to get in touch with if you want to travel solo.
Some people think it’s risky, careless and sometimes plain stupid for me to travel alone in such developing countries. I think it could be if you didn’t listen and honour your intuition.
I’ve travelled solo through the UK, Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, Australia and NZ. If you want to view the World as dangerous and risky, and focus on that, then that is what will happen. I believe my intuition will keep me safe, that the World is abundant and I go beyond other people’s fears and limitations. The Universe looks after me.
And it’s no surprise as that’s now what happens to me.
What you believe about the World is reflected back at you.
Anyway, I digress…..Let’s get back to Kawkareik.
So After 5 days of solid riding, I slip on my walking shoes for a march around the village as the sun is setting. The big beautiful towering trees were a bloom with red and white sweet smelling flowers, lining the red clay road. Women holding hands with young children walk with their long beautifully patterned Longi’s to the local Wells to wash. Most homes don’t have running water so the wells are the local washing and cleaning areas. There appears to be different rules for men and women regarding undressing and washing. I sneak looks at the women trying to wash themselves and feel confused and sorry for them. How can they really be clean trying to wash themselves covered up so much?
They appear to be happy and in good spirits, but it does make me wonder how women are viewed in Myanmar. I’ve already seen topless Men and boys but I haven’t seen any Women with shorter than below the knee length skirts or dresses. They dress very conservatively here.
But having to wash yourself in public, whilst trying to cover yourself as much as possible, seems to be tough.
It’s really Fascinating how different cultures can be.
I smile, wave and say ‘Mingalabar’ to everyone I see. There are many young boys energetically playing football or hacky sac on the side of the road (or sometimes taking up the whole road) yelling, laughing and hooting in joy.
Their bodies are lean and their skin is very dark from the harsh sun, or perhaps from their ancestry? Some of them look unmistakingly Indian, although maybe Bangladesh? And I see the sure signs of the Chinese. Wow fascinating.
However It sure appears to be a Man’s game. I didn’t once see a young girl or women playing with them.
A girl about 10 cycles past me with another much younger girl on the back. The are both beautiful with glossy hair, big radiant smiles, wearing flowery dresses with sparkly clips in their hair. They cycle next to me as I walk, curious and intrigued.
Hello and thank you are the only words in Burmese I currently know.
I tap my shoulder and say “Andrea” and then point towards the girls and ask “name?”
They repeat “Andrea name”
Whoops! It makes me giggle as I realise my mistake, but I smile and nod at them reassuringly.
I walk past groups of older men sitting around smoking cigarettes on tiny wooden chairs, women nursing small fires of plastic bags, leaves and other household rubbish, and large humped Cows tied to wooden poles looking at me with their large, brown eyes.
After an hour I walk back towards the main road, the smell of smoke now wafting throughout the village. A tall lean guy wearing a white Muslim hat cycles up alongside me on his rickety bike. He startles me and I look over to smile at him and he has a look of annoyance and anger over his face. He gets off his bike and walks it next to me. He tries to speak to me in Burmese, his tone harsh and he throws his hands up at me.
I do a quick body scan. I’m wearing 3/4 big baggy pants and my top is loose and covers my shoulders. I’m not inappropriately dressed.
I don’t feel good about this guy.
Interestingly there’s no one else around us and he’s almost shouting at me by now.
He reaches out and grabs my arm, firmly, forcibly.
I shake him off by throwing my arm and I turn towards him, scared, but I strongly yell out “no!”
I walk a bit faster now trying to shake him off.
He follows me.
I look around for other people. I see two muscular looking guys wearing singlets walking towards us, their brows narrowed, and for a split second I’m concerned they’re with the other guy. I walk swiftly towards them, I’ve now really picked up my pace. They look back at me with a confused and potentially concerned curiosity on their faces. I may have scowled at them. I’m really giving off that infamous ‘fuck off’ vibe I’ve been knowing to perfect.
As a street on my left appears the guy with the bike makes a lot of unhappy noises, puts his leg over the old bike and takes off up the road.
I’m a little shaken, but happy for the experience, being it keeps me always alert to what could be.
In fact, I tend to have ‘interesting’ experiences being newly in a country….
My first time to Bangkok the Tuk Tuk driver belts out “I’m going to kill you” as he weaves furiously in and out of traffic before I can calm him down and pretend to go along with his request and then take off as soon as he stops.
In San Paulo we accidentally cycled through a Favella, were chased down by two large angry guys and had machine guns threateningly pointed at us demanding what we were doing there.
And in Nigeria after landing in Lagos late at night my personal escort/Driver pulls off the main road and we drive into a baracade of armed Men (the country is notorious for terrorist kidnappings.)
To name a few…
And just like I told you about my first solo travel experience in the Hostel that was drugged and robbed – they’re just experiences that force me to tune into my intuition, to be shown and aware of the risks but then force me to choose to focus on the desired positive experiences.
Because what you think about, you bring about into your World.
What you ultimately believe will come true.
I know the World is not all sunshine and rainbows, but I do wish to focus on what is good in the World. This is the reason why I stopped watching Television about 7 years ago, and especially never the News. I don’t wish to invite the negativity and terror into my life, and to permeate my subconscious. I believe it’s madness to allow the media to dictate what you’re told and how you view certain experiences and activities. If it’s important enough I will find out.
I know I feel immensely more positive and peaceful since I stopped the brainwashing negativity monster from subconsciously running my life.
And yet again I digress….
Back to my walk through the dusty, dirty, clay streets of Kawkareik….
So I walk briskly back to the Guest House, scoop containers of water over me to wash, and settle into my room to enjoy the faint blowing fan before the town’s power turns off at 10pm. And the town plunges into a thick, hot, silent, darkness.
I’m aware I’m close to a restricted zone (that you’re unable to travel through) and I plan to cycle east tomorrow.
However not knowing about what these zones actually mean cause a lot of terror and unease in me the following afternoon …..