It was a five hour trek through the mountains of north eastern Myanmar. Our destination for the night, a remote village.
There’s a certain mystique about Myanmar. Its rich history that goes back 13,000 years. Its rich treasures of temples, pagodas and stupas spread across the landscape. A mix of gleaming gold domed structures that jut through the trees. The ancient remains that turn rich red with each setting of the sun.
A country that like so many, but perhaps more so, has endured a long history of conflict and internal ethnic disputes. Yet its people radiate a certain enduring, patient and charming quality.
A relaxing twelve hour boat journey up the huge Irrawaddy River from Bagan brings you to the bustling city of Mandalay. In many areas along the river, recent flooding reveals just the roof tops of thatched homes. A farmer guides his cattle across the extremely wide river. The farmer is in his boat. The cattle alongside the boat swim frantically from one side of the bank to the other.
Mandalay the second largest city in Burma, is a former royal capital. Home to the Mandalay Palace, surrounded by a moat, now serves as one of the city’s main tourist attractions. The city is known for its cultural diversity. Half of Burma’s monks live in Mandalay and surrounding areas. Step just outside of the city and you are taken back in time. Where oxen still plough the fields. Water is carted from the village well. Horse Carts bump and clip clop their way along the uneven rough tracks.
Several hours further north is the laid-back town of Hsipaw, located high in the hills of the Shan State. Its usually dusty streets and traditional buildings present a more laid back and relaxed atmosphere. It’s from here the five hour trek begins. The path works its way Shan villages, vegetable crops, paddies, natural streams and springs. Continuing up the mountain provides spectacular views across the lush green countryside. Basic timber homes and bamboo huts sparsely scatter themselves amongst the landscape mix of hillside farming, plantations, forests and rolling hills.
A stop over past a local village school provides as much excitement for the treker. The kids come running out for a hug and a whirl. Meanwhile other kids stay focused on chanting their way through the alphabet.
After a days trekking, no evening is complete without a story. Sai Phyo Ko, our Burmese guide, starts to tell the story he’d been promising all day. It’s a Buddhist story told from one generation of the Burmese Shan people to the next. The story tells about a villager, a farmer, a wizard and a tortoise. It’s a journey where they seek Buddha’s help with their problems. Like all good stories it takes a few beers and a rice wine or two to reach the end. But the moral of the story is no matter how big your problem, your problems are small compared to others. If we practice helping others ahead of worrying about our own, unexpectedly we magically find our problems eventually resolved.
It must be a normal thing for tour guides. My son was a tour guide in central Australia. Around the campfire at night he would tell the story told by the Australian Aborigine. How they believed what you do to others, such as helping others, mystically comes back to eventually help you. Numagee Numagee he called it.
These ancient stories reminded me of a modern version. I used to attend a number of business networking functions. The primary goal was to make as many business contacts as possible. Prospects
for your business. Until one day a wise and respected business person told a different story.
We weren’t sitting in a Myanmar bamboo hut or sitting around a Central Australian outback campfire. But his message was the same. Rather than seek who can help your business, instead ask how can you help the business of someone you meet, or do you know someone who can. The universal energy doesn’t forget you.
Finding the source, the authenticity of these ancient stories is difficult. Perhaps that’s why they are called a secret. They are hard to find. But like all good secrets to success, once you find and discover it, you find how simple the secret is. But the difficulty is not so much finding the secret, the real challenge is practicing it.
Join me on a brief tour of this remote village and learn about the local cuisine, tea production… and story time!
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