Lost in Time

Hilly, sparsely populated and severely lacking in infrastructure the villages on the banks of the Lemro river ,Chin province , Myanmar could well be stuck in their own time warp.

These villages are only reachable by boat , which takes a few hours from Mrauk U, once one of the richest cities in Asia . But that was hundreds of years ago when Mrauk U , from 1354 to 1700 served as a free port trading with Europe & was likened to Venice by traders of the time.

Barring the hundreds of temples, little of the past glory of Mrauk U remains . It is however our access to the  Lemro river and  the Chin province  ,  normally off limits to travellers unless with government permission.

 

The Lemro river seems to go on forever through the Burmese jungle

The Lemro river seems to go on forever through the Burmese jungle

 

Life seems to have a pace of its own here

Life seems to have a pace of its own here

 

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We think are pepper seeds being dried in  the sun

We think these are peppercorns being dried in the sun

 

Theses house boats are people's permanent  homes

Theses house boats are people’s permanent homes

 

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The more prosperous house boat owners have motors which they use to tow bamboo downstream

The more prosperous house boat owners have motors which they use to tow bamboo downstream

 

Bamboo is traded in the villages and is used for home construction

Bamboo is traded in the villages and is used for home construction

 

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This dog did not take kindly to outsiders

 

The pigs however

The pigs however

 

seem more concerned with expanding their waistlines than us

seem more concerned with expanding their waistlines than us

 

Livestock is kept under the homes. This one is a goat pen

Livestock is kept under the homes. This one is a goat pen

 

There is no electricity or running water in these villages

There is no electricity or running water in these villages

 

Yet inhabitants are resourceful with limited means

Yet inhabitants are resourceful with limited means

 

With no iIPads, computers or PlayStations  children devise their own games

With no iIPads, computers or PlayStations children devise their own games

 

Here they bury an elastic band and the winner is the one who can fish it out on his stick

Here they bury an elastic band and the winner is the one who can fish it out on his stick

 

 A home made bat and shuttlecock

A home made bat and shuttlecock

 

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 A swing made from jungle vine

A swing made from jungle vine

 

A novel key holder

A novel key holder

 

This hand plane used for house siding has not changed in design in 200 years

This hand plane used for house siding has not changed in design in 200 years

 

The village cash store has the basics

The village cash store has the basics

 

As does the school

As does the school

 

It serves all the surrounding villages  with all grades under one roof

It serves all the surrounding villages with all grades under one roof

 

Here Linda sings a few lines of Nkosi Sikelele Afrika to the somewhat bemused children

Here Linda sings a few lines of Nkosi Sikelele Afrika to the somewhat bemused children

 

Who quickly warm up. Thanaka, a plant root, is painted on their faces for sun protection.

Who quickly warm up. Thanaka, a plant root, is painted on their faces for sun protection.

 

 Twins & a proud grandmother

Twins & a proud grandmother

 

More twins

More twins

 

Even the bamboo cots are hand made

Even the bamboo cots are hand made

 

As is the cloth

As is the cloth

Along the banks of the Lenro river a few members of the last generation of tattooed-face women still live. Traditionally, individual tribes would tattoo the faces of their girls in order to protect them against kidnapping by other tribes. Each tribe had its own distinctive tattoo.

Evidence of this ancient cultural practice will die out with this generation of female elders, as it has been outlawed by the Burmese government  since 1960.

The last of a generation of tattooed woman

The last of a generation of tattooed woman

 

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Getting a full-face tattoo is as painful as you can imagine, and the young girls, aged between 11 and 15 had to be held down by other villagers in order to bear the excruciating pain. The ink used for the tattoos comes from a special plant that some tribes mix with buffalo kidney, and is hammered into the skin with an instrument similar to a sturdy pine needle. Most of the girls were terrified during the process and recalled that they couldn’t open their eyes or speak for a week due to the swelling. They felt it was something they had no option but to go through.

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One could argue that the few tourists that are allowed here may turn this into a spectacle.

But perhaps however this fails to recognize  the Chin women in such matters. They understand that tourists value seeing their faces and traditions .Understandably they seek to extract as much from this opportunity as they can.

It would be different if this was a large scale operation organized and run by outsiders.

Reality is that this is a long way off the beaten track  with any commercial transaction being one of a very personal nature.

They pull no punches in price negotiations

They pull no punches in price negotiations

 

 Compromise

Compromise

 

And a deal is struck

And a deal is struck

 

Chin province, Myanmar

Chin province, Myanmar

 

Lost in time

Lost in time

7 Responses to Lost in Time

  1. Colin Pienaar

    Very interesting so see how other cultures and the odscure place in the world live. Amazing!!!!!
    Colin and Debbie Pienaar Durban.

  2. Wendy & Amelia

    It is fascinating. The philosophy behind the face tattooing is practical and based on fear, but I am relieved that Government came to the ‘rescue’ of the girls!. The school benches and school is great. Love all the pigs! It is fantastic how creative the children are when amusing themselves! But can’t help feeling incredibly sorry for these people: no water & electricity, so isolated, hard living….. Most of these people are probably trapped here for the rest of their life.

  3. Mad Rider

    and we moan here in SA

  4. Jan and Gail

    What a beautiful experience. No no no to face tatooing but what lovely weaving. One can sense the isolation of these villages. The children enjoyed it all too Linda!

  5. Jim and Muriel

    A real history lesson with real people to demonstrate it ll——-eye-opening reading !

  6. Jim and Muriel

    A real history lesson with real people there to demonstrate it all—————eye-opening reading !

  7. Dawid

    Just when I thought I ran out of Wow’s, this beautiful post. Wow…..

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