Posts Tagged ‘farming’

On the drive back through the countryside from Pindaya to Heho, we were able to stop a couple of times… not enough times to satisfy me, though. There was so much to see and experience. That’s one of the disadvantages of travelling on a group tour. There are indeed many pluses, especially when travelling for the first time in a country such as this one. But, because each day’s program is planned far ahead of time, there’s no time for the unexpected; no time to just stop and take it all in.  And, for us, the unexpected experiences and the time to just ‘be there’ is what makes travel so very rewarding. Never mind, we were able to make the most of the stops we did make in this fascinating Shan countryside.

Farm carts with umbrellas by the field (P1100215 © JT of jtdytravels)

We really enjoyed watching some farmers working together to plough a field.  And right there, with the carts by the side of the field, we saw the very type of umbrella we had just seen being made.

P1100204 © JT of jtdytravels)

The oxen that pulled the carts that brought the men to work, now pulled the ploughs. They are an integral part of each farming family’s life and are indispensable to all manner of farming activities.

P1100216 © JT of jtdytravels)

The oxen had a breather while the farmers tried to work out why we had stopped to photograph and watch them at their work. Had we not seen ploughing before?  They were as fascinated by us as we were by them, I’m sure, especially when Sunshine told them that we came from Australia and tried to explain just how far away that is from Burma. They were really quite bemused but were friendly and soon got back to work to demonstrate how the ploughs work.  A man and his oxen are a real team. And the men of each village are a team too, helping to plough each other’s fields. There’s real community spirit here.

I read in an account of village life, that this is not a formal, rostered way of doing things on the farms. One farmer mentions to others that he’ll be ploughing such and such a field on a particular day, and other farmers just turn up to help. That is reciprocated, of course. The wife, or some member of the farmer’s family, brings out some food for the men. It’s all very social and done in true community spirit.

Enjoying the interaction  (P1100223 © JT of jtdytravels)

Because of the heat, farm tasks start very early in the day. One of the village women had just delivered some food for the men. She really enjoyed watching the interaction between the farmers and the tourists. Her woven bamboo hat and basket are just two more ways the Burmese make use of this versatile plant.

Yellow flowered legume (P1020411 © DY of jtdytravels)

At this stop, David took the opportunity to wander along the roadside in search of flowers. This yellow flowering plant was very common in the area – we’re not sure of its name.

Hibiscus (P1020414 © DY of jtdytravels)

This is probably a native hibiscus. The growing of garden flowers is not a high priority here.

A stunning little blue pin cushion flower (P1020406 © DY of jtdytravels)

We had noticed several small flowering plants by the roadside as we drove along. It was frustrating not be able to stop and get a closer look. But at this stop, David was able to photograph this little beauty.

A member of the Solanum family of plants (P1020412 © DY of jtdytravels)

I love the delicate, crepe like petals of this very small Solanum flower. It’s a relative of the potato, tomato, eggplant and capsicum. There are over 1,500 species of solanum in the world!

One of the farmers (P1020418 © DY of jtdytravels)

We left the farmers to their work, and this young one still wondering about the encounter, and drove on.

Piled high! (P1100211 © JT of jtdytravels)

If you don’t have an ox cart or pony trap, and you want to get to market, you have to share the ride. This is a great ad for Toyota Hilux – crammed full of people inside, goods and people on top and even a couple hanging off the back board. The road is very bumpy and rutted but the ute seems to be handling it well.

A typical stretch of road. (P1100236 © JT of jtdytravels)

The most common form of transport was without doubt, the ox cart.

Another family off to market (P1100228 © JT of jtdytravels)

Motor bikes and tractor trailers are also fairly common forms of transport. The produce makes the seats! The turban scarf worn by these women is traditional for some ethnic groups. I’m not sure which group these women belong to. There are eight major ethnic groups in this complex country and 135 ethnic groups in total. Each has their own dialect, traditions and culture.

A long distance view of the countryside (P1100242 © JT of jtdytravels)

The views across the gently rolling hills changed all the time and made for an interesting journey.

A happy ‘buffalo girl’ (P1100249 © JT of jtdytravels)

We came across some children taking care of the gentle water buffalo. We all enjoyed that encounter.

A choko vine on a bamboo frame. (P1100256 © JT of jtdytravels)

Various types of fruiting vines are grown on bamboo frames like this.  We were told that this one was Choko, Sechium educe, a plant that belongs to the pumpkin family. When grown on frames, the fruit hangs down for easy harvesting. Grown here in a tropical climate, the plant is virtually evergreen, and provides good crops.

The harvest is done! Time for a rest. (P1100238 © JT of jtdytravels)

Harvest completed, carted in woven bamboo baskets from the field and packed into a pile by the side of the road, these men take a well earned rest. Their work will begin again when the truck arrives to pick up their produce to take to market.

Another roadside ‘pick -up’ spot.  (P1100260 © JT of jtdytravels)

Another group of farmers use ox carts to bring their produce to a pick up point.  Here it’s the oxen who are taking a well earned break while their owners check the harvest before it gets packed onto a truck.

P1020463 © DY of jtdytravels)

An unscheduled stop to change a flat tyre, allowed us to stretch our legs and get this photo of one of the local drinking places – rum or whisky. It also shows the typical construction of country buildings; woven bamboo walls and thatched roof. The small roofed platform out in front is the local petrol station with plastic bottles of fuel for the motor bikes and the ‘put put’ engines on the tractor trailers. The tree is the very common yellow flowering legume that David photographed earlier by the roadside.

Hollyhocks in a roadside garden  (P1020467 © DY of jtdytravels)

We knew that we getting closer to a town; one house had a small garden with a few flowering plants.

We were being watched! (P1020468 © DY of jtdytravels)

A coach with a group of tourists wandering around gave these small boys some entertainment. Not only were we fair skinned but we were old!  The average life expectancy for women is around 67 and for men it’s 61.   Some in our group were much older than that – and white haired – and rather large as well.

Town parking for tractor trailers (P1100281 © JT of jtdytravels)

These are the type of tractor trailers we had seen on our way to this town. They are very basic, not at all comfortable, but a much used form of transport in country areas.

A small town market (P1020278 © DY of jtdytravels)

We had arrived at a small market town. After a much needed loo stop at the back of a small restaurant (squat, of course) we had a little time to explore the small market that was set up on a long concrete platform beside the road. I wandered along just looking and not intending to buy anything when I made a mistake, right here at the jewellery and knick knack counter. My eye stopped for a brief moment on one particular necklace. Two seconds later, that necklace was around my neck and I had a smiling ‘new friend’. And there was a bracelet to match! I had to laugh – and I had to buy!

My market necklace (P1130094 © JT of jtdytravels)

I so enjoyed wearing that necklace and bracelet. It cost all of $8 and is simply traditional Burmese ‘silver’ circlets threaded with wool. There’s no catch – you just tie the wool into a knot.

P1130095 © JT of jtdytravels)

A closer look – and yes the silver is already rubbing off! They will now become part of our very special ‘memory souveneirs’ that we hang on our Christmas Tree. They help us to remember all the people we have met and the places we have experienced during our travels together in this wonderful world of ours.

The food section of the market (P1020280 © DY of jtdytravels)

Another part of the market is for packaged foods. It’s the supermarket of this small town. I had no idea what some of the packages contained but there was certainly a good variety.

Nuns accepting offerings from stall holders (P1130085 © JT of jtdytravels)

Twice a week the local nuns file past these market stalls, chanting blessings as they go. They walk in order of seniority. The stall holders present each of them with a gift of food. They take what they are given – no requests are permitted. With their food carefully placed on the trays on their heads, they walk back to their monastery where the food they have been given is sorted ready to be cooked over the next few days. Like Burmese monks, Nuns have only two meals a day. An early breakfast after prayers and  lunch that must be eaten before noon. After that, only water and juice is allowed until morning.

Packaged foods (P1020283 © DY of jtdytravels)

Dry foods are mainly packed into cellophane and clear plastic bags. There were very few ‘brand’ names on the packages at these stalls. They are all filled by hand from larger containers.

Sealing a plastic bag using candle heat  (P1130079 © JT of jtdytravels)

Just inside the restaurant area we were fascinated to watch three young ladies vacuum packaging food for the stalls.  In this case, the food was flat, dried circles of some mixture or other. We were told that it would be cooked before being eaten.  To begin with, several bags were prepared with eight or ten circles of the food carefully layered into each bag. Then, a bag at a time, the task of sealing began. The open side of the bag was moved slowly through the flame of a candle to melt the edge of the bag.

Sucking to form a vacuum pack (P1130074 © JT of jtdytravels)

One corner of the bag was left unsealed. This was then popped between the girl’s lips and she sucked the air out of the bag. It was vacuum sealed!  It’s just the way it’s done. No OH&S here. And no problems.

Sealing off the corner of the bag (P1130077 © JT of jtdytravels)

Once the air has gone, the open corner of the bag was quickly sealed in the candle flame. It was ready for sale and the next bag was begun. There was quite a lot of giggling from the girls who were shy and a bit bemused that their task was of so much interest to a couple of tourists. It was everyday work for them.

Transport options!  (P1020284 © DY of jtdytravels)

Back out on the road, our bus driver waited patiently. It was time to go again. He welcomed us into the air-conditioned comfort of his bus and handed us each a bottle of cold water. Luxury. At least we didn’t have to travel for hours on any of the other types of transport available in the town. And from here we drove to beautiful Inle Lake where we would spend a fascinating couple of days.

Jennie and David

Photography © JT and DY of jtdytravels

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Leaving Yangon behind, we looked forward to experiencing some of the Shan State countryside, a very different experience from a large, busy city. It was quite exciting to look down and see our first farms.

First view of Shan State countryside (P1020257 © DY of jtdytravels)

These small farms and ploughed fields looked good to us after the big city.

Farms and a village near Heho (P1020261 © DY of jtdytravels)

As we flew lower towards Heho, the patchwork of farms became more obvious and it was also obvious how farms are set up around small villages. There are no houses on farms. Farmers live in communities.

Monastery and Pagodas in the fields   (P1020266 © DY of jtdytravels)

A large monastery complex below reminded us just how important Buddhism is throughout the country.

Regional map of Burma / Myanmar

Now that we have landed in Heho and are waiting for our bags, it’s probably a good time to have a look at a map of this large, stretched out country and realise just what a small part of it we were actually able to visit.  The country covers an area of 677,000 square kms (261,228 square miles). At its widest point it’s 936 kms (581 miles) from east to west and at its longest, 2,051 kms (1,275 miles) from north to south. To the north, east and west there are mountain ranges that form a giant ‘horseshoe’ around the flat lands of the Chindwin, Ayeyarwaddy and Sittaung River valleys. It’s in those fertile valleys of agricultural land that most of the population is concentrated.

Our total journey of fourteen days took us first to Yangon; then a flight to Heho (near Taunggyi in the blue coloured Shan State) where we explored 47 kms north west to Pindaya (not marked) and 36 miles south to Inle Lake;  another flight took us to Mandalay (at the top of the buff coloured state) followed by an 80km cruise down the river to Bagan and back again.  That’s a very small part of a big country; there is so much more to explore. But most of this fascinating country is still not open to tourists, partly because of ethnic problems in various districts but mainly because of the state of roads and the lack of suitable tourist hotels and eating places.

So,for now, let’s enjoy what we were able to see and experience – and what we did see, we really enjoyed.

Google road map to Pindaya from Heho

When we plan a road journey in Australia, and in many other countries, we tend to check out Google maps and have some faith in the times given for the length of a journey. That is not a good idea here. The journey length to Pindaya from Heho airport is 47 kms. The time Google gives is 44 minutes! NOT SO! 120 minutes is closer to the mark… and that’s without stopping along the way to take photos of farming activities, or visit a toilet, or have a snack, or visit a market. We did none of those things as we were already late for lunch in Pindaya.

The following photos were taken from the bus as we bounced our way over a rutted, narrow dirt road. As David had the window seat, they are mostly his photos with a few of mine taken through the front window. So, settle in and enjoy the scenery, places and people we saw along the way.

A Eucalyptus plantation! (P1020274 © DY of jtdytravels)

Amazingly, one of the first things we saw, was a plantation of Eucalyptus. Is there anywhere in the world that doesn’t have the good old Australian gum tree somewhere in its landscape? A reminder of home!

Women with their hoes in the fields (P1020291  © DY of jtdytravels)

Women work together to hoe and weed the fields. It’s a real community effort, and, I would guess, a sociable way to get the work done.

We think they were heading back to their village  (P1020295  © DY of jtdytravels)

It’s likely that these women had finished their hoeing for the day and were heading on the long walk back to their village to have lunch and do jobs at home. It’s best to work in the morning in this hot humid climate.

Others rested from their work. (P1020302  © DY of jtdytravels)

Umbrellas are a very important part of a farmer’s kit here – both for shade and for rain. These are lacquered to make them shower proof. We would visit the local umbrella makers next day to watch how they are made.

Water buffalo and farmer – a good team  (P1020307  © DY of jtdytravels)

Farmers here use water buffalo and oxen to do much of the work on the farm. Each farmer and his animal become a team, good mates that rely on each other. The animals are well cared for and, we were told, farmers rarely eat beef because of this special relationship.  The farmer’s umbrella stands at the ready in the field!

The soil looks extremely rich and fertile. (P1020311  © DY of jtdytravels)

A variety of crops are grown in the area but the most productive here are cabbages and cauliflowers.

Carts and baskets are much used by farmers. (P1020304  © DY of jtdytravels)

We had arrived at harvest time for both cauliflowers and cabbages. We saw the farmers working together to harvest the crops. The bamboo baskets are filled and then transferred to a wooden wheeled cart. This one is waiting for another load.

A cart load waiting at the pick-up point (P1090980  © DY of jtdytravels)

When full,  the cart is hitched to an oxen and taken to one of the various pick up points along the road. There, the farmers await a truck which comes along to collect all of the vegetables to take the crop to market.

Loading a truck with cabbages (P1020310  © DY of jtdytravels)

Each village group of farmers who work together decide on the price they want for the crop. That’s the price they ask of the ‘middle man’ on the truck and, if he agrees, the crop is loaded onto the trucks to be taken to the markets in the bigger towns and cities. It seems to be a fair system.

Taking a breather after a hard day’s work! (P1020312  © DY of jtdytravels)

After emptying the carts, the farmer’s can take a bit of a breather. But there are lots more vegetables to pick!

Our lunch restaurant (P1090992  © JT of jtdytravels)

Finally we arrived at the delightfully rustic ‘Green Tea Restaurant’ beside the lake in the village of Pindaya.  We felt sure that cabbage and / or cauliflower would feature on the menu!  But, it seems, the locals are so sick of the sight of this two vegetables by the end of a day of harvest, that they gladly send them all off to market!  I was glad, too. They are not my favourites!  

And then the rain came tumbling down (P1100001 © JT of jtdytravels)

The food, our first delicious Shan meal, and the setting, on the verandah beside a lovely lake, were perfect – until the heavens opened and heavy rain began to fall. The verandah is not quite the place to be in rain. Fortunately, there were plenty of other tables to move to.

We hoped the farm ladies had made it home before they had a drenching. Not even good umbrellas would keep one dry in this tropical downpour. As with most such downpours in the tropics, it didn’t last long.

The view across the lake   (P1100006  © JT of jtdytravels)

As the rain lifted, we could once more see the view of golden stupas and pagodas across the other side of the lake from the restaurant. Our hotel was over there somewhere too. It was time to be reunited with our bags!

Our cottage at the rustic Inle Inn Hotel   (P1100018  © JT of jtdytravels)

We had been warned that our accommodation in Pindaya would be ‘comfortable but far from elaborate’. To us, the Inle Inn Hotel was delightful. We ‘d been travelling through a gentle time warp all day and this was more than we had expected. I’m sure the farmers didn’t have such comforts as we had. Many of them didn’t even have electricity let alone hot and cold running water, showers, and a comfy bed – and a flower garden at the door. We were astonished when we heard some of our group grumbling about the rooms. Where were we?  Why travel to such destinations if you expect the same luxuries you may have at home?

Our large, rustic bedroom (P1100017  © JT of jtdytravels)

This was our bedroom – larger than some farmer’s cottages!  It was lined with teak and traditional bamboo weavings and the decoration was a piece of local weaving hung over a hand carved railing. Real Burma.

A hand crafted marionette wall hanging  (P1100016  © JT of jtdytravels)

Marionette puppets are a favourite with Burmese people and are often used as room decorations.

The bed looked inviting for a bit of a ‘nana nap’  after a long day of travelling; and David had booked in for a massage; but we hadn’t finished our exploring just yet. The rain was clearing and time was getting away on us to fit in a visit to the famous Pindaya Caves, home to over 8,000 Buddhas. So we ventured back out to walk through the garden and back to the waiting bus.

Down the garden path  (P1100110  © JT of jtdytravels)

Frangipani line the garden path along with many plants familiar to those who live in the tropics.

Pink Crucifix Orchid; Epidendrum sp.  (P1020377 © DY of jtdytravels)

After the rain, there were drops of water to enhance the flowers like this lovely orchid.

Crown of Thorns; Euphorbia milii cultivar   (P1100121  © JT of jtdytravels)

A beautiful flower but with rather nasty spines along the stem.

Lovely red Anthurium (P1100127  © JT of jtdytravels)


Another dash of red; Hibiscus (P1100119  © JT of jtdytravels)


Satellite dishes in the garden (P1100114 © JT of jtdytravels)

And for those who could not possibly do without their fix of TV every day, there was even satellite coverage!  To me that was pretty amazing, not that we even turned our TV on. There was too much else to do!

Hand painted hotel sign (P1100128

While we waited for the bus to take us on the short trip up a steep hill to the Pindaya Caves, we noticed the hotel sign – not done with a stencil, but each one hand painted. This graphic design represented the famous boat rowers on Inle Lake  – we’d see them in reality next day. But now, we were off to the caves and I’ll write about that amazing experience in our next journal entry.

Jennie and David

Photography  © DY and JT of jtdytravels


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Kashmir. Harvest Time (from the air) #1     ©   JT   of ‘jtdytravels’

It was October, harvest time in Kashmir and we had seen the golden fields and hay stacks from the air.

Kashmir, Harvest Time (from the air)  # 2     ©  JT  of ‘jtdytravels’

We had read that 80% of the population of the Kashmir Valley are engaged either in agriculture or in occupations allied to farming.  Indeed, the valley seemed to be a patchwork of small fields and villages.

Kashmir, Harvest Time # 1      ©    DY   of ‘jtdytravels’

Driving through those farms brought the life of the farming families to a much more personal level.

Kashmir  Harvest TIme  # 2      © DY of ‘jtdytravels’

All the family helps in the process of harvesting and threshing their crops… by hand.

Kashmir, Harvest Time   # 3      ©    Dy   of ‘jtdytravels’

The major crops of the Kashmir Valley include rice, maize, pulses, oilseed, fodder, wheat and vegetables.

Rice was being harvested and threshed in these fields.

Kashmir  Harvest Time   #4     ©  DY of ‘jtdytravels’

Even the children get involved and help out at harvest time.

Kashmir  Harvest Time  # 5      ©   DY   of   ‘jtdytravels’

Apart from horse and cart, one of the enduring forms of farm transport is the tuk tuk.

Although the Department of Agriculture endeavours to introduce new technologies of modern farming and new ways of developing commercial agricultural activities,  farming in this valley still involves back breaking labour and threshing by hand with all family members involved.

Photographs  ©   JT and DY  of ‘jtdytravels’

More Kashmir  photos on     flickr.com/photos/jtdytravels

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