A Shan Romeo and Juliet Story

A romantic true tale of the children of two families who made Channa Dhal tofu and hated each other living in a village in the middle of the mystical Inle Lake in Shan State, Myanmar (Burma).

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Traditional Fire Balloon Festival, Burma

I was looking back over some of my diary entries during the time I was working in Shan State at a beautiful hotel called Inle Princess Resort on the shores of the mystical Inle Lake. During this time I was training some of the kitchen staff in baking and pastry skills as well as sourcing various baking items for the hotel. I will hopefully get around to posting some of the other adventures I had soon as well. It was a really wonderful and unique experience. I lived there for around four months.

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Traditional Shampoo and Urban Laundry

Inle Princess ResortI first came across soapnuts when I was living in Myanmar/Burma in 1999. I was working at a remote hotel on the shore of the mystical Inle Lake in Shan State. My oven was made from a large barrel and was wood-fired, whenever the kitchen staff noticed me making a move to try to get the fire under the oven going myself, they would quickly send the kitchen’s expert fire-maker to take over. They had already learned the hard way that they would be completely smoked out of the kitchen if they let me attempt it myself.

The staff at the Inle Princess Resort were really a fun bunch of people, we would go to the five day farmer’s markets early in the morning and stuff ourselves with treats of fried Shan tofu and cups of sweet, strong and delicious Burmese tea, on the walk home the girls would always amaze me with their taken-for-granted knowledge of nearly every plant and it’s medicinal benefits that we passed by. They would rave to me about the wonders of the traditional Burmese shampoo. The next time we were at the market they showed me bags hanging from strings full of a yellowish liquid with these soapnuts, tamarind pods and various other herbs in them. I gave it a try and was soon a convert. Although the shampoo didn’t suds up quite as much the shampoos I was used to, my hair was soon gleaming with a healthy shine.

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Farmers Markets of Myanmar

Click here to view exotic images of farmers markets around Myanmar.

kid in marketWho can resist an open air market? In Shan State they have a very clever system by having their farmers market run on a five day cycle. So, for example, around the mystical Inle Lake, the market will be one day in Nyaung Shwe, the next at Mein Tauk, the next at the other corner of the lake as a floating market, etc. This way local farmers can sell their product without having to go too far afield, and tourist just love going to the different locations each day. It is a system worth considering bringing back to other areas of the world. The Burmese have been forced to maintain their traditional methods of farming and subsistence living, which may in the long run be a blessing in disguise for them and the rest of the world. If any of us want to know how to live really sustainably, I recommend following in the footsteps of E.F. Schumacher (author of Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered) by going to Burma and learning from them.

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Myanmar Farmer Markets Slideshow

"The Burmese have been forced to maintain their traditional methods of farming and subsistence living, which may in the long run be a blessing in disguise for them and the rest of the world." More... Click here to see images from various markets in Yangon (Rangoon).

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