It is my last night in Nyaungshwe, and I am sitting on the corner balcony of my luxurious room at Aquarius Inn. I can hear crickets, the occasional “cipchipchipchip” of geckos, the continual Buddhist recitations over the tannoy from the temple a few blocks away, and every few minutes a passing motorbike or the wails of a local cat.
This place is quiet tonight. Nyaungshwe closes up early most nights, but walking back across town from Live Dim Sum I noticed the usual haunts were already closed up by half nine – French Touch, Chillax, and the other bar just down from it on the corner. Someone mentioned earlier that today was a holy day. No doubt that was linked to the dancing elephant (don’t worry – it was two people in an elephant costume!) making its way past the hotel entrance as I left to play badminton earlier this evening.
Aside from the woman sat in front of me on the plane (Charlotte, who also appeared at the restaurant my boat driver took me to for lunch on the Inle Lake tour), and one young man on my first night at Dreamland Guesthouse in Mandalay, I had not come across any Brits in Myanmar until this evening. In the restaurant tonight were a young couple and a group of four youths with an older man, presumably the father of one or more of them. It sounded out of place, hearing English accents for the first time in a week.
There is a small bonfire burning in a garden fifty yards from where I sit. The air is still, and comfortably warm, having been cooled by the early evening thunderstorm. There are one or two mosquitoes, but not enough to cause any irritation.
I have been in Myanmar for a week.
One of the typical conversations between visitors here comprises speculation about how the country will develop in the coming years. Certainly I wonder how Nyaungshwe will develop. After two and a half days here I am enamoured with the place. The roads are not busy. One is sometimes asked, “boat trip?” or “where you from?” but the amount of hassling and hustling is absolutely minimal. Which seems amazing for the nation’s second main tourist destination, after Bagan.
As I strolled home this evening I thought about coming back to Myanmar. In two weeks it would be possible to revisit the places I have most enjoyed, and to add the train ride Hsipaw, a visit to the southern lake beyond Inle, trekking somewhere, and perhaps even some of the coastal region. It would be fantastic to further improve my Burmese and to be able to use it again.
And it would also be wonderful to return to the badminton club next door to Chillax to see how much Mr Aung and the others with whom I played have improved with their daily practice!
As I continue reading my book and smoking my sweet Burmese cigar, I hear a pack of dogs howling in the distance. I hope that they remain as unthreatening as the rest of their homeland as time goes by.