Much like gas stations, here is a drive-thru water filling station for ox carts in Myingyan, which falls within the Dry Zone of Myanmar. A tank of water costs 250 Kyats (25 US cents) to refill. That is without the expenses for the cart and opportunity costs associated with one’s time and energy for traveling as far away as a mile or two to reach a filling station like this:
The drive-thru water stations are usually the last resort. Each village depends on one or two rainwater collection ponds like this one. The particular pond here was allegedly founded by King Anniruddha in the eleventh century. All around the pond, there are shops and restaurants where people take a rest from water chores and hang out. Hauling water is quite a chore – I have done it for merely a week as a simulation exercise in college and it was tough then! When I see pictures like the one below this text, I feel a heap of inexplicable, heavy feeling built up in my throat.
People in the Dry Zone know the value of water. In fact, people in Myanmar live with an extremely small carbon footprint. There is just no other option. Along the main road in the village, one can spot homes with solar plates! Houses also use rainwater catchment like the one pictured here:
Despite all this water trouble and general life hardships, my hosts in multiple homes along the way were gracious, generous and patient. My colleagues and I were fed all kinds of things during the travel. Since I was an observer on this trip, my colleagues did most of the talking, which meant that I had all the time in the world to gorge on deliciously prepared food – homemade palm jaggery included – served with a pot of hot jasmine tea. Can’t complain.
At one house, I even had two things of fried kaw-pote sprinkled with sugar. Popularized by Shans, kaw-pote is made of sticky rice and can be turned into both a savory dish or a dessert. In fact, Myanmar people are very adept at turning savory dishes into desserts. One time in Kungyangon (about 50 miles west of Yangon), I was served scrambled duck eggs in sugar for dessert. Scrambled duck eggs for dessert? More please!
In Zagyan village near Myingyan, I also got to eat the Upper Burma style laphat. This ubiquitous tea leaf salad gets a different makeover here in the Dry Zone. The flavor of sesame sits boldly on the plate, which is not a surprise since this region is a top sesame grower globally. The pickled tea leaf is mixed thoroughly with locally grown and toasted sesame, available in abundance in otherwise a scarce place. Freshly roasted peanuts accompany the tea leaf and you know where these peanuts come from – a massive pile of em sitting two feet away from the table!
God I love my job.