Thursday, February 25, 2016

Our First Stop in Heho. The Market, Of Course!

Selling the fried crullers that I love to eat.  Had to buy some!  She's smiling because she's holding my money :-)

We had our last buffet breakfast, at our *regular* table, on the dining terrace this morning. We've enjoyed all our breakfasts and dinners in this lovely spot - I'm going to miss it here.

Miu and Aung were at the hotel front entrance right on time.  The ride to the airport was less than 20 minutes.  Miu helped us to get checked in and then we bid him farewell.  He was a really nice guide and took very good care of us.  Hopefully, the tips that we gave both men showed our appreciation.

Like many small regional airports, the one in Bagan only has one departure lounge and even though there was a gate number printed on our boarding pass, we figured out pretty much all the passengers exited out of the same door.  We had been given colored stickers, like what they had used in Thailand, to identify individual flights.  We just had to make sure we boarded with our fellow passengers as we also realize there were no departure announcements.  When it's time to board, the attendant opens the door and stands by it and a flood of passengers swarm towards here.  I never understand the need for the rush since we all have assigned seats anyway.

She had our boarding passes.

On the shuttle to the plane.

Bagan Nyaung OO Airport.  It's actually much larger than the photo shows.

Boarding our little propeller Air KBZ plane.

Hate sitting under the wing.  The view sucks!

I knew it was flat and dry in Bagan but from the air, you can see just how flat and arid the landscape really is!

Even the hills are parched.  It's dry season and they've not had rain for months.

It was farmland the entire time.  Just goes to show how much arable land there is.

We ain't on no rundown plane.  Look at the indicator on the right.

Happy to be on the ground!

It was about an hour and 15 minute flight to Heho.  Very short.   Upon arrival, we had to wait a bit for our luggage to appear.  As we exited the terminal, I saw a young woman holding up a sign with my name on it.  I always have a moment of relief when I see that sign as I dread having to invoke what I call *Pick Up Plan B* i.e., having to call the travel agent to arrange for last minute pickup.

We followed the very friendly young woman out the door. Turns out she was not our guide but a tour coordinator.  She was walking us over to meet up with our guide.

We barely walked five minutes when we approached a very slender young man dressed in a longyi.  He was guide.  He introduced himself as *Polo*.....like the horse sport, you know.  Okay, Polo it is.  Actually, his name is Kyaw Zay Zay Nuang.  From his business card, I think he was trying to tell us to call him *Phoe Lone* but through his accent, we all heard Polo so that's what we called him :-)


Smiling Polo.  It didn't take long for all of us to warm up to each other.

Our final destination today would be our hotel in Kalaw but we would do a bit of sightseeing along the way.  The first stop was at the local market in Heho.  We all LOVE markets so just the mention that we would be going to one gets us all excited!  The market in Heho is located just a very short distance from the airport and it's enroute to Kalaw so it's not out of the way.

Like the market in Bagan, this is truly a local market.  I think we were one of the few cars in the lot - it was mainly horse drawn carts and motorcycles.   It's very gritty and messy here though not at all chaotic.  You will likely not come across another tourist.  I love places like this.  We plunged right in, following closely behind Polo.




More times than not I would look at what was for sale and had absolutely no clue what it was.  This is coming from someone who has been to more local markets around the world than she can remember!

Green onions??


Fried crullers in the basket but what is he stretching the dough out for?

Thanks to eating all sorts of funky foods around the world, I have now have a cast iron stomach so even in surroundings like the market in Heho, I can actually eat the food that's sold and not get sick.  I'm still very careful though so I will refrain from anything raw and anything that looks like it's been sitting out for sometime.  Fried crullers are on the okay list and I simply couldn't resist so I had Bro hand Polo a few kyat so he could get us some.


The young and very shy girl handled the transaction for us.  Today is a school day but I'm guessing she's a village girl and school is a luxury that her family cannot afford.  They need her to work to help support the family.  I would have gladly bought another bag of crullers just to give her the money but I refrained as there will be other vendors we will want to give to as well.


The next photo will probably horrify anyone living in the *western* world where it's inconceivable that you would lay out cooked chicken meat under the hot sun, on a mat on the dirt ground, to sell.  But here, you sell how you can and all she has is the plastic mat.  For locals, this is perfectly safe to eat and I'm sure very tasty as well.


I took the next photo because the friendly woman and I locked eyes and exchanged big smiles.  Unfortunately, the photo did not come out as well as I had hoped.


There's always a place to eat in every market.  This woman was dishing up mohinga, the iconic breakfast noodle soup dish of Myanmar.


There was a lot of cauliflower for sale.  With no table to display her produce on, this woman was seated on the ground, surrounded by a small ton of cauliflower.


The snacks lady.


People here don't or perhaps can't afford to buy big bags of any food.  Little bags of ingredients, just enough for a meal, were common.


In the photo below, it looks like Ayşe is begging in front of Polo but actually she had knelt down to look at the spices for sale and was looking up at Polo to ask him a question.  She was particularly interested in the spices and in seeds as she is an avid vegetable gardener.


You can see the influence of another culture in these Chinese style sausages.

Very fresh fish that I am guessing comes from nearby Lake Inle.

Another thing that would horrify people in the *western* world is how these two girls are essentially sitting right next to the food they are selling.  This is a very common sight in Asia.


Selling betel leaves.

Burmese hand rolled cigarettes.

I think she's making pancakes with pieces of coconut.  I was tempted to buy a pancake to try it.

Wrapping up the bits and bobs of things inside the betel leaf into a ready-to-chew-on bundle.

Based purely on appearance, these would be sweet sticky rice wrapped inside bamboo leaves which are then baked over a wood fire.  Inside, the rice would be  filled with something like coconut or beans.


A basket filled with crackers of some sort. Could be rice, or lentil or tofu.


Another snack lady.  She's filling the bag with a few muruku, a classic Tamil Indian snack made from rice flour and urad dal flour.  Although I can make these myself at home, it's been a while since I've made a batch so I decided to buy some from her. 


The bag she's filling is for me.  She's smiling because I was so excited to come across the muruku.  Notice her cross body bag.  We saw many people carrying one here.  According to Polo, it's typical of this region.  It's actually a very practical bag and for someone of small stature, like me, a perfect size.  If I didn't already have plenty of bags just like this, I would have bought one as there were vendors selling them.  Polo also carries a cross body bag but his is modern, vinyl one.  I told him he should go traditional to match his longyi :-)


Bro can't resist the food either.  He's checking out some local candies here.


It's a really bad video but Bro got excited when he noticed that the catfish being sold was still alive.


A selection of rice paper crackers.

Beans and lentils.

Yellow tofu - soy mixed with chickpeas.  This is a specialty of the Shan state which is the region Heho is in.

Crispy tofu.

The gardener was curious about every kind of seed they had for sale here.


While Ayşe and Polo were busy chatting with a seed vendor - I think Ayşe was curious about every single thing he was selling, Bro saw something very unusual.  He took me over to this woman.   He pointed to the metal below in front of her and said there were feet in it.  Feet?  So I looked down and indeed there were not just feet but part of the leg as well and I think some of the skeleton as well.  Ewww!!


The woman was incredibly popular - there was a short line of people waiting to buy her product.   We watched her take a syringe and suck up a vial's worth of liquid from below the pile of animal parts and fill up small plastic bottles.  I'm guessing it's an herbal remedy of some sort. 



Lentils for sale.  The green stuff on the right is fermented tea leaves.  Myanmar is the only tea drinking culture I know of that also eats the leaves of the tea plant.


I am a corn addict and well, Bro spotted a woman selling boiled maze so we bought an ear to share.  The corn cobs here are short and stubby - surprisingly difficult to split in half.  We decided to have the local have a go at it :-)

Put some muscle into it, Polo!

Success!  Happy tourists!

Located a short driving distance away from the main market is the animal market.  I vaguely remember Polo saying that the market is not open every day but it just so happens to be today.  He asked if we wanted to check it out.  Of course we did!




Walking into the market brought back memories of the Sunday animal market in Mary, Turkmenistan though this one was far smaller and as best I could see, only zebu were for sale.


Got a nice set of clean teeth :-)

I shot a snippet of video.  After I narrate in English, Ayşe takes over in Turkish.


We didn't get to spend much time in the market but it was fascinating place!   Polo has said that we'll get to visit another local market before we leave the region.  Can't wait!  In the meantime, we have a very unusual cave temple to get to!