Very early in the morning, we trade the comforts of our boat for those of a traditional horse cart. We leave the fishermen along the bank of the Irrawaddy, Burma’s largest river, to travel dusty roads through cultivated fields at dawn. We start to see people walking or riding to work and we stop to explore the plots of sweet corn and peanuts, to talk with several men whose families have been farming here for generations.
We slowly make our way to the town of Salin, whose lake is ringed by 200-year-old monasteries and monuments virtually unvisited by outsiders – tourists come perhaps once or twice a year. At the local market we are treated as special guests and are forbidden to pay full price for anything; it is difficult to pay even half price.
Here we are on the Burmese Pilgrimage Route; legend has it that Buddha visited this place and put down his footprints. This is a spiritually rich, hidden part of Burma and a cornerstone of any journey to the country.