The Indian family we stayed with showered us with as much conversation as they did chapattis. They had been living up here for a century. Like many of today's Burmese Indians and Chinese, they were originally brought here by the British to help develop and modernize the new colony. More experienced than the locals in the ways of the West, they became the advantaged elite fueling a deep resentment among the indigenous Burmese population. During the heady days of World War II and Burma's independence, anti-Muslim riots and institutionalized oppression forced many Indians to flee the country in a deadly mass exodus. Though the regime never fully got over its outdated anti-India propaganda machine, among the common people, this animosity has all but evaporated. Today, our hosts wouldn't dream of returning to India and insist the Burmese people are the world's friendliest, a different species entirely from the regime, living in a parallel world.
Before we went to bed, tribal people from nearby villages hiked out to the monastery and sat cross-legged together with the young monks to watch "Apocalypse Now" on what is likely the only DVD player in the area. The audience, clad in variegated tribal clothes and saffron monk robes, took everything in with a fascinated silence.
Young monk-trainees proudly doing their morning chores.
"Oh," he replied confused,"if you no want your tooth pulled, no go to Burmese dentist."
Needless to say, Katlijn decided to wait until we got back to Thailand for her dental work. However, it was somehow comforting to know that despite the inevitable encroachment of tourism, politics, and other modernizing forces into the traditional tribal way of life here, at least dental work was still done the old-fashion way.