Monday, June 25, 2012

My Priceless Souvenirs from Thailand and Myanmar

Maida’s Touch’s Facebook update last June 24th read:
“15 days, 3 countries, 7 different hotel rooms, 6 airplane rides, 5 airports, countless taxi rides, 1's good to be back home!”

I wrote that post hours after landing from an extensive trip around Thailand, a quick stop at Laos and my first visit to Myanmar. So after one big adventure what remains? Hundreds of photos, many contacts and scars from thirty plus mosquito bites are the tangible evidence of place and people I’ve met. After all these years, I don’t collect refrigerator magnets or key chains of the places I’ve been to. If I see something I like then I buy it. But on this particular trip I knew I would be moving around a lot, so my purchases were carefully considered. I have a small box of Emerald Thai Tea (naturally sweet green tea from Doi Mae Salong), fish sausages I got in Bangkok, two cotton scarves from our quick stop in Donsao, Laos, and embroidered coasters from the Lahu tribe. After unpacking, doing several batches of laundry, and settling back home, I did some soul searching. What remains after journey like this? What fed my spirit?

Truth is I cannot remember the names of all the places I had been to in the last 15 days. It is not they are not memorable, but Thai and Myanmar names of temples, mountains and people often have many syllables difficult for me to pronounce. Surely, the facts about a place are important to learn. But what stays with me are memories made and the stories entrusted to me. I long for true connection between people, and travel generously affords me that. I will not forget how a French gay man openly told me about his relationship with his mama in Paris, his love story, and the first time he wore high heels to a recent Madonna party. A few days before Father’s day, I found myself in a car listening to a dad lament how his son refuses to relate to him. The pain of this warm and helpful gentleman was palpable and real. All I could do was listen. A few hours after landing in Myanmar, I found myself sharing beers with a young Filipina who struggled with her faith and her sexuality. I listened with compassion, knowing she lived this tension every single day. In the airport waiting for my 90-minute late plane to arrive, time moved a tad bit faster sharing stories with a fellow Japanese passenger. There are other special stories, which you wish to keep only to yourself and lock in you heart.

Akha Lady pointing at me in the market in Doi Mae Salong

My favorite picture from this trip was snapped in my iPad. It is this one above of an Akha lady at the market in Doi Mae Salong. With all the moving around, I found myself not equipped with enough Baht. I had many other currencies in my purse, but few baht left. This lady was eager to make a sale of her souvenirs. The young lady with her was making a hard sell. She insists, the jewelry were made by Akha tribe. It is hard to believe for I had seen these bangles in many of the bargain stalls in Greenhills Shopping Center in Manila. I simply smiled at the enterprising young lady, not buying anything. But this animated Akha lady in traditional garb darted at me. I quickly snapped her photo on my iPhone. She then insisted I buy something from her. Nothing caught my eye, especially after knowing they were not authentic crafts. She pressed on, after all I had taken her photo. She felt it was her right to charge for the photo. I pulled the coins remaining amounting to 40 Baht. I said: “Sorry, this is all I have left.” She did not understand what I said. But she spoke in the local dialect. She pointed to a big cyst on her hand, as if to say she needs more help. I will never learn of this lady’s story. I won’t know the answer to my curious minds questions: is she dying of cancer? Is she in pain? I will never know what brought her to this mountainous region of tea plantations. But that is ok.

The purpose of travel is not about gathering MORE stories. For me, travel is about two people connecting as two human beings. It is an exchange of bits of you that matter with another soul entrusting you with bits of himself or herself that matter to them. At that moment, you connect deeply. For me that is priceless. It’s definitely worth is much more than a collection of refrigerator magnets. This to me is exactly what Maida’s Touch is about- golden delicious moments of food and travel. Truly priceless!

Copyright2012.MaidaPineda. No portion of this blog can be copied or used anywhere else without permission of the author.

Maida's Touch- Golden Delicious Moments That Spark a Journey Within!

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