By 6 a.m, I’m on the third floor patio of my hotel, listening to loudspeaker chants wafting over still-dark streets. I wrap my jacket around me and descend to the empty streets and head for the market.
Outside the golden stupa, barefoot monks sing for their supper as they line up and move slowly past the village women, holding out black alms bowls. Many of the women wear thick toques or bobble-hats decorated with pom-poms against the morning chill. A row of lit sticks makes the simple ceremony curiously moving.
I sit in a little teashop afterward, eating a chapati still warm from the fire, along with side dishes of potato and onion chutney and a hot sauce. The cafe owner brings me sweet milky tea and a separate glass of green tea to wash it down.
Today it’s big market day in Kalaw and men in longhis or long skirts and women with checked headscarves are pouring into town on motorbikes or sitting on top of their produce packed into open-sided trucks. The women’s cheeks and noses are covered with a thick white paste from the Thanatka plant, which acts as a natural suncream.
A little later, macho men on their motorbikes hang around the tree, smoking and gossiping.
When I return to the Golden Kalaw Hotel, three westerners in their 20s are huddled over smart phones in the little reception area, , trying to make the most of the spotty Wifi in Myanmar. ‘Look up! Go outside and see what you are missing!” I feel like saying.
But then I go to my bedroom and check to see that my iPad is charging properly.