A girl on a boat sailing through Inle Lake, Myanmar Inle Lake

RAG: Inle Lake – Leaving Inle

Leaving Inle. Leaving the lake and its shitty tourist tours. Locals like lights-camera-action, put on their showing of tired attraction. Sleepy spectators click cameras and grin, sleepy again when they sneak past the giftshop.

Leaving Inle. Seeing the roadworkers working the roads, hacking at land to make way for more roads, bigger roads built only for bigger buses. Bigger tourist buses in a country with one highway. For how long? Carcass of smoke in some distance and something set fire to. What are they setting fire to?

Leaving Inle. You find that your bus is transporting more than just people. That bus drivers remove sandals for even bus driving, that local drug smugglers are always contriving. Guerrilla army checkpoints, ignoring our passports, take cuts from whatever small fortune they find. Whichever flowers they’ve managed to grind.

Leaving Inle. Carousel of smoke in some distance and something set fire to. The fire they use to cook their meals the same fire is used to clear their fields. And when buffalos die from no crops left to feed, were we chasing the flower and forgetting the seed? Faithful field-workers are not cooked not eaten. They’re part of the family; buried in ritual.

Leaving Inle. Leaving local villages. Small local villages. Tiny local villages where people learned one another and live for each other. Night-buses blast past and assault the old order. Night-buses blurring past put-to-rest restaurants, tired markets, sullen shelves all filled with small somethings. Like quiet village locals they’re something meant to be there and something meant to be.

Leaving Inle. We’re winding through states through hills clad with cloud. The bus shudders side-thoughts and windows rattle in frames. Outside’s naught but darkness save that small pairs of headlights grown in to the night, growing nearer our sight to bludgeon blackness back around every bend. There’s a reason we raid roads by night.

Leaving Inle. Mad, winding road. No street lights. No highway code. Peering over the cliff-edges see snakes and sharp esses are we sure this is road? The wheels screech ache and whine and the box that we sit in is craning round corners, crooning down gears. Every bend battled belittles false fears. The driver’s overtaking heart attacks in the making.

Leaving Inle. Burmese music blaring and we can’t fall asleep. Of course we can’t sleep. Children sleep soundly in their mother’s loving lap. Be grateful for what you’ve got, because it’s gone before you know. Gone when I return to the window, count the constellations I don’t know. See the states I can’t know.

Leaving Inle. Eighteen-fucking-hours of rambling road-thoughts. Waiting ‘til I’ve tied my brain up in knots I never even learned how to tie. On this other side of world the crescent moon upside down. The crescent, prescient, half-imaginary moon. We doze on the bus these lame half-imaginings, the half not set fire to. And only half there – only ever half there. We only ever see half what they’re willing to share.

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