MYANMAR IN CROCS

The baggage allowance on the twin-engine burmese flights is only  15 kilos. So when I prepared my backpack and photo equipment, I had no doubts: practicality bit elegance! My hiking boots -weighing nearly 1.5 kilos – stayed home, while 200 grams of pure rubber CROCS Band followed me to Southeast Asia.

 

“Followed me”, it’s not totally true. More were the times that I parked my Crocs outside a pagoda, then those times I wore them!

During my trip to Burma I visited more than 200 among temples, pagodas and shrines, climbed thousands of stairs, vivide homes and shops. Always barefoot. For more than 10 times a day I had to put on and remove my shoes. For feet must be naked in the presence of religious places and to show respect, inside homes and in some shops too. 

TRAIN

On the night train from Yangon to Mandalay, I booked a first-class sleeper with air conditioning. I thought if I paid more, maybe the service’d be better … But the Burmese standard is very low and the luxury bunks are still modest. I chose the bunk above to have more privacy, but at night, because of a 66cl. Myanmar  gobbled up in the dining car, I had to get up and down the bunk three times to use the bathroom. Blessed CROCS, always ready to accommodate my feet in the darkness of the jolting train!

    

I did not regret that beer though. To reach the restaurant car in fact, I had to cross ALL cars, passing through the First Class bunks, through the II Class, III Class till Indefinite Class X (?) where you find the most uncomfortable seats: 90 degreed backs and narrow seattings, not wide enought to to lie down either. A succession of Dante’s circle, including passengers increasingly poor and increasingly flooded latrines . The Burmese humanity divided by classes and wallet. Higher the military,  the monks all the way down to the railway workers.

FERRY

On New Years’ day, my CROCS and I woke up early: it’s Sunday and the public ferry between Mandalay and Bagan leaves at 5am. The boat has two floors, a rickety diesel engine and a roof of corrugated steel. During winter it takes 14 hours to cover a distance of 100 miles of the shallow Irrawaddy waters. But this is compensated by the costs of 7 dollars versus 70 of the 45′ flight.

 

Before departing the rusty ferry was already packed with people. Commuters returning to their villages, monks wrapped in red cloth and purple and woolen hats, and a few backpackers. Tourists usually prefer the convenience of the direct flight Mandalay Airways.

On the covered deck there is a walk-over part: a corridor of wooden planks of just thirty centimeters wide, the rest of the surface is occupied people, families cruched down on humble  mats surrounded by bulgy bundles containg food, goods and god-knows what.

   

Within a few hours we all know eachother.

 

Of those who smiled at me, I took a picture and then stopped to show the preview on the LCD of my Canon. They seemed contempted and made sign to sit down on their threadbare mats, they looked at my funny green eyes or offered me rice and chickpeas from small aluminum bowls. In each household I sqwat down to socialize with gestures and smiles. Then I put my CROCS on and continued to the next human plot. Each mat was like a camping pitch: a well-kept garden, a small world in which I entered with respect. 

I pulled out the black rubbish bag I carry around to cover my backpack in case of dust or rain, and I stretched myself on the deck. I sat and I organized my plot by placing backpack and bassoons. I greeted the new neighbors, offering myself what I had: gum mint and smiles for everyone.

The CROCS respectfully “parked” outside, beside the worn Burmese sandals.

IN THE BATHROOM

 

It’s hot in Burma, even when they have cold weather. It’s hot and the feet sweat. It is tempting to put on flip-flops, like Asians do. But then you have to go to the bathroom – and the bathrooms in Burma are ALWAYS sqwat toilet – and always flooded …Flip Flops are not the wisest option. Over the years I have learned that open sandals and sqwat toilet do not get along. The Crocs are semi-open, airy and if you caltulate well the depths of the marsh, and the distance from the hole, your feet remains dry …

GOLDEN ROCK

 

Not very many tourists make it to Kyaikto but plenty of the country’s Buddhists do. There are only two hotels that tourists can stay in the Kyaikto Hotel and the Mountain Top Hotel, but if you don’t mind sleeping on the floor for just 1 night, the terrace overlooking the Sacred Rock is the place to be. Here the atmosphere surrounding Kyaiktiyo simply makes you feel happy with magic and devotion. I, like thousands pilgrims, chanted, light the candles and meditated during the night. My Crocs next to their flip flops. Walking to the Rock early morning to see the spectacular sunrise among pilgrims was indeed the pick of by burmese trip.

 

MOUNT POPA

 

 

Sanctuary of Mount Popa, 70 km from Bagan, is Burmese pilgrims’ second destination (after Golden Rock) For all those burmese who openly  still profess animist cults, the worship of Nats (spirits of good and evil) this is the place to go. Here you can find the thirty-seventh Nat statue: the Spirit of conjunction between burmese animism and Buddhism. To find it you have to climb a staircase of 777 steps tiled with horrible majolica from the 60s. Obviously you have to leave your shoes at the foot of the mountain where – among other things – lives a community of monkeys who enjoy poohing on the staircase. 

Proceed with caution, look down to the ground to spot the droppings – but also to avoid eye contact with the horrible beasts. If you dare to secure in their eye, they go mad with rage and show fangs in a terrifying growl. 

I hate monkeys. They jump up when you least expect it and they steal dangling things from your rucksack. And they are dirty. Even my feet are always dirty, but at the end of the day in the hotel room, with a hot shower and a small pumice stone, they go back smooth and clean.

 

The CROCS, instead, to soak in ®Amuchina …

IN CONCLUSION

Kakku – Lake Inle, Myanmar

Crocs are neither walking or hiking shoes, however, I wear them for most day of all my adventurous trips. They are light, easy to wear and to clean. If I had been afraid to get my feet dirty, I would have lost all of these meetings and these memories of Burma … If I had hesitated a single moment entering the reality of Burmese people and their veneration, I would have missed out on so much.

 

My feet are finally freed, they followed the eye and not the brain.                     

 

Francesca Braghetta

I grew up in Italy between Liguria and Sardinia, by sea, but I lived in London for three years where I was a Fine Art student at Central Saint Martins - College of Art and Design. When I returned to Rome I graduated in Comics and Illustration for children, and worked as a graphic designer and freelance photographer for few years. I love outdoor sports: snowboard is my favourite. I like writing and taking photographs, and in 2013 I started this travel blog. I have always been a curiosus person and I love travelling: I have visited 22 countries so far! I speak 3 languages fluently and I'm currently studying Chinese: 大家好!我叫晨光。I use a good old Canon 5D...

7 thoughts on “MYANMAR IN CROCS

  • Thursday January 19th, 2012 at 04:12 PM
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    …la Birmania dal punto di vista di un paio di piedi… Moooolto fetish! Oltre a vari birmani hai incorciato numerosi birpiedi:-)) Mai piu’ azzeccate di qua le tue caratteristiche foto di paesaggi con cornice podologica! Il sig. Clogs dovrebbe assumerti alla comunicazione: hai trasformato una scarpaccia di plastica da corsia ospedaliera nell’icona del viaggio low profile alternativo sano aperto multiculturare freakkettonissimo! La tolfa del nuovo millennio… Insomma non bisogna aver paura di sporcarsi le mani per conoscere il mondo: e neanche i piedi!

    Reply
  • Saturday January 21st, 2012 at 01:39 PM
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    molto carina l’idea di associare le scarpe al racconto di viaggio,fa molto forrest gump!!!scherzi a parte mi è piaciuto molto il tuo modo di raccontare la Birmania,amo il fascino del sud est asiatico che ho comincato a visitare dalla Thailandia,adesso sto progettando un viaggio in cambogia e non vedo l’ora di partire tra qualche mese,dopo aver raccimolato soldi a sufficienza!!!
    Se ti va passa a dare un occhiata al mio piccolo blog mi farebbe piacere!!
    one love
    mondoteo

    Reply
  • Friday January 27th, 2012 at 07:40 AM
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    Ah ah ah bellissimo resoconto! E ora, una domanda da totale ignorante: ma le CLOGS e le CROCS sono tanto diverse tra loro? @___@

    Reply
  • Wednesday February 15th, 2012 at 01:55 PM
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    bellissimo racconto!
    mi è piaciuto moltissimo il tuo modo di raccontare il viaggio dal un punto di vista un po insolito 🙂

    Reply
  • Wednesday February 15th, 2012 at 01:56 PM
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    ah dimenticavo: le foto del set sono meravigliose *_*

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  • Friday February 22nd, 2013 at 10:50 PM
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    Delle foto S – T- U – P- E – N – D – E! Complimenti, davvero. Alcune mi hanno ricordato Steve Mc Curry, che io adoro! Usi una canon?

    Reply

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