#5 of series of posts from Burma that started here. Check the list of Recent Posts in the right margin.–>
Every stop on the Chindwin had its own unique charm — especially the aptly-named village of Warmly Welcome.
Late one afternoon, we saw a path leading through a gap in the rocky cliffs lining the eastern bank of the Chindwin. White paint on the rocks spelled out the Burmese words for “Warmly Welcome” in three-foot-high letters. We couldn’t pass up an invitation like that. After anchoring the boat and climbing through the gap, we soon saw farmland and a small village in the valley a mile or so beyond. A short hike through the rice fields (dry this time of year) got us to the edge of town. It turned out that Warmly Welcome wasn’t (just) a greeting; that was the actual name of the town. By the time we got there, half the town (“25 houses,” we were told) had come out to see the foreigners. They told us we were the only outsiders who had ever visited,** and the only non-Burmese people they’d ever seen in person.
We really were warmly welcomed in Warmly Welcome. And they surely seemed happy in their little valley enclave. They invited us to stay for dinner, but we had wandered a long way from our boat and the sun had already set, so we had to get moving. Truth is, we were warmly welcomed in (almost***) every village we stumbled into, even though we were total strangers who showed up on their shores literally at random. Warmly Welcome was my favorite stop, but it’s just one of 20 or so villages we visited. Lots more to come from the Chindwin.
* An “aptonym” (or “aptronym”) is a proper name that is also a real English word that is (maybe amusingly) especially appropriate — especially “apt”. Think of lightning-fast runner Usain Bolt, the virtuous Dudley Do-Right, or Thomas Crapper (inventor of the toilet). I’m adding the hospitable village of Warmly Welcome to that list.
** The British controlled the region for 124 years, and the Japanese took control for a few years during World War II. So I’d guess that surely they’d seen outsiders at some point in the last century or so. And they’ve seen DVDs and other media, so they knew what we looked like.
*** Why do I say “almost”? One stop was an attempt to see an elephant camp. We’d heard that they used elephants to carry heavy loads (from mining or timber, I think). When we stopped and asked where to find them, we got the run-around — and we surely never got to see any elephants. The local authority watched us closely to ensure that we’d all got back on the boat and headed on down the river. It’s unclear what was going on there. My guess was that they feared we were PETA-type animal rights activists there to protest or do something to protect the elephants. Just a guess. But even those guys were polite — they were just entirely unhelpful.