Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Heho: City of Oxcarts

After a short flight from Bagan, we arrived at Heho airport to be met by our trekking guide. We were pleased at the plane that we flew on today. It is one of only two that belong to a small company, used as a flight-share with the company we were actually supposed to fly with. There was a moment of panic when I saw our bags being put into the hold of a plane that bore the name of another company. Were our bags going back to Yangon instead of on to Heho? We were not the only ones worried, but all worked out in the end, and we learned that this is how it works here between the small airline companies. At least this plane looked in good shape The flight was comfortable and the staff efficient and friendly. The flight we took from Yangon to Mandalayhad gone well, but when the armrests on all the seats are held together with duck-tape, you become a little anxious!
A slow walk through the market at Heho, which means city of oxcarts in the Danu language, was a visit to the way things have been done here for many years. This is a 5-day market, one in a cycle of markets in small towns in the Shan hills. Every 5 days the market comes to Heho, as it does to other towns. People from the hill tribes  come to the town to buy and sell. They arrived today mostly in trucks loaded with people from their village. Some still come by oxcart, which are parked in the back alongside the trucks. We saw a refurbished (with wood) WW11 truck that is used to transport people and goods.

The women from the Pa-O tribe wear black longyhi and tops. Their heads are wrapped with colorful plaid scarves. They carry baskets over their shoulders to fill with fresh produce before returning to their villages. The market is a lively place for buying, selling and socializing. It was hard  to move through the narrow passages between the stalls. Many people were buying flowers and pots to use next week to celebrate the new year. This made the market busier than usual. As we sat in the center of the market at a tea shop, which is a collection of little tables and miniature plastic stools of the kind one would see in a daycare at home, we were surrounded by smiling people, talking, sipping sweet tea and discussing daily affairs with their friends. This is what we love.
While the women shop at the women’s market, the men are further down the road at the men’s cattle market.  We wandered over the dry field between the animals, tied so they could not bolt.  Several water buffalo were for sale. Small groups of men, some dressed in traditional black longyhi, sat on the ground beside their respective animals, bartering until a deal was made and the buyer and seller happy. These animals are used in pairs tied to a wooden plow that works the fields, a method that remains the most ecological and efficient.

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