Wash and wear in Myan­mar

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - JUDYTH GRE­GORY-SMITH

I didn’t take no­tice of whether there was a hair­dress­ing sa­lon in Nyaung­shwe at Inle Lake in Myan­mar when my guide and I were walk­ing around. Next day I had no guide, but thought there would be no prob­lem. I set off on the path be­side the lake where boat driv­ers were long­ing to take me for a ride. But I wanted a sham­poo, even though two days later I would be in Mandalay, where the best-ever hair treat­ments and head mas­sages awaited.

I wan­dered around the main streets but couldn’t find a sa­lon; I turned into a side street and saw a sign ad­ver­tis­ing “sham­poo’’. I guessed it would not say that if it were a bar­ber’s shop. True, there were many chaps sit­ting around aim­lessly chat­ting, but this is what chaps do.

I mimed wash­ing, not cut­ting, and an oblig­ing bar­ber (let’s call him Hair Wash) sped off to find the fe­male hair­dresser, or so I thought. But it was Hair Wash who re­turned with a bucket of cold wa­ter and guided me to a wooden chair be­side a stained, stain­less-steel sink. It looked so filthy, I closed my eyes.

Hair Wash pushed my head for­ward and tucked a dark green towel around my neck. Then came half the bucket of cold wa­ter tipped over my head and shoul­ders. But as the wa­ter poured into the sink, there was no plug or in­deed no drain­pipe so the liq­uid cooled my hands, knees and calves. Next came more usual hair­dress­ing pro­ce­dures — Hair Wash lath­ered my head in soapy bub­bles. Time for the other half of the bucket of wa­ter. Sat­is­fied he’d re­moved all the soap (and hope­fully the grime), Hair Wash threw the dark green towel over my head and face. But he’d been us­ing the towel to sop up some way­ward wa­ter so as the towel landed on my head my face got a dous­ing, too.

I got up and walked halt­ingly, as you do with a wet towel over your head. I fum­bled my way to a chair be­side a mir­ror, where there was a com­plete sur­prise, a hairdryer. It was elec­tric. And there was elec­tric­ity. I snug­gled down in the chair, shut my eyes as Hair Wash gen­tly combed and dried to the flow of words from the three chaps still clus­tered around.

Hair Wash fin­ished. I opened my eyes. In the mir­ror I hardly recog­nised my­self. The wrin­kles were still there as tes­ta­ment to my 71 years. But I had the neat part­ing and the smoothed-down hair of a pri­mary school boy. Not what I ex­pected. But, hey, you want some­thing un­ex­pected when you’re an in­trepid tourist. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au. Columnists re­ceive a set of four Lonely Planet Make My Day guide­books for Lon­don, New York, Paris and Tokyo, of­fer­ing mix-and-match itin­er­ar­ies for morn­ing, af­ter­noon and evening. $99.96 ($24.99 each). More: lone­ly­planet.com..

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.