I think I can see why we both had that strong sense of lightness at that time. It followed us around like a guardian angel and as we entered Myanmar through the border of Moreh-Tamu it made our steps fly on the roadside while searching for a place to stay that night.
We had crossed the great river of Brahmaputra a few days before and now we seemed to have left yet another natural border behind us: the sub-Himalayan-tail, the mountainous area that would connect Central Asia with the South East. This very obvious change of geographical features, but also the fact that we had sold off half of our baggage on the streets of Dimapur (a story that I will tell another time), contributed to this sense of lightness.
But that’s not all. As I look at my notes from that time I am reminded of another reason behind why this sense started. I saw it in the women that lived in the areas that we passed through. When we had crossed the Brahmaputra I had noticed a change in how they dressed and behaved. They felt more free and seemed like they were walking the streets as that, as free women. Everywhere in Nagaland and Manipur I noticed this. Coincidentally the military presence was huge in this part of India due to the ”risk of uprising” and one night we heard bombs blasting in the distance but it never made me worry. I felt comforted by these obvious contrasts and perhaps the sense that the feminine energy would protect me. When entering Myanmar the contrasts had become more mellow and the genders seemed to be more on equal terms with one another, men and women cooperating rather than measuring each other out, and me and Alice walked lightly and when the sun had set we had found the only hotel in town.
It felt like it was that night that I got infected, because when I woke up the next day I was congested and feverish. Still it was beautiful to walk the streets of Tamu and we met people that were light-hearted, diplomatic and communicative, just like one would expect from people in a border town. The fever got worse by the hour and now and then I had to sit down to gather my strength. In the afternoon we had found a bus that would bring us to Mandalay but it was still a few hours for it to leave so we walked around in a huge street market where one could see a happy blend of comestibles from all the geographically close cultures like India, China, Tibet and South East Asia. In one of the stalls a woman sold some kind of noodles but something else caught my attention — a half full tea pot. By pointing my finger at the pot I tried to ask if we could have some. I don’t think she understood a word of English and she generally seemed a bit confused about my request, but she asked us to sit down. I saw her grabbing two new handfuls of tea leafs from a jar of glass. She added those to the already used leafs in the pot together with some fresh boiling water. The new and the old would blend and when I tasted it it had just the right amount of sweet and bitter. In that particular moment of the day my fever had lowered me almost to the ground but I remember clearly what happened after only a sip of that tea — it all cleared up — the feverish thoughts had suddenly vanished and my eyes could yet again focus.
So it was discovered that perhaps the best tea in the world was not Chinese, not Indian, not Sri Lankan, but it all originated from the Tea Homeland, the highland that stretched through the east of Myanmar, the north of Thailand, Laos and perhaps Vietnam and of course the southern parts of Yunnan. I came to call this part of the world ”The Tea Triangle”.