by Carol Rudy
Until recently, I never knew a coffee plantation tour could be so much fun. I was lucky enough to join a group of fellow writers to go for a trekking tour in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar where one of the highlights was visiting a coffee plantation. As a coffee addict, I found myself agreeing to the tour without giving it much thought. Now, as I work from my desk back in my home country, I am reminded of the soothing sensation of holding a warm coffee in the midst of green and lush tropical hills.
I started my journey at the hotel at Pyin Oo Lwin. A van brought us to the coffee farm, which only took us 20 minutes to reach. I was surprised when we were told to start trekking immediately. The guides expertly navigated through tall grass and trees, cutting away shrubs that blocked the pathway. They worked efficiently and quickly, patiently waiting for us to catch up before continuing the journey again. I was grateful for their consideration.
I enjoyed myself during the two hours of exploring coffee fields with my guide as my translator. I was more fascinated by the beauty of nature in Myanmar as I observed the locals work at the coffee fields, harvesting and learning from experts while carrying round baskets to store harvests. We helped them pluck and separated some of the coffee fruits called ‘cherries’ before continuing to sight-see around the area.
My guide cut open one cherry and revealed two oval and flat beans inside. He was happy to see us marvel over it, tiny as it was, it was still an important component of coffee production in Myanmar. We were rewarded with a fresh cup of coffee while watching how coffee in Myanmar was made. It was a great moment, sipping on an aromatic cup of coffee while having a close view on the process of production.
The trekking was another pleasant experience. It wasn’t too challenging, and I enjoyed the clear skies as I took in the breathtaking surroundings of Mandalay. The view of the city was unpolluted and clear with sounds of birds and crickets singing in nature, unlike the busy sounds of honking and vehicles on city roads.
Finally, we went for the most exciting activity: canoeing! We spent 45 minutes rowing to bring us across Shan village. I felt at peace as I was rowed the canoe with my guide, and he mentioned that many tourists also find this experience a soothing and therapeutic moment for them. We travelled the rest of the way in comfortable silence, letting only the sounds of water splashing and nature fill our ears.
We arrived at a tiny island and rested for a bit before trekking for an hour to a village called Inn Shan. This village was small but I was impressed with the natural sights here. From green paddy fields and pine forests to vibrant flower plantations and caves, I couldn’t believe how a small village could possess such a scenic and assorted view of nature.
We had a simple but hearty lunch with a local family who was all smiles from the start to the end of our visit. They were simply overjoyed to have guests around, and their warmth and friendliness towards complete strangers were simply admirable. It was a simple lunch at a round table where our seats were none other than the floor, but that created a sense of togetherness I would never experience elsewhere.
After thanking them for the meal, we exchanged goodbyes with the locals and trekked to our ending point where our jeep was already waiting for us. It was a day well-spent trekking to the coffee plantation and interacting with the locals, and I found myself happy and satisfied with the overall experience. It was only a short time, but after having immersed myself in Myanmar’s nature and culture I was already prepared to return to this country to witness what else it could offer. Also, as I am running low on my Myanmar coffee supply, I wouldn’t mind visiting again for a restock!