The people of Banglu have very little food, other than rice and a few vegetables. They catch whatever they can in the surrounding jungle, which is usually limited to the occasional rat. They skin the rats and leave them hanging in their homes to dry. Two or three rats will feed the entire village when added to a thin vegetable soup with rice and chilies. We visit a home where there is a collection of small animal skulls and skeletons hanging from the ceiling, the purpose of which is not made clear. A small fire is burning in the middle of the floor and a cooking pot with soup simmers on top.
The smell is not pleasant. A rattan basket holds a large amount of cooked rice which sits there for days, and the people just take what they need for each meal. Home sweet home to them, but about as far away from it as we can imagine.
On the advice of our guide we went to the local market before we left Kyaingtong and bought a huge amount of cookies for the children and an assortment of basic medicines and shampoo for the people. Word spreads quickly that tourists have arrived in the village, and the children are gathered around us within minutes. They are all filthy but full of smiles which win our hearts.
It is customary for these tribes people never to ask for anything, so although these children are hungry, have nothing, and know that we have treats that they would never normally get, they don’t beg. But when we produce the cookies they all get in a line to be given the treats, and thank us, as their turn comes for the cookies. If that doesn’t melt your heart, nothing will.
After that we all sit down in one of the huts, and the women who have health problems quietly line up to tell our guide what ails them. The guide dispenses the relevant medicine. Several of the women have diarrhea which is hardly surprising, but sadly we have not brought up any medicine for that. We are not too sure that the guide acting as a dispensing chemist is the answer to the tribe’s problems, but it is certainly better than nothing. They have not seen a tourist for three months and this is the only way they ever get medicine.