I hadn’t prepared for the rain.
It fell endlessly, relentlessly. The sky was bruised by it, grey and rolling with an underbelly of thunderous clouds, the air heavy and thick with the scent of overripe durian. Myanmar in low season was a drowned world, it’s emerald jungles and golden pagodas blurred by a perpetual sheet of water, as though the whole place had been picked up and dropped carelessly into the ocean.
Battered by a week of long train journeys in damp clothes and rooms with dripping walls, I was nevertheless persistent; huddled beneath sheets of flapping tarpaulin in the back of a pick-up truck as we bounced on bone shaking roads around the outskirts of Mawlamyine. I was thrown against the side bars as we jerked abruptly to a stop, and tumbled out into the deluge.
My shoes soaked and useless, I jumped barefoot over puddles, silky mud squishing between my toes. We passed school children on the road, walking in a line under a rainbow of umbrellas like a brightly coloured insect with a hundred legs, each one sporting polished school shoes and knee socks.
The path led through the centre of a vast field, where rows of statued buddhas sat eternally cross legged in the shadow of the tumbling hills. Ahead, in the courtyard of an open sided restaurant, something caught the trembling light and threw it in ripples against the wall. An outdoor swimming pool, hewn into the broken concrete floor at the foot of a hill, guarded by an army of moss scarred buddhas.
It was so improbable I laughed out loud, my stormy mood breaking as quickly as if the sun had broken through the rainclouds. I handed over a fistful of coins in exchange for an inflatable tube and rolled it into the water, stripping down to my t-shirt and jumping in after it.
Lying across the tube, I threw my head back and let raindrops fall into my open mouth. The surface of the water, the colour of sea glass, danced to the drum beat of the falling rain; and a delicate silver mist hung just above the ground. Wet to my bones, for the first time in days the rain no longer mattered and I floated between water and sky, lost in the beauty of the moment.
I think of that swimming pool, dancing in the rain, whenever I have a tough travel day. It reminds me that amazing experiences can always be found – sometimes in the most unexpected places.
We arranged a driver for the day from the Aurora guest house in Mawlamyine. The swimming pool was the last stop on a tour of the caves and pagodas surrounding the city.