A steep walk brought us to Koun Soun Taungbo where we took lunch. Most of the monks are teenage novices who were entertaining a few teenage visitors from the nearby villages. Their antics were exactly what you might expect from a group of unsupervised teenage boys. It was lively and humorous to say the least. It's not every day you're in the presence of a group of monks making endless jokes about noisy bodily functions.
As parts of the hike up the mountain were a little steep - aggravated by the hot dry blazing sun, it was satisfying to hear my guide exclaim, "no more up!" So with his encouragement - I really think he was more interested in having me see all the villages than end his day early, I decided to extend the hike across the mountain ridge passing through the numerous villages. A good choice and a big thank you to my guide.
The villagers are friendly and at no time did anyone try to sell me any trinkets, crafts, or what have you. There was, however, one instance where a few children approached me asking for (demanding?) pens and/or money. That disturbed me for it only means that other foreigners before me have already caved into the children's demands. My guide told me he personally doesn't permit giving anything to the kids, and he then directed a few sharp words to the kids as he chased them off. Please folks, don't turn these people into beggars. This however, was an isolated incident and overall, trekking here was a very positive experience.
Halfway across the mountain we stopped in at the home of a friend of my guide. A spacious wooden home, once inside I could quickly appreciate that this was a truly authentic village home. The walls were not adorned with native crafts, weavings, or other local products designed to enthrall the visitor, but instead were generously covered with magazine and promotional photographs of Myanmar movie stars.
A welcome tea break and we then continued through more villages before starting the steep descent. Along the way we passed a group of people on the side of a hill picking tea leaves and then a monastery provided an opportunity for another break before we reached the lake and a boat returned us to Nyaungshwe.
I spent the evening absorbed in a Michael Crichton novel and the following day was devoted to sleeping off the hike and traveling to Kalaw where after this single day's rest I began two more days of satisfying hill treks.