Today we went on some trishaws – a bike attached to a kind of sidecar with a seat. As I mentioned before, it has to be said that the seats have been designed for very skinny Burmese bottoms, and not European (or Australian) rears. I watched the people in front of me, and could see their difficulty – but we all made it safely to the pagoda that was the central attraction to the trip.
But before that, it’s worth mentioning the market that we visited. It was full of fruit, vegetables, and dried items – such as chillies (obviously) but also lots of dried fish, dried shrimp etc. Because most Burmese homes don’t have fridges and they can’t come to the market every day, they buy dried items – so much easier for them.
I was also intrigued by the green bananas that I saw at every market. I assumed that they bought the fruit green and waited for it to ripen, but apparently they buy the fruit as a gift to the monks and to Buddha. I don’t think they get eaten at all. They just sit there as a gift.
On our way to the market, we saw more of their modes of transport too. Outside of Yangon, there are a lot of motorbikes, often with whole families on them. They are banned in Yangon, but everywhere else they are very popular.
I also particularly loved the buses – crammed full of smiling, happy Burmese people and often bags of rice and just about anything that you can easily transport.
Most of the people on the boat got carried away and bought a longyi – the skirt worn by both men and women (although tied in a different way) and I was no exception. I have no idea when I might wear this garment, but I can believe that it would be incredibly comfortable. (By the end of the trip, I had actually acquired five longyis. I found it completely impossible to refuse! I still have no idea what I’ll do with them, but I’ll find something.)
After this, we carried on – on the trishaws – to the temple. We climbed 100 steps, and found a stupa that was covered in scaffolding – the whole thing constructed from bamboo. Apparently every 10 years the local people erect the scaffolding and repair the gold leaf on the stupa.
I found the whole thing both interesting and surprising. Because stupas are solid (built of solid brick), you can’t go inside them. So there is no sense of a church or a temple. People just use kneeling mats outside for their prayers.
The most outstanding thing about this country is the friendliness of the people – one of the only things my dad ever mentioned about his experience here. As we drove through on our slightly ridiculous trishaws, with the vast majority of westerners spilling out of the sides because they couldn’t fit into the seats, people – both adults and children – stopped in the streets to wave and smile. They are truly beautiful people, and I think it’s the memory I will bring back with me more than anything else. I think I have more photos of smiling children than I do of any pagoda.
Tomorrow afternoon we go up to the top of a mountain, and see Bagan below us. I expect that to be spectacular, but not quite as spectacular as the view from the hot air balloon that I’m going up in on Monday!