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The Burma Experience – Day Nine

Today was a funny day, really. It was our last day on the boat, and so I decided to spend the morning trying to pack. The problem I have is that I have a 20 Kg limit on an internal flight to Lake Inle, and I have at least double that! I’m just hoping they charge me money rather than throw me off the plane! The international flights are far more generous, but it’s just these two internal flights that had me worried, so I thought I should do a bit of creative packing while the other trippers went to explore the local town. We leave the boat in the morning at 8 am, and our cases have to be outside our bedroom doors by 6 am. One thing about this trip, there’s no option to laze around in bed! The latest that breakfast is EVER served is 7 – 8.30, so most people are in bed by 10 each night.

It turned out to be a good plan, because the afternoon excursion was long – lasting into the early evening. We were taken by horse and cart to visit various sites (a couple more pagodas – although I think it’s true to say that we’re all pagoda’d out now), but the highlight of the trip was a boat journey on the lake to watch the sun set. Sadly, it was our first cloudy day, so no sunset.

But the big surprise was arriving at the dock, and finding out head barman – Lay – there (we were two hours away from the ship) on a little boat with a cool box and glasses, giving us all a very welcome glass of wine to drink as we watched the sunset (or not, as the case may be.)

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Of course, it didn’t take us all long to get into the spirit.

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The key feature of this lake was the ancient teak bridge, seemingly used by tour companies and television documentaries the world over as a representation of Myanmar.

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We called in to see some gold leaf being prepared. As I’ve mentioned before, gold leaf is used on all the Buddhas, applied by the men (women are not allowed – did I mention this – apparently unclean because of menstruation!). But the gold leaf is ALL prepared by hand, and it takes hours and hours.

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These two boys take a tiny piece of gold, and pound it thousands of times with a hammer to get the wafer thin leaf. I dread to think what the hourly wage must be – I think a piece of gold leaf costs $2 (but I could be wrong) but each one must literally take most of the day to produce.

It was good to get back to the boat, where we had a farewell (to the boat) dinner – all the crew were paraded before us for a well deserved round of applause. The thing that will stick with me for a very long time is just how very delightful these people are. Always a smile, always there to help us on and off the boat, always lined up to say ‘welcome home’ when we got back from an excursion.

I shall be sorry to leave the boat in the morning, but we’re heading into Mandalay (and the market – a chance to buy even more never-to-be-used longyis), and then to the Mandalay Hill Resort for our final meal on Friday night.

And then I set off at the crack of dawn to catch a flight to Lake Inle, which I am really looking forward to.

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