It was a cold start to the morning, but at least it wasn’t raining. I can confess to slight disappointment – I was hoping that it would rain for ten minutes so I could wear my purple poncho – the waterproof version – bought especially for the trip, and up to now unworn. I nearly wore it anyway, to keep me warm.
There’s not much to say about the next two days – they were almost exclusively spent travelling. After leaving the ship, we took the coach and had a tour of the some of the highlights of Mandalay. It’s an interesting city and seemed to me to be cleaner that Yangon – but that could be because I am just more used to Burma. They have a huge problem with rubbish here – plastic bags have entered their world without any thought of how they are going to get rid of them all. As many of the villages don’t even have sewers or running water, I think the idea of garbage collection is quite far down the list. My guide today told me that she volunteers once a month to collect plastic bags from the streets, as do many of the other people who are concerned about keeping their area beautiful.
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 – …
I was particularly looking forward to today, because I was told we were going into the jungle, and I thought it would give me a very real feel of the places that my dad must have visited. However, disappointingly it wasn’t the jungle at all. It was a fairly sparse forest with quite a lot of monkeys! If it hadn’t been for the disappointment of the jungle, which is apparently much further north, it would have been a good day. Although we had quite a long coach ride, we visited a place high up in the hills where niches have been carved in the rocks, and every niche contains some kind of Buddha (I have more photos of Buddhas than you would believe possible). It was quite extraordinary, because the Buddhas were actually carved out of the rock too – not just built externally and then added into the niches. …
Today we visited another village, alongside the river. Here, the local people make clay pots. All their materials are free – they gather clay from the river and mix it with sand from the river bank. This forms the basis of their pots.
This has been my favourite day up to now, in spite of having to get up at 5 am! Not the best time of the day for me, it has to be said. The reason for the early rise was a sunrise balloon trip over the wonderful Bagan area – an area with over 2000 pagodas and it is truly extraordinary. We arrived at the launch site at about 6 am, and were served coffee and croissants while we had our safety briefing. To my surprise there were several balloons. The company we were with had six, and there were two other companies. We were the green balloons, and there were eight of us per basket.
Today was the BIG DAY – the day that we visited Bagan, one of the major sites of Myanmar. Bagan has over 2000 pagodas, many of them dating back to the 11th century, and the vast majority are stupas, not temples. If you remember from an earlier post, a stupa is a solid building that you can’t go inside. A temple is a pagoda that you can enter.
Today I decided not to go on the first trip of the day. I know – a bit pathetic – but I really fancied lying on a sun lounger, reading a book. And I also spent some time thinking about my next book and wrote some notes.
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.
The second day of the tour was interesting for so many reasons. We set off from the boat in the morning, travelling on horse and cart – two people to a cart. The travel company likes to use local transport, but the seats are made for rather smaller Burmese bottoms on the whole. I didn’t even take a photo when we went out on a trishaw – too many bits of overflowing flesh for the most part! But it was quite a sight seeing twenty five horse and carts trot off with British and Australian (more Aussies than Brits) hanging on for dear life.