After a flight via Mandalay on Air Bagan, I collected my luggage and moving out to the arrivals area, and was concerned that I couldn't find my promised driver. Then I noticed a sign being displayed for Mr Chan Ber Yain (Australia).
The drive through the verdant green country was pleasant enough, and the staff at the Remember Inn (phone 081-29257 -or- 00.95.81.29257) provided a cheerful welcome on arrival. The hotel is operated by the extended family of the manager Niti, and his sister Tutu, who were extremely helpful in organising anything guests wanted.
I met another young Aussie, JJ, and his Japanese travelling companion Yoshi, who he had palled up with along the way. We all agreed to visit the local orphanage to deliver clothing brought from Australia. It was a moving experience to see the numerous boys and girls lining up to say grace before their mid-day meal of curried rice, the very basic kitchen where the food is prepared, the dormitories where they sleep, and the bare playground.
The day spent cruising on the lake in a solid longboat with Niti as our guide, was one of the highlights of the trip to Burma. Our first stop was to see how the local fishermen rowed their boats with an unusual action, balancing on one leg and using the other leg and an arm to row the boat, as well as displaying their netting arrangement to catch fish.
Next we called in at a village market, to see the locals from tribes in the surrounding areas displaying their produce and goods for sale. This was an authentic market to which tourists were welcome, but not set up for tourists. I took dozens of photos of the local people, the brightly covered stalls and produce.
From there we visited a number of places on the water which included :-
All told, an extraordinary day.
The following day, JJ organised the hire of bikes so that we could ride to the Kaung Doing Monastery. The roads were rough as guts, and we concentrated on riding on the slightly smoother tracks of the locals, on the edges of the road. Along the way a truck stopped unexpectedly in front of me, and when I didn't slow down after applying the non-existing brakes, swerved and landed in a nettles beside the road. With the help of the truck passengers and Yoshi, I managed to be extricated from the clinging vines. Yoshi also used lotions and bandages etc to repair the damage I suffered, and we cycled on until we finally came across a group of women who indicated the monastery was at the top of a series of steps leading up< the hill.
The monks appeared to be a semi-silent order, for there was little conversation, but by signs, we were invited into the pagoda to sit and join them drinking tea. They were quite hospitable, and were amused when I displayed their photos which they gave me permission to take.
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