March 12, 2010

Burmese Days...Part III


We eventually made it to Mandalay thanks to our good Samaritans. They really saved our #$%^&. What we did not realize until the end of the 16 hour bus ride, was that they bus had to stop early and kick everyone off...thanks to us. The bus commander was worried that the authorities would see us if he drove all the way into Mandalay. We had to ride the last 20 minutes in the back of a tiny pickup truck commandeered by our new found friends.


Our guardians then dropped us off at a local hotel which they had arranged for in advance. Very nice...and no...they did not take a cut. I believe they were not hurting for money and were more than happy to help us out of a tight spot.


The next adventure was to be on a boat! Sixteen hours of floating down the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay to Bagan. The action was never ending...but words can barely describe it.


At one point, we stopped in the middle of nowhere...since we where already in the middle of nowhere...this was rather redundant. Anyway...off in the distance I could see dust being stirred by a caravan of vehicles. As time passed I assumed they were trucks moving very slowly to meet the boat.


As the vehicles approached I realized they were teams of ox carts. I must say, they were most beautiful beasts...And were definitely prized animals with very proud owners.


The ox carts lined up, and then, for several hours, laboring men off loaded bone crunching bags of cement and steel rebar...man by man...


Fate would have it that I got terrible dysentery during the boat ride...needless to say things were not that sanitary. I will spare you the details...but I did not let it spoil the trip...not a chance. Compared to dragging the cement off the boat this a minor discomfort.


The foreigners, mostly segregated themselves from the rest of the locals. Not sure this was out of fear, comfort or what. Eventually, some people broke the ice, but it took effort. Maybe people just get tired of making an effort. Regardless...someone brought a guitar...and nothing breaks down barriers like a guy with a guitar.


We ended up in Bagan after night fall...So, the next day we got up at the crack of dawn to watch the sunrise...


...And spent all day riding bikes around the pagodas...


...until sunset.

To be continued...on to Lake Inle...then Shwedhegon.

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