Friday, January 17, 2014


January 10 - Woke up at 4am to get all packed up and took a taxi to the jetty to get on our boat headed for Mandalay.  Boat left at 5:30am and got into the city at 5pm.  Not a bad boat ride, especially since there were only about 10 passengers, so no fighting to get a good seat in the recliner style chairs.  Served an egg and banana for breakfast and fried rice for lunch.  Beautiful weather and such a nice way to see the Myanmar delta area.  Ticket was $35.

Interesting conversation with Sam on the boat ride over.  I think during trips like this its not uncommon to have that "what am I doing feeling".  Sam and I are both confused about what we want to be doing with our lives and what the "right" decisions are.  Both of us are also a little scared to return home and be faced with decisions and responsibilities that we don't want to deal with quite yet.
Twelve hours stuck on a boat leaves little mental protection from the wandering mind.  Thinking a lot about past decisions and struggling with things that aren't going to change.  "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past."  Very fitting quote from George Orwell's 1984 which I read a few weeks before I left for this trip, completely unaware that it had such strong ties to Orwell's experiences in Burma in the 1920's.  I've been reading Emma Larkin's Finding George Orwell in Burma for the past few days, and its been very helpful in understanding more about this country's history, which I knew very little about before.  Not sure if Myanmar has recovered from its sordid past or if the peaceful and friendly atmosphere here is merely a facade.
The Irrawaddy River is a very interesting place.  I'll quote from Larkin as she puts it much more poetically than I could.  "It is a hauntingly timeless landscape.  The rivers are milky brown-the colour of weak cocoa-and water hyacinth grows so thick it sometimes covers the entire surface with softly undulating blankets of vivid green...Small huts of bamboo and thatch sit amid the forests of mangrove and coconut trees, and every so often the golden tip of a pagoda can be seen above the greenery."  Everything moves rather slow here, but I don't see it as the dreary and monotonos place I've heard it described as.  Then again, I'm only just passing through.

January 11 – Woke up and met Mr. Htay, our taxi driver for the day, outside ET Hotel.  Initially a little concerned with his driving capabilities having a lazy eye and all, but turns out he was a great driver and an overall good person.  Started off in the morning at the Mahagandayon Monastery in Amarapura where hundreds of monks line up for breakfast each morning.  It was cool to get a better glimpse into their daily lives and routines.

Stopped for a quick peak into a silk weaving factory, which really is remarkable to see how much work they have to put into each piece.  Then off to Sagaing Hill where we walked up hundreds of steps to explore a few of the many interconnected pagodas.  Really could have spent a whole day there wandering from temple to temple but with only one full day in Mandalay we had to keep it brief.  My favorite was U Min Thonze Cave, which was this long, narrow room with buddhas lining the wall with pieces of glass in mosaic patters behind them.

After a quick stop for lunch, we crossed Myit Nge River by ferry boat and took a horse and carriage to explore the Inwa village.  After taking the ferry back to meet up with our taxi driver, we went to U Bein Bridge to watch the sun set.  The bridge itself is really just flimsy pieces of wood nailed together but it’s so long and perfectly positioned in the foreground of the setting sun that it really does look remarkable.

January 12 – After breakfast we took a taxi to airport and flew into Don Muang airport.  Piya’s mom had informed us that we were coming in a day before some serious protests in Bangkok so we booked a hotel close to the airport called We Train.  After grabbing some food from the restaurant downstairs, Sam and I went on a run around the neighborhood and then played a game of basketball with two guys staying there as well.  Overall it was a nice, relaxing day to prepare for the day of travel ahead.

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