Saturday, January 5, 2013

On to Mandalay

Arriving at the dock 
Now...on our itinerary, we were told we would be met at the jetty by our guide. You have to picture "jetty" here. Now I don't know about you, but I have a mental image of docks and piers. Try sandbank. The boat simply floats up to the sandbank and the young man jumps out, and along with all of the guidance and comments by all the people who suddenly materialize on shore, he pulls up and ties off the boat.

Fairly typical style of "jetty"
 We didn't dismount from our boat; we actually stepped over to the boat next to us, right onto their ladder, and used that to get to shore-kept us out of the mud. It's not uncommon to just pull up to a boat, tie up to it, then walk through the boats to get to the shore. The "dock" areas aren't reserved for only getting on and off boats. People are likely to be bathing or washing clothes in the same area!

We had the opportunity to walk across the 200 year old U-Bein teak bridge. The pillars and walk were made completely of teak and has withstood the ravages of time with few 
U-Bein Teak Bridge
modifications, though some work is now needed. The pillars are huge trunks of trees, and many are in remarkably good shape. It's a picturesque scene with the fishing boats, walkers on the bridge and reflections on the water. We took a stroll across the bridge and then walked into the small village on the other side to visit yet another pagoda and other sites. As we walked across the bridge, we saw a young duck herder below, tending to his flock. Immediately made me think of "The Story of Ping" (old children's book). The young boy was following his flock, tossing small 
Young duck herder
stones at ones who strayed too far in the water and using his switch on others roaming on land. He certainly had a large flock to keep track of. Duck is served almost every place we went and duck eggs were available in various markets we visited. 

Working our way through dinner
Freddy knew all of the best restaurants to eat in. Now, by restaurants, we're not talking US style. These are mostly small places, owned by a single family, where everyone has a job to do, down to the youngest children. Some of the kids delighted in coming out to put the napkins on a table. We at traditional Myanmar food in a number of different places, small dishes of numerous kinds of vegetables and meats. Having Freddy around made it easy to identify which was which. It was also a great way to sample different foods. When you just get a little, it makes it easy to try many things - and you could easily get more of what you liked. 

Buddha looking out over the valley

We stopped at a huge Buddha, on top of a hill, that has been recently constructed by some very important, and rich, person. It is actually 31 stories high and, when it’s finished, you will be able to climb all the way to the top (Nirvana). The base of the statue represents where most people are right now in their struggles, each successive layer represents growth in one way or another. Inside, as you climb, there are numerous, grotesque examples of what happens to you if you don’t do things right. They have some horrendous pictures of ogres and such, rending people into tiny bits. Had a big discussion with Freddy concerning why they don’t show what you should do instead of emphasizing the negative. As we climbed (you can go to the 17th floor), we did finally notice at the top a positive one, showing something good happening. About time!
Group photo with new friends

There seem to be something of the Japanese in these people, or maybe it’s just an Asian thing. We had numerous occasions when people, particularly young girls, wanted to have their pictures taken with us. One group each wanted their own picture – that took a while.

Apparently, one son of a king had great fore-site. When his father died, he had his father's home dismantled and removed from the royal palace. (didn't want to live in a house where someone died...lots of superstitions here and besides, he probably wanted his own palace built anyway) He had the old one reassembled in another section of town where it has since become a 
monastery. It's filled with gorgeous carvings, very intricate and detailed of various Buddhist helpers, angels and other figures. The fortunate thing was that during the war, the British had garrisoned themselves within the castle walls and the area was heavily bombed. The moved home is actually the only original structure that survived. They have rebuilt the castle area, rebuilding the king's home as well as those for his various wives. Apparently the man had 47 or so was the chief queen but he would pick and choose who to court on a given night, but he always returned to sleep in his own bed. The picture shows the king’s home with gold leaf on the eaves and the chief queen’s, to the left. Note the lack of gold leaf on hers.

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