Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Road To Mandalay

"Where the flyin' fishes play, An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay." - Rudyard Kipling

Actually the road to Mandalay is the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar (formerly called Burma) and there really isn't a bay along the river where China is due east for the sun to rise over. Also there aren't any flying fishes, merely dolphins that are rare enough so you don't see them much. For all that, this is an amazing place to be posting from.

For our big vacation this year hubby and I decided on a river cruise along the Irrawaddy River with Pandaw River Cruises, a fairly small tour company that offers 7 to 14 day cruises in Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia that are a mix of comfortable air-conditioned cabins, tasty cuisine, plentiful local beer and spirits, and a guide who provides local cultural experiences such as visits to pagodas, monasteries, a real nunnery, schools, villages, and workshops like potteries, silversmiths, and weavers, with plenty of opportunities to purchase souvenirs, whether you are looking for them or not. Let's just say some of the mobile vendors can be very persistent, particularly if they have bicycles to follow your horse-drawn cart with.

Days can be packed with activities. In one day I rode a bus, a truck, the aforementioned horse-drawn cart, and a small boat to glide up next to an old bridge to take pictures of the sunset. Then at the end of the day we ended up in a traffic jam due to a broken down vehicle between the bus and the ship, leaving us hiking along the road between the trucks, motorcycles and such to get back in time for happy hour. This turned out to be a highlight of the day as local kids and adults in the open vehicles around us cheered us on and mugged for our cameras as we passed them. Here, tourists are so rare, we become the entertainment with our light skins, light eyes, and light colored hair. I had one set of kids fascinated that my skin is so freckled that I have spots on top of spots rather than the beautiful even light brown they have. Beautiful children calling me beautiful with my frizzy blonde hair and freckles.

Today is a quiet day as we move along the river, green on every side of us. The river is a little high due to the flooding in the North, so some of the land is drowned, people relocated to higher ground temporarily. As they move into the dry season this will change and they'll eventually move back to their homes, seemingly only moderately inconvenienced. That is life along the river, it goes up and then down. We have a visit to a village later this morning and this afternoon a lecture on how the changing political situation in Myanmar is affecting the country. Finally there will be happy hour, and an excellent dinner.

This really doesn't have much to do with writing other than giving me a break from the real world, one I've needed badly. Time to let my mind and imagination wander while the boat flows gently down one of the great rivers of the world. Time also to remind myself just how lucky I am to be able to visit a place like this.