The Itinerary

The Itinerary

Sunday, March 29, 2015

March 23, The RV Paukan 1947

Monday, March 23, Day 48 - The RV Paukan 1947.

We have set the alarm for 7AM as we have an early tour back into Sagaing. Breakfast is served from 6:45 to 8:00 and Dick wakes at 5:30, gets up and goes to the sun deck to watch the sun rise. The crew casts off about 6:30 and we sail down river to Sagaing. Carolyn is up and dressing a little after 7:00 when Dick comes back to the room to check on her. This is a really pretty sail and we are tied off in Sagaing by 7:30. Breakfast is buffet style with all kinds of mystery meats and sausages, fruits, juices and vegetable along with breads and sweet rolls. Plus, they are cooking eggs to order. 


At 8AM we leave the boat by climbing the sand bank using a step like area made from bags of cement. Carolyn has her helpers and we make it to the waiting bus.

First we go to the Soo oo Pon Nya Hin Pagoda again. The view is really nice and it is interesting to watch the hundreds of pilgrims pour off the buses. Our guide says most are from rural areas and have traveled all night or even several days to get to the pagoda. There are many children in the groups. School is out for holidays and everyone is traveling. Everyone seems to be dressed in their nicest longyis; both men and women. There are also many novice monks and nuns at the pagoda this morning. Some as young as maybe four! 

Our next stop is a nunnery where we are given a tour of one of the dormitories and the food preparation and storage areas. There are several women and young nuns preparing a huge amount of garlic for the noon meal. Before we leave the young nuns sing for us; a rather haunting chant-like song.

Finally we visit one of the silversmith shops for a demonstration and, of course, a chance to buy something. Carolyn gets another hair clip.

Back to the boat where we wander through people going about their daily lives as we board and cast off. As we have said before, life in Myanmar is lived on the streets and the banks of the river!  We are told to go to the sun deck for some great pictures as we sail away from Sagaing and under the old and the new bridges at Mandalay.

Lunch is at 12:30 and is a mixed buffet again. Dick loads his plate and Carolyn finds enough to satisfy her. We then retire to the cool cabin, watch the river slide by and work on the blog.
About 4:30PM we approach the rural village of Yandabo.  It has a place in history because the peace treaty of the 1st Anglo-Burmese war was signed here in February 1826. It is also known for its pottery making. We tie up parallel to the steep shore and offload onto the sandy bank. There are some rough cut steps leading to a dirt walkway with, believe it or not, a hand rail on the downhill side. Once again there is help for Carolyn and we all make it ashore for an interesting hour long walk back in time and through the village while getting an education in the ancient art of pottery making. Their pots are used by most all Burmese in their everyday life. The people are eager to show off their skills and the children are cute as always. 

First we are greeted by the original water cooler, cup and all. We move on through the village and watch a man stomping and squishing clay with his feet as he brings the damp product to just the right consistency. All around us are old, wooden buildings with window coverings made from woven, split bamboo. One temporal inconsistency is a solar panel propped up in the middle of an open area with cable running from it to a large battery. We are told that this powers the village's TV.

The boat stops here regularly and the people are prepared to show their stuff. The first stop is at a foot powered potter’s wheel. The wheel is turned by a teenaged girl moving her foot back and forth on a piece of wood hung like a small swing. An arm of wood is attached to the foot piece and to the wheel on the other end. The motion turns the wheel and an older woman forms a medium sized pot before our eyes. She makes it look easy!

It is here that a tween-aged girl sidles up to Dick and hands him a small, unfired, clay elephant. The small, totem-like image is quite good and she does not ask anything for it but shyly insists that he take it. Later, Dick gives her 5,000k or about $5US and receives a bright and truly surprised smile in return. Wonder what the odds are of getting it back home intact.

At another spot, a 30-something woman is sitting on the ground putting a design on a freshly thrown pot. She has her left hand in the pot with a pillow-like cloth and in her other is one of a series of wooden mallets with the designs cut in relief so that when she strikes the pot with the mallet in her right hand the pot takes the design in the soft clay but does not collapse due to the anvil of her padded left hand. She quickly and skillfully applies the desired design to the pot and then smooths it out with a wet cloth.

 At this stop, Dick takes photos of an elderly man who readily agrees to be photographed and who cackles upon seeing his picture. Dick and this grandfather exchange bows and smiles and we move on. 
Everywhere people are at work, doing the chores necessary to make the pots that have been used for centuries by the people of Myanmar.

We are here at the golden hour and it proves to be a photographer’s dream. As the sun sets across the Ayeyarwady River, the village is suffused with a lovely light and our cameras are constantly busy. We take some truly fine photos in this late afternoon light. The girl who gave Dick the little elephant follows us down to the shore and waves as we cast off. This was an unexpected and very special experience; one of the reasons for and rewards of our travels.

We have dinner at a table with a couple from Israel and a man from California who is traveling by himself. The Israeli man’s father survived the Holocaust and fought with the Hagana against the British in Palestine and then in the 1948 war against the combined Arab countries. He only recently passed away. The Californian was born in Prague in 1943 and came to America in 1963 and worked in the tech field. We talk travel, WWII, Israel and The Czech Republic. An interesting dinner!

We sail down river much later tonight than last night and are not even aware of what time we tie up to the shore.

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