Every morning a bus load of monks gets dropped off in Bagan where they go seeking donations of food. As we exit our hotel, we see the monks getting out of the bus down the street from us. The monks walk single file along the street and stop, one by one, at the small table across the street that has been laid out with rice and assorted foods. The owners of the hotel had placed the offerings out prior to the monks arriving. The monks rotate where they seek donations each day– first one street then another then another throughout the week. The older monks go first, followed by younger and younger monks with another older monk playing sweep at the back. Some of the last monks do not get anything at this stop as the donators run out of food to give. Hopefully they will fill there bowls at another stop.
We say goodbye to Bagan and our guide Zow. It is unusual for us to have so many guides. Previous trips saw us continue with one guide on the whole journey through a country. In Myanmar, we are getting a new guide every time we change locations. Au, in Mandalay, set the bar pretty high, and Zow didn’t quite reach up to that bar. L called him Mr. Factoid. He knew his temple stuff and he got the picture that we didn’t want to follow the exact tourist trail, but he had some oddities that started driving me crazy (I actually wanted to throttle him when we got to the airport!).
We flow through another airport and surface in Heho to Wai Yan, our next guide. He seems quite nice but he is VERY hard to understand as he places the emPHAsis on difFERent sylAbles for his English words.
We drive for about an hour to visit the Pindaya Caves. The cave is 490 ft under the rock, has stalagmites and stalactites and about 8,000 Bhuddas. We wander the maze looking at the various Buddhas.
In one part there is a meditation cave that Murray, Wai Yan and I crawl into. Following us is a Burmese family and once they are seated, they ask if they can take our picture. So they take ours and we take theirs!
Along the way to the restaurant we stop at a workshop that makes traditional Shan paper out of mulberry trees and umbrellas out of bamboo. We agree that as Myanmar becomes more “Westernized” and touristy, this type of traditional handicrafts may disappear, which is unfortunate.
Every time we stop at one of these artisan’s shops I am amazed at how the work progresses without safety equipment. If the Alberta Health and Safety inspector showed up he would flip. It is not only at the craft shops where this is apparent, the work sites for heavy industrial type work also lack basic safety. Working on marble with power tools and no ear protection, no safety glasses and no steel toes on their sandals. Roasting peanuts under a reverberant steel roof using a tractor engine with no muffler and all of the belts and gears running the machinery completely exposed ready to grab the workers at the first moment of inattentiveness. I’m sure people get hurt but work goes on.
As I type this post, it is pouring rain outside, part of the typhoon that is circling the Bay of Bengal. I am hoping the rain eases up by morning as we are to start our 3 day trek. It may be a muddy and wet experience. Our West Coat Trial luck may have run out!