Mandalay: "The River Cruise"



January 11, 2005

Dear Family and Friends,

Today is a day for a quiet stroll.

After breakfast at the hotel, I stroll over to the main market - three floors of dozens of small stalls selling dry goods and clothing and cosmetics, house wares and electronics.  I buy a small piece of red and gold-threaded floral design fabric to add to my collection. Next I stroll out to the street for a coffee under the clock tower.

Then I stroll towards Strand Street which could only mean the The River. The guidebook says, "There is always something happening there." Mandalay is very spread out so I stroll about half way to the river and hail a tri-shaw.

A tri-shaw is a bicycle with a seat to the right of the driver. The seat is attached to the bicycle by a steel frame under which is a third wheel. The seat is just wide enough for the average Asian. (Hey, I am down to 87 kilos.) The driver peddles over to the road above The River. So I stroll some more, looking down at the action on The Irrawaddy River.

The scene below is unique. Large bamboo rafts with women doing their laundry in the river - a very colorful scene. The main business here is bamboo. Piles of dried bamboo poles that are chopped and sliced and then woven into mats used for roofs, walls and flooring. Boats with large square red sails head up the river for another load.

Another stair! This one was headed down to the riverside. I spot a large pile of pottery so I took a look. A young woman approachs me. I understand that she wants to take me for a 30 minute ride around a small island on the river in her wooden boat. Of course, I agree.

San, 18, ever smiling and laughing, a typical young Burmese woman in her blouse and longyi. She paddles slowly while I take some photos. At one point the channel is so shallow that she hops out and pushes me and the boat. I point to my belly and we have a laugh.

After about twenty minutes she heads for the opposite shore and her home there.

We land so I hop out and we head up the bank to her little hut on stilts. Mama is sitting outside peeling some greens; younger sister and infant sister and papa are all home. Beside the house are two small pens. One pen with mama sow and the other with a few piglets snorting about. And one rooster. We sit for a while; they offer me some food which I politely refuse. I point to my belly and say I am "full." And we all have another laugh.

After my cruise and back to the riverside, I climb the stairs and found the View Point Restaurant for lunch. Glass of beer. Spicy soup with parsley, scallions and dried basil. Sauteed mushrooms and baby corn in oyster sauce with tomato, green pepper and bits of soy. Fried rice with garlic and vegetables. Side dish of sliced tomatoes and red onions with chili sauce. Hot tea in a glass.

So, who needs the QE 2? I had a cruise on The River with a charming, cheerful captain. $1.25.  I had a tasty alfresco lunch with a great view. $1.75.  And, I don’t have to dress for dinner.  And, I don’t have to listen to "Yellow Bird" on a steel drum!

Later, after a cross-town tri-shaw ride, dodging motor bikes and cars, I will have a stroll in the public gardens and the zoo where I will meet a family with three children including a set of three year old identical twin boys. I bought some greens and we all took turns feeding the large mouthed hippos. I completed my stroll in the zoo and headed home.

So, the thought for the day: "Just take a stroll. There’s always something happening."



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