Scorching sun, significant pagodas and lousy music
Pyay Travel Blog› entry 22 of 27 › view all entries
When I open my eyes it is only 7 a.m., half an hour to go before we have to get up. We use the extra 30 minutes for lazing about and talking about what we have seen so far.
Today’s programme will take only half a day, and to be honest, I don’t really mind. I am again, or should I say still, having a cold from hell and I have had moments in my life that I felt more energetic.
Breakfast is lousy: we get an ice cold omelette that we didn’t ask for, accompanied by two slices of bread that have seen the toaster from a distance, and a wee bit of butter and jam.
We leave at eight thirty sharp in two adapted pick-up trucks. And once again the designers have failed to take the European “Two-metre-man” into account. I have no issues with the leg space, but everything from the waist up I have to fold to the limits of my flexibility to avoid denting the metal roof too seriously every time the car hits a rock or hole. The ride takes about an hour and the first half we experience the top notch of Birmese road engineering, the second half however, isn’t much better than the trail Hannibal had to travel over the Alps, shaking us about like crazy. Thanks to the beautiful scenery the trip is over before we know it and this is a good thing, because the Shwenantaung pagoda is nice to have visited, but to be honest, it isn’t really worth the trip. The temple is beautifully situated on top of a hill, but it is almost completely covered in scaffolding and by now we have seen so many pagodas that we have become pretty hard to impress.
The people that are working near the temple are the real attraction here. Down a flight of stairs some men are sawing planks from a teak tree, by hand that is!! Two men are standing on top of a log, while another two stand underneath it. Together they operate two huge hand saws, knawing through the wood only inches away from their bare feet. Some of our group dash down and start taking pictures from only a couple of metres away, while I stay halfway up the stairs, a distance of about thirty metres, and make the best possible picture from there. Respect people! I always have the image in mind of a busload of Japanese tourists shoving cameras in my face while I’m working...
Near the pick-ups is a lady enjoying the morning sun, her eyes closed, being a perfect model without knowing it.
We drive on to the Swemyetmanpagoda, renowned for its large statue of a sitting Buddha wearing glasses. Every two weeks the spectacles are taken down by nine monks for a good cleaning, which must be quite a chore. Somebody donated the glasses to the statue and in return the eye disease he was suffering from, miraculously healed. When we walk out, a painter is dying the hair of one of the Buddha images standing in front of the main building. I always thougt black looked better on the man than green.
The local fire station is supposed to be worth a visit, because the fire trucks inside are at least thirty years old. In spite of the age of the vehicles they are still treated as military top secret, because the men present strictly forbid us to take any pictures that might display a glimpse of the trucks.
At the moment the local market is held and we pay it a brief visit. When I’m walking between the stalls I get the feeling that, if the Burmese had had cameras for themselves, they would have started taking pictures of me. I look like a giant towering high over everyone and everything, which must look rather silly.
Had there been a clock, it would have struck eleven when we truck on to the Payagyi pagoda, one of the oldest in Myanmar. Its shape is different than the others, because it looks like a cone. By the time we get there it has gotten rather hot and I feel the urge to remain in the shadows, but on the other hand the nosy tourist in me wants to stroll around the cone and have a closer look.
After a while our group of eight gathers near the trucks and it is a relief to be driving again, in the shadow of the low roof, with the wind in our hair. Today’s last pagoda is called Shwenandaw and is the third most important pagoda in the country, after Shwedagon in Yangon and Shwemawdaw in Bago. The pagoda is beautiful, but doesn’t have the grandeur and stunning effect on us like the two mentioned before. Once again, this could also be caused by the fact that we have been travelling for three weeks now and we have already seen a lot of sanctuaries. When we get to the top level of the pagoda, we see a man who is sitting on his knees, focussed on his prayers, noticing neither tourrist nor local.
On our way to the Southern Star restaurant, where we will be having lunch, we make a quick stop to take some pictures of the statue of Aung San. Lunch tastes pretty good, but it is not as cheap as in Bagan, the amount on the tab is a little under 10.
The hotel is only a short drive away from the restaurant and we are back in our room at about half past two. The rest of the afternoon we do nothing but sleeping, puzzling and writing our travellog. It’s much too hot to be active. We hear that the exchange rates are good in our hotel (1200 Kyats for one US dollar), so we change a hundred dollars before we go for dinner at seven. It is a chaotic dinner in the Southern Star: some peoples food doesn’t taste right, others get the wrong dish, and worst of all: the Star Cola runs out after only two bottles!
While eating we hear that while we were sleeping on the bus yesterday, we almost ran over a little boy, that’s almost three accidents in one day! Everybody is glad that our own bus and drivers have arrived today, so tomorrow we probably won’t have any head on collisions.
The music during our meal has been taken care of, four or five different girls sing their songs, one after the other, but there is always way too much echo and every song seems to be written by the same drowsy synthesizer loving songwriter. Should your taste be the same as the songwriter’s and the lady performs the song to your liking, than you can buy her a flower or a feather boa in the restaurant. When she returns it to the owner of the restaurant at the end of the evening, she gets a small amount of money in return. It is eight thirty when Dolores, the senior lady in our party, starts dancing. Aart-Jan gets dragged onto the dance floor, obviously against his will, but he is a good sport and does his best. Since he is as good a dancer as I am, laughter soon fills the evening sky. At nine half our group is dancing, and more and more people are being schlepped from their seats. Trudy is one of the unhappy victims, I get away with just an echoing ring in my ears.
Back at the hotel we drink another Coke in the restaurant and then we turn in early.