Who in Toungoo knows what a tourist is?
Toungoo Travel Blog› entry 5 of 27 › view all entries
Our day starts at 5.30 am, because we want to be ready when the monks come to the hotel begging for food and money. Every day at six o’clock sharp they come by. And when I say sharp I méan sharp, because when we come walking out of the hotel at two minutes past six, they are already going around the corner into the main street of Bago, disappearing into the darkness. We follow them for a little while and even catch up, but they do not slow down for a second, and we give up when they walk onto the bridge that crosses the river. They’re walking very fast, I recon that’s because it’s still rather chilly and the monks are walking on bare feet. Unfortunately for the monks the teachings of the Buddha forbid begging with shoes on.
When the monks have gone into the twilight we go back to the hotel where breakfast is served at seven.
When we take our luggage outside so the driver and his helper can put them in the bus, we see some very young begging monks and an old lady who wouldn’t mind to get some money as well.
We are on our way for about half an hour when we encounter some kind of a procession. They seem to be pilgrims, taking two statues to Bago. They bring along loud music, a boy performing something that’s somewhere between a dance and a certain kind of martial arts, and a beautifully decorated elephant. All the way in the back drives a truck filled with speakers, providing the necessary volume. In between are men in white and nicely dressed up ladies.
It is still before nine when we get to a school, where some members of our party want to donate goods which they have brought from Holland especially for this purpose.
At 9.45 am we pause for coffee in a small café next to the local barber. The café isn’t much, but the sweet and milky instant-all-in-one coffee is very much to my liking (although in Holland I always drink my coffee black without sugar). Someone says that the toilet in the back yard is worth a look and I go and check it out. It indeed is quite special, a small wooden shed with a hole in the floor, very much like the toilets on farms in Europe in the beginning of the 20th century. And it isn’t too clean either... When I’m back in the front of the café again, a boy arrives on a bicycle that has a very special feature: fully automated rim cleaners.
At noon we visit an orphanage run by the Salvation Army where our do-gooders can get rid of their gifts after all. We can have a look inside, but apart from some beds in the dorm there’s not much to see. The children of course are very friendly and the people who run the place are making us feel more than welcome. We stay for about fifteen minutes and then we move on to the restaurant where we have lunch. It’s a Chinese restaurant, where only Chinese people work and we are welcomed with Chinese hospitality. We are given a menu and after a while the waitress comes by, asking “What you want?” as short as possible. When the food is ready it is slammed on the table, accompanied by smile.
We drive for another hour after lunch, before getting to Toungoo. It’s a dusty place and the Amazing Hotel, where we will be spending the night, is located on a dirt road, some fifty metres off the main road.
On the other side of the bridge is a monatery from which mantras sound, enhancing the authentic atmosphere of the moment. Here people look at us very seriously (very different than on the other side of the bridge), but when we give them a smile and their faces break open, showing an ear-to-ear smile. Others start shouting at us from bicycles, mopeds or from shops in the distance, but their English doesn’t reach any further than “Where you from?”.
Some small stalls are selling the beetle nut that people chew here. Of course it would be fun for them to sell one to me (and they try every time we walk by), but I’ve heard that it tastes very bitter and I don’t feel like have dark red teeth as well, so I refuse politely.
When we cross the bridge again two men are rowing a boat on the river, doing something that looks like fishing or setting out nets, but we can’t quite figure it out.
We take a well needed shower and after that we have dinner with Ton, Judith and Dolores. We hit the sack at 10.30 pm.