Day 73, Saturday 17 March 2012 , Mandalay to Bagan
Up early, no internet again, I found out that the connection was in the hotel owner’s house and he doesn’t turn it on until 8.00 AM, we left at 7.15.
Today we caught the fast tourist boat to the town of Bagan down the Ayeyarwady River, a theoretical six hour ride that took eight. The boat was great, big and half full with a small, but expensive cafe and definitely priced so that only tourists could afford it at $40US a ride. It was a lot more expensive and slightly faster than the bus, but a whole lot nicer I suspect.
This is the dry season so the river is incredibly low, small communities move down onto the sand to fish and have easy access to water. Thatched huts with no power or water are common throughout the parts of Myanmar that we travelled.
This lady was selling snack food from another boat when we pulled in to pick up a river pilot for a section of the river. You will see on her face a white/yellow paste, this is called Thanakha and is on most women’s, a lot of children’s and some men’s faces, throughout Mynamar. It is part make-up, part skin freshener and part sun block. I would suggest this woman is using it as a sun block as normally it is only applied to the cheeks and forward. it is an old tradition in Myanmar and one that has thankfully not died. Thanakha is made from the ground up root and bark of (I am assuming) the Thanakha tree…
We had not arranged any accommodation as there is a vast array in the three large villages that make up the Bagan region, Nyaung U is the budget village, Old Bagan, the resort village and New Bagan is the mid range. The boat docked at Nyaung U so we decided to try there first.
Once on dry land we encountered the usual manic state of dozens of cab, motorbike and tri-shaw drivers trying to sell us their services or suggest a hostel. I got a bit ticked off with them as i tried to consult the guide book on hotel names. Naturally the one I chose happened to be owned by the uncle of one of the tri-shaws so we ended up with him and his friend transporting us, via the archaeological site ticket office ($10US for a week) to the Eden Hotel. The hotel is cheapish, reasonably comfortable so we decided to stay. My pack on the back of the tri-shaw.
We had dinner in a cheap Myanmar/Chinese place up the road (we found way better eats the next day) and then went to the internet shop, where the internet was apparently broken. I found the cheapest beer in Myanmar (Andaman Gold), so grabbed a couple of very cold cans and went back to the hostel. Outside our room I ran into Bob an Aussie of similar age to me who is living in China, we chatted for a while and I shared a beer.
And that was the end of a reasonably enjoyable day, as a means of transport I have enjoyed the boats I have caught.