March 06, 2018 5:32 AM | Anonymous member

                                                      Day 5

Buffet Breakfast at 8 with lots of choices, most quite good.

Off at 9 to see the two main tourist attractions in Mandalay. The first was an old temple that had been covered with gold leaf but over the years, especially on the windward side, has lost most of its glitter. The next was a Buddhist shrine where pilgrims purchase a small thin gold leaf and place it on the Buddha statue. His body is getting thicker and thicker with all the gold being placed. The gold originates in Myanmar and is hammered by hand with 7 pound sledge hammers into thinner and thinner leaf.  

We watched the gold leaf production followed by shopping. Yesterday was shopping day. Not only is gold produced but they also produce such gems as star sapphires, rubies, and jade! We also watched wood working.

After a gigantic lunch at a very popular Thai style restaurant we drove to the Irrewaddy river for a 1 hour ride upriver to Mingun to view a stupa that is 50 meters high and was planned to be 150 meters high, all of brick. The work stopped in 1790 and, because Myanmar is crossed with several earthquake fault lines, it has become dangerous to enter. We then walked to another complex which a couple of us climbed. While there I met some Thai artists who were on an expedition led by allegedly the most famous landscape artist in Thailand, a man who lives in Chiang Rai. During  the boat ride back we got to see a beautiful sunset on the river. We then returned to the hotel to get ready for dinner at a special restaurant called A Taste of Mandalay with several members of the fledgling Friendship Force club of Mandalay. One member is making products to sell from discarded plastic bags. Others are members of the multi cultural women's group (Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim) working with the kids "down by the river".

Looks like an easy day on day 6 before an early go on the 27th for a 3 day visit to the Inle Lake area.

I have not yet done day 6.

                                              Day 7

Early get up to drive to Mandalay airport for a 10:15 departure for Heho, the gateway to the Shan State. We were 80 + Km From Mandalay, another 40 to the airport with a brief stop at a jewelry store to pick up a resized ring for one of the group. We got there with lots of time to spare to enjoy the 23 minute flight to Heho. 

The first visit was to the capital of Shan State, Taunggyi , where we stopped for lunch before visiting an orphanage run by an 88 year old woman whose grandparents started  it in 1905. We left lots of clothes and English teaching materials.

The 45 minute drive to Nyaung Shwe took us to a wonderful hotel called Tanakha. Tanakha is a tree product that the Burmese, mostly women, put on their faces, supposedly to serve as sun protection. The GM is a Frenchman from Lille who has been here for 6 years. The hotel is owned by a Frenchman from Lorient In southern Bretagne. The owner's niece , also from Lorient, is also working here in the restaurant and bar. She does not speak much English. None of the Burmese workers speak French. The food here is outstanding and the service superb. Lynn went to the GM to ask about getting something for her cough. They had nothing in their medicine kit so they went downtown and got her some cough suppressant. There was no charge for this service or the medicine.


Lynn had head congestion and a headache and elected not to go for the all day boat ride on Inle ( pronounced Inlay) Lake. We left in 2 long boats with loud Chinese-built one cylinder engines that must be cranked to start ( like old U.S. Cars) . The boats have shallow props and must draw only about a foot. Inle Lake is very shallow with deepest depth at about 5 meters. 

Our hotel sits on a long canal that leads into the north side of the lake.  The General Manager is from Lille, France, and has been here for 6 years. A large part of the clientele are francophone. Breakfast included several different baked goods like croissants and baguettes. I asked  the GM why the bread was so good and he explained that a patisserie  chef came from France for 3 months to demonstrate to the workers how to make French pastries . Tomorrow will bring pain au chocolat.

The first thing we visited was a village with houses on stilts all above water. Nearby were floating islands( only 5 countries have floating islands, Peru and Bolivia on Lake Titicaca, Myanmar, and 2 others. ) These floating islands take about 30 years of work to get them ready to function as tomato producing places.  They really do not float as they are pinned down with bamboo poles. Apparently this area is known for their tomatoes. They have been  removing area from the lake and the government is preventing further expansion. 

We did a lot of shopping today on the lake.  I did not know you could make fiber from lotus stalks but it is considered special by the Burmese. An article made with lotus is 10 times more expensive than a similar article made of pure silk.

Today was market day at this village ( every fifth day) so our co-travelers spent a lot of time negotiating for articles, mostly gold. We then had lunch; we all ate only fried rice as we have all been overeating.

On the way back to our hotel we stopped to meet some women who put bronze rings around their necks as a sign of beauty, saw a fisherman fishing while rowing with an oar with his leg, and visited another monastery. We got home around 5 PM and are looking forward to another Asian dinner.

We returned to Yangon and have spent the days mostly teaching English to kids from ages 10-15. Last night we toured the Shwedagon pagoda, the most famous in Yangon and the group lit 500 lanterns for friendship around the world.

Tomorrow we head to Bagan for 3 days . They still have more pagodas than anywhere else in the world but the numbers are markedly fewer following a devastating earthquake a couple of years ago that destroyed hundreds, I am told.

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