May 1, 2019
Today we started out at 8:45 AM. Jack and Saul were waiting for us in the air conditioned (thank goodness) van that was so comfortable yesterday. Jack speaks English quite well but says he cannot read it. He learns more from watching TV and YouTube and from the guests that he guides around his country.
Today is Alice’s birthday and we intend to have a simply fabulous day. It is also a holiday here in Myanmar, so the traffic is not as bad as it was yesterday.
We were interested in watching the people on the highways and in the streets selling flowers and food items such as mango. All Buddhists here have at least one Buddha image in their cars and in their homes and the flowers you see the vendors selling are often hung from the rear view mirrors in the cars and taxis.
Our first visit today was to the Kalaywa monastery. There are both teaching and meditation monasteries here in Myanmar. Boys as young as 8 become novices and all boys must be in a monastery for a period of time. This monastery was in very poor condition. There was a lot of trash around and the walls were often full of holes.
The meals that the monks eat are all from what they gather when they go out to the village from house to house, so if it is very little, that is all they get to eat. You don’t see any fat monks for sure.
Here are some of the monks and pictures of the monastery.
There is a museum like area in the monastery and we walked through that – here the images are beautiful.
This is the area where they eat. It was soon to be lunch time for them (11 AM) and here are some of the pots with what they have been given to eat. You can see that one pot contains only rice.
We asked Jack about donating to them, you can donate food, etc, but we chose to give money. We had a variety of different bills in their currency, and as they moved through the line to go to lunch, we handed bills to the novice monks.
Here are some of them at their water stations.
Next, we had a really fascinating experience. We rode the circular train from Insein to Yangon. This is about half of the entire circular route. The whole circle takes about 3 hours, so we were on the train for 1.5 hours. Our ticket cost was 20 cents US! Even waiting at the train station was an adventure. The many vendors, people eating their lunch and just generally relaxing was fun to observe.
And you see that no one is supposed to throw trash off the train but we saw many people doing that.
Once on the train, again, many people are having lunch and there are all kinds of vendors selling food, glasses, books and many other items. The food vendors were especially interesting. They had fried tofu and made sort of a sandwich with it, they made to order salads, and even the vendors with the betel nut/leaf stuff were there.
Here are some of the people on the train.
Some of the sights from the train. Lots of poverty here. And, the people are lovely.
After our train ride, we went to the Shan Yoe Yar restaurant for lunch. On the way, Tom and Alice saw on their accuweather app that it would rain around 2. Jack was so intrigued by the app that he took his iPhone out so that Tom could install it for him. It didn’t have Burmese language though so he couldn’t read the American days of the week. He said he would have to learn that. But he did know the expression “raining cats and dogs”!
Sure enough, while in the restaurant, we had quite the rain storm. Jack got us the fried tofu that we saw on the train, and advised us not to eat it with the sauce which is very spicy. Here the food is safe and some is spicy but not all. This restaurant is known for the food from the Shan State of Myanmar.
This mom and daughter live in this area but are originally from Japan. Both spoke English. Tom likes to bring $2 bills to give out to people because the bills are so unusual to them. This little girl was thrilled with it.
After lunch, it was still a bit rainy so we decided to save the park for later and go to see the reclining Buddha at Chank Htat Kyi. The reclining Buddha stands three stories high.
There are all kinds of rules at each of the pagodas.
There was a beautiful mural of the life of the Buddha. By now we know the story but this was laid out with good explanations and Jack also told us the story.
After this visit, it had stopped raining so we went on to the Kandawgyi park that borders the lake of the same name. What a beautiful spot! There was a couple “discussing the future!”
After a walk through the park, we went to the Royal Barge for dinner and a cultural show. First we shopped in the adjoining shop where things were so inexpensive. I bought a necklace for 8500 which was about $5.60 US.
On the way in to the show there were people preparing traditional appetizers which were all very good.
The greeters at the door.
And the traditional music inside.
We wanted to use the rest room to wash our hands but Jack said they weren’t ready yet and to sit back down until he let us know. And he said this with a straight face. It turned out that Tom had arranged for the musical group to play happy birthday for Alice and had a cake delivered.
The dinner was a buffet and the show went on all during dinner. The Myanmar dancing is essentially postures in movement of the feet, hip, head and hands. It is said that there are about 2000 ways of dancing in the performance. They stem from 13 movements of the head, 28 kinds of expressions with the eyes, nine movements of the neck, 24 movements of the single hands, 24 movements of combined hands, 38 kinds of movement, 5 acrobatic figures, 8 ways of turning the body and 10 styles of walking! No wonder it takes years to learn. And the costumes were amazing.
After the show, we were tired but quite happy with our two days here. Tomorrow the ship leaves port at 11 and we are not planning to go out before that.
We said “mingalaba” (means hello, goodbye and best wishes) to Jack and Saul and returned to the ship just in time to see the last show by Michelle Montauri, which was as great as the first one.