4:30 am the cab picks us up in the darkness of a Mandalay morning. Mandalay is sprawl. Hideous wonderful 3rd world sprawl of wood fueled tea shops and nothing over 3 stories.
At the jetty, in the dark we get in the slow boat.
The inland water transport. (itw) founded by the British at the height of the raj.
And this boat was from British rule. The commands to the engine room go on hhe classic bell ringing "full ahead, half ahead etc dial. This one made in Scotland. Sweet!
We found a prime place in the front if the open top deck ( under shade of course, even the Burmese fear the sun here) against a bulkhead.
The engine kicks over and we shove off by 5:30.
The sun rising over the ayerwady from the deck of a 75 year old British built river boat was supremely wonderful
10 minutes later we were aground on a sand bar.
Nope. Too late. 45 minutes later we backed off. I think they moved around the cargo in the hold to adjust our balance.
Then we wandered down the great river of Burma. The sun rose and in classic pukka sahib style we drank ice cold beer and watched the world be foreign and terrifyingly lovely.
Over the course of the day we foreigners chatted and bought stuff off the natives (swallows and amazons forever!).
When we put in at various times over the trip, the boat nosing into the sandy bank and unloading bags of rice. Boxes of cookies. An entire tractor (small and quite exciting).
Whole villages would line the sandy bluffs and wave as things unloaded. Girls would giggle as I waved back . A proof of how lovely and non modern this place is seen watching Michelle wave at every passing boat or village and whole groups would wave back.
We settled into a quiet day of reading and watching the world slip by
I took the chance to read orwell's Burmese days which I got in a Burmese bootleg edition in Yangon. A lovely place to read it to say the least.
Eventually the fun set and the stars came out like burning coals in the sky. The milky way huge overhead. This place has little light pollution out on the giant brown river.
Whole towns with only a few fires.
Once the sun went down they navigated by searchlight and s bamboo depth pole reader on the bow calling out a strange Burmese mark twain every 30 seconds as we cruised through the blackness.
Eventually we made it here to bagan. But instead of kurtz we had young Burmese teens leaping aboard from the second deck of the ship we docked to in an effort to sell us rooms and taxis
Crass reality of a society learning to tout.
Tomorrow the temples!!
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