Category: Myanmar, 2013

Horse Carts and Farewell to a Magical City

January 26

Picked up at hotel at 7 AM for a horse cart ride. We’d resisted the obligatory horse- and ox-cart rides until now, but decided that they were in fact obligatory. Did not see monks lined up for alms, as we’d hoped to, because our timing was off. But the slow ride among some of the non-famous pagodas in the chilly (sweater and jacket) early morning light is rewarding. One does see a distressing amount of trash this way, however. Above us the balloons we rode in a couple days ago glide over the pagodas. The horse cart ride provides glimpses of life that you don’t see from a car. Stop briefly at Ananda Pagoda, with the huge standing Buddhas. The place is jumping with people coming for full moon day of the festival, with processions of the faithful arriving with gifts. Return to the hotel after an hour, glad that we’d opted for the horse cart experience.

After breakfast, I wander down by the river and am able to photograph people in their huts by the water, because I know the secret word, “mingalaba,” hello.

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Back at the hotel, we read, blog, begin to pack and get ready for lunch with Dee Dee. Sit out on our balcony overlooking the river.

We take a taxi through the crowded town to Sunset Garden Restaurant, which is managed by Dee Dee’s father U Min Min Aung. Several tour buses attest to the restaurant’s popularity. Dee Dee comes running out to the parking lot to greet us and takes us to the best table, which has been reserved for us, overlooking the Irrawady. Her father and mother, Daw Khin Lay Win, who Dee Dee looks like, come over to greet us, as does her husband, who is there with people he is guiding. Dee Dee has ordered a large lunch for us, and leaves us alone to eat, as she says she had a late breakfast. We are not allowed to pay and, in fact, Daw Khin Lay Win gives us gifts of hair clips for all three granddaughters. We say goodbye to everyone, taking Dee Dee’s email address so that we can stay in touch, and leaving a CD of American music as a gift.

Our taxi driver has waited at the restaurant to drive us back to the hotel, where we have two hours before leaving for the airport, and one before we need to vacate our room. Uneventful ride to and wait at the airport, and somehow half the nation of Japan manages to board our hour and a quarter flight to Yangon (which takes off 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure), once again on the airline on which elephants fly.

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We are sad to leave Bagan, which has a magical quality to it. We know of no other city remotely like it. Imagine an American city with lovely and distinctive 1000-year old, spiritual Starbucks sprinkled liberally around. No, on second thought, don’t. The only city we’ve visited that comes to mind as having something of Bagan’s magical quality is Venice.

Arrive in Yangon on schedule and Hilary meets us and rides to the Governor’s Residence. She has never seen the place, except from the outside, and seems quite blown away by the elegance of the property and our room. She is a “foody” and takes photos of each course. It’s fun for Carol and me to see her enthusiastic response to dinner.

Horse Carts and Farewell to a Magical City

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