Category: Myanmar, 2013

Little Nuns on Horses and Mingalaba Friends

January 24

Good buffet breakfast at hotel and we meet our guide Dee Dee in the lobby. Dee Dee is diminutive, twenty three, a guide for three months and married a month ago. Her passable English and lack of seasoning are forgiven because she is beautiful and has a smile that lights up the place for miles around.


En route to Mt. Popa, we stop to see how palm oil, palm sugar and palm liquor are produced. An ox grinds peanuts as he walks around in a circle to create peanut oil. I ride behind, but Carol passes in favor of feeding him. We watch a man climb a ladder attached to a tree with two pots attached to his belt, cut off part of a high branch and replace two full pots of palm sap with the empty ones he’s carried up. After, we see the liquor being boiled from the sap and taste some of the strong liquor and the delicious, sweet sugar candy.




In a fortuitous happening, sure to be a trip highlight, we encounter young girls dressed in bright costumes being placed on horses for a procession that will lead to their ordination as nuns later in the day. Their parents are comforting them and a large crowd has gathered to listen to raucous music in a nearby pavilion.






On to Mt. Popa, where we decide to have a go at climbing the stairs to the top, some 777 of them. I think that I can best sum this experience up by saying that 777 is a fuckin’ lotta stairs. Along the way, we see a room with a line of 37 nats, or spirits. Before Buddhism, people believed that these spirits controlled their lives. Some still believe that, and some Buddhists who do not believe it still pray to the nats, just in case.

We rest a number of times on the way up. Pesky monkeys line the steps and are shooed away by a couple guys yelling and firing stones from sling shots at them. At the top, there’s a pretty view of the surrounding areas, and several shrines the import of which I don’t fully get. The walk down is rather trying as well, and our legs are rubbery.




Drive to Mt. Popa Lodge, with a lovely view of Mt. Popa. We encounter Sue and Burt, from New Jersey, who we’d seen on our balloon trip, and have a nice chat with them. They are winding up a 37-day trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar, and head home tomorrow. They love architecture and have taken all of the architectural tours in Chicago.

We drive to a place that does lacquerware, something that Myanmar is noted for. The owner of the place explains the amazing process in great detail, and we now have a very healthy appreciation for that art. Takes months to execute a piece, and we saw work in various stages of progress. Did not buy anything, though if we’d had room for some wonderful large screens, we’d have been very tempted to splurge.


Returned to see the month-long festival, and this time avoided the Crap R Us area. What we really were interested in seeing, though, were the tented encampments inhabited by people who had come by ox-cart, bicycle and other means to spend a month selling their produce and celebrating the festival. Behind the tents, one can see the magnificent pagodas. We steered Dee Dee in that direction and, pushing her to introduce us to folks, were warmly welcomed into four different tents, and offered peanuts and other things. Our greatest success was when we said, “mingalaba,” which means hello (and which I mispronounced “mandalaba”). This evoked smiles and laughter, and made them happy to have their pictures taken.







Driven back to the hotel, where we cleaned up, blogged, etc, before dinner at the hotel, which was quite good, especially the spring rolls and the apple crumble a la mode, both of which Carol and I shared. Watched a puppet show at the restaurant, then read/blogged in the lobby, before going for the 9:30 massages that Carol had booked for us. They were great, and very cheap at $25, each for an hour.

2 comments to Little Nuns on Horses and Mingalaba Friends

  • Pat Hemmens

    The children becoming monks and nuns seem very young, and look sad. Are they being sent away from their families for good?

  • Eve Lecvine

    The shrines look magical. The little girls do look sad.
    I am impressed that you climbed 777 stairs up and down!!!!

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