Category: Myanmar, 2013

Slow Boat(s) to Bagan

January 22

Picked up at 5:45 (having again been awaken at 5:10 by chanting, no alarm clock needed). At first, there is some difficulty/confusion trying to find the boat, but we locate it. We say goodbye to our excellent driver and guides, Zo Win and Aung Lin Htet. We give Zo Win a tip and give each of them a lucky $2 bill. We will stay in touch with Aung Lin Htet, and, we hope, host him in the US. Dorothy has suggested that we might write letters of recommendation about Aung Lin Htet, and we’ve said that we’d happily do that.

Walking down a steep hill and up a gangplank, we board the RV Vandabo, a boat with what looks to be a capacity of about 25. It appears that it’s just us and a large group of Germans, which does not excite us. We soon find out that the Germans are Danish, though, and we strike up a conversation with a very friendly former SAS employee named Adda. We later discover that there is also a British couple on board, and some Swiss.

The ship is wooden and quite new. We’d switched to it on Joe Feldman’s recommendation. Before embarking, we watch a group of natives exercising in unison to the leader’s call on the river bank. At first, it’s very chilly, as the sun rises, but we’re dressed for the occasion, having been warned by the Feldmans. The scenery combines barges with pagodas on the shore.




The Danish group is quite friendly, and we talk a lot to Tim and Bonnie, from London, who have traveled very extensively and built a home on the coast of Kenya, near Lambu. Tim was born in Uganda and is a sculptor. Our travel agent did not book lunch for us, which is fine, both because we’re not hungry and because we’re told that the lunch was lousy.

We stop for about an hour at a village called Vandabo, which appears to have quite a thriving business making pottery, on a scale very far beyond the village we visited yesterday. Adda kindly translates what the Danish guide is saying. Many good children photo ops, and a pleasant interlude from the boat. Download photos when we return to boat and get the blog up to date.







Enjoyable ride down the river with boat and shore scenes, the weather changing from hot and sunny to pleasant to chilly as the sun sets, completing the sunrise to sunset day.




At 6:15, we are about half an hour from port, when we run aground on a sandbar. Futile efforts to get loose, free rum sours to calm the passengers and finally they send for four boats to come out, three for the passengers and one for the luggage. Much laughter with Tim and Bonnie, the English couple. Bonnie is upset about not getting to the great hotel they’ve booked and missing their scheduled massages and dinner. I get somebody to call U Thein Tun Oo, Dorothy’s friend who is waiting for us at the jetty. He has already learned what has happened and says, no problem, he’ll wait.

When the boats arrive, Bonnie pushes her way to the front and instead of their loading three boats with people and a fourth with luggage, she convinces them to load the four of us with all of the luggage into the motor boat first. The motor boat ride is slow, lasting forty-five minutes, but the conversation with Bonnie and Tim is hilarious. We finally arrive at the jetty at 10:15 and are met by U Thein Tun Oo and driver. The former is nice, but extremely difficult to understand. He tells us that something has come up so that he can’t be with us tomorrow, but another guide has been arranged.

We check in to a very nice hotel, the Aye Yar River View Resort, and are informed that we will be picked up at 5:45 for our balloon ride tomorrow morning. We go up to the room and shower. I blog and shoot off an email to Dotty, telling her my concern about our being guided for three days by U Thein Tun Oo, given the level of his English, and asking whether anything might be done about that.

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