Also interesting was a well-preserved room where the monastery’s founder, Janaka Bhivamsa, had lived, written numerous Buddhist books and set the example of study, worship and strict adherence to Buddhist disciplines for which the monastery is famous.
Being a chicken about heights and a big baby about the heat during our visit, I stayed near the end of the bridge and had to tolerate endless begging by children whose job it is to earn a few cents this way every day.
The working conditions are pretty primitive and this fine work is done with looms and tools that have been in use for decades. After a brief lunch stop we were back on the trail of sights.
This was originally part of Mandalay Palace, and its builder King Mindon died there. His son Thibaw, the last King of Myanmar (he lost finally to the British in 1885), moved the building outside the Palace walls as tribute to his father. A good thing he did, because the rest of Mandalay Palace was bombed flat by the Japanese in World War II, and the Monastery is the sole surviving Palace structure.
Finally we were deposited for the night at the Mandalay Hill Resort, the second of our four luxurious Myanmar hotels which made us feel incredibly guilty.
At dinner we were treated to a traditional Myanmar puppet and dance show, mostly put on for tourists. At least these traditions are being kept alive.
Women hauled huge baskets of sand on top of their heads up the hill from the water.
Homes and “shops” alike were made of tarpaulins and salvaged bits of corrugated iron and scrap wood. Children played happily, small ones free of diapers, in the sandy soil.
Parents improvised an infant’s swing from a shawl, and pulled it back and forth to keep that baby asleep.
The boat ride was pleasantly breezy and the life along the river, pretty much as it was 60 years ago, very interesting. Boarding and disembarking from our little ferry was a pretty scary trek along wooden planks placed between five other boats, as our ferry had the berth furthest out.
Bagan is in the driest, most desert-like part of Myanmar, and March is one of the hottest times of year there. Our hotel here made us feel the guiltiest, as its choice location right near the archeological sites betrayed its ownership by cronies of the military regime.