As the sun came up in the morning, it became obvious that we were tied up to a sand bar. The river is so shallow that the boat can’t move at night; they “dock” wherever they can.
The mornings were quite cool on the river and there was usually a good layer of dew. I was lucky to capture this image before the crew member wiped it away.
As the sun rose over the horizon, the crew pulled the hooks out of the sand and we backtracked to the island of Kyun Daw.
It’s always a joy to watch the river come to life in the morning…
As we dropped anchor by Kyun Daw the beach was covered in a thick fog, making the scene somewhat surreal.
This was the only day that we couldn’t “dock”, the water was too shallow for us to get close to the beach. When the water is high the boat docks at the bottom of the ramp; this river has huge seasonal changes in the water level. A sampan arrived to take us to shore and the crew were busily getting it ready for us.
The unique boats of the Irrawaddy have 2 shafts each with propeller; a shorter one for shallow water and a longer one for deeper water.
Kyun Daw (pronouned Chun Daw) is a village on an island in the middle of the river. The island is 1 mile deep by 2 miles wide and is home to over 7,000 stupas, many of which are in ruins.
This village visit was about the people, not the stupas. We started with a walking tour, learning about village life. Families in the villages of Myanmar still have large families, usually at least 5 children and as many as 12. Now that they have power (and TV) that will probably change.
This little girl was standing in her yard holding a flower and watching us intently…
These 2 boys (brothers I think) were having a blast; the older one pushing the younger one up and down the street.
This woman was pumping water from the well, the smile on her face says it all…
These 2 little ones were so cute, always posing for photos…
We visited the home of this 81 year old man. The teak carving that he is holding was done by one of his many sons.
This is his sister, she’s 87. She was clearly a very beautiful lady in her younger years. Between them they have many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
This is a common way to carry baskets in Myanmar…
They put the cans on the fence posts to protect them from the rain; most things have more than one use.
These clay pots are full of fresh drinking water for the locals; the clay keeps the water cool. They used to boil the water first, but today the water comes from a well.
This is the village library, it was closed while we were there.
Our next stop was the local school where we visited a 2nd grade classroom. The children really love having their photo taken, especially when you show it to them.
The children in Myanmar are all taught English in school, but rarely get the chance to speak it.
These ladies bring food to the school to sell to the children for lunch – a cafeteria of sorts.
They’re all sitting cross-legged on the table. This is how they normally sit – I saw this even on the train. They sit, kick off their flip flops and tuck their feet up under them.
There is always space for at least one more Buddha figure!
Next we visited a nunnery to learn about the daily life of the nuns. I had thought that if you were a nun or a monk it was for life. Not so in Myanmar. As young as the age of 5, young boys can enter the monastery (the nunnery for girls) for as little as a week at a time. Many children do so on the two mid-term school breaks and over summer holidays. They believe that to have a child that does this closes the door to hell for the parents and earns “merit” for the children, shortening the path to Nirvana.
Nuns do not collect alms daily as the monks do; they receive alms only four times a month, based on the lunar calendar, so they must cook their own food. As is also the case with monks, they can’t eat after noon each day.
This nun became a nun at the age of 20; she is now 79. We presented her with alms (rice and milk from the ship) and she gave us a blessing.
Then we were taken inside, to see how she lives and cooks.
The nuns here live a very simple life, this is the bedroom where they sleep.
The cooking is done over an open fire. Electricity had been installed just the week prior and the nun was pretty excited about trying out a new rice cooker that she had been given!
As we were heading back to the ship, this ox was on the path ahead of us and seemed to be waiting for us. I guess she wanted her picture taken too!
Getting back on the sampan, the railing was a piece of bamboo held by the ship’s crew. It worked!
The Avalon Myanmar on the Irrawaddy
Since this was the only time we would disembark by boat, they took us for a spin around the Avalon Myanmar so we could get some photos of it.
During high water this land in submerged. The people “camping” here have homes elsewhere, but stay here when they can to be closer to the river and the fishing in the dry season.
The boat was flying 2 flags – the Myanmar national flag at the back and the Buddhist flag at the front.
We arrived in Katha before dark (one of the benefits of travelling downstream) and were able to go ashore for a little exploration.
Don’t you just love this Burmese Stroller? I think it’s made of woven bamboo.
They call the trucks here “Chinese Buffalo”; this one actually had an engine cover, most don’t! It was the cutest little dumptruck. Notice the safety gear the driver is wearing!
There are roosters, chickens and chicks everywhere. The roosters are really colourful and pretty…
It was a Friday evening, the night of the full moon. These men were stirring the sticky rice for the full moon festival. There were 4 of these pots on the go…
Once stirred they put the banana leaves back on top and covered with a woven bamboo lid.
We walked towards the sunset and came upon this beautiful scene.
And as the sun was setting, the moon was rising…
The kids were following us around, posing for photos. They just kept coming…
This family was busy chopping the fish for fish paste; all hands on deck…
Garbage is a problem in Myanmar. They pile it in one spot and then burn it. Problem is, plastic doesn’t burn. Their practice hasn’t changed along with the change in lifestyle. Progress is being made, but it’s slow.