A 23-minute Movie
of Mystery and Romance
by budding iMovie Mogul Michael Mus
Starring: Michael, Juanita, Pam and Ken.
Eddy, Click on the little arrow below the picture above to start the ‘Movie’.
Today, even after fifty years of neglect, with many decaying edifices, broken footpaths, and whirring generators to combat frequent power failures, there’s no mistaking the remaining strong British influences mixed with sidewalk vendors and food stalls at every turn in old Rangoon.
Myanmar is slowly opening from its recent sad past. The people are very welcoming, and so much of the country is still unspoiled by mass tourism.
In Yangon, we visit the Schwedagon Pagoda to watch the sun set and to see the sixty tons of glistening pure gold covering the ‘bell’ of the main stupa change colour. And then in Mandalay,
It’s not too much of a burden sitting on the top deck of the Orient Express ‘Road to Mandalay’ cruiser in the open-air, taking of the breakfast buffet, and looking out over the river to the pagodas atop 37 hilltops.
At 3,000 feet In Nyaungshwe, the jetty-town for Inle Lake, where it is so much cooler than sweltering Yangon, we experience the one-in-five day local markets, where the colourfully dressed local hill tribes come to buy and sell their vegetables, flowers, bamboo and tobacco. In other places, it’s the workshops that appeal and difficult to get Pam and Juanita away from the jewellery and lacquer ware.
Inle Lake is famous for its unique leg rowers, conical fishing, and lotus fibre weaving. We observe all these and so much more as we come and go, travelling 85 kilometres sitting on cushions in wooden armchairs in our longboat over three days. The first day turns out to be long, but totally engrossing. We go up a river to a little-visited complex of old pagodas on top of the hill; it’s only when I can barely lift my nip of scotch before dinner that night that I realise how exhausting! But wonderful!
Greenery grows out from ornate stucco carvings of spirits and legendary animals. Heads have been taken from most of the Buddhas inside. A little further on, our guide leads us away from the columns lining the covered stairway and along a dirt pathway up the hillside. He wants us to walk among and appreciate the hundreds of weatherworn stupas from the 17th and 18th centuries.
I’ve always carried an image of people walking over a long bridge seemingly on tall stilts above the water as stereotypical of Burma. I’m about to be surprised. The sun is fast falling towards the horizon as we approach Mandalay. Little do I expect to be walking out on that old bridge, made of teak from the Royal Palace in the 19th century, before rowing out into the lake to the watch the sunset beyond. Magical!
THE “ROAD TO MANDALAY”:
There’s a lot to be said for seeing the countryside from the comfort of a cruise vessel. The ‘Road to Mandalay’ of Orient Express is no exception of course. We use the vessel as our hotel and base at both ends. We are totally spoiled in upgraded ‘state rooms’ with large picture windows allowing us not to miss a moment of life along the banks or the many different craft passing us along the mighty Irrawaddy.
Up before dawn, we drive over dusty roads in an rickety old wooden bus that’s been built on the chassis of an old World War II Chevrolet Jeep to watch the sun rise over the pagodas, aloft in a hot-air balloon. I can still hear the whoosh and lick of flame as the British pilot turns on the burners. We float for nearly an hour taking in the surreal landscape and at times coming low enough to look inside a ruin and see a statue of Buddha.