Burma Map Asia

Next morning I set out to find the boat that crossed the river to Mingun, seven miles upstream Finally I was going to take a ride on the Irrawaddy (now called the Ayeyarwady.) But I vowed afterwards that it would be the last time I went anywhere as tourist infested as Mingun.

My trishaw rider was waiting outside the hotel and he pedalled me to the riverboat landing through the early morning traffic. At the dock I had to produce my passport to buy a ticket just to cross a river! I was told to wait for at least five more passengers before the boat could leave. It was a fair sized riverboat and we managed to muster up ten takers, all tourists.

The gangplank out to the boat was not for the tangle-footed, consisting of a wobbly plank and a hand rail that was a bamboo pole held between two men standing up to their waists in the water. A helping hand at the other end hauled us on board.

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Reclining in an ingenious but roughly made bamboo lounge chair, I watched the wide river flow past, alone in the covered part of the boat where I had a fine view of the toilet whose door had been left open to proudly display the fact that it had a pedestal. The rest of the tourists chose to sit in the sun on the roof.

The level of the river was low and patches of grass showed on the sand bars. On one narrow spit of land in the middle of the river was a rice crop with people and oxen moving about.

Getting off the boat at Mingun was easier than wobbling on had been. We tied up to the base of a temple with white stone steps leading up to the road. Then it was on! We were mobbed by hordes of sellers of postcards, fans, paintings, drinks and dyed quartz pretending to be jade. I dodged around a side path to avoid the mob on the main drag, but was detected by two small girls who pursued me relentlessly until they wore me down. In the end I paid fifty cents for a fan to get rid of them.

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