It was very hot walking, but the breeze off the water and the trees helped. The traffic along the road beside the river was mostly motorbike and tuk tuk. People sitting on the wall under the trees said ‘Mingala ba’ to me as I passed. Halfway to the bridge I saw the riverboat landing. Several large ferries were moored there and out in midstream a barge was being towed upriver. I had hoped to find a boat from here to the north but it was the wrong time of the year. Bigger boats that took passengers only ran north when the water level was higher.
I reached the bridge, a huge long affair on which a car looked the size of a pea. I went into the Southern Star restaurant, which overhung the water. From my seat I could see across to the other side of the river where a small village hugged the shore behind which green hills rose, dotted with a pagoda or two shining golden amongst the greenery. The Southern Star restaurant had a good view of the bridge and river but it seemed to cater mainly to men drinking beer for lunch. No other liquid refreshment could be obtained apart from water. I ordered hot and sour chicken, which almost took my breath away. But the chilli would do me good, I reasoned, so pushed it down.
Returning, I hoped a tuk tuk would accost me, but I ended up walking all the way back to the hotel where I collapsed on the bed and watched Al Jazeera, catching up with the news until it was time for the night market, held in the small street next to the Lucky Dragon. It was a fizz-out as a general night market, but there was lots of food. I bought edible objects on sticks the only ones I recognised were prawns and they were delicious.
Map Of Burma Photo Gallery
In the morning I fed the little birds outside my room with some of the unidentifiable sticks of food I had bought at the bus stop a few days earlier. I had soaked them for an hour but they were still rock hard, so I stomped them on the ground. The birds sounded and looked like sparrows, but were half the size of the ones I was used to. Two of them were building a nest under the eaves of the bungalow opposite mine. They pulled dry half-metre long strings from the palm fronds of the small trees in the manicured garden between the bungalows.
Then they flew away with the strings streaming out behind them like banners, and ducked in under the building’s eaves with their cargo. Large carp and goldfish flashed about in pools that intersected the gardens where a gardener clipped the grass with scissors. I also fed the sparrows the crusts off the awful bread I got at breakfast. The bread was the same I found all over the country dreadful sweet stuff.
Again I found no transport in the street, so I gave up and walked to Pyay’s Shwesandaw Paya in the central area of the town. It was still early enough to be alms gathering (or begging) time and monks and nuns were out in force. A line of nuns, pretty with their pink robes and dark pink wax paper umbrellas, walked barefoot along in front of me. Some were very tiny girls who looked as young as six or seven.
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