Today’s itinerary has us cruising the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay to Bagan. The Irrawaddy is the longest river in Myanmar, winding some 2000 kilometers. Our journey is 208 km and we boarded the boat around 6:30 AM. Our projected arrival time was 5:30 PM, with a one-hour stop for sightseeing at a local village.
For those of you doing the math, that’s an 11-hour voyage. We had been told the other day it was a 9 hour trip. We’ll see what it ultimately works out to be.
There was a bit of the Panama Canal crossing to the voyage, passing under bridges, passing by other ships and barges.
The seats were incredibly comfortable loungers, maybe a step removed from a dine-in movie theater chair. The sundeck was small and we were supposed to rotate around as only a certain number of people could be there for balance and safety.
Around 10:30 AM, we stopped at a mostly unspoilt village of nearly 1000 people; we bounded ashore like the gawking tourists we were, something straight out of a jungle movie when the western supposed “know-it-alls” encroach on an unsuspecting paradise. Yes, I know that’s a romanticized ethnocentric and not-entirely-fair take but it had that vibe of scientists descending on a habitat to observe something alien/foreign and ruining the environment by their efforts.
This sightseeing stop was arranged by the cruise company; they have donated a school and medical supplies to the area in exchange for access and to support the village itself. I felt a little better after hearing that because much like my feelings of observing the monks eating their lunch, I was feeling creepily voyeuristic. It still felt odd as I wouldn’t want people traipsing through my house posing with my stuff for selfies and vacation mementos. Yet I snapped away photographs of the buildings and people. So while I felt weird, it didn’t stop me from BEING weird.
It all carried on my conflicted sense about this trip and the belief that I might be the bad guy in all this. Sigh.
On the plus side, the village was hard at work churning out straw hats which when laid out in the sunlight to dry them out felt like a hat farm. Good crop of hats this year, Rory? Spectacular!
Like any good tour, we “exited through the gift shop” wherein we could purchase our very own straw hat made on the premises. I was tempted and then remembered I never look good in hats. Some folks did plunk down the 2000 kyat for a straw fedora and those that did really rocked those hats.
Just before returning to the boat, we passed some fruit trees. Yes, we have no bananas and underneath the mango tree, me honey…
After visiting the village, I decided to go for the fortune teller. Five dollars and 10 minutes to hear the spiel. Do I believe in this stuff? I don’t know. A lot of it is hooey but it seemed like for some fun and giggles I’d give it a shot.
I thought the guy was a palm reader but in fact he’s a “proper” astrologist. He consulted my chart using my birthdate and a few leading questions to tell my fortune in Burmese which my tour guide Sheila translated for me. For the record, my birth year in the Burmese calendar is 1338. And his “charts” and figures were done inside a Barbie notebook. Barbie’s got a direct line to the cosmos…
Surprisingly, not a single negative thing was foretold. And the heart of it was that I should keep traveling – an easy prediction given my traveling to Burma to run a marathon. But there were a few details that seemed particularly apt. I was told I wasn’t good staying at home (which I guess could’ve been deduced from cruising down the river in Myanmar) but the implication and details were very close to my heart, born as it was under a wandering star.
The rundown is that I have good health, no diseases. When I was tellingly asked my occupation, I hemmed and hawed as I often do but after settling on an answer I was told that the signs like auspicious for next year. After April 2018 I’ll apparently be in a good position to launch a new business but I’ll do better and be happier if it’s a shared business and not a solo venture; I also shouldn’t deal directly with the employees (that’s for sure as any of my former employees and colleagues can attest!). Sometime in 2018 I’ll meet a new friend that will be as friend of my youth, the ones that redefine me. I’m not sure about that one as though my portfolio of friends is small, it’s dense with greatness. As for romance, I was asked some leading questions – my favorite question was translated from the fortune teller to me as “You don’t have a girlfriend or an official wife?” to which I said I didn’t have any unofficial wife either. The stars apparently say I’m supposed to meet the love of my life sometime between February 2018 and March 2018 and she’s not to be from America (how mysterious!).
I fully expect as I disembark the boat to be handed a card with the details of a Myanmar dating service.
Bottom line, I paid $5 for the experience and some goofy photos of my future being read. If it turns out to be true, hey, great. But if I don’t meet the girl by Spring 2018 I’ll have to wonder if it wasn’t my fault. The future is what we make of it and there is no fate but what we make for ourselves. So although this gentleman fortune teller has seen the signs, it’s up to me to make it a reality. Given my track record, I should probably be content to have gotten some good pics for my money. But ya never know. Ya never know.
Also, I’m supposed to take my mom and brother on a trip after May 2018. So, Mom and Steve – where we going? With the power of suggestion and the desire to believe, I could say quite honestly to myself that I was thinking of pitching a Shanghai / Hong Kong double feature. Any interest?
And now for something sea-worthy. A few shots from the boat as we carried on for the remaining six (6!!) hours.
The crew did do a demonstration on the various styles of tying the longyi…
The traditional vs the fisherman…
The Burmese swim suit for the ladies…
And after strutting their fashion stuff on a makeshift catwalk, the crew described the home made thanaka, a sort of combo cosmetic skin care/sunscreen application made from grinding up the bark of a local tree and mixing it on a stone slab.
I’ll go into greater detail on Bagan tomorrow but I will say that we arrived at 4:45 (making it a ten hour and fifteen minute tour!).
After we checked into our hotel, I opted to go for a quick shakeout run in the hopes of restarting the ol’ running engines. It went… slowly… and a bit painfully. Hopefully in the next 36 hours I’ll miraculously heal for the marathon.
Oh, and apparently even with climate change increasing the number of rainy days in Bagan, they still only get about 5-6 days of rain a year. Tonight I guess was one of them as I got drizzled upon, making a humid night ever more drenching. On the plus side, I did see some of the route we’ll be running on Saturday…
…and I did pick up my bib.
Number 9… Number 9… Number 9…
I’m told there aren’t any turkeys in Burma so it’s unlikely I’ll have some this Thanksgiving. But I can’t really complain. I’m in Bagan after all.
To all Americans, happy thanksgiving.
To all non-Americans — if you’re a girl, and you’re free February or March 2018, keep an eye out for me… I’m your density.
Er, um, I mean, I’m your destiny.