Saturday, 24 September -- Minhla/Magwe

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Our morning visit to Minhla almost overwhelmed me. There was another of those precarious transits up and along a muddy slippery bank to the more solid road, then a hot walk through very interesting residential areas to the 1860 colonial fort. There was a lot of motorbike traffic on the streets and quite a range of homes. The fort is an open square, so quite hot. Continuing into the main part of town we arrived at the hot, crowded local market.
Our assignment was to buy longyis to wear tonight. For the men it was simple -- see a fabric you like, hand over 3000 kyat ($3) and on your way. For ladies, it was necessary to send the fabric to a seamstress for finishing, and pay an extra 500 kyat. That meant hanging around in a crowd, dodging motorbikes and smelling fish for about 20 minutes longer. By the time we got back to the boat, I needed to decompress, so didn't go to the talk on Burmese recent history. It sounds like it was terrific, though. I did get some laundry done and had a long shower. Nice after the heat.  Another really nice lunch, then some more down time. By mid-afternoon we were at Magwe, where we first visited a park with a statue of the hero of Myanmar independence
Gen. Aung San "Bogyoke", father of "The Lady" (Ang San Suu Kyi), and an obelisk commemorating it. This area is rich in oil & gas, and so will likely change greatly in the next few years as it is developed to exploit those resources. At Minbu we climbed a long series of steps in our bare feet to visit the 

 Mud Volcano, home of the dragon. You can see his breath in the form of large bubbles surfacing and bursting in the mud. There were many beggars at this site, something we haven't seen much of, but also lots of exuberant children and teenagers. 

At the Myathalon Pagoda we enjoyed another of the beautiful golden places of worship. Everyone there seemed to be in best clothes and enjoying the time. It is apparently considered a blessing to have photos taken with tourists, so our images are now in many local cellphones. As we crossed the bridge we could see large sandbars with lots of vegetation; these appear every year at the end of monsoon, in different places, shapes and sizes. They're very fertile, so there's great competition for space on them. Local officials have to mediate the distribution of the space to farmers. 

It was "Longyi Night", so we all did our best to put on our new longyis properly. While we were enjoying cocktails the staff helped  nearly every one of us to re-do it properly. Once they did, they were amazingly comfortable and we had no further wardrobe malfunctions. (If you want an explanation of that "further", you'll have to ask Cathy). At dinner we were serenaded with a birthday song and cake. Four members of the group have 75th birthdays this year and I think 5 of us 70ths. So we all celebrated together. 

After dinner the staff & crew entertained us with wonderful lively Burmese singing and dancing and got all of us up on the floor dancing too. 

We even got to try out their musical instruments.

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