The Burmese people were so friendly and willing to explain their culture to us. I wonder if this has changed now they have had so much more exposure to tourists.
Burmese women are very elegant and calm. The hold their beautiful black hair up with combs and paint their faces with a unique substance. This is thanaka, used by women and children as sun protection. Its made from ground tree bark which is made into a paste and applied to the cheeks. Once you get used to it it is strangely elegant.
The other must have is a longyi. We bought these in Yangon. In the heat this two metre strip of material tied at the waist is cool and comfortable for everyone. It covers you up for visiting pagodas but is cooler than trousers.
Ninety percent of Burmese are Theravada Buddhists and of these 500,000 are monks. Some are as young as seven and only stay a few months but boys from poor families stay for a free education. Strangely it is a thing for tourists to view the monks getting their meals. This is a great photo opportunity but it made me feel very uncomfortable to be in a line of westerners pushing cameras into the faces of the monks. At Mahar gandar yone monastery a thousand monks queue with their black lacquer arms bowls for their main meal. They are not allowed to eat a meal with rice after midday so we waited at 10.30 am as they held bowls up for a scoop of rice and one of vegetables and then sat down to eat.
And now for the highlight of our trip.
After a short flight to Heho we were taken to see the pagodas of Indein village. Many are overgrown but some have been restored. The sights here are really astounding even for someone who thought they had enough of ancient temples.
The market, as always, was interesting but we spent most of the day seeing the sights of the lake. 100,000 people live on the water in stilt houses. They work and garden on the water but also make money from tourists. The long necked women sit at the shop door way waiting to be photographed at the silk shop where you can buy scarves ( I got a beautiful purple one). Then you can see weaving and black-smithing. But the iconic sight is the one leg rowers. They stand perfectly balanced on one leg with the other wrapped round the oar and glide across the lake.
This country was amazing. I really hope it hasn’t changed too much.