In the past my first thoughts whenever Burma was mentioned, was that of Kipling’s famous poem based on a soldier’s nostalgia, the road to Mandalay. Every so often, I do attempt a rhyming masterpiece myself, but alas I am in no way a poet. Looking back on my notes from my journey to Mandalay it’s strange because it didn’t quite have the drama of the overnight sleeper train. And even though it was in no way as eventful as that experience… somehow in my mind it sticks out as being the more memorable one???
Rather than talk and bore you through every moment of that journey, I’d like to share all the little things that occurred during the slow and steady ferry-ride from the darkness of Bagan, to Mandalay:
Once again no lie in, our boat set off in the dark, just before sunrise. Perfect.
The ferry was pretty comfortable. The downstairs seats were protected from the elements, they were high-backed padded plastic looking things. Lined up against the windows, nice and snug in the warm cabin. Most of us chose to go onto the upper deck, fully exposed on the sides but still shaded. No plastic seats here, just rows of rattan loungers.
Min had warned us once again that the start of the boat trip would be chilly if we were headed to the top. No-one was ready to take any chances this time around and we all took the fact that it could be cold very seriously. I had my thick comfy star wool cardi on, sat back in my rattan lounger chair, draped my warm scarf over my legs, plugged in my earphones and lay back to gaze out at the passing embankments.
What a morning.
The boat was silent, some had drifted back to sleep, others had cracked open a book and as the light began to flicker across the subtle waves I think most of us became hypnotised by the surrounding views.
As we drifted down the Ayeyarwady river, the most mesmerising sight followed us down. Flocks of tiny starling sized birds danced up and down, up and down, darting back and forth, frolicking in the sunlight as it got stronger and stronger.
I couldn’t take my eyes off them. I tried to capture the moment on camera, I rushed to dig it out and get snapping, but I needn’t have. As this spectacle carried on for hours. And I enjoyed every second of it.
As the cold started to ease up now the sun had risen, breakfast boxes were handed out. Boiled eggs, pastry and a banana. Pretty good breakfast actually. I ate mine obligingly even though I didn’t feel that hungry. Every so often I’d hear an egg, roll off the side and park itself on the edge of the boat. At which point I made sure to secure any of my loose items in case they headed the same way!
There was something about the boat that relaxed us all. It was also probably the most time I had spent on my own this whole trip. A large part of the morning I looked out and simply watching the world go by. And it was ever changing.
Even though we were moving quite swiftly, the scenes we were passing seemed almost stationery. Cows sauntering across fields, people working, bathing, fishing…
Every so often it was time for a bit of a stretch, a change in location. Most of the ladies had secured the sun spot right at the back of the boat and people wandered back and forth from the seating area, having a catch up with different members of the group.
The lovely staff on the boat came round with cutlery, ready for lunch to be served, but it wasn’t for me. The only food option was chicken and rice so that was me out. Oh wait! I did have one more sneaky boiled egg that one of the others didn’t want and a sweet marmalade bread roll saved from the other day. That hit the spot nicely.
After a number of hours daydreaming, note-taking, story writing… it was time to get back to some human interaction (Lord knows it’s not in my nature to stay quiet for too long) so off I popped to join the others on the sun deck, where it was super sunny! The heat was glorious, and as the deck was open, feeling the air woosh past against my face I felt like all the everyday stresses of life were being swept away.
An hour or so after lunch and tea was served, and this was the moment when I realised that God had purposely planned for me not to eat the rice and chicken that had filled everyone else up, because alongside the tea, was a plate of the most AMAZING eggy bread I have ever had. It was slightly sweet and I honestly cannot describe just how delicious it was. I can tell you I had three large pieces (I think we were only supposed to have one??) which I carried out to the deck with my mug of tea where I basked in the sunshine and glory of not having filled my stomach earlier leaving space for this eggy treat.
Eggy bread plate emptied, it was clear we were nearing the end. Numerous passengers with guidebooks started pointing out the temples and sights, such as the Mandalay bridge, that signalled we were moments away from our arrival port.
It was time to enjoy the last few rays on the deck, pack up our belongings and step off onto our next destination.
“Can’t you ‘ear their paddles clunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay?
On the road to Mandalay, Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!”
hmm look at that, I wasn’t going to talk you through the whole thing… then I just kinda did? oops!
What comes to mind when you think of Myanmar? How do you make sure you get ‘me’ time when travelling?