A treat today. Power agreed not to pick us up until 11am. Even though he did turn up at 10.30 raring to go, we managed to have a lovely leisurely breakfast, chat to some fellow Aussie travellers & enjoy the hotel garden & our bungalow patio.
First stop was the local market. Karina is gradually turning native with purchases of pantalons, tops & jewellery but todays aim was to get a new bag to carry home our purchases. Somehow we managed to end up with a giant luxury pet carrier .... but it will do the job!
After a viist to the colonial Governers House we drove back to Mandalay but on the way were lucky to come across a magical procession. We understand it is a sort of 'coming of age' for young boys aged around 5 but out of the dust and poverty it was incredible to see such a colourful, lively, happy parade. There must have been a couple of hundred people taking paty, all the finery, ornate cotsumes, a panto elephant, ponies, ox carts (all decorated) & a truck with mucisians and a huge megaphone that Andrew ended up on! Watch out for the video on U-tube.
At the market we had bought a pile of exercise books & pens. We called at a primary school intending to take them to one of the teachers & perhaps observe a class. We didn't expect the whole school (300 children) to gather excitedly around us & we ended up singing songs 7 counting with them. The children were lovely - all wanting to speak English to us but the facilities were really basic - poor kids. 4 teachers for the whole school & of course absolutely no IT equipment ... or indeed anything like it.
Power squeezed in another temple - to be honest we are almost templed out. There are 2000 monastaries and 35,000 momks in Mandalay alone, although Power calls some of them 'black sheep'! Most of them are inspiringly beautiful. However this Buddha is a very special one & at 4am every morning the monks wash it's face & brush it's teeth.
The highlight of our day however and a huge honour for us was to be invited to Nyes house (our driver). This was a completely overwhelming & humbling experience for us. Nye, his wife & 3 lovely boys (3, 8 & 17) live in what can only be called a bamboo shack. But Mrs Nye had obviously spend the day coooking & cleaning, The house was immaculate, with the best carpet & table cloth & all the family in their best clothes. The main house was just one room with a raised carpeted platform that is used for relaxing, eating & sleeping. Mrs Nye had prepared a wonderful meal with about 8 plates of lovely food & desserts to follow - this while runnning their little shop & looking after the boys.
The whole family are Manchester United mad (as seem to be many of the Burmese .... & the women all seem to love Wayne Rooney!?!). We asked if the older boy had any questions about England and were flabbergasted when he spent about 30 minutes asking in depth questions about Manchester United strategy.
We were moved to tears by this lovely families hospuitality & reflected on returning to our hotel that our hotel room was bigger than their house.
After dinner we were invited to yet another house for coffee - Willem was M&Ds driver on their last viist & not only had a present for them but for us also. Willems house is much more solid - the extended family live together, his father was ex military & Willem runs his own dirver business so is in a more fortunate postion than Nye.
A little word on politics (not much for obvious reasons). We have not been acutely aware of military presence but it is there in the background. A few goverenment slogans are plastered around - some a little sinister eg."(The Military) and the people co-operate and crush all those harming the Union'. Aung San Soo (The Lady) and her father are revered and we have seen their pictures openly displayed. Yesterday everyone was very happy that 600 politilcal prisoners were released. And people constantly tell us how glad they are that Hilary Clinton & William Hague have visited recently.