The Road to Mandalay: Yandabo, peaceful if not prosperous – 6

IMG_3582 ezzABOARD RV KINDAT PANDAW – Yesterday evening we enjoyed watching the crew moor our vessel to the riverbank. As we slowly edged toward the bank, depth was sounded employing a long, marked stick. A couple of crew members jumped ashore and drove a stake into the damp soil securing the mooring line to the stake. Then they secured that stake with additional stakes and lines so that any tension on the main mooring line would pull the primary stake deeper into the soil. It’s ingenious, effective, and obviously well-practiced.

We cast-off in the morning before 6:30 a.m. arriving at Yandabo by 9 a.m. for our scheduled two-hour walking excursion. We are moored to the bank in similar fashion. Yandabo is renowned for terra cotta pottery produced from Ayeyarwady riverbank clay and our first stop was at a pottery. Here we observed the production of several pots at various production stages.

IMG_3631 ezA young woman pounded additional wet clay onto already thrown pots to form a base and then added decoration. An older woman threw pots on an ingeniously powered wheel. Other pots were stacked to dry in the sun, while still others were being fired beneath a stack of hay and ash. Production in the village is substantial and is marketed some distance up and down the Ayeyarwady by boat.

The village of Yandabo includes several hundred houses, mostly of traditional design constructed of wood. Although the village is not connected to the electricity grid, we noticed several homes sporting photovoltaic panels; one, even a satellite dish. We saw no paved or otherwise improved roads, and no cars, but motorbikes occasionally zoomed past. Overall the village seemed quite peaceful, and if not prosperous, at least not desperately poor. IMG_3638 ez

Walking slowly along tree-shaded paths we stumbled upon a man receiving a haircut and provided a no-doubt unexpected audience. Nearby we entered a typical yard where a game had been set-up. It’s called “Gaw Li” and involves tossing stones the size of large marbles into 15 golf- ball size holes scooped from the clay-rich packed earth in a triangular pattern. After a demonstration from Kywa, many of us tried our skill with reasonable success.

IMG_3670 ezOur excursion concluded with a visit to a primary school supported, like the clinic in Bagan, by Pandaw Charity. Classes of 1st through 5th graders squealed, giggled, laughed and shouted obviously engaged, though we’re not sure what the lesson was. Our lesson, held in an empty classroom by professor Kywa, attempted to convey a grasp of the Myanmar language’s 33 character alphabet…we think with limited success.

A pick-up game of cane ball resembling volleyball using the feet diverted us near the landing as we re-boarded Kindat Pandaw for lunch and a leisurely afternoon cruise past villages, temples and lots of river traffic. Quite idyllic.

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