More Myanmar wonders

THE following account of one man’s journey through Myanmar (formerly Burma) is continued on from last week’s story...

I return to Mandalay by car. In one of those government decrees that makes one wonder just who is running the asylum, road traffic was recently changed from driving on the left – as per the old British system – to the right.

This is all very well, but all the vehicles, mostly ancient Toyota Corollas, happen to be right-hand drive.

It makes for some alarming moments as drivers have to pull out to the centre of the road to see if it’s safe to overtake slower buses and trucks.

In Mandalay I board an Air Yangon flight for He Ho.

From here it is an hour’s drive to Nyaungshwe on the edge of the fabulous Inle Lake.

For the next hour or so I’m treated to some of the most extraordinary sights imaginable.

We pass floating gardens - anchored to the lake bed by long bamboo poles - which can be detached and towed to new locations as necessary.

The gardens, rising and falling with changes in the water level, are resistant to flooding.

But the image that will remain is of men and boys rowing boats in a distinctive style: standing at the stern on one leg and wrapping the other leg around the oar.

This unique method evolved because of the need for the rowers to have a view beyond the reeds and floating plants that crowd the surface of the lake.

A reception committee beating drums and cymbals welcomes our boat to the Golden Island Cottages, a hotel on sticks perching high above water.

In the days that follow there are boat trips to restaurants, the Phang Daw Oo Temple, and a country market where, to the amusement of the local children, I endure a 50-cent haircut.

One afternoon, I’m taken through the maze of channels and creeks to a holy place, formerly known as Nga Pai Chaung, but now recognised as the Jumping Cat Monastery.

Here, the monks, obviously with a deal of spare time on their hands, have trained a number of cats to jump though hoops.

I never cease to be impressed.

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