A bumpy but scenic bus ride on Burmese roads takes me through landscape characterized by prickly bushes and stunted trees, simple villages and poor roads. Ox-carts carry wood, water tanks and families. Most farms still use oxen to plow fields. First stop is a Palm Tree farm where a man scurries up a very tall palm tree to get drippings for his pots below. Palm produces alcohol, palm oil, palm sugar, baskets and ornaments from fronds. A 25-year-old ox grinds peanut paste which tourists feed back to him in a nice symbiotic relationship.
The archaeologically rich city of Bagan sits on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwady River. What greets me upon debarkation from our boat is a loudspeaker blasting Rod Stewart singing “Young Turks” and thousands of ruins. Here is a region to compete with Angkor Wat; there are 4446 sandstone and terra cotta pagodas and temples dating from the 11th to 13th centuries. I can only hope we do not attempt to see them all. (more…)