So, many good things happened today. First off, I headed to the travel agent to pay for and pick up my ticket for a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the temples of Bagan, scheduled for circa 6am on 21 January. The photos look amazing and if the rumours are true, I’ll get a champagne breakfast before we set off. I love it when all my favourite things coincide. In the immortal words of Charlie of the Chocolate Factory fame, I’ve got the golden ticket. (If you sing it to the correct tune the joke wil almost certainly be funnier – was in my head, anyway).
The travel agents was located right next to Inya Lake so I took the opportunity for a stroll around in the crushing midday sun (mad dogs and English men…). To be honest, it wasn’t much to write home about and there was little shade. But while there, I wandered round the corner to check out Ang San Suu Kyi’s house. A flag, a photo of her late father and some barbed wire topped gates were all that awaited me. To be honest, I think in tourism terms they could have done better, and they missed a trick at not having a tacky tourist stall. While I was there for literally one minute, a packed tourist bus passed and a couple of taxis stopped for foreigners to jump out and have their photos taken. I’m being trite for comedic value, of course. It was great to be at the scene of so much important democratic reform (readers, this may be my final blog from Burma…).
From there I took a cab to Kandawgyi Lake which was stunning. Smaller than Inya Lake, but green, pictoresque, dotted with interesting lush green gardens, and a sprinkling of locals going about their daily lives (fishing, reading, taking exercise, schmooching). Speaking of which, it seems lakes are the prime spot for courting couples here in Burma. With even a modestly sized umbrella to preserve your dignity, it’s amazing what you can get up to.
I spent a few blissful hours by the lake – walking, thinking, reading. I finished George Orwell’s Burmese Days on one side of the lake – very funny and I suspect a depressingly realistic account of British colonial rule in Burma, fuelled most by alcohol rather than smart strategy, it seems. I then moved on to Letters from Burma by Ang San Suu Kyi. I’m only part way through it, but already I’m hooked. So beautifully written, and inspiring to hear from a politician willing to sacrifice their own comforts for those of her people.
Two quotes grabbed me – one about work, the other about politics but really saying the same thing:
‘People will contribute hard work and money cheerfully if they are handled with kindness and care and if they are convinced that their contributions will truly benefit the public’ and
‘Some have questioned the appropriateness of talking about such matters as metta (loving-kindness) and thissa (truth) in the political context. But politics is about people and what we have seen in Thamanya proved that love and truth can move people more strongly than any form of coercion.’
So, as long as the buses are good to me, tomorrow I will take an overnight bus to Kalaw where I hope to do some treking/walking. Then on to Inle Lake where I have accommodation booked and a date with some hot springs.