So out of Yangon and into the bustle of the real Burma. It feels good. After umming and ahhing, I made the decision to come to Bago, site of two reclining Buddhas and many others in between. It's certainly rates a mention in the Lonely Planet, but it being the off season, there aren't many of us foreigners around.
Neither English, nor hospitality, is scarce in this country, and as soon as I was off the bus, me and backpack were on the back of a scooter for an afternoon of touring the buddhist sites in the vicinity. There are 42 monasteries or monuments in Bago. Our first stop was a bustling study monastery, home to more than 1200 monks who study for 20 years within its grounds. It was something special to stand in a room packed with monks chanting their studies.
Following the monastery, we visited another seven sites, including two reclining buddhas, one of which was first built more than a century ago, the other of which is only four years old.
Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon though, was a cheroot factory. More a two story house in a back lane, about 100 women work from 7am until 7pm packing cigars for the local market. They get one kyat for one cigar, which is about one cent, and depending on their speed, they'll get through 1000 - 1200 in a day. So that's a dollar in earnings a day.
Despite the hard work, they were full of spirit and laughter. One girl asked me if I had a boyfriend, so Richie, your picture got passed around more than 50 hands to which there was lots of exclamations of 'chore', handsome. :) I managed to find Miles a bride too - they were all keen!
Last night I spent the night at Kinpun, about three hours west of Bago. After some waiting for the bus, we luckly bribed a bus full of Thai tourists to take us up to the heralded golden rock yesterday. It was quite a sight and indeed is perched on the mountainside by a hair's breadth.
So I've found a couple of Belguim friends who quote 'lekka' at every meal, Ma. We heading north on the bus very shortly, me to Kalaw for some hopeful trekking (depending on the leaches) and them to Inlay Lake, which is not so far. Hopefully I'll write again from one of them.
PS. Have a super last day at work babe. Thinking of you, pink pictures and pink presents on the fridge. xxx