In the afternoon we got to see Ava, which was the capital of Myanmar from 1418 to 1839. It is an island in the middle of the river. We catch what passes for a ferry across to the island, but is in fact little more than a few pieces of wood strung together with a small motor at the back. It seems that our water transport gets worse as our trip goes on. But this journey is only a few hundred yards. The island itself is a revelation, a beautiful serene place with no vehicles. There is a restaurant where the ferry stops and we have lunch. It is incredibly basic with tables and chairs set out on the dirt underneath a huge spreading tree. Dogs and flies fight for our attention, while chickens scratch in the dirt all around. There is even a huge black pig fast asleep between two of the tables. The waiter does his best to keep the flies away from our food with a fan which he periodically waves over our table, as if it was the most natural thing for a waiter to be doing. Despite this we are served a delicious lunch of fresh fish and fried rice, and it all seems very romantic.
Afterward our guide suggests that we take the fish head that we hadn’t touched and the remains of the fried rice to give to one of the begging children. We ask what they do with the fish head. They will apparently beat it all to a pulp, and then press it through a sieve that will allow any flesh to pass through and retain the bones. The flesh they collect will last a family a couple of days, when served with soup, rice and vegetables. Outside the restaurant is a young boy trying to sell us trinkets. I offer him the leftovers and his face lights up into the biggest smile you have ever seen. He is obviously thrilled and thanks us warmly. The guide tells us that his family will rarely have eaten anything as exotic as this. We feel terribly extravagant and wasteful.