Touring Ava

The only way round the island is by horse and buggy and there are over 150 of them waiting at the ferry stop. It is all very orderly, and the drivers take customers in strict rotation. If this was a normal day in the high season, they would each have one customer a day, and sometimes two. But things are not normal in Myanmar , and our driver has been waiting three days for his turn. Sadder still is the fact that for his services he is paid the princely sum of $3. The buggy is small and he asks me to ride up front with him. This has obviously got more to do with placing my bulk in the easiest place for the horse, than for our comfort. The horse is tiny and we are introduced to her. Her name is Jasmine. I am sitting directly behind her rear quarters, next to the driver. The only thing between her backside and me is an open basket designed to catch any of her droppings. I had no idea that a small horse could produce quite so much manure in such a short time, while trotting round an island. Nor was I aware of just how pungent it could be. Jasmine, bless her, had eaten way too much earlier in the day and we were now reaping the benefits.

There is little remaining on the Island to show that it was such an important place, other than the crumbling walls that used to surround the Royal Palace . But the Island is lovely with long “roads” or tracks arched with trees on either side, giving it the feel of rural France . The only other traffic is heavy carts, full of produce, being pulled by white oxen. The villages are also quite appealing, with the usual bamboo and rush buildings, with an occasional magnificent house made of teak. Many of the people stop and wave as we go round. The tour takes about three hours, the highlight of which is a beautiful teak monastery built in 1820. There are huge teak columns inside stretching up 30 feet to support the roof. The doors, windows and railings are all beautifully carved and still in excellent condition. It is quite stunning.

From there we go to the Ubein Bridge further up the river. This is known as the longest teak bridge in the world. In fact it is more like a jetty which spans the river. It is just under a mile long. This is the first tourist sight we have been to that is busy, but what is nice is that it is busy with locals who love the bridge. They all go for their evening walk across it, or take a picnic during the day. We are there for the sunset, which is quite incredible. We walk across mingling with the locals and a large number of monks, all enjoying this beautiful place. There are water buffalo below us swimming in the river. It is a truly exotic way to end a lovely day.

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