Hot air balloons and a sandbank dinner!
An early start for guests who have opted for a balloon ride over Bagan. They are off to join a Golden Eagle Hot Air Balloon flight, and they come back with very big grins on their faces. The rest of us enjoy a slightly more leisurely start to the day, and we all meet up to visit the famous ANANDA temple. Said to have been built around 1105 by King Kyanzittha, this perfectly proportioned temple heralds the end of the Early Bagan period and the beginning of the Middle period. In 1990, on the 900th anniversary of the temple's construction, the temple spires were gilded. The remainder of the temple exterior is whitewashed from time to time.
As we exit the temple, we all board private horse drawn carriages, two people to one horse and driver. Mildly more comfortable than our earlier ox and cart experience, we head off for a 30 minute ride through the old stupas and temples on the Bagan plain. A very popular trip, taking us off the beaten track, around some of the oldest stupas and through picturesque countryside. The only scary bit was when we had to cross the dual carriageway of a busy Bagan road! We ended up at the Damayangyi temple. In the courtyard outside, a couple of locals are playing a volleyball type game, using a hollow bamboo ball and instead of using their hands to throw the ball over the net, they use their feet and heads – all whilst wearing a longyi as well. Too difficult for tourists!
This afternoon we visit a local workshop where we're given an excellent explanation of the craft of lacquer-ware. It is a long and complicated process. Resin is taken from the Thit-si tree. This sap has a very strong adhesive quality and a splendid brilliance. The raw material used to manufacture any object is bamboo. This is cut out, softened and worked to give the shape of the final object. The first lacquering of the interior is covered with a resin paste of lacquer and mixed ashes. It is then left to dry for at least a week. The object is then carefully sand-papered if necessary, before being engraved by hand using very fine, sharp tools. The process is then repeated but with each new layer of lacquer, a new colour is introduced – perhaps red, green, blue or yellow and sometimes gold. After 7 or 8 processes, the lacquer is again sand-papered with teak wood ash and then washed carefully. Some fine lacquer-ware will have up to twelve layers. It can take months to finish a piece and unsurprisingly they don’t come cheap! After the explanation, we head off to the workshop to see the process first hand. The workers are mostly young and they have learnt the craft from their parents and grandparents. The end results are beautiful and there is of course a shop!
A real treat this evening, because the ship crew has kindly arranged a spectacular al fresco BBQ dinner ashore. To begin, we join three tender boats and sail, flotilla style up river. It is pitch black, and there are no lights on our tender craft, so we can't see where we're going to begin with. The three boats must appear like an invasion force. As we approach a sandbank, we can begin to see twinkling lights on the shore. A pathway has been lit with numerous candle lanterns. A fireworks display announces our arrival! Getting off our transfer boats onto the shore proves quite exciting because the sand bank has moved since the crew was here last - but we manage it with in some style! The ship crew and staff have set up tables and chairs, a full BBQ unit for Chef Sumet, a bar, lights and torches. The food was amazing and the starry sky on the way home completed a wonderful evening. Thank you RV ANANDA!