Ox-cart ride

After a delightful buffet breakfast we join our morning outing to Sin Kyun. Our ship supports this village by donating funds to improve the quality of life of the villagers, and previous donations have funded a library and school house. On arrival, we are greeted by many villagers and some of the children follow us as we enjoy a walk with our guides. The children are very happy to pose for photos! The walk culminates in a large group of children meeting us at their school. We hand out gifts of pencils, pens, notebooks, erasers and crayons. During last year's tour, Richard and Dawn were invited to meet the village chief, and join in celebrations of the chief's grand-daughter's marriage engagement. This year we meet the married couple, complete with new baby and another one on the way!

From Sin Kyun we tender across the river to the town of Mingun. King Bodawpaya cast a gigantic bell to go with his huge stupa at Mingun so we have to go and see it. The Mingun Bell weighs 90 tons and is apparently the largest ringing bell in the world. We are encouraged by the locals to go INSIDE the bell which requires shuffling on your hands and knees to get underneath. Once inside you can stand up. A few of us partake. Thankfully no one rings the bell while we are inside. Following the visit, we surprise guests by encouraging them to join our local ox-cart transport back to the ship. We have 20 ox-carts, each pulled by two enormous oxen! This is great fun, but to be honest, the cart wheels have no suspension, so it's quite a bouncy ride. Sorry, no refunds.

After lunch, we enjoy an afternoon sailing with time to meet up in the lounge to try THANAKA – the traditional Burmese make-up, that also acts as a sun block. Girls and women of all ages wear Thanaka and young boys also wear it. It is prepared from the bark of a Thanaka tree which is ground to a paste on a stone, with a little water added. It is applied to the skin as a sunscreen and make-up and we're told it is particularly good for wrinkles! We also learn how to wear and tie a LONGYI (the traditional Burmese dress for men and women). We’ve all been given one to wear and to keep as a souvenir. Our male bar staff show the men how to tie the longyi, and then it’s the ladies turn. Eventually, we are all fitted and wearing our new traditional costumes! Following all this excitement, our cruise director John Farrell treats us to an informative lecture entitled ‘Modern Burma’, before taking some of us on a backstage tour of the ship - including a quick shimmy through Chef Sumet's Galley. How does he and his team produce such stunning meals from such a small space!?

This evening, a Captain's Dinner. Two long tables with the Captain, John, Richard and Dawn taking the seats at the end of the tables. They move around after each course, so the Captain and John can meet as many guests as possible. A bit like speed dating.