Champagne at U Bein Bridge
Moored back in Mandalay there is another early-morning opportunity to meditate on deck and, after breakfast, another cooking demonstration with Chef Sumet. This time it’s Red Thai Curry and again it is very tasty. This chef is wonderful!
After lunch, we’re off on our afternoon excursion to Amarapura and the U Bein Bridge. Amarapura is a former capital of Myanmar and a centre of craft and artisan work, especially fabrics. From practically every house you can hear the clacking of the looms as they produce the exquisite longyis in cotton or silk. There are also many bronze foundries and woodcarvers providing devotional objects such as Buddha images and gongs for the lucrative market in nearby Mandalay.
We visit one of the silk weaving workshops. The local girls are mostly working the looms in pairs and we are amazed how intricate the patterns are. They use mirrors to check that the back of the fabric they are weaving is perfect so they keep to the correct pattern. Yet more shopping but this time Richard is ushering us out quickly as we have a date with the sunset.
We transfer a short distance to the U Bein Bridge which is a famous crossing spanning the Taungthaman Lake. Construction of the three-quarter mile long bridge was started in 1849 and finished in 1851 and is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. It is used as an important passageway for the local people and has also become a tourist attraction. The bridge was built from wood reclaimed from the former royal palace in Inwa. It features 1,086 pillars that stretch out of the water. There are nine passage ways in the bridge, where the floors can be lifted to let big boats and barges pass.
We start by walking part of the bridge across the river to a spit of land. Here we are met by several small boats that have been privately chartered! Each is about 15 feet long and 3 feet wide and takes two or three guests who sit on a wooden bench or in a plastic deck chair! Most of the boats have a plastic table in the middle. Each boat has a boatman and we are rowed to the middle of the lake to collect a glass of champagne which Richard and Dawn have secretly arranged. Served by one of the team from our ship of course!
Within just a few minutes all our boats are lined up perfectly with a view of the bridge and the sunset beyond. Magical!
Back to our ship for our last dinner on board before disembarkation tomorrow.
Photo: Champagne celebration at the U Bein Bridge © Dawn Furlong