U Bein Bridge
A morning sailing back to Mandalay this morning, and another wonderful cooking demonstration by Chef Sumet. This dish is rather more complicated than the first, so we're not sure it will be gracing our dinner tables at home quite yet. However it certainly was tasty, and reaffirms our opinion that Chef Sumet is wonderful!
After lunch, we join an 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 producing Buddha images and gongs for the lucrative market in nearby Mandalay. We visit one of the most famous 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 the back of the fabric is following the correct pattern the back of the fabric. Extracting our guests from the workshop and adjacent showroom is challenging, but after numerous purchases we are finally on our way. After a short drive we arrive at U Bein Bridge, the famous bridge 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 warn guests the bridge is now considered unsafe so it's best not to walk along it, at which point 75% of our party troop along it to take photos! Later, at a pre-arranged time we all meet up at the water edge to join privately chartered rowing boats. 4 people per boat, complete with a local row man! Off we go, underneath the bridge for photos, and then back to the far side to view the sunset through the bridge itself. Magical! Richard and Dawn have something else up their sleeve. They board a boat with two members of staff from our ship, which has been loaded with Tattinger Champagne - a floating bar! Everyone is handed a glass of bubbly, and refilled a few times as we enjoy the sunset views. Some other tourists wave and request a glass of bubbly, but Richard and Dawn simply wave back. Should have booked with Furlongs.
Our last evening back on board and after a briefing about our disembarkation tomorrow, we are treated to an authentic Burmese puppet show complete with scenery changes. Some of the action was rather violent, including a couple of monkey puppets having a bit of a fight .... Punch and Judy?
A final dinner, and some thanks to the crew and management team, especially Chef Sumet. Exceptional food all week. If ever Chef Sumet wishes for a change of climate, we think all of our guests would support him in setting up a restaurant in the UK!