#4 of series of posts from Burma that started here
The core and focus of my trip to Burma was a 400-mile trip down the remote Chindwin River. Most of it was very isolated, with tiny villages peaking through the trees on the river banks. Two or three times a day, we would choose a spot, tie up the boat, and head ashore. We spent lots of time on land, but here are scenes from (and of) the river itself.
Our boat was an old rice barge — probably 70 ft long by 15 feet wide — temporarily re-outfitted for us as it chugged up-river for a week or so (from Mandalay) to pick us up. Onboard: 8 Americans; 7 Burmese (guide, boatmen, cooks). 11 days. 2 toilets. 0 hot showers. Lots of chairs on top; 8 bunks below (each about 3 inches shorter than I am tall, but the crew slept on the floor so I’m not complaining!). We got stuck (briefly) on sandbars 3 times. 2 cans of Diet Coke (total, for 11 days!). Plenty of rice; plenty of Burmese “curries;” plenty bottled water. Plenty to see. I took 13,000 pictures.
These are shots of our boat — the Zinyaw (“Seagull”). The last image is of my bunk; the open side was usually covered by that green tarp:
The area is remote and undeveloped. There are no dams on the river, and we traveled almost 400 miles before we finally saw one bridge. We started our boat trip in Homalin (the town you see in a few pictures where there are dozens of boats). We went upriver for a couple of days, then came back past Homalin and all the way down to Monywa. Only two flights a week go into Homalin. Other than our group, there was just one other pair of “white” people arriving in Homalin that day.
As scenic and serene as it was, the river itself wasn’t really what we were there to see. The river is lined with people who were, without exception, welcoming and gracious to us, even though we were literally wandering around making randomly chosen stops. We were treated as honored guests, invited into homes, schools, businesses and monasteries to see how these unspoiled folks live, learn, work, and worship. Neither my pictures nor my words can really communicate that experience — but I’ll try. Lots more to come from the Chindwin.