Before we went to Kalaw, our tour leader warned us that it would get cold at night, very cold. Well, the Brits and Yanks among us scoffed, as we had left Britain in the depths of winter. The Australians simply couldn’t imagine cold. We had layers; they didn’t. Cue frantic market shopping in Mandalay’s night market for blankets and sweatshirts.
It wasn’t as crisp as we thought it would be but it was chilly, as Kalaw is a hill town.
Our first sight as we got off the bus was a wedding car complete with very cute dolls. I couldn’t resist a snap.
After our shocking hotel in Mandalay (as I said before, avoid The Classic unless you have a particular fondness for pigeons, barbed wire and dust), the welcome in Kalaw was superb. The hotel owner stood at the door and ushered us in with a warm smile. When it came to our rooms, we were like kids on their first day at a boarding school, running in and out of each other’s exclaiming joyfully at the size, the cleanliness and comfort of the beds.
It was just as well that the beds were comfy, as I spent 95% of my time in Kalaw in mine – the other five per cent was shared between the bathroom and the street market on the morning we left.
By the time we left, on Christmas Day, I was well again and loved the next episode of Burma. We had a lovely bus journey, filled with pretty countryside and photogenic traffic.
The came Pindaya. Now, some people feel that a huge cave filled with 8,000 golden Buddha images is a) a bit over the top and b) only deserving of a few minutes ‘look see’. As for me, I loved every little nook and cranny of this labyrinthine maze of a place. Yes, it’s a crazy ostentatious treasure chest but it’s also beautiful and rather touching. People from all over the world donate these Buddhas and while I struggle with the ‘build/buy for karma’ side of the religion, it is testament to the devotion of its followers.
Here’s my selection of the best from Pindaya.
The highlight, though, was undoubtedly seeing how parasols were made. I bought one of these traditional laquered paper umbrellas in Bagan, so seeing how they are made was a real treat.
Even the ‘not interested’ couple from Wisconsin bought homemade paper. Now, that’s magic!
By Carole Scott