Mandalay. We flew there to see Amarapura, the ancient royal city for one reason: the old teak walkway without nails, which symbolizes the simplicity and Buddhist flavor of life in Myanmar (Burma). In the late afternoon, we strolled across U Bein Bridge, on top of the world. Then meandered on to the colorful weathered boats.
Take Boat # 38. Chewing betel nuts and smiling his stained-teeth warmth, the owner wrapped his leg around his oar and rowed us to the auspicious spot for the sunset stroll. It was a bit early, so first I photographed bamboo sticks stuck in mud (used to help catch fish); fishermen wading in water up to their chests; and young boys diving for darting fish, which they quickly deposited in their tucked-in longyis. The sun descended. Monks and villagers strolled across the bridge. Guessing at how to take the photo, I set the ISO at 100, underexposed one full stop in RAW, and took the shot with my 200 lens. Voila! Canvas images of this evening stroll now adorn both my husband's and my offices, serving of a reminder of a people, a place, a pace, and a peace, more challenging perhaps, but inviting us to us as people making friends in an exotic land.
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On our way out of Mandalay, during a tour of nearby Sagaing Hill, Inwa, and Amarapura, the driver my wife and I had hired stopped on a dust-filled road. Along both sides of the street, extending a couple blocks, was storefront after storefront where Buddha statues are made. We were told this stretch of Myanmar’s second-largest city produces most of the Buddhas in the world. I don't know if that's true, but each shop spilled out to the street with hundreds of marble Buddhas in various states of progress.
Less a market than a manufacturing zone, you could nonetheless purchase a (heavy) Buddha on the spot. They ranged in style and size, from a simple figure that would sit on a mantle to a giant, exquisite piece that would adorn a temple. We strolled around for a while, marveling at the craftsmen at work in various shops—carving unfinished faces, sanding bodies, painting jewelry or hair. It was fun to think of all the places we had been in our travels where these statues might one day travel to.