Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bagan part deux

We were lucky to find someone today that was willing to talk about life here and learned an interesting fact that, in my opinion, is quite revealing in terms of the economic barriers to wealth creation in this country. The central bank has a history of implementing tactics such as making the 50,000 note (US$50 equivalent) illegal, on the justification that the only ones that hold them are corrupt officials. A great equalizer, I suppose, but doesn't inspire confidence in the currency. Perhaps that is one reason why trust and the bank system are two things that don't go together here. If we think that we have problems in North America, think again. People don't even use banks here.

There are other differences too. Like the Thanaka paste that people (mostly women) put on their faces. You'd be hard pressed to find a woman here without it. It's made from ground bark and applied to the cheeks to protect from the sun and also to look nice. To a westerner, it's a bit freaky at first. But, after a few days, we are basically used to it. Stopped to look at some wall paintings and ran into a few friends from school. That makes the fourth time I have come across someone that I know from school during this trip.

We stopped at a farm and watched how sesame and peanut oil being made the old fashioned way - with an ox and a gigantic morter and pestle.
At the same place, we also saw how palm wine is made - a two day home brew process using a distilling process that resembled the Liebig condenser that we made in grade school science class.
We saw a man on the street with an owl. Apparently they are easy to catch during the day since they are sleeping. (that's not hunting!). It seems that the main purpose of this is to get westerners to pay them money to release the owls. The main event of the day was a visit to a temple on top of a dormant volcano. We could drive most of the way to the top, bu then climbed over 700 steps to reach the top. Normally this would be a piece of cake, but these particular stairs were infested with mangey and aggressive monkeys. To make matters worse, the monkey-pee-covered-stairs were apparently part of the temple, which meant that we had to be barefoot as we climbed them.
Little monk kids fooling around.
There was a payphone in one part of the temple.
We also checked out a weaving factory/sweatshop. Hard to believe this stuff is still done by hand!
Another spectacular sunset. From the top of a temple.

From my hotel room.


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