16 April 2016
If yesterday was a good day, then today was one of the most unforgettable days of my life. As our room has no windows, one doesn’t have the tendency to wake up with daylight and so we slept well and comfy (thanks to A/C) until 9 am. Breakfast of eggs and toast (seems to be the general tourist breakfast throughout SE Asia) on the balcony, and after only a moment’s hesitation to as to whether the take the cameras (NO!!!!) we headed out. Once again, we were sopping wet before reaching the end of our street.
However, our plan for the remainder of the morning was somewhat different. We decided to head to the park north of downtown. We wandered through back roads that were very dry and very local, observing tasty street food being readied for the days’ festivities.
I did not take the map as I was quite convinced of my orientation and navigating skills, and indeed we only asked for directions once (and were on the right track) before finding ourselves in an exquisite park surrounding Kan Daw Gyi large lake, on which sits Karaweik Palace like a grand duck-shape boat, completely gilded and surrounded by lush green trees.
It was a peaceful place, free of water-throwing revelers, shady and cool. There is a wooden boardwalk in a miserable state of disrepair (I imagine the last people who fixed it up were the British) that leads all around the lake, offering the most beautiful views from every point.
The greatest splendor for us foreigners was the large patch of lotus flowers in all stages of bloom. No wonder they write poems and sing songs about this magical pinkish white flower… in the later stages after blossoming, it barely looks real, more like something alien that fell out of the sky.
By this time it was high noon and we escaped from the exposed boardwalk back into the park, full of people picnicking and resting beneath wide shady trees, children playing among strangely sculpted bushes (so out of place here) and trucks full of wet people coming down to relax.
We were relatively far from our part of town, and after one or two unsuccessful attempts to hitch a “wet truck”, we stopped a local bus heading towards the city centre. This version of public transit cannot really be described, except that all the people on it were happy, there were no doors, and the child in the seat in front of us had a well concealed water weapon, which he did not hesitate to draw on us as soon as we dropped our guard.
After a short ride we spotted yesterday’s watering station and hopped off the bus. We got snack of samosas (served to us by some rather rude men, most likely from India or Bangladesh), and headed over to “our” bar, where we were promptly recognized and served a beer. Dany serviced the fire hose for a while, and the passers-by seemed most pleased to have their sins washed off by foreigners.
The most astounding thing to me (already seen yesterday) was the people who came by in their cars, windows rolled down, trunk door open, with just some plastic covering the dashboard and seats, getting completely soaked with hose and bucket and bottle and bowl… closer inspection revealed that they were up to their calves in water INSIDE the car!!!
I suppose in the 40 degree heat, it will take a day or two at most to completely dry out. I was feeling about ready to take a break from the heat at the hotel, when a group of youngsters on the back of a wet truck asked us if we wanted a ride. Indeed we did!!! So we jumped on got utterly drenched several times before disembarking, much to their disappointment. I suppose they would have very much liked to parade us around the entire city for the rest of the afternoon.
There was certainly never the slightest element of concern on our part, the people are lovely and generous and kind, but the truth was I was starting to feel a bit dizzy from the heat and hoping to take a rest in the air conditioned room. It was the greatest luck in the world that that never happened. Walking down one of the larger avenues, we were accosted by a very friendly man (who we later learned is named Ko Lin) in front of a tyre shop. He insisted that we come in and join his family and friends for a drink (whisky and cola). Our conversation consisted almost exclusively of “Happy?” “Yes! Very happy! Are you happy?” “Yes!!! Very Happy!” What was to be a moment turned out to be the entire afternoon, and I cannot express how happy (VERY HAPPY!!!) I am that we did not get back to the hotel, as we would have missed the culmination of the greatest party in southeast Asia.
Friends came and went, and there was a consistent supply of water refreshed with huge blocks of ice, and we were thoroughly encouraged to drench as many people as possible. This was no issue, as the tyre shop was conveniently located between two watering stations, with trucks passing by slowly and people thrilled by our involvement. The whisky (and water, later) alleviated my fatigue, as did the icy water with which I was continuously soaked, and the shady interior of the tyre garage.
We met a kung fu master and a splendid, fine old gentleman who spoke excellent English… Mr Old School J We spent some lovely time conversing and hosing people down and he took me around to meet some friends, all of whom took pictures with the strange white foreigners – for the defining part of this experience was that we were truly the ONLY tourists there… a few passed by perhaps, running from the water and failing to engage with the locals. We were made to feel welcome and have promised to return in a year or two… Most definitely, we will never forget where the tyre shop is, and will visit again if we ever have the chance.
It was practically night when we got back to the hotel, dripping and happy (very very happy!!!). Dinner was not memorable, but our hearts and minds were completely satiated with what was undeniable the best, best, best new year’s party ever. Tomorrow will be a dry day, and so we will finally take out the big cameras to visit the Shwe Dagon pagoda, the pride and glory of Buddhism in Myanmar (and beyond).