a horse cart ride through the former “kingdom of ava”

Monday, February 16:  My driver Meemo tells me that we’re going to have lunch near the Myitnge River Crossing, after which I’m going to cross over a small river by boat and then take a horse cart through Ava, also known as Inwa.  Since 1364, Ava played its part as a royal capital in Burma four times, and it has often been referred to as the “Kingdom of Ava.”  According to Lonely Planet Myanmar, “the royal court finally abandoned Inwa for Amarapura in 1841.”

We drive down a long tree-lined road to the river crossing.

tree-lined approach to the Myitnge River crossing

tree-lined approach to the Myitnge River crossing

After I eat a lunch of chicken with vegetables and rice at a local open-air restaurant, I walk down a steep incline where I get on a small boat for an 80 cent fee.  It only takes a few minutes to get across.

Crossing the river

Crossing the river

On the other side of the river is the eastern jetty and horse cart waiting area.  There’s quite a bit of hubbub as all the tourists arrange their private horse carts for the tour of Ava.

the horse cart station

the horse cart station

Getting situated in the horse carts

Getting situated in the horse carts

A Korean woman dressed in a royal blue traditional longyi and matching top, asks if I’m alone and if I’d like to share a cart with her.  She’s on holiday from Yangon where she works as a nurse.  We make arrangements with a young man who has orange-dyed hair; in my opinion he looks a little drug-crazed.  He asks us if we’d like the one-hour tour for $8 or the two-hour tour for $16.  The Korean woman is anxious to save money and split the cost, so we agree we’ll take the one-hour tour, with each of us paying $4.

The young man has a scarf around his neck, a skeletal white horse, and a violent temper that soon becomes evident in the way he beats his horse relentlessly when there is no need to do so.

Taking off

Taking off

We break away from the crowds at the horse cart waiting area, and soon we’re out in the countryside.

heading into Ava

heading into Ava

We make our first stop at Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex.  I get out and wander around to take pictures.  I see several people have left their shoes behind, as in common at Myanmar temples, so I do so as well.  However, the dirt path is full of brambles and thorns, and I soon regret leaving my shoes behind.  I still wander, stepping on tiptoes through the brambles.

1st stop: Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

1st stop: Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

Niche at Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

Niche at Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

at Daw Guan Pagoda Complex

at Daw Guan Pagoda Complex

Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex

Daw Guan Pagoda Complex

Daw Guan Pagoda Complex

By the time I return to the cart, the Korean woman is standing at the cart, taking pictures of the driver and the horse, and asking him to take pictures of her.  She also asks if I’d like a picture of myself with the horse.

the Korean lady, our horse cart and our nasty driver

the Korean lady, our horse cart and our nasty driver

me with our poor abused pony

me with our poor abused pony

another horse cart

another horse cart

We then get back in the cart, and continue on our journey.  I see this cow or ox, I’m not sure what.  Later I find the picture is so strange as his back half seems to have disappeared!

where's his back half?

where’s his back half?

We pass a lot of other carts along the road. While we are driving along, the Korean woman advises me that I should wear the longyi while I’m in Myanmar. She comes across as a bit of a know-it-all and has no sense of humor.

on the road again

on the road again

We pass by numerous pagodas as well, but we don’t stop at all of them.

another pagoda passed along the way

another pagoda passed along the way

We go down another long tree-lined road through rice fields and more pagodas, where our driver parks the cart and motions for us to get out.

rice fields

rice fields

rice fields and pagoda

rice fields and pagoda

We walk past a long line of horse carts parked along the road.

horse with fancy headdress

horse with fancy headdress

another horse cart

another horse cart

Finally, we reach Bagaya Kyaung, a 1934 teak monastery.  Two hundred sixty-seven teak posts support the monastery.  Inside is a prayer hall that with smooth wooden floors and walls; it feels ancient.  This is actually a working monastery, where young monks study.

Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

We even find some of the monks’ school notebooks.

monks' notebooks at Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

monks’ notebooks at Bagaya Kyaung teak monastery

Soon, we’re on our way again.  This time, when I’ve returned to the cart, the Korean woman is already sitting in the cart waiting impatiently and looking bored out of her mind.

through the plantations

through the plantations

bucolic scene

bucolic scene

cows at pasture

cows at pasture

We then make a stop at Nanmyin, also known as The Watchtower.  About 90 feet (30 meters) high, it is a solitary masonry building that remains of Baggidaw’s Palace built in 1822.  Due to the earthquake of 1838, only the lower part was left but it was restored in the style of the original structure.  The Watchtower is an example of the Myanmar architectural style of the early 19th century.  It’s nothing special to see, but apparently when open, which it isn’t, a climb to the top offers excellent views of the countryside.

Nanmyin - The Watchtower

Nanmyin – The Watchtower

Nanmyin - The Watchtower

Nanmyin – The Watchtower

Another pretty horse cart

Another pretty horse cart

Finally, we get back in the cart.  I’m getting extremely irritated with our driver as he keeps angrily beating his horse with a bamboo stick.  The horse is already moving along as well as can be expected on the rutted dirt roads, but the driver seems to want him to move faster as carts are passing us quite often.  Maybe the driver is anxious to get back to the horse cart waiting area so he can pick up another fare.

We stop next at what a sign identifies as Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery (known as Me Nu Oak Kyaung – Brick Monastery).  Lonely Planet Myanmar calls it Maha Aungmye Bonzan (OK Kyaung).  Close enough.  It was built in 1822 by Nanmadaw Me Nu, Chief Queen of King Bagyidaw.  It was also damaged by the earthquake of 1838 but was repaired in 1873 by Sinphyumashin, daughter of Me Nu and a queen of King Mindon.  A sign at the site says this monastery is one of the finest specimens of Myanmar architecture during the Konbaung Period (19th century). Its architecture is a simulation of wooden monasteries with multiple roofs and a prayer hall of seven-tiered superstructure.

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

I overhear someone say that their guide told them that the peacock motifs represent Buddha’s past lives.

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Directly east of the monastery is the fine white Htilaingshin Paya, with its beautiful array of gilded stupas, some dating back to the Bagan period.

Htilaingshin Paya

Htilaingshin Paya

Buddha at Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Buddha at Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery with Htilaingshin Paya in the background

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery with Htilaingshin Paya in the background

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery

We finally get back in the cart and continue on our way.  It’s clear this time that the Korean woman has barely gotten out of the cart and seems to have no interest in this tour at all.  I think to myself, why did she even come here at all if she has no interest?

As we’re driving back to the river, our belligerent driver keeps hitting the horse harder and harder.  About 1 km from the river, he stops the cart and tells us in his bad English that the tour has been two hours so we owe him 16,000 kyat (about $16).  I don’t wear a watch and haven’t looked at the time, so I have no idea if he’s right or not, but never mind, the agreement was that we wanted the one hour tour.  He agreed with this, so he should have only taken us to places that would have made up a one-hour tour!  He refuses to move along until we agree that we’ll pay him the 16,000 kyat.  I tell him we only agreed on a one hour tour, so he shouldn’t have stopped at so many places.  I don’t appreciate being threatened and held captive, so I promptly get out of the cart and start walking down the road, but I have no idea how far it is to the river.  He is very angry and keeps pounding the side of the cart with his fist.  What an ass!!!  I can tell the Korean woman is very upset by this argument between me and the driver, but I can also tell she’s upset at the prospect of paying 8,000 kyat each, as she so desperately wanted to split the 8,000 kyat cost.

Finally, I get back in the cart because I don’t know how far or in which direction to go, but I am fuming.  When we return to the horse cart waiting area, I throw my 8,000 kyat at the driver, as I am so pissed off at him after all his violent anger toward us and to the poor horse!  The money lands on the dusty ground; I want to show him my complete disrespect.  I tell him he is a liar and a violent and evil man, although I’m sure he doesn’t understand a word I say.  And then I walk away.

This is the only bad experience I have with anyone my entire time in Myanmar, and I truly feel the man either had some kind of psychological problem or was on drugs.

horse carts all in a row

horse carts all in a row

After that disagreeable altercation, I was happy to get in the boat and return back to my kind driver Meemo.  At the riverside, where I had promised a boy I’d buy a jade elephant necklace when I returned, I seek him out and buy the necklace for $2.

Meemo and I hop back in his car, where he takes me back to Amarapura to see sunset at U Bein Bridge.

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Categories: Asia, Ava, Bagaya Kyaung, Burma, Daw Gyan Pagoda Complex, Htilaingshin Paya, Inwa, Maha Aungmye Bonzan, Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Monastery, Mandalay, Me Nu Oak Kyaung, Myanmar, Myitnge River Crossing, Nanmyin, The Watchtower | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

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14 thoughts on “a horse cart ride through the former “kingdom of ava”

  1. I’m glad you had that strange woman with you rather than being stuck with that horrid man! But she was odd wasn’t she? why on earth bother going on the tour and not making the most of it. And as the for idiot beating his horse, I would have been livid too, grrhhh, the poor creature was probably half starved. The monasteries are amazing yet again. How was that meal, is the food any better than in China?

    • Both of them were strange in my book, Gilly, but that happens sometimes when traveling. You’ll see that I also met a lot of great people on this trip; these two were the exception to the rule!

      The food was definitely better in Myanmar than in China. I didn’t get sick in Myanmar, which tells me it’s the food in China that continues to make me sick. 😦

  2. The temples and buildings continue to be incredible, but not as well maintained as the other places you’ve been touring. I’m glad you got to the end of the tour okay, but wow, how frustrating! And that poor horse. But as you said, that wasn’t the norm for your trip.

    The last picture of the carts all lined up was the best. Not sure why, but I really liked it.

    Nancy

    • I guess Ava is definitely a former kingdom and thus has been abandoned and is falling apart, Nancy. I kind of like that kind of thing when traveling though. In Oman, I loved exploring ruins and deserted places; I like these more out-of-the-way and ruined places a lot.

      Thanks, I’m glad you liked the picture of the horse carts. I tried a lot of different types of transport in Myanmar. 🙂

  3. What a horrid man and that poor starved looking pony, I noticed most of the other ponies looked in better condition. So many monasteries and all quite different. That cow photo with the disappearing backside is a mystery, I couldn’t make it out either.

    • That young man was quite horrid, Pauline. The other ponies did look in better condition, and I didn’t see the owners hitting them relentlessly. I wish I could put that man out of business forever!!

      You wouldn’t believe the number of monasteries, pagodas, and temples in Myanmar. I’ve never seen so many in a country, and I’ve traveled all over Southeast Asia.

      I really don’t know what happened to that cow’s backside!! He seems happy enough. 🙂

  4. Pingback: cocktail hour in the laundry room: a social week, train ticket dilemmas, a retreat and sunday afternoon ktv | catbird in china

  5. To be honest Cathy I think the price of these tours is so cheap it is hardly worth arguing over – $16 is the price of an entrance fee for one place here! So I wouldn’t be hassling over it, and it is likely that seeing the number of photos you have taken that it was rather longer than expected. And $2 for a jade necklace? It’s almost embarrassing.

    I like some of the details in this post, the old stone carvings for instance. Much more to my taste.

    • You’re right of course, on one level, Jude. However, when you’re traveling on a tight budget for 6 weeks, as I was doing here, you are watching your pennies. Also, the driver’s violent temper and mistreatment of the horse turned me against him right away, so that it became more about a protest over his violent nature than about the money. Not only that, but I didn’t appreciate his holding us hostage until we agreed to his demand, as he slammed his fist repeatedly against the cart. In the end, it really wasn’t about the money, but about my extreme dislike of him. But Mike did call it right that I’m sure I did go over the one hour by my excessive picture-taking. However, the driver also could have said at any time, “Your time is up,” and then he could have returned us to the riverside. After all, we had no idea what we were supposed to see, and if we missed anything, we’d have never known it! 🙂

  6. Oh dear! Tourism at its worst 😦 Poor skinny horse! I suppose you’re going to come across episodes like this… not nice for anyone. The horse won’t care how beautiful the temples are. He just wants a life.

    • I agree, Jo. I really do think that guy was on drugs or drunk; something wasn’t right with him! I hated how he kept beating that horse; his behavior just made me want to fight with him. This was really the only bad experience I had in Myanmar. 😊

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