We visited Amarapura to see two things, the Bagaya monastery and U Bein’s teak bridge across the Irrawady. Then, inevitably, we were told about the ancient tradition of weaving in the town, and suddenly found ourselves in a weaver’s workshop. India is full of such looms, so this wasn’t new to us. We did not want to buy any of the silk here, so we took this opportunity as to watch people and lives in this town. In the late 18th century CE it was a capital of Myanmar, and remained so until, almost a century later, the capital moved to nearby Mandalay. Now it is a small suburb of Mandalay. The weavers were hard at work (see the featured photo) an hour after sunset, when we stole away.
There was a tailor’s shop next door. I peeped in to see old foot-operated sewing machines. They were common in India a generation ago. Myanmar was under military dictatorship for two generations, and have a lot of catching up to do. At this time of the day there was no customer, so the tailor was reading a newspaper while his daughter sat with her school books in the far corner. Seeing this peaceful and universal piece of domesticity, I stole away with my camera.
A little further down the road a lady was doing brisk business selling strings of flowers by the roadside. Her shop was illuminated by an LED lantern. It was a lovely mixture of traditional and modern. Both the flowers and the lantern are common all over Asia. What was particularly local was the thanaka on her face. I’ve written about it earlier.
I crossed the road and walked back. On this side of the road there was a little restaurant. It was quite empty. A young girl sat waiting for customers inside. There was a little kiosk at the entrance which sold cigarettes and paan (betel leaf). This was being minded by a boy, perhaps the brother. The family which owned this shop probably lived at the back. I began to regret the fact that I spoke no Burmese. It would have been nice to speak with people I was taking photos of.
The road was quite full of traffic. Most of it was motorbikes, zipping past at speed. There were few cars. I saw a kind of a bus (see above). I learnt later that they belong to private operators. The profit motive makes them take on more passengers than can fit comfortably into the vehicle, as you can see in the photo above. There are designated stops, as I realized when I saw this. They are not marked, but you see a cluster of people waiting where they are supposed to stop.
The Family was waiting for me at our vehicle. I got on, and we left Amarapura.