Thursday, 3 November 2011

Mount Popa to Bagan

Saturday, 29th October 2011

The view from the restaurant terrace was still hazy as I took an early breakfast before leaving Mount Popa Resort at 7.0 o'clock. We headed back towards Bagan, having arranged to meet Dr. Hla Tun at the junction with the road to Htee Pu village at 7.30 a.m. The Doctor was waiting for us in a pick-up truck loaded with gifts. In convoy, we set off down the rutted, sandy track which is the only way to reach the village, passing a series of smallholdings and homes constructed from bamboo, neatly laid out with woven fences surrounding yards and a few buffalo patiently waiting.

Although schools are closed on a Saturday, most of the pupils were there, both boys and girls clad in white tops and green longyi. A group of boys were scooping sand from part of the schoolyard to improve the rutted path to the newest 'Road to Mandalay' building. Bunting was being hung on the verandah of another building, with matting laid on the concrete floor and a battered sound system connected up, to provide a stage for the concert.

We examined the building opened a year ago which now has a permanent brick floor - a year ago, it was still an earth floor. A 2-cubicle toilet block and septic tank, also provided by donors, is nearing completion. There is a large assembly hall now under construction. Part of this building has been provided with a temporary roof and is already in use. Also new is an open-sided workshop where carpenters contruct combined desk and seat units, mostly from reclaimed timber. A number of these units are intended for other schools.

Distributing stationery at Htee Pu.

All the children lined up obediently and the distribution of stationery was made - two exercise books and two pencils for each pupil. Then, with rather loud music from a DVD player, different age groups entertained us with various dance routines - some traditional, some modernised. A further presentation gave a green longyi to each of the teachers, after which a donation of cash was made to the headmaster, to support payments to teachers. Finally, under a new initiative, a number of plastic refuse (trash) bins were presented in a drive to promote tidiness and recycling.

My first visit to Htee Pu was in 2009 and my pictures are here.
I returned in 2010 for the Official Opening of a new building - there are pictures here and also here.
My pictures on this latest visit are here.

The pick-up and my car bumped their way back up the track to the main road and continued towards Bagan before taking another rutted track which, after a couple of miles led to Pon village and its school. I'd not been to Pon before but the arrangement is similar to other locations with classrooms for grades 1 to 5 provided by the government and classroom for higher grades donated by Road to Mandalay and its passengers. Once again, stationery was distributed to the well-behaved children and plastic refuse bins to the headmaster.

Distributing stationery at Pon.

The concert which followed was a fairly impromptu, rather unrehearsed affair with singing in place of a sound system but absolutely charming. We then went to the adjacent wooden monastery building to meet the elderly head monk, whom the Doctor treated whilst other members of our party sat for simple food and drink. A number of the younger children were on the ground floor of the monastery which acts as a creche or safe haven for children during holidays or other times.

Pictures taken on this visit to Pon are here.

We retraced our route back to the main road and carried on towards Bagan. But we were not yet finished - we took another side road which seemed even bumpier and even longer than at Pon to reach our last call at Kyauk Kan (also written Chauk Kan) school.

Road to Mandalay have also provided a new building here but an older open-sided structure with palm leaf roof is still in use. We looked around the various buildings before going to the assembly hall where the children had been quietly waiting. We were entertained by a well-rehearsed concert of a number of dances with music supplied by a battery-powered sound system. The headmaster then invited us to the Staff Room, where refreshments had been provided. As elsewhere, we distributed stationery to the pupils and refuse bins to the headmaster.

The Headmaster receives 'Road to Mandalay' trash bins as part of a new initiative.

There are currently 256 students at Htee Pu, 172 at Pon and 285 at Chauk Kan. Incidentally, pictures of all the schools supported by 'Road to Mandalay' which I've posted so far can be found in the collection 'Educational Support in Myanmar here, but there are a number of other schools supported.

Following our third school visit, we drove directly to the ship at its usual midstream mooring in Bagan. Although I'd seen photographs of the new Clinic building at Bagan (they are here) I got my first glimpse with my own eyes just before the bus pulled up at its destination. It looked splendid. Motor boats were on hand to transport us to the ship, where I received the usual warm welcome. All the other guests were already aboard and completing their lunch, so I quickly took a light lunch myself and deferred checking out my cabin until later. By the time I'd eaten, the buses were being loaded for the tour of Bagan and I joined the guide San on his bus.

The famous Ananda Temple.

We visited the Ananda Temple, the Gubyaukgyi Temple, the 'Everstand' lacquerware factory and the 'Sunset Pagoda' - all places I'd been to before (and photographed) but I was happy to see them again. My pictures on this trip are here.

We were back on the ship around 6.0 p.m. and, at last, I went to my cabin. I'd been given one towards the stern and I was bit worried about the noise. The exertions of the day were beginning to tell so, by the time I'd had a leisurely dinner, I was ready to crash out.