Thursday, 3 November 2011

Visit to Monastery School No. 21, Taung Be Lar, Sagaing, Myanmar

Monday, 31st October 2011

The 'Road to Mandalay' had moored midstream during the night but around 6.0 a.m. she continued north. I took an early breakfast in the restaurant and spent some time on the top deck watching our progress.

Doctor Hla Tun describing the effects of Cyclone Nargis.

At ten o'clock, the Doctor was scheduled to give a talk in the Observation Lounge titled 'Road to Mandalay Social Contribution'. I had been asked if I would add a few words afterwards from the perspective of an ordinary paying passenger who has become a donor. The Doctor had prepared a 'Powerpoint' presentation detailing the work being carried out. In addition to the building of schoolrooms and the provision of various types of support to schools, a Mobile Clinic is still operating in the Delta Area which was so badly affected by cyclone Nargis and following the more recent cyclone Giri, a Mobile Clinic was provided in Rakhine. Finally, the Free Clinic in Bagan is now operating. Because not all the interested passengers had been able to attend the Bagan Clinic opening ceremony on the previous day, I'd put together a few photographs of the event which I used as the basis for some informal comments on the work. It all seemed to be well-received and a number of passengers were keen to help.

Before long, it was time for lunch and, just before 2.0 p.m., we passed under the old Ava road and rail bridge, then under the new road bridge and carefully docked at Road to Mandalay's Shwe Kyet Yet River Station.

'Road to Mandalay' making fast at Shwe Kyet Yet River Station.

A number of tour buses were already waiting to take the passengers on a Mandalay City Tour or, on the other side of the river, a tour of Sagaing. However, the Doctor had arranged that he and I would visit Monastic School No. 21 in the Sagaing hills to distribute stationery. We were delighted that the Captain was to accompany us. We piled into a taxi and crossed the river on the new road bridge to reach Sagaing. The hills of Sagaing are said by some to be the most beautiful and spiritual in Burma. Temples and Pagodas are scattered across the wooded hills and each summit is topped with a shining pagoda which catches the sun and draws the eye. But the foothills to the south, although lush and green, have only a network of dirt roads almost inaccesible to road vehicles with occasional smallholdings or farms.

Meeting goats and the goatherd on the way to Taung Be Lar.

In this poor area lies Taung Be Lar Monastic School Number 21, with over 300 pupils. I'd visited once before and 'Road to Mandalay' has funded various improvements at this school. We found further extensions to the main building being constructed, this time funded by a local donor.

Distributing Stationery (Click on picture for the full width showing left to right Jan, the Deputy Headmistress and Dr. Hla Tun).

My pictures of this visit to the school are here.

Following the distribution of stationery, we made our way to the important temple on the tallest hill of Sagaing, where we spent a peaceful and contemplative time before returning to the ship.

The gilded pagoda at Soon U Ponya Shin.

View of the Irrawaddy from Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda. The large white vessel moored on the opposite bank is the 'Road to Mandalay'.

There are a few more pictures here.

In the evening, the Doctor invited me to join him for dinner in the restaurant, which gave me a further opportunity to ply him with questions!