Today was a fabulous day! First I slept until the alarm went off at 5:15 rather than waking up at 3 in the morning. We finished packing, had breakfast and headed out to our waiting car. On the ride to the airport we saw the monks lining up for breakfast. The first sighting was just on the street along the moat in front of the old palace wall. They were walking to get to wherever they needed to line up. And one straggler was running to catch up. The second sighting was at the entrance to a pagoda. They were lined up like soldiers, just under the gate. All this happened too fast for a photo, but I will remember it. Although it was very early in the morning, the walkway along the moat was full of people jogging, walking, and exercising on free exercise machines. It was very reminiscent of other Asian countries like China, Japan, Vietnam, Taiwan where you see everyone taking good care of themselves and exercising in the early morning hours.
The rule here is get to the airport about 1.5 hours early as once everyone is there the plane might leave before the scheduled time. We had to go through security with all our bags first, check in, get our stickers (this time beige with a picture of the old palace), go through immigration (not sure why as this was all domestic), go through security again with our carry-on bags, and sit and wait for the plane to arrive. Once the bus took us to the plane, we boarded up the narrow, little steps into the propeller plane for open seating. The Mann Yadanarbon airline 25 minute flight to Heho was uneventful.

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Day 6a Mandalay to Heho

Then it was back on the road, the old road this time, to head to Kalaw. Kalaw is famous for trekking which we had no intention of doing. We were all dosing off, although I tried to keep my eyes open to see the beautiful scenery. Suddenly the car stopped and Toe pointed out a festival taking place on the fields on the side of the road. It was a festival celebrating the end of the school semester. The fields were filled with PaO families (one of the ethnic minority groups in this region, the Shan region) from different villages. It was an end of the school year festival. The young kids were performing songs and dances on a stage. The mothers all had their orange turbans and were carrying their babies on their backs. There was a group of novice monks sitting on the hillside watching. There were men, in their headdresses which looked like colourful terry cloth (ie, towels) standing around together. There was a group playing volleyball and another group of girls playing soccer. There were food vendors and people sitting around watching the show. What luck to pass by a festival! This doesn’t happen every day. This is not something we were expecting to see. But what a joyous mixture of color and sounds and smells. And smiles. I think they were all as excited to see these strange tourists as we were to see them. I started dancing to the music the kids were singing and they women around me thought that was hysterical. I asked a group of young girls all dressed up ready to perform to be in a picture with me, and they just were not sure about that. But a few agreed. And then they smiled at me. That says it all. And Toe was ecstatic that we happened upon it.

To read more about the road from Heho to Kalaw, click here:

Day 6b Mandalay to Heho