Innwa is one of many ancient capital cities based around Mandalay. It’s a quaint little place with crumbling walls in amongst working farming communities.
One of the reasons that Innwa seems so quaint is that as a tourist you can choose between walking or riding in a horse and cart. We chose the horse and cart. Of course we were wary, as always, as to the health of the animals but the local people of Innwa look after their animals very well.
First step was to get out of the horse car park!
There’s some really incredible buildings here, ancient buildings habited by kings.
The old gates to the city diminish any sense of entitlement from you.
The locals here call the place Ava, and it’s a serene kind of place that doesn’t run too fast. It’s cut off from the main highway by a tributary of the great Irrawaddy river called the Mytinge, you need to get the public ferry over this. Girls wait for the ferry to come in, ready to sell to tourists in their best traditional make up called Thanaka, it’s made from crushing up young tree into a paste.
The girl on the far side doesn’t look positive about her prospects of selling anything.
The ten minute chugging, small boat ride makes you feel like you’ve left Myanmar and are stationed in a remote ancient island. Which of course it’s not but it has the feel of that. The pace of life, the ancient monuments and monasteries.
There were some strange reliefs in this area.
Each site is hidden behind ten minutes of tree lined avenues, skirting swamps, or through lush fields of crops.
This is our driver, he really loved his horse. He was constantly cajoling it, reassuring it.
We met this young girl, she’s hawking goods to tourists.
Her father was from Mandalay, her mother from Innwa. When her father died she had to move back with her mother. Her sister had to move to Yangon for money. She now sells postcards and trinkets to the tourists that visit the many ancient sites. I wanted to tell this story because it’s not always pure opportunism that finds people in this position of hawking to tourists, and tourists can often be dismissive of these people.
She was so positive and friendly and spoke excellent English, even coming with us to find a good angle for a photo of the ruins so we wanted to give her a little money but she wouldn’t take a gift. She insisted on providing a service for the money so we bought some of her postcards. It’s difficult to see the stories behind the people who hawk to tourists, often they make more money from one sale to a tourist than a whole month farming, which is what they would be doing. Anyone would take that chance if it was given to them. The relationships between tourists and hawkers are often difficult but many local people drop out of education for the chance to earn that money. This happens all over the world and throughout history, ever since money was invented, and even before, there have been those who have and those who want.
This tower was ruined by an earthquake in Myanmar, they’ve had another one recently.
Ultimately the best thing to see in this place is the old monastery of Bagaya Kyaung, made completely out of wood. It’s been here since the 18th century.
It’s filled with the silence and peaceful environment that you expect of a monastery, the colossal trees that make it up remind you the beauty of nature and it’s surrounded by idyllic palm trees, ancient monuments, and rice fields.
The monastery is used as a school so drifting through the air is the sound of the children learning the buddhist scriptures.
After all that excitement it was time to park up again.
And join the queue for the ferry back across the river.