Yandabo, which can only be accessed by river, is well known for terracotta pottery made with the yellow mud from the river bank. One person can make 30-50 such pots per day that are used for water and food storage.
The village has about 350 houses; each has between 5 to 10 people. Thirty of the families are potters; the other villagers are farmers, fishermen or suppliers of raw materials such as clay or wood for kilns.
The women make the pots, with one person potting while the other operates a wheel using a treadle. The women also decorate the pots and arrange them in a circular pattern to dry. There may be up to three thousand pots in a single layer that is covered with a large pile of ash, straw and wood, then set on fire. The temperature in the kiln reaches 1200C and firing takes 3-4 days, including cooling. At the end of the process, the pots have changed from dull brown to a red color. The pots are transported by boat to locations throughout Myanmar.
Many apply a paste to their faces - called thanaka, it comes from Myanmar’s native hardwood thanaka or "elephant apple" tree, whose bark is rich in skin-protecting tannic acids and whose fragrance has been likened to the aroma of sandalwood. Cuttings are sold in marketplaces in their natural state, as small logs, along with disc-shaped stone slabs for grinding.
For lunch, the soup was chicken coconut. The main dishes were chicken/cashews with jasmine rice (my choice), vegetarian pizza or spaghetti with mussels. For dessert, we were treated to lychees - about the size of a golf ball. The fleshy, edible portion is an aril (white and sweet) surrounding one dark brown inedible seed. The waiters cut them in half to make them easier to eat.
The Viking Mandalay arrived in Bagan late in the afternoon. I sat up on the sun deck and got some nice pictures of the sunset.
For dinner, the appetizers were a choice of grilled chicken skewers with two sauces or mixed green salad with poached pear and blue cheese. The soup was broccoli cream soup. The main dishes included beef tenderloin in bourguignon with potatoes gratin, or fish fillets, carrots and aborigine fettuccini or vegetable quiche. The dessert was dark chocolate mousse, and I had red wine. The beef was very good - it was one of the best dinners that we had.
Photos belong to Phil Bianco.