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Published: January 26th 2013
The sun Sinks
Fishermen share in the setting sun at U Bein's bridge. Tourists and locals alike watched the bright ball sink away at U Bein's bridge.
U Bein's bridge lies outside of Mandalay. It is the
place to be at sunset, as hordes of foreigners and locals alike gather to walk its teak planks and marvel at the engineering feat of extending 1300 yards across a shallow lake.
I walk with my fellow travelers, then we disperse to different places as the sun sets lower in the haze, turning a soft gold, then orange, then a ball of red. I stay on top of the bridge. A huge flock of 1000 ducks, the duck herders tell us, are directed into their pen for the night on land. They'll collect the eggs in the morning, and sell them at the market.
There are ducks, and there are people. People and more people, with cameras, mostly. Some vendors have set up small businesses along the bridge, and sell things such as cleverly constructed watermelon seed purses and small bags, bracelets of stone, fruit, all kinds of puffy and colorful snacks, artwork, and so on.
As I walk, I must ignore the spaces between the slats that make up the bridge. If I look down, I see the water far below and it makes me uneasy. For a
The duck herd.
good stretch there are no guardrails along the sides, but kids play and frolic on the bridge, no problem.
It is the cages of birds that make me gasp. Sparrows, and doves, and owls--yes, small owls, at least eight of them, in a small bell shaped bamboo cage. They sit huddled next to one another. I wonder if they are siblings, and my heart feels wounded, seeing them all caged. I ask later of our guide, why??? Why the birds? Will they be eaten, or kept as pets? I understand him to say that people buy them to set them free for good merit, somewhat like our releasing white doves for special occasions, or butterflies at weddings, I suppose. I feel a bit better, but not much.
Meanwhile, the sun sinks. Dozens of wooden boats carrying those searching for the perfect sunset photo wait patiently on the east side of the bridge. They're all lined up, so that none will interfere with the view of the other. They must get the blazing ball at exactly right spot, through the piers of the bridge.
I snap photos of solo foreign travelers above so they can show their families
that they were here on this historic bridge at this very moment on this very day. A couple of fisherman are still pulling in their nets full of big tilapia. The fish flop and gasp on the shore. The fisherman shiver as they wrap them up in a bundle and attach them to both ends of a long pole so they can carry them off easily.
The sun sets, and I head back to our designated meeting place. I notice a group of people on the bridge looking down on the ground. A man has a monkey with him, and he has him dressed in a ridiculous costume, and he is making him do squats with a pole. I feel sorry for the monkey.
It is a peaceful evening, and I too have photographed one of the most photograped bridges in the world.
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