In light of this week’s total lunar eclipse, I thought I would write about my trip down the Ayeyarwaddy in Burma to view a solar eclipse. I originally planned to take the train back from Myitkyina to Mandalay – until I realized that the annular solar eclipse on January 15 would be passing over Asia, with the eclipse’s central line hovering over northern Burma. There also happened to be a government slow boat plying the waters from Bhamo to Mandalay, what was supposed to be a 2-day ride. Those of you following me on Twitter know that I have a love of astronomy, so of course I jumped at the opportunity to see a solar eclipse in relative isolation. It ended up being a spectacular trip, with days spent karaoke-ing with the captain and watching the world go by, and evenings huddled on deck with hundreds of locals, chasing the shadows on the banks of the river.
This boat ride was part two of my epic trip out of the northern reaches of Burma, with the first part resulting in our tiny longtail boat dying in the middle of the Ayeyarwaddy and my safety whistle coming to the rescue to get us towed to shore. After this disaster of a day, most of the tourists in our boat decided to take the train back to Mandalay. A few of us decided that the eclipse was well worth whatever misadventure awaited and booked our tickets on the government ferry. (Note: it was then that I ended up licking the money to prove to the government worker that it was sufficiently new, thereby resulting in his calling the hotel manager to deal with me).
The first indication of our trip being a little longer than expected was when we showed up at the dock and were informed that our boat was anchored “out there” somewhere, with a vague waving of the hand toward the banks of the Ayeyarwaddy. Stuffed into a longtail, we passed by several boats stuck in the river and were told that the water was far lower than expected. The trip might take a little longer, but not to worry – we’d get there.
Exhibit A: This boat wasn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.
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