The fingers of the Mandalay silk weavers work so quickly with the shuttles that they are a blur. The ladies pair up to make traditional patterned weaves on wooden looms and are happy to carry on giggling and smiling whilst we watch over them.
Our guide Khin Nyein Thu was happy to show us inside a casting factory, a lacquerware company, a gold leaf factory and a parasol shop on our visits to towns such as Mandalay and Bagan. All these industries are labour intensive and do not have the health and safety luxuries that many countries now have. Despite the heat and the work still left to be done, all the workers wherever we visited were happy to answer questions or show us their skills. Boys as young as twelve weald heavy hammers to flatten the gold leaf ready for locals and tourists alike to pay homage to buddha. Young ladies sit crossed legs with large vases between their knees to paint intricate designs on lacquerware and men of all ages work in incredible heat to cast metal and create giant figurines and buddhas.
In the rural areas, oxen pull carts of animal feed and young adults carry loads on their head. The Irrawaddy is the main artery in the centre of Myanmar and boats travel up and down with cargo and from side to side with passengers, however many hours have been worked we were always rewarded with a wave whilst sailing down the Irrawaddy.
Khin took us to several villages and we were privileged to see teachers providing a summer school for children learning English, young ladies making the traditional bamboo hats and middle aged men looking after cattle.
Tourism is still in its infancy but it’s clearly a growth area with millennials learning other languages via YouTube and practising with visitors. No doubt in a mother ten years some of these traditional industries will have died out and the rural way of life will have changed. But one thing that will remain I’m sure is the resilience and patience of the The people of Myanmar .