"I love you. I love you very much. I will never forget you," said Daw May Lwin Zin, head mistress of the village school of Kindat, Burma (or "Myanmar" as it is now known). Before we parted, she showered me with gifts of limes, pomelos, and green jade earrings. We strolled arm in arm down the main, muddy thoroughfare of Kindat, as the esteemed headmistress proudly announced to curious on-lookers in their houses on stilts that I was the representative of the Road to Mandalay who had just presented the school with much-needed school supplies.
"We ask ahead of time what is needed; we do not give money," said crew member Terry KyawNyunt, who had managed the school fund for eight years. "For example, we bought a multi-media system for a school in Bagan with money donated by the passengers and crew."
Our Road to Mandalay river cruiser visited many remote villages along the Ayeyarwady River, immortalized by Rudyard Kipling in his poem Mandalay, when he described Burma as "quite unlike any land you know about." What was once Southeast Asia's most secretive and mysterious country is now slowly opening up to the outside world to reveal a rich and glorious cultural heritage, breathtaking natural beauty, and people who have an endearing genuine charm.
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