musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Show Time in Taunggyi!

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During my recent trip to Myanmar, while I was based in the Shan State town of Nyaungshwe, I took a group of kids from Tat Ein village on a trip to visit the huge Htam Sam Cave. The last time I took a group from the village on a trip, nearly two years ago, there were about 60 people, which required two large “light trucks.” This time around the group swelled to over 90 people — students, novice monks, teachers, and a few parents — creating the need for a third truck. Not a problem; let’s hit the road!

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On the way back from the cave (more on that site in a future post) we stopped in Taunggyi to see one of the big temples in town and also visit the Eastern Amusement Park on the outskirts of town. This park has gardens, a swinging bridge, a small zoo, and plenty of games for the kids. It’s always a big hit with the youngsters, so I make it a point to bring any group that I take on a trip in the area to this park.

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This time around, however, the park had a surprise for us! One of the managers told me that because we had such a large group he wanted to put on a special “stage show” for us. Or at least that’s what I thought he was telling me in Burmese. It turned out the there was indeed a show … but instead of watching a show, we would be the show!

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Basically, the park staff organized some games and contests and stuck all the kids, including the novice monks, on a big stage at one end of the park. There were contests for singing and dancing, plus things like connecting straws together (to see who could assemble the longest piece within the allotted time). As you can imagine, the kids had a blast, both participating and watching the craziness. Plus, all of the winners earned prizes of some sort.

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The singing part of the show was comprised of female students. They were instructed to try and hold one note for as long as they could. Predictably, the results were pretty darn amusing!

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The highlight, though, was probably the dancing contest, which was limited to male students … and one old guy in the group. I don’t know who he was — probably someone’s father, or maybe he just hitched a ride — but he was, by far, the best dancer in the bunch. One little short, pudgy kid also had some good moves, and a taller, skinny kid had the best facial expressions (he had this look of utter astonishment, like: “I can’t believe I’m up on this stage and doing this!”), but the old guy clearly was the best dancer. I mean, he had those trademark Saturday Night Fever and Soul Train moves all wrapped in one package. He was so much fun to watch that I’d gladly pay to see him perform again. And the kids thought he was a riot.

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Seeing the caves that day was very interesting, and the trip to the temple was another highlight, especially for the monks in the group, but the park visit was clearly the high point of the afternoon. Mother Nature also cooperated and we didn’t have any rain at all, until the very last leg of the trip on the road back into Nyaungshwe. All in all, another amazing day in Myanmar.

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