On song up the Irrawaddy

"The village was called Yandabo and it was a very small and traditional Burmese village.

"We got off the ship and there was the usual entourage of people waiting to see what was going on, including some inquisitive kids and a few Buddhist monks.

"The village is known for its pottery, so we went along to see how it was made.

"They had dug up local clay and a man was there mixing it with his feet; holding onto a rope as he used his feet to work the clay.

"Then it was handed onto the next member of the family - it seems everyone has a job - and was kneaded into blocks, ready to be moulded into pots.

"The end product is a pot for storing water and they sell them for about 50 cents, after all that work.

"Some would end up in markets in the bigger towns and cities but they mostly sell them in local markets along the river.

"We also went to the local school, which had been built from donations from Pandaw passengers.

"Pandaw has chosen to support that particular village and they go there on every trip.

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"We went into the classroom and sat with the kids while they showed us their books and school work.

"The youngest kids were about six and the eldest were about 10 or 11 years old; the older kids go to school further afield.

"Their English was pretty good and they seemed to understand everything we were saying to them.

"They sang to us in Burmese and then sang an English version.

"Then we had to sing back to them and they just cracked up laughing; they said we were pretty bad!

"The kids there are so poor but they seemed so happy. We gave them some tennis balls and simple things like that and they were absolutely delighted. It was the happiness of those kids that will always stay in my mind."

Value for money

All shore excursions were included in the fare on Glenda's cruise, which she says was "excellent value".

"You can do two shore excursions each day and there is plenty of variety," Glenda says.

"It's a really nice way to see Burma. Going along the river, you get to see a different side of life.

"There are also places along the river that you aren't able to access by road.

"I'm so glad I did the trip - it was up there with some of the best that I've done."

WHO Glenda Halliwell, of Coffs Harbour, on her 10th cruise.

WHAT Visiting a small village in Burma.

WHERE On the banks of the Irrawaddy River, near Mandalay in central Burma.

THE SHIP Glenda, who is a Jetset Travel agent but travelled at her own expense, cruised with her husband Alan on an eight-night cruise from Mandalay to Prome, in Burma. They cruised on the Orient Pandaw, a 60-passenger river ship booked through Cruiseco (cruising.com.au).

As told to Jane E. Fraser

Have you done an interesting shore excursion? Drop us a line at travelshd@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

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