flag GB Travelogue Myanmar/Burma november 2012

 

Part 4 – From Ngapali Beach to Yangon

 

When reading the travel report:

 

When reading the travelogue: click a picture and it will be increased. If you see a link, like: Khiri Travel: click on the link and it will be opened. When referring to a map of Myanmar/Burma, the map can be accessed by clicking on the link Map of Myanmar. Video HD clips will be will be added at a later date.

 

English is not our native language, so we apologize in advance for translation- spelling- and grammar errors.

 

Day 20 - Sunday, November 18, 2012 (continued)

 

We check in at the airport in Yangon and hear that our flight has a delay of one hour. Eventually the delay turns out to be more than 2 hours. That's a long time waiting on an airport with little facilities, no Flight Information Board and no broadcasting service.

 

Finally we can go. We fly 75 minutes. Just when we think we're almost there, we hear that we make a stopover in Sittwe. Sittwe is initially one of our visiting locations this holiday but we have skipped Sittwe from our itinerary because of the recent unrest in that area. Some people have not heard the announcement of the stopover and want to leave the airplane. Laughter all around.

 

We fly from Sittwe to Thandwe. We fly with Yangon Airways this time in a nice little airplane with propellers. Service on board is fine! Tasteful refreshments. Beneath us we see vast delta works. Quite a system of rivers. The rivers look like long winding arms. We also see a lot of islands.

We are picked up at Thandwe airport. By car we are brought to a village near the beach. The beach is very nice here! We roll up our trousers and climb into a fishing boat that is waiting for us. It is an hour by boat to our next destination: Maung Shwe Lay on the St Andrew's Bay (map). The sea is fairly quiet. We see a lot fishing boats heading to the open to sea.

 

It was predicted that the weather would be poor here. It appears to have been raining the previous day but fortunately it is now dry and almost sunny. After an hour we arrive at Shwe Maung Lay. A man and a woman are already waiting for us at the beach. The yard of their home stay is adjacent to the beach.

 

Two tents are established on the site. One tent is for us and the other tent is for our guide. Our guest family is very friendly. We talk and eat at a large table outside. The food is tasty. It's a very welcoming environment here. We hear the sound of the sea.

 

Day 21 - Monday, November 19, 2012

Tonight we have slept moderately because of the heat. Fine mattresses, but wow it's really hot in the tent!

 

We have breakfast with rice, vegetables and fruit. Our hostess is a very sweet lady. She is proud that she speaks some words English. After breakfast we walk to the village. There is a small local market, daily from 6 am to 8 am. It is a very authentic market. Almost everyone in the village has thanaka on his or her face. The people are friendly. Everywhere we are greeted with the catchword: Mingalabar (means hello).

 

We take a ride on an ox cart. There are many ox carts here. First we ride on the beach. Than we ride land inwards. Our host is also our guide. On a narrow path among the palm trees we drive to the village monastery. It is a small monastery. Only a few monks live in the monastery; a wise octogenarian abbot and some young boys.

 

Next we go to the house of the schoolmaster. It is a beautiful wooden house. The wife of the schoolmaster gives a tour of the house. We visit the school: a large class room with old school desks. On one side of the classroom a cluster school desks for the girls and on the other side a cluster school desks for the boys. The children say their names one by one. We do that as well. What follows is a conversation through our guide/ interpreter between the kids and us. The children ask many questions. They want to know everything about us. The school is sponsored. We make a donation. We do the same in the library of the village. The library is the pride of the village.

 

After lunch, the two of us take a long walk on the beach. Great! Fishing boats in the water. People are walking on the beach from one end of the village to the other end. The beach is wide and pretty clean. You have to watch out for the dog turds because there are many "stray" dogs. There are a lot of crabs on the beach. They fly into their burrows when they hear the thump of our footsteps.

 

In the afternoon we sail away with a fishing boat to open sea. We go snorkelling. After a short sea shipping we jump into the sea. The water is wonderfully warm. Jan-Arend goes snorkelling. Ingrid just wants to swim. Our skippers jump into the sea too. In one dive one of them harpooned two blue spotted stingrays.

 

After our snorkelling adventure we go back to our "tent". On the beach, in the shade of a palm tree drinking juice from a coconut we read a book. This is paradise.

 

Ingrid takes some pictures of the girls next door and she gives them some toys. In the evening the father of the girls brings Ingrid a starfish. Beautiful animal! The starfish is gray with bright orange dots. Unfortunately the starfish is dead.

 

There are no other tourists in the village; no hotels here. In the evening we take another walk on the beach. It is low tide now and the beach is huge! Some stones and rocks but otherwise sand, sand and again sand.

 

It's dark early. At 6 o'clock our camp is shrouded in almost total darkness. The only time there is electricity in the village is between 6 and 9 p.m. Only one light bulb above the table spreads some light. Our hosts are very hospitable. They often come to sit with us. They want to know if the food is good enough and so on and do everything to please us.

 

The heat and the noise of barking packs of stray dogs who roam around and fight with each other keeps us awake so we sleep poorly again.

 

 

Day 22 - Tuesday, November 20, 2012

 

After breakfast we take a morning walk on the beach. Fun again! We walk into the village. We stay in a typical local coastal village! You really experience how people live here. That's what we like so much. Live here is basic though. The people are poor. Still they seem to be happy with their daily existence and everyone is busy. How long will that last we wonder. We hear that some tracts of land along the beach have already been bought by developers. It could well be that in a few years the coast is dotted with hotels and that this beautiful virtually tourist-free beach is a no go area for fishing boats because of the tourists.

 

Let's hope the developers manage to preserve a good balance between the needs and wishes of the local residents and tourism.

 

We walk along a field full with drying coconuts. We see ducks, chickens, piglets (on a string), and children going to school and so on. We smell fresh prepared food. Carpenters are repairing a boat. There is so much to see!

 

Before leaving Shwe Maung Lay we still have some time to relax on the beach. We swim in the sea and use a lunch. Eventually it is time to say goodbye. We are picked up again by a fishing boat. We wave goodbye to our guest family.

A stay in Shwe Maung Lay at the St Andrew's Bay is for sure highly recommended for anyone who loves adventures holidays and wants to experience how people really live in Myanmar.

 

After our departure from Shwe Maung Lay we sail in one hour to our next destination: Yoma Cherry Lodge in Lintha Village (map), Ngapali Beach , Thandwe.

 

Yoma Cherry Lodge is a beautiful hotel. Our room is on the first floor. It is a spacious room with a large balcony and sea view. It looks great! Jan-Arend leaves to explore the village. He hopes to find a place where he can get a massage. Ingrid stays and enjoys sitting on the balcony and does some much needed laundry. This is just the right spot to stay with the end of the holiday in sight.

 

The hotel has a seafront terrace with sun beds. It's a good place to relax, to have a drink and take a snack. We want to order some food for diner but there is - strangely enough - little choice and what we want appears to be finished. So we walk to the village in search for a good restaurant. It is very dark on the road, there is no lighting and there are deep potholes. In the village we find a row of restaurants. We choose one and order diner. The food is all right

 

Day 23 - Wednesday, November 21, 2012

 

we watch the fishermen bring their fish ashore while having breakfast on the seafront terrace.

Today we will have a relaxing day at the beach. Two beds, a full sun, a book, and music on the iPod.... what more does a man need? Around 10.00 a.m. we order a pot of coffee and at lunchtime we take a lunch.

 

Every now and then we come into action. We walk to the sea for a refreshing dip.

 

The water temperature is lovely, about 27 degrees Celsius. Of course we get sunburn.

 

At the end of the afternoon the fisherwomen take possession of the beach. They distribute straw on the beach. A piece of blue plastic is placed on the straw to create a place where the freshly caught fish can dry tomorrow.

 

Several teams of about 20 men arrive on the beach to embark their boats. One by one the boats sail away to fish at sea the whole night.

 

We watch a beautiful sunset above the sea. Then it is time for us to go to our room and enjoy a glass of wine.

 

 


Day 24 - Thursday, November 22, 2012

 

Another lazy day. This is the last week of our holiday. We don't have special plans. It was a busy trip so far. We just want to exit our holiday in a relaxed manner. The breakfast in Yoma Cherry Lodge is probably the best we had so far in Myanmar. Furthermore, breakfast is served overlooking the sea.

We see the fishing boats come back. Some boats are already in. It is buzzing of activity. The Fishermen jump out of the boat. The first catch they bring on land is usually a few big fish.

 

Most of the catch however contains small fish. The small fish is usually brought ashore with two dangling baskets of fish on a stick carried by two men. The fish is weighed and recorded. A lot of the fish is spread on the blue plastic drying fields on the beach some fish is discharged by small carts to other fields inland.

 

All day long people are busy with the boats, the nets and the drying fish.

 

Jan-Arend leaves for a visit to a neighbouring beach. He will have a massage there. He also makes a bike ride in the area (hotel bikes are free to use here).

In the evening we walk on the beach to another hotel where they have a more extensive menu for dinner. The food is good again. The nasi goring is spicier then we are used in Holland, but we like that.

Back at our own hotel we have coffee on the terrace. Each table is lit by candles. The view on the sea is magnificent. On the horizon you can see that the boats are laying next to each other in a row. All the boats have lights on to lure the fish. Tomorrow morning we will see them coming home again.

 

Day 25 - Friday, November 23, 2012

 

We have another delicious breakfast with extra coffee, juice and fruit. After breakfast we make a short morning walk on the beach where the fishermen and their families are already fully engaged in their activities concerning the unloading of the fish catch of the night.

When we are ready we take the shared taxi to Thandwe. Seated at the back of a van on very narrow boards with 8 other fellow passengers is not very comfortable, but it is fun!! A lot of holes in the road! We get the feeling that all our organs are at a different position when we finally arrive in Thandwe.

 

There is not much to do in Thandwe, but perhaps for that is the charm of the city. Thandwe is just a common town with a regional function so having some extra shops for locals. We buy some red vans; the kind monks walk with, and a few scoops made of empty cans. There are many rickshaws with separate passenger seats aside on the road. We are trying to get a ride back to the hotel with a shared taxi for the same price then we have paid to come here (500 Kyats) but no shared taxi wants to take us. They want us to take a private taxi for a much higher price. Eventually we find a courier who is willing to bring us back to our hotel for a reasonable price. He makes a detour because he has some parcels to deliver. And so, like shaken postal packets we are delivered at our hotel

 

Jan- Arend wants another massage and leaves for the adjacent bay. Ingrid stays at the hotel, snuggle up on the beach.

One of the guys of the hotel tells her that more and more tourists come to the beach area of Myanmar. If it continues it may well mean that all the fishing boats will have to disappear on this beach in 1 or 2 years. Ingrid is shocked. That would be a pity! Ridiculous as the locals would have to make way for tourists who don't want to see local activity on the beaches, but don't mind if the beaches are crowded with wealthy round bellies tourists. It would be the world upside down!

 

This is just such a nice peaceful beach. In an adjacent bay all boats are already banned and there are only hotels now. We would not like to stay there! On our beach there are only two small hotels, tucked under the palm trees in the village. But, with this regime and, as we hear from the hotel owner, complainant (spoiled) tourists (smell, no private beach, too busy, brrr.). You never know it might just happen!

 

In the afternoon we enjoy a beautiful sunset once again, and the boats are all back in line at the horizon. Today we met two nice Belgian women here.

Dag 26 – zaterdag 24 november 2012

 

Peter, the brother of Ingrid has his birthday today. We send him an email. We make a long walk on the beach. We have dinner at the hotel.

 

Very few people eat at the hotel. Caused perhaps by the limited menu they have here. We ordered some diner in advance so we can stay "home" tonight. It is a very cosy environment to have diner, with the candles and the lighted boats in the distance. We have a long conversation with one of the servants of the hotel. He is now 18 and a boy from the village. As a young boy he played on the beach. He shows us a palm tree he planted; it is now a big tree. He wants to be an engineer. Tomorrow we leave for the last leg to Yangon.

 

Day 27 - Sunday, November 25, 2012

 

It is our last day Last day on Ngapali Beach. We have breakfast, have a chat with the guys from the hotel and walk along the beach.

We give our last toys, soaps and 2 large towels from the Dutch soccer team away to a group of women. They are very happy with it and divide it among themselves. They all want to be photographed while they wash the plastic baskets in sea.

 

Behind the beach is a village. We walk up to it. The houses are all quite small huts. The women are busy preparing fish. Everyone is equally cordial. You hear "Mingalaba" everywhere.

Slowly we walk back along the beach. We take some last photos, take a last sunbath, and dip in the sea for the last time. In two small bottles we collect water from the sea and a little sand from the beach. These are souvenirs that we almost always take home as a remembrance of our distant destinations. At 11.30 a.m. we return to our room. We both take a refreshing shower and up we go.

 

We are brought to the airport by two guys from the hotel. The flight is slightly delayed. When the aircraft arrives everything goes very fast. Passengers out, luggage out, luggage in while cleaning the plane and passengers in. We walk to the plane. In 5 steps we are inside. We fly in only 50 minutes back to Yangon (map). On board coffee and a box containing 3 cakes is served.

 

At Yangon airport, our trusted Ang Win is waiting for us. He notes that the colour of our faces have changed by the sun. Around 3 pm we are back at the East Hotel After checking in we leave for the city. We buy some stamps. We also order a stamp with the name of Ingrid in Burmese.

 

Around 7 p.m. we are back in our hotel. Ingrid calls Khiri Travel for information about the promised guide for the next day. We are informed that a guide will collect us at the hotel the next day at 08.00 a.m.

 

Day 28 - Monday, November 26, 2012

it's hot and humid in Yangon. The camera lens is covert with condensation as soon as Ingrid leaves the hotel.

 

We meet our young guide for today. He is a student called Aung Thein. Aung Thein speaks excellent English. He proposes a day program tailored to our needs. We always fancy visiting a local market, so we go there first. The market is in the old quarter of Yangon. We see many beautiful old colonial houses. The houses are affected by moisture and moss. We hope that the houses will be restored in time; they deliver a unique heritage. There are a lot of telephone and electricity wires in a tangle above the road. The market is very vivid. The fruits and vegetables look good.

 

After the market Ingrid is in urgent need for a sanitary stop. So we visit The Strand (also known as Strand Hotel) a Victorian style hotel where only the rich and famous can afford a chamber. Very luxurious.

 

Our next stop is the harbour. We watch the ferries come and go. We also see a lot of large small boats that serve as a shared water taxi for locals. The river is wide! We drink tea in a famous local cafe.

Our tour continues with a visit to the quarters surrounding the Shewagon pagoda. It is an area where many monks live. There are more than a thousand monks here! The monks live in different monasteries. We are kindly received by an elderly monk. Thanks to our guide who is an excellent interpreter we can have an interesting conversation with the old monk. We get bananas. The red robes hang to dry.

 

Next, we visit the hall of the large reclining Buddha. The Buddha is 66 meters long. This is new statue, remade in 1966. The eyes are of specially blown glass from China. The soles of the Buddha are very interesting. Lekkhana; symbols of tigers, fish, parrots, monks, monasteries etc. proposals ranked in three elements: water, earth and air are carved in the soles.

People wash the Buddha of their birthday. The day of the week a person is born will determine their planetary post, eight in all as Wednesday is split in two, a.m. and p.m. They are marked by animals that represent the day, a galon (garuda) for Sunday (Jan-Arend is born on a Sunday), a tiger for Monday (Ingrid is born on a Monday) , a lion for Tuesday and so on.

 

On the streets we see some nuns, but their number is much less than monks. The nuns seem to be a bit more restrained. Not all the nuns want to be photographed. We also see a parade. It is a procession with dance and music to raise funds for the monks and the Shewagon pagoda. November is a special month for the monks.

 

Between 2 and 4 p.m. we take a break. We return to our hotel. From there we walk to the shop where we were yesterday to collect the stamp they would make of Ingrid's name in Burmese. Unfortunately there seems to be some misunderstanding; the man of the shop mumbles something vague. It appears that he has done nothing with the order to make a personalized stamp for Ingrid. We get our money back but Ingrid is heavily disappointed. She wants the stamp badly as a souvenir. So we go to another shop; hopefully he understands his job better.

At 4 p.m. we leave for a visit at the famous Shewagon pagoda. The Shewagon pagoda, also known as the Great Dagon or Golden Pagoda, is a 99 metres gilded pagoda that dominates the skyline of Yangon. It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese with relics of the past four Buddha's enshrined within: the staffs of Kakusandha, the water filter of Konagamana, a piece of the robe of Kasasapa and eight strands of hair from Guatama, the historical Buddha.

 

According to legend, the Shwedagon Pagoda has existed for more than 2,600 years, making it the oldest historical pagoda in Burma and the world. Visitors must remove their shoes before the first step at any of the entrances. Burmese walk around the stupa clockwise. Devotees offer flowers and prayer flags and pour water on the images with a prayer and a wish.

 

The base of the stupa is octagonal and also surrounded by small shrines, eight in number for each day of the week. What a Buddha's, what splendour! We wash our own "birthday" Buddha and Ingrid rubs some gold leaf on another Buddha statue! On top of the really big golden stupa we see monks walking around. When it gets dark, the lights around are inflamed. 

 

By six o'clock we end our visit and go back to the hotel. We give the driver and guide a good tip. They have given us a fine day.

 

We eat in East hotel. Not the nicest restaurant, but we're both tired and they have delicious nasi here!

 

 


 

Day 29 - Tuesday, November 27, 2012

 

Breakfast at 8 a.m.

 

Today we will leave Myanmar. So it is time for a last visit to the city.

 

We walk to Scott Market. It is close to our hotel. Scott Market is a covered non-food market with a lot of different shops. You can find here almost everything. From clothing, jade, jewellery to woodworking. We buy some last souvenirs. We collect the stamp with the name of Ingrid in Burmese. The man did a splendid job. He neatly made pouches for the different stamps with the Dutch and the Burmese name on it.

We go back to the hotel where we have a drink in our room and pack our bags. For lunch we go to a cake shop. On our way we meet Patrick Lodiers (a Dutch TV-presenter). He is with a film crew. They're filming for a series of 5 programs on Myanmar that will be broadcasted on Dutch TV in January 2013.

 

In the cake shop we take a muffins and fresh orange juice. While eating the rain erupt outside. We summarize it as a kind of farewell from Myanmar, and ...... a preparation for the Netherlands.

 

Back to the hotel. It's okay. It keeps on raining and there is even thunder and lightning. We are ready to go home.

 

As the driver who will bring us to the airport reports to the hotel, it does not appear to be Aung Win. Unfortunately his car has a breakdown! We fly on schedule via Singapore to Amsterdam. Our daughter Marjon and her friend Bram are already waiting for us at Schiphol. They bring us safely home. It was a great trip.

 

Finally,

 

While travelling in Myanmar the influence of military rule in Myanmar was not so much noticeable. The same can be said about the unrest in Rakhine State. Nice? It is also frightening because we know very well that power in Myanmar is still largely in the hands of the old rulers. There are also parts of the country that are still prohibited for foreigners and most commodities are exported to China without any benefits for the people.

 

Apparently the regime has its tricks to keep it hidden for outsiders. For we have experienced Myanmar as a great holiday destination. There is a lot to see and the people are super friendly. The people speak openly about politics and everyday life and are eager to meet other people. We have heard many wise words. Therefore, try as you go to involve as much local people in your activities as possible so that they benefit from your coming. Think of Aung San Suu Kyi said "Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours".

 

Schagen, February 2013

 

Ingrid Vogelesang en
Jan-Arend van Boeijen