After a morning of visiting the port of Yangon followed by a couple hours walking around Inye Lake we were eager to make our way to the village Sener had told us about across the river from Yangon. We took the 45 minute cab ride back down to the port and managed to find a long boat about to leave for the village with enough seats for the four of us to sit. By ‘seats’ I mean enough space on the 3-4 planks resting (loosely) from one side of the boat to the other. After about a 20min ride down the river we arrived at our destination and disembarked by walking across the front of the long boat and down a plank set up nearby to the shore (there are no real docks here). We got off, walked up a short paved hill to the main street. Or perhaps I should say ‘the only street’. At the top of the hill the road (about 3-4 meters wide) stretched straight ahead for as long as you could see, and the first 200m of that stretch was fairly congested with motorbikes, bicycles and people milling around on the road itself, which was lined with shops and restaurants. Even more than in downtown Yangon we received stares of curiosity from pretty much everyone! (Towards the end of our 2 hour visit we spoke to a police officer and asked him how many tourists or foreigners they get to the village. He told us that the last foreigners were a couple of Chinese people who visited last week!) Needless to say we were an attraction to the locals.
We veered away from the main road to walk down a side street parallel to the river. There we saw how the villagers lived and interacted with them. Once again, a big smile, a ‘Minglarbar’ and perhaps a wave got a huge smile, a nod and a ‘minglarbar’ in return.
Along the way we noticed this site (below) in one of the front yards and ventured to take a closer look…
A woman came out of the house and when I asked her (in charades) what it was, she invited me inside to see the whole process taking place. There, in the main part of their home were three men churning charcoal and running it through a hand cranked machine which then spit out these charcoal cylinders, similar to how pasta is made but on a much bigger scale. Each of the three men had a role: one to mix the loose charcoal at the top of the machine in the ‘funnel’ area, the second to turn the crank and the third to catch the cylinders and place them on the rack to dry:
Shortly after, at precisely 3pm we happened upon the elementary school for the village where the kids were just getting out of school. Perfect timing!! And like nearly every other elementary school around the world where there is hot weather, an ice cream vendor was at the gate waiting to make a few sales. The kids were definitely stunned by our presence among the crowd of parents waiting to collect their children. But their apprehension quickly faded when Aki and Sener proceeded to buy out the ice cream vendor and give away bagfuls of icecream popsicles! The swarm of eager kids was a sight to be seen and definitely one of the highlights of the trip so far!!
We eventually ran out of ice cream and had to say farewell to our new young friends. We wandered around the village for a while and eventually made our way back to the main street where we stopped for a bite to eat (I’m definitely not starving on this trip!).
With clouds rolling in and our time running short we finally made our way to the water’s edge and a helpful local suggested we hire a private long boat back to downtown Yangon (for $1.50 total!). We made it back to shore just in time…the minute our feet hit dry land the clouds opened up and it started to pour. Once again, perfect timing!
We grabbed the only cab in sight and headed back to our hotel/hostel to grab our luggage and head for the bus station to head to Bagan on the overnight bus, where I sit and write this post.
Sad to leave Yangon, but looking forward to more adventures ahead. Goodnight.