myanmar

Dalah and Twante, Myanmar

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Day trip to Dalah and Twante

Looking through Lonely Planet guidebook, I came across about the villages the Delta Region, Dalah and Twante. This is the area affected by Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

I tried to find more info on travelling there, but seems like there are only 3 travel blogs write up on it. The info is the same as in LP. Ferry ride to Dalah and then you can pay for local to give you ride on a bike to Twante. But not much other info like name of villages there, how to navigate there, how long will it take to travel around both areas etc. But I’m still keen for an adventure there.

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The market area near the ferry terminal

Dalah is just 10min ferry ride away from Yangon but it’s a world apart.

Right after breakfast, I headed over to the ferry terminal, which is near Strandt Hotel in the morning.

The ticket can be bought at the terminal and departs every 20min. It is $4 USD, including return trip.

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Walking around the area first before boarding the ferry.

As I was walking around waiting for departure, a local approached me. Usually I avoid small talk, especially those who seem to only approach tourists. But I kinda let my guard down this time cuz she asked if I was Muslim and gave salaam to me. She said that she could bring me around and since I was not too sure how I’ll explore Dalah and Twante later on. As I was still not sure what it will be like after I arrive on Dalah later on, I eventually I agreed for her bring me around.

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About to board the ferry

Just as we were about to board the ferry, Sharifah bumped into her friend, Rahman. So called a coincident, but later in the day I suspected that it was all part of the scam plan.

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Looking sweet and innocent, but little did I know they had already targeted me as their scam victim (more on that later).

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Departing from Yangon

On board the ferry, it is a very unique local experience with hawkers calling out selling their products. But still a comfortable ride.

Arrived at Dalah.

Upon arriving in Dalah, Sharifah and Rahman made arrangement for motorbikes to bring us around. Plan of the day was fishing village, rice plantation, lunch at Rahman’s place, ride to Twante, pagoda and pottery village. I can’t recall how much was the agree price though, but we definitely agreed for certain hourly rate for day trip to Dalah and Twante.

Sharifah and Rahman were pillion riders of another motorbikes cuz they said they wanted to follow me around (or so I thought… because later on I realised, this is all part of the scam (again)).

First up was the fishing village…

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Yangon Circle Line

One of the best way to explore Yangon and immerse yourself with the locals is to get on board the Circle Line Train!

It’s a 3 hr train ride for about 200 kyat. You can buy your ticket at the station itself, at platform 6 or 7. Take note that foreigners will need your passport to buy a ticket.

Be prepared to be amazed by how old-school the station is… From the station’s colonial look to even handwritten schedule and vintage ticket! If you’re adventurous, you can drop at any station, do some sightseeing and catch the next train to continue your journey.

Signs are clearly positioned at the station. You’ll just need to go over to Platform 6 or 7 to purchase your ticket and board the train.

While waiting for the train, I made small talk with the conductor and found out that the locals prefer non-aircon train to air-cond train.

Waiting for train at Platform 7

Me: What time is the next train?
Conductor: an hour later, but you’re lucky to catch this one. It’s the last local train for today.
Me: Local train? Then the one an hr later?
Conductor: oh, that one is air-conditioned. But people here don’t like it. They like local train better.
Me: but why don’t they like air-cond train?
Conductor: *looking bewildered that I don’t seem to get it why aircond train is not good* oh, aircond train has windows… it’s closed. Not good. They don’t like it.

Riiiighhhtt. So, the locals don’t like aircond train cuz the windows are close. Hmmm, I’m really puzzled by his response but was eventually enlightened when I was on board  it.

Just look at how they sit. Not your typical facing the opposite seat, like in MRT. Everyone was just looking out of the window, enjoying the breeze and the view. There are quite a few sitting pose, and over the 3hr odd ride, I pretty much had done all too- stretch out my leg, cross legged and rest my back, cross legged and faced the window or just simply just sitting facing sideway.

#yangon #yangoncircleline #myanmar #burma

Trip on 12 Sept 2014

#throwback

Public water dispenser in Yangon

The usual water dispenser that we know of looks as such…

A regular water cooler
However in Myanmar, water sanitation is still quite a problem. Hence, access to drinking water is limited. So, how do the community overcome this? Well, water jugs are commonly found along the streets.
Credits: Dr. Günther Eichhorn
Some are in proper housing as above.. but there are others that are simply placed on racks in the open.
Credits: Monkey Puzzle
Such jugs was one of the first few things that got my attention when I arrived, while on the cab ride from the airport to my hotel. Most that I observed were placed in front of buildings or houses. Initially, I thought that it was part of a culture or Buddhist ritual (had this idea because in Chinese fengshui, water is seen as good luck). I also thought that perhaps it was meant for cleaning the feet before stepping into the house.
However, I also saw some along the streets with no other buildings in sight, or under the tree, away from the houses.
Eventually, I learnt from the locals that these jugs function as public water dispenser. The jugs are always covered to prevention contamination and there will be a cup or two for you to scoop out the water to drink. I was told the water is safe for consumption but I’m really not sure about the source of water (rain water? well water? bottled water??), hence I did not drink from it. I was also concerned about the hygiene of the cup, but from my observations, the locals simply gulped it down, without the lips touching the cup.
I understood from the locals that the water is accessible to anyone and that it will be refilled when it’s empty. However, I’m really not sure how that works. Like, are there officials making rounds every few weeks to refill the jugs? or residents are assigned to check on some jugs regularly?? I have no idea…
Personally, I feel that this act of placing jugs of water is not just another unique culture of Myanmar, but also speaks volume of the Burmese community. By ensuring accessibility of drinking water to the public, it shows the warmth and kind hospitality of the Burmese community. Through this, it is nice to see that community comes together to look out and provide for each other. The strong sense of community is really heartwarming and it is something that we can reflect on.
Another learning point from this is equality for all. Anyone can drink water from those jugs… it doesn’t matter if you’re a fisherman, student or businessman. Nothing matters. Anyone and everyone is entitled to it. Regardless of age, class/rank, religion etc, anyone can drink from that jug.
Simple water jugs, but a few learning points to reflect on 😉

Street peddlers of Yangon

Other than street food… there are quite a few other interesting street peddlers in the heart of Yangon.

 

 

1. Betel nut
It’s basically areca nuts and tobacco, wrapped in a lime-coated betel leaf.

 

2. Phone services
Mobile phones are still not widely used, so… public phones are still commonly found. But, it’s not the typical coin pay phone kind. It’s just like the phone you have at home or work, just that it’s on the street.
I was curious why they were chatting over a table that was so randomly placed along the walkway. The phone on the table caught my attention, but I was still puzzled about it. When I saw more of it, then it hit me that.. ahh, it’s a phone booth.

 

Nope, these phones aren’t for sale.
But, if you want some privacy, head down to any of this booth.

I saw quite a few of such booths and was curious about it. It took me a great deal of courage to peek into one. I timidly stepped into one and craned my next to look around… “Cehhh.. it’s just a phone booth.”.

3. “Hair salon”

To pick out head lice…
4. Fortune telling services
Most of the fortune tellers do it by palm reading based on the posters I saw.
5. Pedicure/ manicure
Even guys need to pamper themselves yeah..
6. Lottery booth

Sarong: Burmese daily wear

Sarong is their daily wear…

Check out the ladies behind me in beautiful sarong…
Ok, fine… lemme crop out my annoying face….
There you go… Happy ladies in sarong
They wear it to school…
for grocery shopping…
and even for dating 😉
The problem with sarong is that it may come loose and need adjustment, especially if there had been too much movement. But, don’t worry.., they have no qualms about adjusting it in public places.

 

Erm, I may seem like a pervert getting such photos, but let put it this way, that I had cultural shock that I had to take a photo. Ok, that sound even weird.. in a state of shock but yet my hands were quick enough to get a snapshot of it. Forget about it, lets just not pursue why I had taken those photos, yeah?
Moving on…
Another problem is that it is without pocket, but hey… one can always do some life-hack to get around that problem 😉
Even without pocket, with a little bit of creativity, you can still keep your wallet and phone on you.

Anyway, had an interesting travelling snippet whilst looking around to buy sarong.

While on the way to Bago, the driver had a quick pit stop for toilet break, refuel and smoke and coffee break for him. There was time to spare, so, I walked over to the nearby weekend market. As I walked through it, I came across a stall that sells sarong.

It’s a relatively undeveloped town, so the stall owner doesn’t speak English and no passerby could translate for me. I had relied on passerby when I have to overcome language barrier in the main city. The shop owner, hand-signed to me the number 1 and 5, which I assumed as 15 USD per piece (about 15,000 kyat). Wanting to ask for discount if I buy more, I wrote on my notepad…

1 —> 15, 000
3 –> 30, 000

Thank god she can read English numbers because a few days before, the locals that I met don’t understand English numbers.

Anyway…. showed the lady what I’m bargaining for and she gasped. She looked so shocked that I thought she wasn’t happy with the discount I asked for. Before I could bargain to something else agreeable, she took my pen and cancelled the last zero. So, apparently a sarong costs only 1,500 kyat (about 2USD).

She must have thought I was mad to think it was
15,000kyat per piece 😂

Thanaka – Burmese beauty secret

Burmese ladies are known for the the pale yellow paste smeared on their face. Almost every female applies them daily…

the elderly…

 

young ladies..

 

you’re never too young for it 😉
 Even for those working in office, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to snap a photo of those ladies I saw working at the post office.

That yellow paste is Thanaka, a natural beauty product. It is made from ground bark of Thanaka tree, commonly found in Central Myanmar. Mature trees (about 35 years old) are cut into smaller pieces and sold. Housewives then grind the bark cuttings into powder form and store them for future use.

As the saying goes, when in Rome, do what the Romans do, I knew that I definitely have to try it.

My local host applying the hand-made Thanaka for me.

 

The family even packed a small amount for me.

One of the best souvenirs is hand-made products, especially an item that is culturally distinctive to the country.

Add tiny amount to the cap and add a few drops of water to get a paste-like texture. I still apply it once in awhile, but not when I’m outdoor though. I use them mostly when I’m lazing at home the whole day.

From the family, I learnt that Thanaka is a cooling agent and good protection from the sun. So, after having Thanaka applied on my face, I’m ready for some outdoor adventure…

A ride on the bike…
and on the boat..
After a day wearing it, I have to agree that it is quite cooling on the face. It also feels like it tighten the pores, similar sensation as when mud pack applied on face. It also has a slight fragrance, which I kinda like. After I returned from my trip, I learnt that there are quite a few benefits, some similar to what the local explained to me. It’s a natural SPF, tightens pores, cools skin and regulates sebum production.

I guess this centuries-old beauty practice will still be carried on given that it works. I know for sure I’ll definitely continue using it. Oh, and I’m not worried if I run out of the Thanaka powder because they do sell it commercially, even in Singapore too.

So, my friends… don’t be surprised if you see me with yellow paste on my face 😉