Having spent a couple of days wandering the streets of Yangon we decided it was time to hit the beaches. Now, from what we could work out the best and closest beaches that dealt with western tourists was a place called Ngwesaung (said as Way Song). It was only 245km away so with our bags packed and our excitement soaring away we went to the local bus station. It seemed to be a mass of people, none of whom spoke English, all milling around a dusty old bus shelter or loitering in the cafe. We eventually found out which bus and when it was leavingso stopped for a quick drink before we hit the road. Dave was quite amused that the beer came with a straw and I just loved the kids with their cute smiles. One young waitress had her face painted in broad swathes of mud seemingly to keep the sun off.
Eventually the bus turned up and so the journey began! I had never been on a chicken bus before. I had always viewed the name with some amusement. I guess I had kind of assumed that there would be some chickens in coops and that it would be a fun and whimsical way to travel with the locals. Oh my goodness! Whimsy? I must have been insane to think of whimsy.
So this rickety old van pulls up, basically something straight out of the 70’s but with the driver sitting on the opposite side to the road. As in he literally couldn’t see what was happening so had a lookout who stood in the doorway and gave overtaking instructions!! Eeeek!
We climbed in and were allocated 2 seats. This trip turned out to be quite luxurious compared to one of the ones we would take later. On this trip we sat in our own seats (not the back bench crammed in with 3 others) and we could put our feet down to the floor (on the nightmare ride from hell the floor of the footwell was packed with goods so that we had to sit with our feet level with our backsides for 6 hours). The chicken bus factor was on the roof and all down the aisles. To get to our seat we literally had to climb over mountains of produce, that did include chickens and ducks in coops, using the other seats as stepping stones to get to ours. There was certainly no way to get out in a hurry.
That all said the trip to the ocean was through lovely local countryside and the time passed relatively quickly, even though it was 6 hours. We couldn’t get all the way to the coast so we stopped over for a night in a town called Pathien. We were directed to a local guest house that was permitted to house foreigners and got a taste of rural Myanmar accommodation. There was a bed which was fairly comfortable, air con (yay!!!), and a western toilet (oh thank goodness for no squat). The room itself was a barren box but the wall decor truly spoke volumes. All over the walls were the blood splats from where previous travellers had been squashing the ever present mossies. Ewwww. Not exactly the Ritz but it did the job.
The next day we carried on our way out to the beach and found heaven. Miles of pristine beaches with little cabins right on the sand. We hired a motorbike and had a wonderful time exploring the area. For our dinners we went into the town and found a great restaurant with a terrific host. He was telling us the stories of the town. It seems the government had decided it wanted to build a big flash hotel resort but that the piece of beach it wanted was right where the town was. So the officials gave the townspeople 30 days to move their whole life and livelihood 300m up the beach. Of course the people have no alternative and move they did. It truly makes you rethink the whole rules and regulations that we attribute to a nanny state, a place where our rights are protected. There is a lot to be said for personal protections. Still, these people were happy enough and the big resort brought tourists.
The beaches here were utterly amazing. Not only because they were clean, or that they were beautiful but also because the water was sooo warm. Anyone that knows me knows I hate cold water. This was like floating in a bath. I think Dave was disappointed there were no waves but I loved it.
We were lucky enough to watch a group of local fishermen hauling in huge nets one afternoon. They had these enormous nets all to catch these tiny shrimp. Like I’m talking the size of a toothbrush head. Waaay small but thousands and thousands of them. They then take them onto mats on the sand where they lay them out in the sun to dry. Hard work for tiny shrimps.
Anyway, enough for today. Come back next week for the installment where I share one of my most all time embarrassing moments – ever!