Tuesday, January 13, 2015

This is Burma: On da Way from Ye to Dawei

Some notes from the second half of my vacation in Southeast Myanmar...

Foreigners and monks in the upper class car .
You may have noticed from the video chronicling my journey from Hpa An to Ye that I had picked up some traveling companions. This happened to me on more than one occasion in my ten days away from home. There aren't that many foreigners doing the tourist thing in this part of the country, and so when solo travelers meet and talk, there is a natural tendency to glom onto one another. I enjoy the freedom of making my own path at my own pace, but it's also nice to have people to talk to, and in my case, since I speak some of the language, I got followers who liked my ability to negotiate with the locals.

One of these, I called Santa Claus. I met him the day after Christmas. He was older, fat, and had a long white beard. He was from Canada, which isn't far from the North Pole. Never have I met someone who was so oblivious to what he was saying.

It was so cool to capture this image for my own which I had
put on my blog previously from another source. 
He was traveling with a young woman he had met the day before who happened to be Israeli. Twice on that first day of our acquaintance, he talked about haggling, once with a fruit vendor and the other with the Captain, the innkeeper there in Ye. When referring to trying to get a better price, on both occasions, he said, “I'll see if I can Jew him down.” 

Aww, man.

That phrase is offensive and politically incorrect enough as it is, but to make that remark in front of an Israeli? Completely oblivious.

The next day, Santa and I both rented motorcycles, but from two different sources. Santa pulls up on his bike, and the first thing I notice is the swastika on the front splash guard. Now, as many of you know, the swastika didn't start off as a NAZI symbol. It's an ancient Hindu symbol which Hitler hijacked as part of his obsession with Aryan culture (the Aryans conquered India about 4000 years ago and founded Hinduism). You see swastikas all over SE Asia and it has nothing to do with NAZI-ism. Thing is, this bike also had a German war eagle adjacent to the swastika. That changes the context. I pointed this out to Santa, and again, he was oblivious. Hadn't even noticed. He noted that might be why when he offered his Israeli friend a ride, she refused. At least he was aware of that much.

More on what you'll see in the video: The vid starts with me visiting a place about 15 miles outside Ye called Banana Hill. They recently built (and are still building) a gigantic Buddhist monument up on the top of this hill. Something occurred to me as I put this video together during this time of so much worldwide religion versus religion strife. The architecture, the furnishings, the interiors of this shrine were Buddhist, but they might (minus the statues) have been Islamic, Christian of Jewish. If you want to make an impact on people's souls with a place, there's certain ways to do it. As you view the interior of the pagoda, ask yourself, what religion is this? For me, it could have been any religion.

The train ride from Ye to Dawei was interesting and beautiful, but oh, my God, it was long. It was eight hours, but eight hours to go 255 kilometers (160 miles)? Do the math. One online travel guide called it the slowest train in the world.

I spent that first night in Dawei, which I thought made up for the day that I had chosen not to go to Sittwe Beach, part of my original itinerary. When I showed up at the Coconut Guesthouse, the only reasonable accommodation in Maungmagan, they told me I was a day early for my booking. Yes, they had a reservation for me, but it was for the following day. Again, this was the week between Christmas and New Years, not a time to be just assuming there will be vacancies. Fortunately, despite my bad planning, they had a room for me, and I began my stay in Maungmagan.


  1. What a great adventure you are experiencing! You're blessed...


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