Thursday, January 28, 2016

Myanmar Motorcycle Journey 14 - Chaungthar to Pantaya

U Thant
After three glorious days relaxing on the beach and Chaungthar, the vacation was winding down and it was time for me to head back towards Yangon. If I'd made the 250 km journey home in one leg, it probably would've taken me about 8 hours driving on what I anticipated would be pretty good roads. After all I'd done the last two weeks, another long leg wouldn't have been prohibitively taxing.

But why bother? I was ahead of schedule, even after adding an additional stop, and so I decided to break this leg into two. If you remember from my initial itinerary, I had originally planned that my final destination was going to be Naypyitaw, and that was definitely going to take two days. Instead, I had found a co-worker who has family just on the outskirts of Yangon (where motorcycles are forbidden), and I'd arranged a place to park outside of town. In any case, since it was going to take me two days to get to NOT, why not make it two to Yangon?

I scanned my Google maps for an appropriate halfway point. There had to be a town somewhere along the way that was big enough to have a guesthouse or two. I decided on Pantanaw. In researching the place, I found out something interesting. Pantanaw is the home town of perhaps the second-most-famous Burmese person in history! After Aung San Suu Kyi, when it comes to Myanmar, there's no one more well known that U Thant (I would call him Mr U Thant, but as "U" means "mister" in Burmese, that'd be kinda redundant). As you may know, U Thant was the Secretary General of the United Nations for most of the 1960's; he was a statesman for the world. Ironically, he wasn't well liked by the ruling military junta here at the time, but since he was SecGen and not just an ambassador, he couldn't be recalled. Secretary Thant's grandson, Thant Myint U, is now a bit of a celebrity himself. He's written some great books about Myanmar is a leading advocate for change here. Maybe, when I got to Pantanaw, I could look for signs of U Thant like I looked for signs of Pascal Htoo Thwe in Pekon.

By the river in Pathein
First though, I traveled through Pathein, formerly known as Prome. As you'll hear in the video, Pathein is the capital and largest city in Myanmar's Ayerwaddy region. I lingered long enough to check out the river Pathein and a pretty impressive Pagoda in town.

On the road to Pantanaw, I had another problem with the motorbike. Actually, it was the same problem I'd had a week ago or so in Pyay: the horn stopped working. As I said then, there's perhaps no more important piece of equipment while driving a motorcycle in Asia than the horn. It's used constantly.

I went looking for a motorbike mechanic in Pantanaw. Found one. The cost the repair? $1.50 for a new horn. 40 cents in labor for the guy to install it.

What I didn't find was a statue of U Thant. I didn't find anything that indicated "U Thant House this way". Or maybe I did. THing is, this far off the beaten path in Myanmar, none of the signs have any English.  Heck, even my guesthouse, which I I had gotten a picture of on Facebook before leaving) didn't even say "Guesthouse" in English.  I tell you Pantanaw, being halfway between Yangon and the coast, has potential as a tourist attraction. They just gotta develop.

6 comments:

  1. You looked either tired, or sad, at the end of the video. I'm glad you said it was a great trip. To be honest, you were very good at the driving you had to do! Roadways are very different than here in Canada, or even in USA. :( :) lol Thanks so very much! Blessings...

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  2. I've enjoyed your trip very much, Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Now quite done yet! Still one more video to make!

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  3. Nicely done. Your videos have changed my impression of Myanmar. I realize you've had some odd moments, your home apartment is "interesting" ... but overall the country is much more developed than I had guessed.

    Now an off topic question - There's plenty of chatter on boards always about the preference in the tesl world to hire youth and looks. You're an average guy, a little older, yet you seem to have established yourself just fine. What would you say is the key, or are the keys, to your success?

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    1. Based on the teachers I've seen my company hire over the last year or so, no, looks aren't important. More than half of our new hires are 40+. There's been a few new, young teachers in the mix, but given that the pay here is pretty good, we can hold out for experienced teachers.

      As for my success, it depends on what you mean by 'success'. If it's not getting fired, it's because I'm pretty good at what I do and I know better than pissing off my bosses.

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  4. "...'bout the best possible trip you could plan..." and cut. Your voice just ever so slightly wavered there at the end.

    Thanks for sharing your ride.

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