Saturday, January 24, 2015

MY MYANMAR - DALA TOWNSHIP

Visiting the other side of Yangon in Myanmar, is quite an adventure. Very different from the bustling city with it's never ending traffic noise!  From the Yangon side there is nothing much to see and I initially wanted to get some local transportation to a completely different part of the Irrawaddy delta, but as western faces we stand out from the masses and are being targeted by self-proclaimed tour guides in the moment we approach the ferry building. 

I had to fend off several people who showed off their English language skills even before I paid the steep ferry fare of 4000 Kyat. Locals pay a fraction of that, and so do Asian tourists. The boarding process is pure chaos and turns into a huge crowd of people who all run onto the ferry to grab the best seats. 

On the boat, another guy tried to talk me into a tour of Dala Township. I wasn't interested, so I let him talk for a while and hoped he would lose interest, but I was barely off the ferry on the other side and he was walking besides me again. They probably all have the same heartbreaking stories about why they took the ferry and how much they can help you but in the end we were discussing prices for a ride on a trishaw through the villages. 


After setting my expectations about what I wanted to see and for how long, he picked one of the trishaw's which were standing in a long line a little distance from the harbour buildings. As it turns out, these tour guides will just go with you and a trishaw driver, but when this became clear I jumped off the agreement again and off the trishaw. I wasn't going to pay for two guys, so I told my skinny guide that I was either going with him, or not at all. And he agreed to be my driver and guide. Poor guy! It was very clear that he is was not used to drive around a western guy twice his own weight!  But I think he was ok. After all he just wanted to earn some money. 

Once we left the harbor area I also took it much easier and allowed far more time than we initially discussed. I wanted to see as much as possible of Dala Township.  What initially is almost developed villages with houses made of cement or wood quickly turns into wooden shacks without electricity or water.  There are huge settlements of orphans. Children who lost their parents in the devastating cyclone Nargis which flattened entire villages on it's path here.These people were poor and had nothing to begin with but were left with even less after the storm passed through. Walking through the villages and the graveyards close by leaves you very depressed. 


We did a long cycling tour around several villages and since I have a pretty good sense of direction I could actually follow our path after I returned to Yangon on google maps.  We visited a few temples which were repaired after the storm and saw a few markets all filled with local life. We stopped here and there for some food and drinks along the way, to get a break from the heat as well as getting more flavours of local life there. The people are really friendly, smile and wave at you, mostly while uttering a low tone "min-ga-la-ba".  It's been a few interesting and educating hours on the other side of Yangon and upon returning to the big city again, The Strand Hotel and the outrageous tourist prices of Yangon seem almost surrealistic.



corpes of the saint U Pinnya













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