I learnt a long time ago, that often the best adventures are those that are unplanned, and on a whirlwind visit to Myanmar recently, this little foodie abroad noted that statement couldn’t have been truer. With a day to myself, I hopped the police escorted tour bus manned by a bubbly guide Mon-Mon, who entertained us as we bounced and bumped the hour and half drive into the city from where we were docked. I was hitting this city with zero expectation, and no real idea of what I’d get up too, so when Mon-Mon suggested I tag along with her for the day, visiting her friends in the small village of Dala across the river from Yangon, I eagerly accepted.
When we arrived at the ferry terminal, we were pulled aside and pointed into the manager’s office to buy our tickets. We are charged the tourist/foreigner fee of 4,400 kyats (or $4 US) for a return ticket, to me that really wasn’t worth the grumblings heard from some in my group, it was a pretty quick and comfortable trip, taking around 20 minutes. The equivalent back home would have cost double and wouldn’t have been nearly as entertaining.
Soon enough we were crossing the mighty Yangon River in a two-story ferry, flat-bed cargo ships drifted by loaded with an assortment of goods, including teak and rice. There were hundreds of commuter’s including livestock and just about everything else you can imagine.
Street hawkers were selling their wares, (much of which was pretty junky), as well as fresh fruits, cloudy bags of liquid that I figured was coconut water, cigarettes and even dried fish. It was exciting to get amongst the locals, I’m pretty sure I was suffering from tourist-rubber-neck-syndrome drinking it all in.
Arriving in Dala, I hopped on my very first trishaw, (a trishaw is a bicycle with a sidecar if you didn’t know). Animals including chickens, stray dogs, goats and even cows roam freely by. We head down a pot hole (now I’m not complaining, but my limo certainly wasn’t designed for this Westerners bum #ouch) laden dirt road, with a flurry of pedestrians and horns honking as we weaved around other rickshaws, and then onto a concrete path into the village itself.
One of the most shocking stops of the day was a farmers market, it was so disgustingly dirty and smelt like decaying meat and old fish #supersnout Skeletal dogs slept next to chicken carcasses covered in flies on filthy bamboo tables and tubs filled with fish paste, locally grown vegetables, fruits, seafood and spices galore balancing awkwardly in amongst it all. It was a total culture shock, but fascinating to see too all in the same breath.
The houses were made of bamboo with tin roofs, not at all what I would call comfortable living, but Mon-Mon said they were in really good condition. There are tiny shopfronts in some people’s homes, the entire space not much larger than my bedroom back home. One room divided in two, and the rear of the house used for sleeping. First stop was an energy drink shop, but the family is at the pagoda. Next stop, a candle making workshop and then a spring roll wrapper factory.
I scramble onto the bamboo platform and step cautiously inside (I felt like a giant who might potentially fall through the floor) where we were greeted with much head nodding and smiling as English wasn’t understood. It was so cool!
I sure welcomed the fresh air as we chugged back across the river to Yangon. My half day in Dala was the perfect way to get a quick snapshot of life in a small village, and without a doubt one of the best things I did during my visit to Myanmar.
I’d love to know, is food a big part of your travels? Where is the most exciting place you have ever visited? And what wonderful unplanned adventures have you experienced?