What a whirlwind of a couple of days. Life has been extraordinary since being in Burma. We came into the Yangon port in the scorching heat and haven’t cooled down since. The first day we arrived in the mid afternoon and unlike any other port city we’ve been to yet, Yangon is extremely industrial. It doesn’t have much to offer as far as later afternoon/evening activities in a close, reachable distance. Since we arrived so late we decided to have a relaxed day on the boat where we sun bathed and ordered smoothies while resting up and preparing for the days to come.
The following morning we had to be awake, packed, and ready to go by 06:30. We were headed to Ngwe Saung Beach where we would spend the next four days. The majority of our first day was spent traveling on a fancy bus. Although it was only 110 miles away from the port, the travel time was about 8.5 hours. Insane I know, but luckily we got an early start and the buses were big, fancy, and comfortable. As most people know, Paige and I are not always the most excited people to travel via car. We love being on a ship and not being forced to be confined to a car for more than a few hours. We also love being limited to air travel for inner country travel for the most part since our time is so short, but that’s beside the point. Once we arrived to our resort we were greeted with a nice glass of champagne and a smiling Burmese face, it was great. We had a welcome dinner planned for us with traditional Burmese food. The constant change in food cuisine has taken some getting used to but it’s really enjoyable having the opportunity to try so many food items all the time. We hung around the resort for the rest of the night since we had the about 60 of our shipmates, the beach, a pool, and wifi. We laid low for the night since we knew we had a busy day starting early.
We had an absolutely wonderful second day. We woke up, had a Burmese breakfast, and headed to an elephant camp. This was an experience that I will never forget. We arrived at the elephant camp in the mid morning and stayed for about two hours. Our group divided into two smaller subgroups since there were only five elephants available to ride. Paige and I put ourselves in the second group so we had time to adventure around the elephant camp while the first group was riding them. We had so much fun exploring the jungle-type terrain and both felt like the children in the movie “Bridge to Terabithia.” I think I would like living in a jungle, at least for a little while. Although I’m not too sure how long I would last. When we heard the elephants getting closer to the beginning of the trek we raced back up where we met the saddled elephants. We climbed the log steps and hopped up to the top of the elephants and began the journey. The elephants were massive and had rougher tougher skin than I had initially thought they would. We were able to ride the elephants through all sorts of terrain in the jungle area. It was so much better than I thought it could be and I absolutely loved it. Around the corner from the elephant camp was a small village. It appeared to be the homes and the families of the elephant facilitators and trainers. We got the opportunity to hang out with the village people and have an eye opening experience of how the Burmese live. The village was simply bamboo, straw, and 2×4 wood standing up on wooden stilts. The craziest thing was that the children playing seemed to be having an absolute blast. This made me realize that what we have and what we consider to be a good versus what seems to be bad is all about a matter of perspective. It seems like such a small event or small excursion that we took but it was a really meaningful one. After the elephants and the village we headed back and had another traditional Burmese meal and had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves. We ended up walking about a mile or so back to the hotel from the restaurant. On the walk home we saw some of the local markets that the Ngwe Saung beach people had. It was very interesting to see that they did not have any grocery stores or any food shopping besides these small markets with fresh produce and all natural foods, it was really great. We hung around the beach for the rest of the day and mainly relaxed.
Since we were on such a beautiful beach a few of us decided to get up around 5:30 and walk the beach. We ended up walking around nine miles to Lovers Island and back and I’m really glad we did, it was absolutely beautiful. We got back to the resort at around 08:45 and had to be ready to head to a local school by 09:00. Of course Paige and I were roommates so that morning was definitely the fastest that we each showered and got ready in. We headed to the local Burmese school via taxis. These taxis were just old trucks where patrons step in the bed of the truck and the bed has a metal tubes in a cage-type infrastructure in order to prevent us from falling out. The roads weren’t paved so we were all bouncing around in the back from the rough gravel roads and I felt like I was back in Mississippi and it was a blast. Once we got to the school we had a couple of hours to hang around and play with the children of the school. They put on performances for us and taught us traditional Burmese dances. Paige and I found two little girls that were the mini-Burmese versions of us. Paige’s girl was bossy, prompt, and thought she was the best dancer ever. My girl was calm, cool, collected, and an awkward dancer. We had so much fun playing with the kids in the simplicity of the dirt floors and bamboo soccer balls. We had lunch with the kids and then headed out to have the afternoon to ourselves. A group of us ended up floating in the clear blue water for nearly three hours and just relaxed and laughed for the rest of the afternoon. We had a farewell dinner at a great venue. The setting looked like a beach wedding and it was absolutely gorgeous. We went for a late night swim since we knew it was our last night on the beach.