At Yangon airport we got a taxi to take us to the ferry jetty where we wanted to take a night boat to Pathein. We had red some icky accounts about the condition of the cabins on board, but were looking forward to the adventure and the view of the Delta. Our plan was to stay a few days in Pathein and then to move on to the beach in Ngwe Saung. We had decided against the supposedly prettier beach in Ngapali because we wanted to do the ferry ride and had heard that Ngwe Saung was an “emerging” beach, less touristy and more frequented by locals.

Our taxi driver was on the road for about five minutes when he asked us what we wanted at the jetty. When he learned we were heading for Pathein, he informed us that the ferry was no longer leaving for that route. Alternatively we should take a bus. Boy, were we disappointed! The taxi driver turned around and took us to the bus station where luckily a bus was getting ready to leave one hour later. We had some lunch and got onto the bus that took us through green rice paddies, over small canals and past villagers working at the river banks. When we arrived in Pathein it was already dark and we had no clue were we were. According to one of our guide books the city center was easily doable on foot, so I was determined to walk to our chosen hotel. We ignored the first few motorbike taxi drivers that tried to persuade us to drive with them as they claimed the centre was too far to walk. We were sure they were trying to rip us off. When the third guy insistently spoke of “downtown” and mentioned seven kilometers, we were persuaded. Again there was no other means of transportation and we both got on the back of two motorcycles and headed into the night, not before having the drivers reassure us that they would drive REALLY slowly…which they did.

Having arrived in Pathein a day earlier than planned, we decided to take it easy and to see if there was any other way to explore the Delta, after not being able to experience it during the ferry ride. We found out that there was a tourist guide in the tea house next to our hotel that provided tours. From the beginning I did not like the guy. Instead of trying to sell us the advantages of his tour and explaining what justified the high price of it, all he did was tell us that the other tour organizations were frauds and no-goods. I asked him three times what made his tour special and what we would experience with him, but he failed to answer satisfyingly. In the end we decided against making the tour and for just taking in the vibes of the colorful Delta town for another day.

We wanted to go see the umbrella workshops Pathein is so famous for. We took a trishaw out to the supposedly best company to witness the entire process. When we got there we were told that there was some special Buddhist fest and that all workers were currently at the pagoda to offer donations and have lunch there. They would not return before another one and a half hours. 🙁  V still managed to take some pictures and I found out that a big purchaser of the parasols is based in Munich and that he charges over 1000 dollars for the largest umbrella while that same umbrella is sold in Pathein for 70 dollars. I think I am going into the parasol importing business….

trishaw pathein myanmar

trishaw pathein myanmar

trishaw pathein myanmar

Rikscha Pathein3

Pathein umbrellas

The next day we got to the bus station a bit early to take the bus to the beach in Ngwe Saung. The bus stop looked like a dump. There was trash lying around everywhere and I wasn’t that surprised when a big, black pig came running out of nowhere suddenly. We watched with amusement while the staff of the bus company loaded our beat-up bus. Whenever we thought they had gotten all the sacks of rice and wheat and baskets of cabbage into the bus, another loaded motorbike or trishaw would arrive with even more goods to get into the bus. When the bus at last left the station, we were jam packed with food and people. Every inch of the bus had been filled with men and women sitting on tiny chairs in the aisle or standing at the front in the open door. In Africa of course the bus would be considered only half full, but that’s another story.

Pathein bus station

Pathein bus station

Pathein bus station

Pathein bus station

Pathein bus station

Women with betle nut

Slowly, slowly the heavy bus moved forward along dirt roads and rocky paths, steered by our barefooted bus driver. Despite several stops on the way to load more things, we arrived in Ngwe Saung in only a bit over two hours. We had done quite some intensive research fighting with super slow internet looking for a nice beach accommodation. We had agreed to splurge a bit, as we were sticking pretty well to our budget and decided against going backpacker style. Unfortunately most midrange hotels we had found were either in close ties with the government, which we avoid whenever possible or very big condo-like complexes. We chose a place by the promising name of “Hotel Lux”. The pictures on their website looked nice enough and despite it not really being our kind of accommodation, we thought we would go for it. Well, let’s just say it sparkles and shines at night. And interestingly the uber-large HOTEL LUX sign on the front lawn that really put us off, seems to be exactly what draws the Asian guests. We witnessed them spend hours photographing the members of their travelling party in every possible combination from each and every angle in front of the sign. To us, considering what we are paying per night the hotel is completely overpriced!

Hotel Lux Ngwe Saung

Hotel Lux Ngwe Saung

But we have sea view, we got the hotel manager to stop the noisy construction work, our room is comfortable enough, even though it is lacking charm and we are enjoying our time at the beach. I guess things just don’t always turn out as planned.

Hotel Lux Ngwe Saung

Ngwe Saung

Ngwe Saung beach3

Ngwe Saung beach4

Ngwe Saung

Ngwe Saung

To compensate for the awful breakfast and the missing ambiance at our accomodation, we decided to pay the hotel next door a visit one day for lunch. We will admit it is run by someone close to the government and even if it doesn‘t look like it, we did have a bit of a bad conscience spending our dollars here on a salad served with DELICIOUS bread.

Treasure Island Ngwe Saung

Treasure Island Ngwe Saung Beach3

On the next day in the village, we noticed a sign above a building:

Ngwe Saung sign Give us our land back

This started us thinking and we did some research. Seems the government made the villagers in Ngwe Saung leave their homes, so that hotels could be built for visitors of the Myanmar Sea Games that were held end of 2013. Knowing this, the whole beach experience left us with conflicting feelings. It had been nice to relax here, but Myanmar is still far from being a democracy!

Road to Sea Games Myanmar

 

2 Comments

 

  1. 19/02/2014  17:22 by Antonella Reply

    Story top. Fotos top. As usual. Thanks.

  2. 02/04/2014  08:00 by Heather Reply

    very cool! I feel like I was there with the vivid words and pictures!

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