Thank you for your tourism (Chaungtha Beach, Southern Myanmar)


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Asia » Burma
January 10th 2009
Published: January 8th 2009
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(Day 281 on the road)The bus ride from Bagan to Chaungtha beach on the south-west coast of Myanmar was supposed to take 20 hours. Instead, it took 36 hours, including a forced overnight stay in the middle of nowhere (with 28 hours of pure driving time). Especially the night on the first bus was tough (once again) - they literally continuously played Burmese soap operas at the maximum volume possible all night long. Everyone was annoyed and many people covered their ears in a vain attempt to escape the noise, but no one asked the driver to please turn it down or switch it off. It was completely beyond my understanding, as even my good earplugs only gave minor relief. The main theme of these shows is always people (mostly the women) screaming at each other at the top of their lungs. For me, there was absolutely no attraction to any of the episodes, but some of the Burmese on the bus with me seemed to thoroughly enjoy them. I wish I could have shared their enthusiasm.

Other than that the journey was remarkably boring and, well, long. The two most interesting events was when a soldier in a uniform and with a wooden rifle that both looked straight out of World War 1 joined our bus for an hour or so, and when at a different time I managed to spill half my bottle of water across myself when our bus hit a pothole, which was quite nice and refreshing.

The four days I spent at Chaungtha Beach were relaxing and much needed, though I still feel like taking more rest on one of the nice beaches once I am back in Thailand and later in Malaysia. The tourists at the beach were 99% middle class Burmese people, and I especially enjoyed watching them go swim, which they always did fully clothed and which was a very interesting sight. The main beach could get quite crowded, but just 15 minutes north there was a perfectly secluded beach, which we had just for ourselves.

Sitting on the beach, I also thought about the importance Buddhism has here. You can hardly walk a few hundred meters without seeing a stupa or a small temple, and there are over 500.000 active monks in Myanmar. At the latter, locals would often donate a significant portion of their monthly income (say, a quarter). Driving along the roads, I have frequently seen locals holding pots asking for donations to, for instance, built a new temple or stupa. From my (atheist) point of view all this is very hard to understand: The poor people here are donating the little money they have rather than spending it on something that could improve their life, like a rainproof hut, electricity supply for their village, a tarmac road, food etc. I am aware that this is probably a very western approach to things, but foregoing a better, certainly possible life today in the hope of reincarnation in a better next life seems a strange approach to cope with the hardship the people are facing.

However, my whole stay was overshadowed by a horrifying experience on the evening of the third night. We had just finished dinner and were walking back to our hotel, when we came across the scene of a gruesome accident on the road. A motorbike driver had collided head-on (literally) with a guy on the bicycle. The first guy was bleeding heavily but seemed more or less OK, but the second guy lay on the middle of the road and was not moving, and blood and his puke were everywhere. A massive amount of blood from his wound on the head was draining across the road. Sure enough, there was a big crowd, but no one was doing anything. After what seemed like eternity, the police arrived, but no doctor. After another five minutes, they then finally decided to lift the guy up and put him in the sidecar of a rickshaw, his head violently bouncing up and down. They surely had no idea how to handle an unconscious and injured person. I was shocked, but even more so two days later when I learned that the guy had died.

The next morning, Silke left for Yangon as she was flying back earlier than me. If your are interested to read her account of our three weeks of shared travel in Myanmar, have a look at her blog. Two days later, it was my turn to take the bus back to Yangon, where I spent another couple of days before flying back to Bangkok to continue my journey down south.

And what better way to say goodbye to four weeks in beautiful Myanmar with its wonderful people than to repeat what a guy I had asked for directions on Chaungtha Beach said to me: "Thank you for your tourism".

Next stop: Ko Tao (Thailand).



To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon (and most other online book shops).




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7th April 2009

Hello!
Hi, I was doing some planning for my upcoming travels through Asia when I found your blog post in the Myanmar section on this site. Very cool blog, I enjoyed the posts and pictures and it seems like you've been having an amazing trip so far. I noticed that you began your travels on a similar note as mine (meaning good job, good life... just leaving it all behind). Just out of curiosity, how did you make the decision to do this, and how did you feel about this when the time came to leave? You're almost a year along now, so have you been working at all? Obviously for lifestyle and financial reasons this is a big decision that clearly 99.9% of people wouldn't ever dare to do, so I give you much respect for having done what you did! I hope to do as well soon :) Cheers, Farid
7th April 2009

Sorry
Sorry you had such a bad trip. I had great passage on all my routes through Myanmar. Bus or train or taxi. I found it an amazing completely enjoyable traveling in Myanmar
9th January 2010

visit to Chaungtha Beach
Hi we are visiting in Feb. We have booked a night in Yangon but then wish to go to Chaungtha Beach. Can you advise where to buy bus tickets, how much they cost and how often the bus runs. Also can you book hotels in advance and can you give an idea of price and names? Thank you Rob

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