Singing From Both Ends.

April 7, 2010

Having not lost my phone in Bangkok, and since modern technology is a wondrous and now cheap thing, with the aid of a few geo-stationery satellites I can tell you that this update relates to my time spent en-route to East +16 degrees, 49 minutes, 39.43 by North +94 degrees, 23 minutes, 46.07 – otherwise known as Nwe Saung, Myanmar.

I first visited Nwe Saung with Moe Naing and Min Thu in 2006 on a day trip out of Pathein. That was the first time Moe Naing had seen the sea and she didn’t get more than her ankles wet. Min Thu grew up on the Rakhaine coast; he was in his element.

This time I made my way there from Yangon by boat with Evanna Maria (from Sligo, Ireland – found in Bangkok airport – and, given a captive audience of 450 deck-bound traveling companions, in her element) and Judith (from Germany – we met on board).

The boat left Yangon on its 20 hour journey to Pathein at 5pm. As foreigners paying $7 for the trip we were allotted a double-share of deck space. For the first five hours as the sun settled and we made our way into the delta I had a great time engaging with our – very close – neighbours and sharing with some of them a bottle of Mandalay rum. Evanna’s camera was passed around the deck as 150 people acquainted themselves with her motorcycle journey through Vietnam and then with the camera which a number proceeded to master and exploit, providing her with a fantastic through-the-eyes-of-the-locals, record of our trip.

My food poisoning kicked in about 10pm and within a short time I was ‘singing from the mouth, singing from the bum’ as I now know it to be described locally. I’ll save you the detail dear reader but suffice to say a decrepit Chinese ferry does not have toilets you want to linger in and an open boat deck is no place to spend the night when you feel as bad as can be. A trip enjoyed so much by others (Evanna, with 50 fireman to play with had a fantastic time – who wouldn’t eh girls?) turned into one of the extreme lowlights of my traveling career. (I had a similar problem in China once that lasted a week but I was in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been – Dali, Yunnan – and it at least provided a perfect and welcome excuse not to leave.)


The morning sun brought only a blistering heat and 8 more hours to endure, by now the subject of some curiosity and sympathy – though not from the guy on the deck below who’d been caught by a bit of blown-back bile during the night.

By the time we reached Pathein I could muster the energy to stand but not to walk the 300 metres to the bus station where one of the most knackered buses in all Myanmar awaited us, almost ready to whisk us – if 27 miles in an hour and fifty minutes can be called whisking – to our destination; the warm, silver sand beside the warm, turquoise Bay of Bengal.

On arrival at our chosen place of rest, just 24 hours after leaving Yangon, with the sea-breeze swaying the palm trees and an empty beach in front of us, for me, even such a torrid journey had been worth it, even in the knowledge that the same spot could have been easily-reached in under six hours by bus.

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