Burma Trip

The trip down the Yangon River to the Bay of Martaban took several hours. Soon it was dark and there was nothing else to see so I went to bed. I made a toilet call beforehand and entered the door on which was, I thought, a sign that read toilet. Inside there was only a big metal tub of very brown river water, a plastic dipper, a lot of rusting pipes, and a hole in the floor. Confused, I used the floor and did a lot of sluicing.

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Coming out I met the purser who pointed out to me that the loo was next door. I think the sign on the door must have said bathroom How embarrassment!

I was asleep when, around eleven, we stopped at a town and much noise and activity followed. Cargo and passengers came and went. I slept again. There was no swell and the boat made little movement. I had expected more especially after we reached the bay.

Around dawn we stopped at another town. The delta region now was on both sides of us. Largely uninhabited, everything was very green, mostly low trees and palms, although now and then I saw rice paddies. When there was a house, it was rustic built of wood and bamboo sometimes with a boat tied to a pole beside it. The river craft we passed were many and varied small wooden skiffs rowed by a man standing on a raised rear platform using a pair of oars crossed over in front of him, long barges low in the water with freight, big motorised canoes with lines of passengers sitting in them, and large riverboats similar to ours.

An hour later we stopped in another town and there was the usual bustle of freight and passengers coming on and getting off the ship. In mid morning we stopped at another town where small boys swam around us. I thought we had arrived. The young girl who had been appointed my guardian came to say goodbye and wish me happy travels as this was her home town. She told me that Pathein was another two or three hours away yet.

It was a long but pleasant trip with a lot to see. I could lie on my bed and watch the passing scene through the open door, or sit on the deck on my plastic stool. Then the boat entered the Pathein River, one of the many mouths of the Irrawaddy that make up the delta and slowly navigated up it to Pathein town. It became hotter as we chugged along at low speed, and heavy clouds moved in threatingly. The Irrawaddy is one of three big rivers that run through Burma. One of the most navigable rivers in Asia, it enters the sea here at the Bay of Bengal.

At three in the afternoon we arrived at Pathein, known as Bassein in the time of the British. The centre of a major rice growing area, it is Myanmar’s fourth biggest city and the most important river port outside Yangon.

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