I had arranged a private boat from Sittwe and embarked in blazing sunshine into the vast mouth of the river with wonderful views across rice fields and far away mountains. A couple of hours into the journey it was freezing cold and I sat huddled on the open deck trying to keep myself warm
The river meanders into narrower waters past tiny shacks and small groups of farm workers gathered around blazing open fires, one of the boat hands moved to the bow with a torch for fear of us colliding with fishermen on tiny planks of wood, only visible by the glow from their cigarettes!
Five hours later I arrived shivering at the jetty and took a cyclo on the twenty minute journey to the hotel.
I received a very friendly welcome from the staff and went to my adequate room for a shower. Supper wasn't great but sufficient and as they had no whiskey they obligingly sent a lad downtown for a half bottle of the local brew which was terrific!
The next day I hired a form of tuk tuk and covered most of the local sights including some fascinating ancient temples and monuments, one of them was especially eerie. I then walked around some outlying villages to see what the locals were up to. Extreme poverty everywhere, makeshift huts and crudely fenced gardens with all sorts of animals running free, in and out of the accommodation and if you owned four plastic chair you were well ahead of your neighbour!
On the way to a monastery I saw somw partially disrobed monks playing soccer and on another occasion I joined a game with some young lads whose only english was 'Hi', 'Bye'!
The market downtown is a source of fascination, not much for sale that one would recognise at home except a few poorly faked goods and contraband booze. The stallholders were hilarious, giggling away as I tried to stoop under the awnings. I bought a couple of woven blankets for the return journey.
I loved this place, it's still authentic, smoke everywhere and terrible roads but the atmosphere and warmth of the people made up for any shortcomings.
The hotel has no pretentions, it is well run and the staff are all delightful.
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