Right off the coast of Mawlamyine is Ogre Island. It is said to get it’s name from the way the inhabitants eat their meat with sharp teeth. I saw nothing of the sorts. It’s an island littered with small villages, mostly in the tiki style homes that I do love so much. The island used to only be accessible by boat but a few years back they built a bridge to connect the main land of Mawlamyine to this island exploding with culture. Julie and I had signed up for what we thought was a boat tour of the island. What we actually got was a day full of first hand culture of the Mon people, who have lived there for many years. The island is roughly the size of Singapore.
The tour we took was hosted by Mr. Antony, who I believe is actually a celebrity in Mawlamyine. He works out of the Breeze guesthouse and conducts daily tours of Ogre Island. I imagine he has been doing this his entire life. He was well versed in several languages and there wasn’t a question about the culture that he couldn’t answer. His personality made me feel like he was my grandfather teaching me history. He listened to each of our questions and had such intelligible answers. He made us laugh and feel so welcome among the villages.
We had a fairly small but fun group which was nice for this specific tour. It was Julie and I and then 3 others. One girl named Joseline from Mexico City, who I instantly liked. She has a sweet and genuine disposition and she loves to laugh. She also is traveling long term like myself. One young guy from Germany named Valentine who is 18 years old and traveling right out of High School. He was a gem of life. Just so young and so cute. Lastly was a guy I believe from Italy and I forgot his name. We all had a lot of fun chatting and getting to know each other throughout the day.
As we were bumping along in the back of our tuk tuk we passed seriously loud music on the street. I mean deafening loud, dangerous decibels. I’m probably half deaf now from it. Anyways, the tuk tuk stopped and Mr. Antony signaled for us to stay put while he went inside what I assumed had to be a frat party. We sat in silence because you couldn’t hear each other speak and I think we were all just stunned at what was going on. Why does the music have to be so loud? How is that enjoyable for anyone? When Mr. Antony came back he motioned for us to follow him inside. We followed him upstairs past all the guests and there was a spot cleared for us and we sat and were given snacks and drinks as well as a gift of soap. We didn’t stay long but we were welcomed by friendly faces and treated like family. After we left and we could speak and hear again Mr. Antony told us that it was a monk initiation party for a young monk from the village. Those monk parties are off the hook!
We then stopped at a bamboo shop where there was baskets and hats and all kinds of things all made out of bamboo. It’s amazing all the things they do with bamboo. Next stop was a factory where woman were making woven fabric with these amazing wooden machines run by their feet. This was the most fascinating process I have ever seen. They work on these machines all day. I’m assuming for 8 plus hours and it takes days to complete one piece of fabric. There were so many different patterns and colors. I bought two of them, even though I don’t have any room for them in my bag. I guess I’ll have to get rid of something. I’ll have to take them to a tailor to get them fitted and have a tie sewn on them for skirts. It’s what all the woman wear here and I really like the style. I’m trying to be Burmese, ok.
We stopped at a temple and walked around and took pictures. It was set up on a hill and had beautiful views of the surrounding area. Luckily, I had bought that fabric to cover up since I was wearing shorts not knowing we would be going to a temple. We also stopped at 2 different homes of villagers where we were invited to come into their homes. Every home we stopped at had food to offer and share with us and lots of it. I feel like we ate all day because almost everywhere we stopped we were given snacks. At this point I didn’t know how I was going to have room for lunch. It was so fascinating seeing inside these peoples homes and everyone was so welcoming. Making room for us and showering us with snacks.
We also stopped at a rubber factory where we got to see the entire process of making a rubber band from start to finish. Not once in my life had I wondered how a rubber band was made but now I know. Very interesting process that takes days from letting the rubber sit and process, dipping and drying, removing, baking, rinsing and cutting and then finally sorted and packaged. There were probably 5 woman and 3 men working to make this process all happen. We stopped at a home where a lady was making slate tiles and another wood working shop were all kinds of things were being carved out of wood.
Next we were due for a swim. It was a really hot day and I was thinking swim in the ocean maybe a river. Where we ended up was a local swim spot. A man made pool that had the most murky, green, nasty water I have ever seen. No one wanted to get in. I felt bad because the owner had taken time to blow us all up some inner tubes but we refused to go in. I felt like I would for sure catch a disease swimming in there. We told Mr. Antony that the water was too gross and he said he would take us to a different spot off the island after lunch.
For lunch we stopped at a little roadside restaurant and were served noodles with chicken and veggies. I wasn’t even hungry from all the snacking we had been doing but I ate it anyways because it was delicious and I’m a fat kid. We all ordered beers and sat and chatted and got to know each other better. Lots of laughing and story telling. Tales of travel and funny things that have happened along the way. I love travel stories!
As promised after lunch Mr. Antony took us to a water park located back in Mawlamyine. It seemed like a nice place but we knew he would have to pay to allow us to swim and no one was really feeling it. We tried to explain to Mr. Antony. I think he was worried we would think he didn’t deliver on a good tour because we really didn’t want to swim. After some hard convincing that we had a great day and had nothing bad to say about our culture tour with him we left to head back to the guesthouse. We dropped Mr. Antony off first since he lives outside the city. We all gave him money as a tip because we had such a great time.
When we got back to the guesthouse Julie and I went in search for a massage. We ended up in a small little massage parlor with all men. The two young boys who got the pleasure of giving us a massage couldn’t have been over 15 or at least that’s what it looked like. They don’t speak any English and I assume we made them uncomfortable because of our short shorts and exposed skin. Most woman in Myanmar stay pretty covered up. If they were uncomfortable they didn’t let it show and it was one of the best massages I have ever had. The style of massage is different from others in the sense that they use their feet and elbows and they tangle themselves in your limbs to massage the muscles. It was fantastic and cost $5 USD for an hour full body massage. I love this country. Don’t worry I tip big.
To complete our full day we went to a small Indian restaurant that was recommended by Joseline from our tour. It was just a little shop right off the street. The lady dished us up large portions of delicious food. After dinner we walked back to the hostel for a shower and bed! It was a long day for us and we had to be up early the next morning for the boat to Hpa An. I slept so well after that massage!!
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