We hopped across the border last week to visit Burma yet again. We had to cross for a new visa stamp, and it seemed the perfect opportunity to visit a few friends.
Our “little sister” Pwei Pwei has been in school in Burma for the past year, and we’ve been promising to visit her. This week, she took her final exams, and we finally made it across to say hi!
Pwei Pwei is one of Thida’s daughters and has always been dear to us, and then she nearly broke our hearts last year: she finished Grade 10, took her final exams, and passed five subjects, but failed one–English. She failed English, with a “big sister” and “big brother” who speak it fluently. Major fail on our parts.
The effects of this for her: she spent the last year re-taking grade 10, and last week, re-taking the exam. For us, we started an English program using Rosetta Stone & conversational English, focusing on students that will be taking this exam in coming years; hoping we don’t let them down.
Either way, we traveled last week with Thida to visit!
Things we love about Burma:
We speak the language!
We can read the signs!
It’s quite easy to get around on our own and impress nearly every one we come into contact with. That’s always nice.
It’s also beautiful–the mountains, the colors, and the people.
We were able to spend two different days in Du Win Zeit, the village that many of our neighbors are from. We met family members, friends of friends; and generally went on Thida’s tour, introducing us–showing us off? broadcasting our tricks?–to the entire village.
Du Win Zeit is famous for it’s large, freshwater shrimp. According to Thida, there are 10,000 adults & children in the village, and 8,000 of them fish every day for shrimp!
Nyein Nyein is also from Du Win Zeit, so she came to visit her family & join the parade after baking bread on Friday. So this little one already knows us pretty well, and thankfully likes us in both countries.
Nyein Nyein’s family used to live in Mae Sot, so we’ve known this teenager since she was seven!
We’re thankful this girl will be back in our neighborhood next week, at least until she hears the results from her exams and makes some decisions about university.
We could visit friends in their villages, but as foreigners on a tourist visa, we had to stay in a registered hotel. The nearest one to their village is in Thaton.
It’s a beautiful town and our second visit there. Last time we visited our hotel had bicycles for rent, which they no longer offered. This left us walking for the first two days, but we still managed to cover 12 kilometers on foot, asking at each bicycle shop if they’d rent to us. It was in that twelfth kilometer that we found a nice shop to rent us bikes–mine in beautiful mint with “Biscuit” written on it, and Stephen’s with a compact mirror built into his bell. Classy.
We enjoyed bicycling around the town the following few days. As the only foreigners there at the time, and able to speak Burmese, we had some very interesting conversations.
One stranger: “I’ve seen you for three days! You should move here.”
Or from Thida, when she arrived to see us: “My friend called me! He said he saw my friends in town walking everywhere, in the sun! Did you not find bicycles?”
We did find my new favorite spot in town: the public library!
I loved the children’s room, complete with drawings and artwork, books in English & Burmese. It was fun to meet the librarian and chat a bit with her and her kids. Again, speaking Burmese in a small town (with white skin and a beautiful nose) makes you an instant hit.
After Thaton, we visited the larger city of Hpa’an. It’s considerably bigger, with more tourists and more English.
We biked here as well, but by then had biked about sixty kilometers and decided to switch to a motorbike for our last day to reach a few further spots.
This market seller was another favorite: he had three colors of “candy,” melted down to a moldable paste. He would make candy suckers for kids to buy, each in different shapes and styles: a monkey fishing, a chicken that actually whistles, a rose, a helicopter. He had incredible skill, even just sitting on the side of the road with a small toolbox.
As a bigger city, Hpa’an has some great offerings: a bookstore, a movie & CD shop, a large store. It was fun for us to get a few new books in Burmese, new music to share with the neighbors, flash cards for Toddler Schoolhouse, and movies with Burmese subtitles for community movie nights!
Our hotel in Hpa’an was…well, mostly just weird. But, the bathroom had quite a few ants of the biting variety, and the towels were covered in them on the first day. So the second day, I wrote a note to ask if they could leave the towels on the bed so that the ants wouldn’t get to them.
I think they liked the game of writing notes back and forth 😂
Overall, while Thaton holds a special place in our hearts, Hpa’an was fun to see again and tour around. It’s another beautiful place to visit and adventure!