As expected, we spent each of our days in the port city of Pathein cooped up in a non-air conditioned hotel ballroom conducting the trainings. During our evenings off, we would venture outside to have dinner by the river, but our exhaustion would set in shortly after. The capital city of the Ayeyarwaddy Delta is known for rice production and the colorful parasols that are a staple in almost every souvenir shop in Myanmar. I was harassing Sabe about visiting a local parasol workshop, which is the touristy thing to do in town, and the group was nice enough to humor me.
After three long days submerged in legal advocacy training, we were all ready for change of scenery. So on the morning of our last day in Pathein we packed our bags, and by the time the training session ended, the driver had the loaded the van and we were ready to leave for Chaung Tha Beach. I asked the driver if he had gotten my bag, and he assured me that he did. Five minutes into our journey, Alan asked about his computer bag, and the driver, clearly exasperated, said, “yes, I got everyone’s bag.” We raised the issue again about an hour later, so Sabe called the hotel and confirmed that our bags were indeed left behind. We decided to pick them up on the way back to Yangon the next day. Luckily, Alan had his clothes—I, however, did not. For the record, being in a country where you are perpetually hot and sweaty, and not having clean clothes for the following day, is not the greatest feeling. Below is a picture of the crew when the jokes about making me a loincloth out of leaves began.
Chaung Tha Beach isn’t exactly the Bahamas, but I was thrilled to see more of the Ayeyarwaddy Delta. The beach was filled with domestic tourists, groups of kids playing soccer, and young children selling shell necklaces or Chinese fireworks. I couldn’t go swimming with the others due to my limited clothing supply, but I was happy to sit on the beach and relax. Early the next morning, when the normally crowded beach was practically abandoned, Sabe and I walked down the beach to a temple.
Later, a few of us rode motorbikes to a local fishing village. The beach was littered with trash, dead fish, and the skeletons of old wooden boats, and the villagers themselves were living in abject poverty. It was a depressing sight to take in, yet it was also strangely beautiful in its own way. The picture below features two young boys who were rifling through the garbage in search of makeshift toys.