Unforgettable moments at Tagaung

Last year’s journey to the North included Tagaung since the planning stage because it is one of the places I have always wanted to visit although Pyone objected to it. Even when Pyone said she does not want to visit Tagaung when we were already in Myitkyina, and wanted to visit the InnDawGyi Phyarr, I stood firm and told her she could return to Yangon by flight if she did not want to visit the MyitKyinns and Tagaung on which I had placed much hope on.

I had planned to experience the MyitKyinns, the 1st to 3rd AyeYarWaddy defiles, by returning from Myitkyina by boat, touching in at Bhamo and Tagaung for short stays. However, the situation was not as I had expected from the prior data I got from friends when I planned the trip. The water level has become low and the ShutPyays no longer come to Myitkyina. One has to go by open boat to Bhamo to see the 1st Ayeyarwaddy defile near HsinBo and one has to stay overnight at someplace, making the trip from Myitkyina to Bhamo a 2 day trip instead of 1. So I gave up the 1st defile and we travelled to Bhamo by bus, hoping to go from Bhamo to Tagaung by Shutpyay to experience the 2nd Ayeyarwaddy defile near Shwegu. However, the ShutPyay only comes twice a week to Bhamo and one had just left. Instead of waiting for the next one, we could go down by boat to Katha, passing through the 2nd defile and then staying overnight there and then take the next morning’s boat to Tagaung. Aung Ko Oo protested that his leave did not cover that much time. So we took the bus to Tagaung with mixed feelings, having lost the opportunity to experience the 2nd defile which I had watched on the MWD tv, which I very  much wanted to visit, especially after watching the movie NayChi PhyarHma Nyway Thaw Kyaunt again, not long ago.

The road to Tagaung was terrible and the hard leaf springs of the small bus instead of the big bus with air bags was also a contributing factor in the sufferings we had, in addition to the loud music, (which was solved by complaining to the conductor / spareman the 2nd time after he turned down the volume after the first complaint but was still unbearable). The bus left Bhamo at 3 pm, and near Shwegu, we were rewarded with a glimpse of the 2nd defile as the road goes along the bank for some time. We were lucky to have seats on the right hand side of the bus; otherwise, we would have missed even that glimpse. After dinner at the stop near the road branch to Shwegu, we arrived at the road branch to Tagaung at 1 a.m.

We got down with all our luggage and after the bus left, we were in the dark on the highway, but there is a security gate nearby and several motorcycles offering to take us to Tagaung. I asked for a Toke-toke and when they knew I was determined and that they could not get any business out of us, they called and waked up the Toke-toke driver, who came to us with his vehicle. We loaded it with our luggage and off we went in the direction in which we came. The engine was not started with a starter or a kick-start, but the driver pushed the Toke-toke for a long time until he thought the speed was sufficient for starting. Then he released the clutch and the engine sputtered and finally after some reluctance, ran regularly. It must have been hard work for him as the slope of the highway was slight. After going for a short distance he took a turn at a crossroads and we went along a smaller road in the dark, miles from anywhere but Tagaung, which is about 2 miles away. About half way to Tagaung, he stopped and got down and checked all the Toke-toke’s wheels. I was worried that if something happened, we would have to stay the night on the Toke-toke and it was quite cold in the open. He informed us that the tyres are low in pressure, but will be able to make it to Tagaung. I was relieved and after we entered Tagaung in the dark, he took us to a motel (the next morning, I saw 2 vehicles, one a Myanmar MeeYaHtar mazda jeep, and the other, a box car with advertisement designs). The place must be the best in Tagaung as motor vehicle travelers stayed there. I wondered what a MaMa car was doing in Tagaung. Is a railway tract being constructed there on the east bank of the Ayeyarwaddy?

When we arrived at the “motel” (motorized travelers can stay there for overnight), it was 1:30 a.m. and the toke-toke operator had to call a long time before someone opened up. It was the “manager”. Having unloaded in the meantime, we went in. There was no electricity and although the manager had a candle, he did not offer us any, and after showing us our rooms, which are on the upper level, he went off, leaving us in the dark. Lukily, we had torches and candles too. Actually it is not luck, but careful preparation from experience in travelling frequently in Myanmar. Take along candles, lighters, hangers, cup, saucer, spoons, fork, knife, bottle opener, etc. It was very cold (seint nay dar bae), like during the winter nights I experienced in Phaunggyi during my “Zeya 60” course, and the Khamti Nansibum Jade mines.

I woke up early in the dark the next / the same (it was already near 2 a.m. by the time we get into bed) morning. When light came, the manager appeared and I arranged to have 2 trishaws for our Tagaung tour. A KaukHnyinPaung vendor came along and we had KaukHnyinPaung and AhKyaws for breakfast.

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