There is a saying that our parents play a great role in our life being either role models or the nightmares. My experience is mixed and I admire them as well as embarrassed by them.
I did not have a proper male role model when I was young.My dad loves me and has been a good father to me. But he was not a good husband for many years. He treated my mom quite badly sometimes. And most of the guys around me have affairs behind the back of their wives. Frankly, I dreaded becoming one of those women who married to a guy who is not so kind to them.
But my love life has been not really bad even if it is not so fantastic. I always meet guys who are respectful of me and care about my feelings. None of the guys I dated have either verbally or physically abused me. And I am sure I was loved and I wonder what they see in me. I am not pretty, I talk things so tactlessly and never knows how to show dependency on any guy. One of my exs said ” come on, please be my baby and stop being too independent”. I also avoid taking advantage on my gender role. I usually insist to share the bills when I date. I learnt some good things especially when I date older guys. They are critical and always point out my mistakes. I like it.
But I never think I love them unconditionally. I return their love because they are affectionate or they just wanted to play with my emotions. I am not sure which is which now. One time, I told a guy that I love him. Its because he cried when he told me how he was abused by his stepfather as a child. He melted my heart and I wanted to hug him. Then he flew thousand miles to meet me and he was quite arrogant and full of himself. I hated the date with him although it was planned grand . The only thing I liked about dating him was when he finally mellow down and held my hands gently. He kissed me quite affectionately. But then he said we were just infaturated and it was not love. I accepted what he said. I moved on. After a few months, he sent me a message that ” Hnin, I think I love you” I broke into tears as I was quite mad with him. Why they have to come back only after you moved on? Now, I looked back. I do not think its love. I enjoyed some attention and thats it.
I also dated a younger guy who was almost 12 years younger. He is cute, tall and charming. Its just that he is also a drama king. Both of us are beach lovers and we strolled along the beach under the moonlight holding hands. We sat hours on the sand, looking at the tides. He looked after me when I was sick and cooked for me when I had exams. We painted each other nails and watched movies till late night. Then we had fights after fights. Another woman is involved with him and I am confused about our no string attached setting. Finally I made him go and never regret for my decision. He did not marry that woman either. But he finally married his highschool friend. I do not love him. I fell for him mainly because I was so lonely.
I used to fall for naughty guys. But since 2014, I realize I like nice guys. Guys who are polite, caring and do not fuck around. So I talked to an American guy for three years and we became close friends. But we know its not possible as the distance is an issue. We decided we would be best friends forever.
Then I met him, my one and only soul mate. I never thought that kind of guy exist before. He is not only cute but also kind, compassionate and gentle. I love him so much that I can give up part of my life span for him. I am not joking. The only thing is he does not have mutual feeling although he cares about me. Sometimes, I love him as a son or a brother and also as a friend. Mostly, I want the best for him. I want him to be happy and want to protect him from all atrocities of life. Even seeing him makes me feel like a helpless idiot who can’t stop smiling. I treasure our time together and if I can wish one wish, I wish to be with him for the rest of my life.
But he has a girlfriend. He sincerely told me the truth as if warning me to move on. I want to tell his girlfriend that she is the luckiest girl ever. I hope she appreciates him. Right now, I started crying all over again. Love hurts. I will move on.
My friends know I took up medicine solely because of my dad and I did not look forward to become one when I was a Med student. There were times my professors told me I am exceptionally bright especially when they got to know me in person and wondered why I was passing the years of my study indifferent, unmotivated. What they did not know about me was I studied previous years syllabus once I passed the exam . For example, in third year, I was studying back second year syllabus. It was weird and odd for a lot of people , but when I studied with the motive of gaining knowledge, I did it better than when I was under pressure of exam. And I was really motivated to learn on my own rather than listening to lectures.
I fussed continuously when I was about to enter into house man training .Even doing simple injection or putting a small vasofix inside the vein made me feel nervous. My nervousness stemmed from the fact that I could have done unavoidable pain especially with repeated procedures due to my lack of skill. My first patient whom I was about to give injection was an 8 year old boy who got a hand fracture after he fell from the tree. It was in orthopaedic ward and there was a crowd of playful children gathered at one corner and all their injuries were because of their playfulness or accidents during fights. The boy had big brown eyes and he was not afraid at all. The amazing thing was he could feel my nervousness, he looked at me calmly and said “ it’s ok, don’t be afraid to give injection to me. I know you can do it. I am not afraid at all”. I almost wept with joy when my first attempt of injection was successful. Since then I have done many procedures, sometimes I failed, most of the times, I was successful. I also needed to call for help especially when my attempts to do internal jugular venous catheter were not successful. I used to work in Nephrology and our patients had thickened veins filled with old blood clots , so putting the long catheter inside these veins are extremely difficult. One time, we had to do the procedure for a patient almost two hours even with the aids of ultrasound. The pain of the patient resonated to us and while the patient physically bleeds, we were all feeling extremely sorry for the patient. While I was extremely moved by the courage of my patient, I also realized I might not want to fight as much as they fight for their longevity.
When we worked for the same department for quite some time, we also became attached to the patient inevitably more than we should. At one time, my patient insisted me to go to her house and eat her Mee goreng ( fried noodle ) and I did . It is not only their illness we have to deal with , it is their personality, their background, and how much they look forward to live even their life is full of pain and suffering. One time, haemodialysis unit paged me as one of our young patients collapsed. He was only 24 and had end stage renal failure in his early 20s because of severe hypertension. He was advised not to drink a lot as he did not have any urine output. But he worked in a café .During hot season, it was extremely irresistible not to drink especially you are working and seeing ample of cold juicy drinks. So he thought it would be ok to drink more as he was about to go for dialysis. As he had excess of fluid,his lungs were full of fluid and his oxygen plummeted. We did CPR, intubation and all sorts of emergency medications to revive him. But it was not successful. The whole dialysis unit wept as if they had lost a family member. On duty staff called out staff at home and all of them rushed to the dialysis unit to say good bye to their friend. I was moved by dedication of my staff but also feel sorry for them . They have witnessed the tragic death of their friend and they had to carry on even with the pain.
At times, we had to juggle four or five severely ill patients alone and the patients are scattered all over hospital. We walked up and down the stairs when we didn’t have enough patience or too urgent to wait for the lift or when it was out of function. My legs were as stiff as longs whenever I came back home after 36 hour disastrous oncall. One time, my friend called me to come and help. He was literally standing between two patients who collapsed at the same time. It was impossible for a person to focus on one patient when he has so many tasks to do. Anyway, we never gave up on any of the patients. We still intubate almost 90 year old lady and kept her in ICU for one month. We did 3 hour CPR for 16 year old patient. We missed our meals, shower time, sleep and we wonder in the ward like zombies with uncombed hair and empty stomach. During our 36 hour oncall, it was a luxury if we can shower or eat three meals properly.
During outbreaks, our duty became doubled as we need to assign extra doctor to take care of outbreak everyday. We became deprived of sleep and get ill ourselves. There are a lot of things to do apart from taking care of patients such as filling in the forms to inform to public health sector, calling out social welfare, writing case report for head of department and epidemiologist etc. Then if we are not lucky enough, we also need to explain authority who come to hospital and do sudden unnoticed ward round. During outbreak, our leaves can be frozen , that means we have to give up our much needed , long awaited holiday . I remember my colleague and his family had to drive 12 hours back to home as he was called back to medical director to come back. My 4 days leave to Bali was denied although I had already bought ticket for my holiday as my hospital director thought I should not do such leisure activity while hospital had shortage of doctors.
How about our health? We are also humans made of skin, bones, heart and kidneys as exactly as you. I was contracted with a viral encephalitis, my brain swelled and my body was filled with fluid , most probably due to infection I got out of my patient. I almost died. My friends who worked for emergency departments could not drink enough water or did not even have enough time to pee, ( the advice they frequently give to their patients which they themselves cannot comply ) as they are too busy and impossible to leave critical patients at stake. Most of my friends have kidney stone, due to holding the bladder for a long time. One time, my close friend had severe pain because of stones blocking his urinary tract and he developed infection in the urine. I had to run and revived him as his blood pressure dropped suddenly. His family was away and when we are sick, we try to look after each other.
We have been abused by family members and patients unfortunately quite often too. One time, I was shouted by a family member as I could not sign the discharge form in time as I was reviving the dying patient. She threatened me that she would report me to newspaper journalist, but she ofcourse could not do such thing. I was also scolded by frustrated family members when we cannot comply with their demands . Most people do not understand we need certain times and tests to confirm the diagnosis and we cannot simply conclude every illness straight away. Even as the head of department for Medical unit, I was still abused by rude people although it was very rare. We have been complained because either we give too many medications or too little medications. We have been complained because we do not smile and we do not talk sweet. We have been complained because we see the patients either too long or too short. We have been complained because either we do too much or too little. At times, I was complained by family members because I tried to keep the patient for longer stay and the family wanted to bring the patient back home . After several unsuccessful persuasions, I had to let go as they want to be out of hospital as soon as possible. I was not happy when I saw the same patient coming back in very critical condition. The patient’s look explained everything and I felt like he was telling me “ I should have listened to you”. We don’t have heart to blame the patients because they are the ones who have to deal with consequences of their decision. Yes, they come back at one am, when we need sleep badly, but we still need to wake up and see the patients.
We are also at the stake of physical abuse from patients. One time, my paramedic was hit by a father as he tried to intubate the severely ill baby. My nurse was kicked by a guy as she asked the questionnaire regarding HIV. But it is not more than the pain of not being able to save the patients. We are also heartbroken when the public to whom we are devoted to are not trusted in our standard of care.
The thing is we don’t have enough support when we are down and depressed. We are too busy even to notice when our colleague has depression as we do not have enough time. I needed to take a break as I was forced by head of department to do so. I lost my patient and I went into severe depression. I was so broken inside that I doubted I would heal again. Many times, I had to get out to balcony to see the sea outside the hospital so that I could breathe and wipe my tears. At times, I was bargaining God to give me shorter life span if He could save my patients. Sometimes, my prayers were answered and sometimes, they were not.
But our lives were not always filled with misery and pain. There are always moments of joys. For example, I was treating a patient with aggressive lymphoma. She was getting lots of complication due to chemo. WE had to refer her to a tertiary centre and after six months, I saw my beautiful young patient , back in clinic, well and wearing a bright smile. I treated a young patient who came with cardiac arrest, septic shock, acute renal failure due to leptospirosis and I had to do CPR, cardioversion, intubation, central venous catheter insertion with the assistance of my juniors . At that time, I was not sure whether I could save him or not. Moreover, our ICU was already full and he could not afford private ICU . So he was monitored in a general unit under suboptimal facility. I thought he might not make it. After 10 days, I walked towards the same ward and he was not there anymore. My junior told me he not only survived, but also he walked out of hospital well after seven days. That day, the sun looked brighter and I drove back home almost euphoric.
I also saved lots of patients who were critically ill, ofcourse with God’s will and guidance. There are lots of counseling about diabetes and my patients have taught me they can do things miraculously even with their illness. I have been hugged, kissed, thanked uncountable times and these moments are as precious as the time, when I realize how much they became well after proper treatment.
There are times, I am also doubtful about myself when my patients told me I can make them feel better just by touching them. Some claims they feel loved when I touch them and I am compelled to do it so that they can get the placebo effect. I was also complimented by an old man who was a double amputee that he thought I am the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. I tried to believe him even when I knew he had diabetic retinopathy and was almost blind. Every time, he saw me, he would say “ hey beautiful “ with the sparkling smiles. When one of my patients became too ill because of uraemia, he could not remember most of the things. But when my junior said I was coming, he called out my name and sang the song that I am a very good doctor. In my patients’ eyes, I am beautiful or too modest, I am fierce or kind, I am annoying or bossy, I am patient or snappy depending on circumstances. But they do know I care about them. I have also sat beside a young dying patient because he was so scared of facing death alone. I held his hands. He died peacefully holding my hands.
This journey taught me a lot of things, my vulnerability, my inability to numb the pain, my heightened emotions as I have so much love about people. I am also broken inside. But I cannot leave because the world needs good doctors. One time, I told my colleague I was quitting Medicine. He said “ Oh, Hnin, you are disfavoring community because you have many experiences which you can apply for the patients” And when my juniors said they became a better person because of me or they took up Medicine because I inspired them, it touched me tremendously because I always see my juniors as better doctors than me. They are more determined, more ambitious and more goal orientated.
At times, one of my junior told me off that I should think about my welfare more than being a good doctor. She said “ I don’t think you want to get rich”. But she is not right. At this age, of course I want to get some money at least so that I can travel.
When someone asked me “ what is my goal?”. I am extremely mad because I feel like I don’t need one. My goal is happiness. I am not interested to get paper nor recognition. But I want to do what I love . Although I am in denial, I feel that I am already doing what I am passionate about, being a doctor ofcourse.
I am recalling some of my memories of travelling in Jungles. Usually, I regard myself as a xylophile ( someone who loves trees ) and always try to find spots with lots of trees.
I went to a jungle with lots of stories in 2012. The forest is called “ Taman Nagara” which is the biggest national forest of Malaysia. It is estimated to be older than 130 million years and covers 4343 square km. It is believed that there are still endangered species of animals such as Malayan tiger and rare species of birds.
I have to admit that I didn’t go many places there as it was a day trip and I didn’t have enough time to explore the area. I was attending a wedding of my colleagues in a town, Jerantut which is 2 hours drive from the rain forest. So me and my travel partner decided to visit the forest in a short time without proper plan.We drove from Jerantut to Taman Negara and the scenery was very nice along the way.
Then we arrived at the jetty and met our tour guide Mr lee.
Mr Lee led us to trek, and showed the rain forest. The water was quite shallow that time and lots of birds fluttering around the flowers.
Then we went for the canopy walk. According to the record, it was the longest canopy walk in the world although it was built recently in 1992.
The guide led us for hiking ( I didn’t go for hiking and waited for them at the base of mountain , resting on the bench, luckily I found interesting people , one is a geologist and two are French tourists, they entertained me while my friend was hiking the mountain
Then, wee were on the boat again and visited a village belongs to Orang Asli ( aboriginal people ).The villagers are short, dark and have curly hair. They look more like short people from Africa, totally different from Orang Asli I found in other places of Malaysia. However, Orang= man, Asli= Origin, so they don’t need to be the same people as different people arrive Malaysia in different places of the country in different time. Our guide Mr Lee said he believes the people are originated from Papua New Guinea.
They looked disturbed when we arrived and children were afraid of us. Many of them ran towards their mothers as soon as they found strangers. One kid was so adorable and I asked permission from mom to carry him, but he struggled out of me and I had to return him to his mom. All of them had Tinea infection ( fungal infection ) and their living condition is not very hygiene.
They live in the huts and raise live stock to eat.
Most of them were on bare foot as they cant’ afford foot wares. They know how to swim, fish and hunt very well. The guide showed us how to make fire out of two stones and how to shoot arrows.
But the more interesting part is about the people.
Orang Asli people in Taman Negara still holding their belief strong. They never bury the dead bodies and instead carry them to the deep part of the forest. The spiritual leader called Bomoh arranged the journey and he only allows less than two people to follow him so that they can carry the dead body. When they arrive the secret spot, they hang the dead body on the trees. The place is kept as a secret and only Bomoh , chosen spiritual leader knows how to go there. Actually, like other Orang Asli, they are very attached to the forest and willing to remain as spirits inside forest after their death. After Bomoh has done his ritual, he orders his followers to cross the river for seven times so that spirits will not follow them on the way back to village. Their belief is once you reach the area of spirits, they can follow you on your way back.
Once they arrive back the village, they observe the nature and behavior of the animals . If the animals seem disturbed or get diseases within seven days of arrival, all villagers pack and leave the village, seeking another spot to settle.
Another ritual which makes me amazed is their marriage. Once man and woman wants to get married, the villagers will lock two of them inside the building ( a house / a hut/ any kind of enclosure ) and lock them from outside for 24 hours. And people are not supposed to disturb the couple. If no one demands to get out before 24 hours ( I have no idea how to do that, they must knock the door or shout from inside ), their courtship means successful. Then after completion of 24 hours, the door will be unlocked and the whole village celebrate the marriage by having a feast. By the way, as I worked in the town which is two hours away from that village, I know they get married very young. One time, my patient who was in labour was only 12 years old. The marriage was arranged by her parents and her husband looked like he was 40 plus. The girl was crying in pain and we couldn’t even ask her the name of her husband because she simply didn’t know and not bother to know as well. She just asked us to call her mom. Usually, most Orang Asli girls marry young and have a lot of children up to 12- 16 children. They rarely use contraception and a man can get married easily when the wife dies. The men prefer to marry young girls. Nowadays, the government gives priority towards Orang Asli regarding education and health care. All of them can get free health care and education although some of them are not willing to go to towns. I have a friend who is an Orang Asli girl and she is a doctor. I hope there will be more educated young people in their population in the future.
Another interesting thing is their belief about spirits. They don’t have religion and they usually worship on spirits. As they live in jungle and live on farming and hunting, the favor of spirit is very important to them. For example, you must pray to spirit of river if you want to have fish, and have to be careful not to piss the spirits of land if you want to harvest. The children have to be careful not to venture at night into jungles as the spirits can make them sick etc. Some Organ Asli do sculpture of spirits out of wood and keep at their house. One time, I went to museum to observe these sculptures. The museum was deserted and to save electricity, the room was poorly lit. I looked at the faces of these spirits and it made me feel scared. I was wondering they might see the spirits , otherwise how can they make sculptures out of imagination.
I don’t know whether spirits really exist, but the guides who are educated are also very careful about jungle spirits. My guide told me some tour guides lost their way in Taman Negara although they were not far from the village. They believe it is because the spirits hide the way. And a lot of tourists have tragic events in Taman Negara such as drowning. Let me tell you my experience. We took a package tour organized by a well experienced tourist guide. We were on the boat and observed lots of beautiful birds from the boat.
The tour guide allowed us to swim in the river. I was not a good swimmer, in fact I know very little how to swim. So I decided just to waddle in the shallow water. As I wanted to see the trees, I walked further and further away from the crowed. Although I was walking in the shallow water, suddenly I plunged into a deeper part of water. It really made me scared especially the soil of river bed was not sand and very sticky mud. I tried to call out my friend to help me, I felt like I was drowning. She thought I was joking with her as the river looked shallow to her. But I swear that that time, my legs couldn’t reach the floor of river bed anymore and I was struggling to float. And the current, it was pretty strange that I felt that the current was pushing me further only at that particular spot. I was drifting away from the crowd. My friend herself doesn’t know how to swim , but she is much taller than me. She waddled and walked towards me and finally her hand griped mine. Then she told me “ how come you look so afraid? The water is very shallow.” I can say that that is the most weird thing I have encountered in my life. After she reached me, I felt the water was not deep anymore. It was at the level of my breasts. Suddenly, I could feel that my legs could stand on the ground. It was extremely creepy.
The interesting part is after I came back from Taman Negara, I had a chat with a colleague about the place, just discussing about jungles in general. She was smiling uneasily and said “ oh, Hnin, my parents would never allow me to go there”. I only thought overprotective parents usually don’t allow daughters to travel far. But she continued that “ do you know that my brother who was a swimming champion died in Taman Negara out of drowning. He was 19 that time. That’s the reason my parents didn’t feel good about the place”
Back to our story, after I had nearly drowning experience, I didn’t feel like staying there at night anymore. I nagged my friend to go back. But she was very keen to stay there and finally I gave in. She booked a night safari tour for us and we were about to observe nocturnal animals . Around 8 pm, the tour guide came and fetched us to go to the palm plantation area. It was not the deep jungle. But we were at the back of the van without roof. The driver told me to hold a bottle and I thought it was like a water bottle. He told me “ this is the holy water and keep it with you. We usually carry it when we have night tour “. So, I gripped the water bottle tightly with me. We found wild pigs, pythons, fogs and lots of birds already resting on the trees.
We spent the night at a cheap motel and I couldn’t sleep well because I had a very unsettled feeling. The next morning, we drove almost 4 hours back to our town, Kuantan.
The good thing is we met a group of tourists who became our friends .
But the thing I want to tell you is my feelings after the trip. Once I arrived back home, I took out my camera and tried to download the photos into my laptop . The photos were both day time and night time taken. But when I looked into night time photos, I felt very uneasy feeling as if some images were inside my photo. In one photo, I found a woman sitting on the tree. ( I just wish it’s not real and I just wish it’s all my creepy ideas). Finally I shut down my computer and deleted a lot of photos. For weeks, I felt like there was someone with me, especially when I stood in front of mirror. It was very bad until I was afraid to stand in front of mirror. I called my friends and they shared me some prayers. Finally with the help of prayers, I no longer feel the woman was around me anymore.
Well, if someone ask me “ do you wana visit Taman Negara again?”. My answer is “ No…..”
Yesterday, I read a post named “ Silly things I made during my travel “ by a blogger whom I follow.
Then , I was thinking about the silly things I made during my wanderlust years. There are countless number of events including
Riding a motor bike, unskillfully and had a fall paired with a fracture of my arm in Thailand,
Going to Komodo national park when I was having period ( Do you know komodo dragons can smell the blood from a few kilometers away and can bite you straight away as they are forever hungry carnivores. )
Swimming in river of jungle ( Taman Negara ) in Malaysia ( without knowing how to swim ) and almost drowned.
Before you get irritated with my silliness, or should I call it more like stupidity, I would like to write about Amazing Bagan.
Bagan is situated in central part of Burma, standing on the Eastern part of Ayeyarwady River. Bagan Era existed from 107 until 13th century and reined by 55 kings, there are lots of stories behind. For example, there was the time, people left pretty ladies for the human sacrifice at the area of big bird who only wishes to eat beautiful girls. It makes more sense to think that giant bird cannot be defeated by villages and instead of letting it come to village again and again , runing everything randomly, the villagers decided to choose girls to feed the bird. I was making joke with my best friend that I would not be eaten even if I was born in Bagan that time. Haha. According to the legend, the bird ate 4300 girls until it was killed by a hero. There is a display of the statue of bird as well as the tunnel area where girls used to hide from the bird.
Some pagodas were built by a dedicated hero whose spirit still linger around the pagoda. For example, near Dama Yazaka pagoda, the tourists was taking photos and later he could see the image of a man wearing an ancient attire in his photos. Creepy! Isn’t it?
Some pagodas were built to compensate for the sins of the kings or to show the remorse. For example, King A Laun Si Thu made the mistake of vowing “ I am the most powerful King ever in Bagan” although there are 44 kings previously. He became blind because of his inappropriate statement, punished by the spirits of the previous Kings. To counteract his mistake, he made the statues of 44 Kings in gold and worshipped in the pagoda called “ Kadot Palin “.
Another example is Dhammangyan Gyi pagoda which was built by crule King “ Narya Thu” ruled AD 1163-1165. He killed his father and brother as he wanted to get the power. After the cruel killings, his guilt haunted him and had continuous nightmares. He asked National Counsellor, a monk for the advice to get rid of nightmares. The monk asked him to build the pagoda. To outdo his predecessor, he recruited the best architects from the country and made a statement that “ all the bricks should be strong and should align to adjacent bricks without any gap in between. If a pin can be inserted between two adjacent bricks, the hand of the bricklayer responsible will be chopped off”. The pagoda could withstand the earthquakes even though there is some dark stories behind. ( Bear in mind that, whatever the Kings did, was not reflection of real Buddhism and Buddhism would never allow anyone to kill for any kind of compensation. The building of pagoda cannot compensate for the sins too. It was just a cultural belief of that time )
Some pagodas have happy stories as they were built by good Kings who ruled the country with rule of Laws and justice.
I think I am getting lost in the stories of pagoda which can be very long. Really, Bagan has many stories, many types of buildings built in different Eras. When Myanmar Government ordered the residents to move out of area of ancient buildings, the place became deserted at night. It has been a good decision ever as people can destroy our archaeological value.
When I visited Bagan in 2014, me and my friend decided to cycle in the ancient city as it will give us access to a small lanes and hidden areas. As it was in February, it was not so hot . However, Bagan is always a bit more hotter than other parts of Burma. We hired battery bike and cycled them to various temples. We cycled across the river banks, near pagodas and remnants of unknown buildings, etc. We felt like we were back in the past, exactly 2500 years ago, lost in all old buildings.
But we didn’t notice the battery bike need to be charged. So in the end, the battery ran out and we were stranded in Middle of Nowhere in Bagan. It was quite far from the town and very deserted. As it was getting dark, I recalled stories my friends told me. There are still lots of spirts around Bagan and they decided to come out at night to have a stroll around pagodas. Some are pretty ladies wearing ancient Attire and they like to hire the horse wheel cart. The drivers of these horse wheel cart are used to the spirits and usually allow them to get on the carriage. Upon getting off, the ladies would offer them gold coins in return of gratitude. Some drivers were freaked out and ran away as soon as they see that sort of girls on the road.
Back to our story, while we were alone on the highway at twilight, I was more concerned about spirits and ghosts than the robbery. As usual, I am full of imagination and I would not know how to react if the spirits came out and talked to us . So we tried to get a lift from passing vehicles. Unfortunately, the road was rarely used by travelers and for a long time, we couldn’t see anyone. Then some private cars passed by us without offering us any lift. Finally, a motor bike stopped for us and offered one of us a lift to go back to town. It means one of us would be left behind with two bikes without battery. None of us wanted to be left alone. So we declined the offer. Then the biker said “ it is getting dark. I am worried for your safety. I will wait until we get another bike. However, who will take care of the bikes? If the bikes are unattended , someone will steal them. You should call to owner”.
So we desperately tried to contact the owner of the bikes. We were worried we would miss the bus as it was only one hour away from the departure time. We were supposed to go back to Yangon on the same day. Finally, the owners of bikes came to rescue us. They took back the bikes so that we could safely go to the bus station with the gentle men who gave us the lift.
Next time, I would charge the bike every 4 hours. Don’t worry.
Note: These photos were taken in 2014 before the earthquake of 2016. So some buildings were damaged due to earthquake and you might not find the original pagodas anymore.
In my previous blog, I have mentioned about the location, how to go and where to stay in Gaw Yan Gyi island.
Now I am going to write about the most mysterious part about this blog, which are legends and stories passed from one generation to another about the island . Some people said they don’t believe it. Some people also told me about the facts which are their first hand experience about the island.
Gaw Yan Gyi island is situated 25 miles south of Chaung Tha and Nway Saung beach of Ayeyawaddy division, Pathein Township in Myanmar. The original island is only 3 miles long and 1.5 miles in width and 300 feet high. An author from another blog described it as a peninsula for now, but it was an island surrounded totally by water a half century ago. The Eastern part of the island used to have forests before and now it is left with only some trees due to excessive logging.
The Western part of islands has a lot of cliffs , rocks and caves dwelling lots of bats and pythons.
I asked two elderly men who lived near the island for 60 years. Both of them said that there used to be jackals, wild cats, deer, monkeys and cobras. Both of them said there used to be a large tiger who roam the island once a month. People called him “ the island roaming tiger”. It was very gigantic and mysterious because it only came at the time of full moon. One day, a hunter shot the deer and saw very bright eyes nearby. He randomly hit the eyes and heard the roar. Then a few weeks after that, they found out the skeleton of the tiger in the cave. Usually, Burmese don’t kill the tigers as tigers are regarded connected to Nat ( supernatural well being ).
Around 45 years ago, the island was isolated and not connected to the mainland. ( Note: all the hotels are situated in the mainland called Kway Chaing and not on the island ) Between the island and the mainland, there was a deep and torrential strait which allowed international cruises and vessels to pass through. Then one day, a person who looked like a lunatic arrived the island and predicted that one day, the island would become connected to the mainland so that people from all over the world would come and visit it. His name is Mann Shwe La Yaung and later people regarded him as a prophet . His prediction came true only after 5-6 years. The strait has been replaced by a new formed beach which is 500 meters long.
Now there is a village on that beach and the soil is very fertile. The farmers grow crops and paddy field and they think the fruits and rice from that area is more delicious than crops from other areas. Long before Shwe La Yaung came, the hunter who transformed into a hermit decided to build a pagoda on the island. It was a difficult time for any construction on the island as people needed to use boat to go there. However, the hermit managed to build the pagoda with only white color stones. He chose white color because white symbolize purity. He also didn’t accept donation from people who earn illegal money. The villagers carried the pebbles and stones in their sarong and built the pagoda slowly. At first, the monks did not like the hermit as he used to be a hunter. So the monks boycotted the pagoda and only hermit had to do opening ceremony himself. The pagoda is 18 feet tall and later someone came and built the statue of a dragon. People also believe the hermit created the pagoda with the help of dragon queen.
The pagoda has 420 steps and you can see the panorama view of the island from pagoda.
The stories are like that. The first residence of the island was a couple who started banana plantation on the island. They noticed poisonous snakes on the island. The wife stepped on one of the snakes and the husband also touched a snake with his hand by accident. But the snakes didn’t bite them. I have read this information near the pagoda. The Narrative described the snakes as cobras. But when I saw them and took photos and matched from photos of internet, it turned out they are yellow lipped krait which is 20 times more poisonous than other snakes. Once they bite, people can die instantly. But I didn’t hear any mortality related to snake bites in that island. People regard the snakes as holy and don’t dare to kill or harm them. Residents as well as visitors have strange dreams in which the holy person wearing white color dress came and cured their illnesses such as chronic back pain and knee pain. The villagers also noticed if they can’t control the temper of their domestic animals such as oxen and roosters which fight with others, they send those wild animals to the islands and the animals became tame and more approachable. More than that, a long time ago, farmers mixed rice with poison and tried to feed crows as the crows came and destroyed the crops, but it was not successful as the crows were unharmed after ingesting the poisonous rice. Similarly, the fishermen injected strong insecticide inside the fish and fed the jackals as the jackals stole the dried fishes. However, the jackals could withstand the poisons. Since then, the farmers and fishermen have not poisoned any animals and instead pray that their crops and fish cannot be stolen by the animals. I didn’t see any jackals nor crows on the island when I arrived there because the place is more like a tourist site more than the fishing place now.
I went to Gaw Yan Gyi with a friend and we didn’t know whether we would like the island or not in the beginning. But in the end, we fell in love with the place. The journey was tiring as the roads are not developed yet. I felt sick on my way back.
The thing I vividly remember is once we arrived near Nga Yoke Kaung before entering into the mountain ranges, the driver stopped the car and all the crew got off the bus. I thought they were going for toilet, but they were praying at the big tree, lighting candles and scented sticks. It was around 1 am. I think this is how bus drivers usually do so that the bus will be safe in traditional way.
After we arrived at Nga Yoke Kaung Town around 5 am, we sat at the café at the bus stand and had a cup of coffee. We had to wait as the boats are not available till 6 am.
Then we went to the jetty at 6 am. The bike men sent us to Nant Thar Pu jetty and it was a total mistake. It’s because after we crossed the river, we had to hire the motor bike to go to our hotel. I realized the other side jetty was too far from our hotel. The journey was spine chilling as the roads are very narrow and sometimes need to slide down the hills very often. I often thought I was going to break my arms or legs if I fall from the bicycle. But the bikers managed very well. The ride was almost 30 minutes and they charged us only 4000 kyats per person. I can say that it is a fair price, but it would be much easier if we chose different jetty which has boats for kway Chaing. Then the motor bike takes only 5 minutes to go to hotel from the jetty.
After we crossed the river, we had an uneventful motor bike ride. I could not concentrate much on scenery as I was struggling not to fall off from motor bike. However I would recommend you to ride motor bike at the beach front. It was phenomenal. I just loveeeeeed that.
We stayed at the Adventure resort on the first night. The staff are friendly and they even cooked us very delicious prawns and crabs.
The bungalow is clean and spacious enough for two people. No air con in all hotels as there is no electricity supply in the village.
The problem of Adventure resort is the bungalows face towards the coconut trees and not towards the sea. As it is summer, at night, we felt very hot. We couldn’t also open the windows as we are not supplied with mosquito nets. We cannot use the fan as they give us electricity from 6 pm to 12 midnight only. So I sat outside in the armchair and cooled myself. I even thought of sleeping outside, but the tile were to cold to lie without any mattress . I walked to the beach and lay down on the sand. The wetness of the sand made me feel so much better. I looked at the starry sky. I usually kiss the sand and talk to the rocks as if I was a lunatic. But unfortunately, my friend was near by standing and watching the every inch of increment in tide. She kept on saying “ I will see the water and once the water arrives this line, you need to get up. “. I think she was overly concerned as she rarely go to beach. Sometimes, I just need to be worry free.
The next day we hired the boat and went to “ Late Chaing”, it was named for the stone which looks like a tortoise.
The peculiar thing about Late Chaing is the beach is like two steps and forming like miniature waterfall.
When the tide came up, it brought lots of fish and they can be trapped under the rocks once the water level went down. We found a dead fish trapped under the stone.
The area is quite rocky and not a good place to swim, but it’s relaxing to watch the tides and mini aquarium inside the rocks where there are lots of trapped fish.
People showed me the rock where they regard it as the place belonged to supernatural well being. They believe that area has lots of bowls, plates and pots like 100 years ago. These bowls and plates can be borrowed from the place as long as you return them. Some people said they heard the noises came out from the rock around 2004. They said it was not the sound of waves and different sounds of cutlery and bowls rubbing against each other.
The interesting part is finding snakes. I know it sounds dangerous to try to find snakes. But I really wanted to see them, not to disturb them, but simply curious how they looked like. The next day, we went there again from the pagoda. It took 45 minutes to walk along coastal line. You need to climb 100 steps of the stairs towards pagoda and then got off the stairs towards the trekking.
We started our trekking at 3.30 pm so it was still quite hot and the leaves were dry. I was supposed to go with our guides who were also our taxi drivers. These two gentle men suggested accompanying us as the trekking may be tough for us who are apparently couch potatoes. I really enjoyed the walk and saw some interesting trees which intertwined with each other.
Although we planned to go on our own, two boys who were the grand children of pagoda’s guard offered to go with us. They are very familiar with the place and said they like trekking. SO I allowed two of them, the elder one is around 8 years old and younger one is 5 years old. Elder one is Thu and his younger brother is Zwe. They are adorable, Thu is a chatter box and occasionally gives command to his younger brother. Out of the blue, one black dog also followed us and it became a crowd with four adults, two kids and a dog. What a marvelous team! I asked the kids whether the dog is theirs, but the kids said “ Mal Lone” aka Blackie is a dog who will accompany anyone going that trek. The boys know the dog very well although he is a stray. Blackie is apparently a very good guide dog as he usually runs in front of us. When we were left behind too far, he seemed concerned and waited for us patiently. He made sure we use smooth lane. He really is a happy dog because once we reached the Lake Chaing at the area of Bay, Blcakie rolled on the ground , wiggling his tail. He was apparently on cloud nine.
When we reached “ Lake Chaing” , Blackie left us alone. He didn’t want to follow us to the area of snakes, I guess. We crossed the sea water and climbed on the big rock to find the snakes. It was hot and I guess snakes do not usually come out during day time. So We squatted down and searched the snakes under the rock and stones. Thu told me that he found a very big snake with the size of a tree when he was fishing. He had to leave his fishing rod and run. Then our guide called us to show us the snake. The snake was sliding under the stone leisurely. When we tried to take photo, it did not run away and just kept on moving towards us., I think that phenomenon is a bit strange because snakes will usually run away when people approach them. But that snake, as if it was a celebrity, did not bother flashes form our camera. I left it alone and stood at the edge of the rock , looking at the scenery. Then another guide called us to show many snakes knotted into each other. I gasped and said “ may be they are mating”. Then my little guide “ Thu” said “ no aunty, you can’t say that. She is a mother and she is looking after her children”. I had to try to hide my giggles.
Amazingly, 5 year old boy Zwe was quite tough and could climb and hop on rocks and puddles efficiently. Sometimes, I was concerned he might fall. When I praised Zwe, Thu said “ Do you know why he is tough? It’s all because of my training. I trained him which fruit is bad and which is good, which way he should go and which way he shouldn’t. I also forced him to walk as much as he can”. Thu behaved as if he was the General ordering his little brother along the way. Then we saw people throwing pebbles at the rock and picking up sea snails or clams ( I have no idea how you call that ) . I asked them what they were doing. Thu said people were opening the clams and eating the flesh inside. Some were picking up clams to sell back. I asked them “ is it tasty ?” and both kids started to nag me to try one. One of the guys overheard our conversation and offered me flesh to eat raw. I was not sure whether I should because I am asthmatic and didn’t want to have drama of bronchospasm in the middle of nowhere. But I was also tempted as they said it was such a delicacy. Finally, I ate one and it was salty and tasty , not as fishy as I thought. Suddenly, I remembered the notice displayed at the pagoda not to kill any living thing near the pagoda. I felt guilty , but comforted by Thu that the clams would not suffer any kind of pain as it was the lowest form of the planet. What an insight from an 8 year old boy?
Then we had to go back and it was a pleasant walk because the sun was beginning to set. We could view the beautiful sunset with tides and a stretch of cliffs. At one point, I saw the rock at the bay which exactly looked like a broken bridge. It made me wonder whether the island was an emerged ancient town which was built thousands of years ago.
My thoughts are like that. May be the island was a bustling town with lots of archaeological value thousands of years ago. Then it was covered with water a long time until it emerged again. I had to tell this because I found lots of rocks are quite strange. Some of them looked like a chair and others looked like doors. Some rocks looked like elephant statues. I have never seen that kind of rocks even though I have been to lots of beaches all over the world.
I felt I was connected to the place as if I was there in my last life. I just knew I was there. Well, before the readers think I am out of my mind, I am going to show you the photos of the beach.
Here are the photos of the places I have taken everywhere in Kway Chaing. The area near the red bungalow is called “ Palin Chaing” and the red bungalows are owned by “ the Log”, the most expensive motel in Kway Chaing. I saw a school of fish were trapped in the rock , restless and swimming to and fro. I wish the tide would come at night and send them back to sea otherwise, they might die.
The next day, we climbed up the hill near our inn and saw lots of small birds. The birds are called “ Ziwazoe “ in Burmese and the birds make their nest of vomit’s. A lot of people want to drink that for good health. Poor little birdies.
I thought I felt tired after the hike and slept under the shade of the stone. It was a nice sunny day. I felt good about everything and dozed off.
Then I sat in shallow water , but I was unable to sit quietly as the waves hit me violently and dragged me back towards the shore. Finally I went towards deeper water and sat peacefully.
Then, my friend started to nag to get back to shallow water as both of us couldn’t swim. So I thought this is the time to preach her. I told her the stories of people died inside their own house while sleeping as the plane crushed into their houses. And I also told her another story of two girls hit by a car in the shopping mall as a teenager tried to drive the new car which was displayed for sale . The moral is “ People might die any time how cautious you are. But we only live once”. With that, she became quiet and let me do whatever I want.
I came back to my inn, showered and indulged myself on the hammock, reading a book called “ Wild”. When my eyes get tired, I look at the coconut fringed sea shore. What a life ! I just loved every minute of it.
Overall, I would rate the island as one of the best islands so far. People now call it as “ Burma’s Maldives”. Well, I would not say that because the sand quality is still not as good as one from Maldives. But you have to go there to see the rocks and to hear the legends of Gaw Yan Gyi especially if you can endure horrible roads and lack of electricity.
Note: I know you come to Burma to enjoy and you might need to save money for other trips. However, please be kind to locals and at least offer a few tips to those who are honest and hardworking. Last, please don’t leave behind the rubbish. I gave credit to Haymar Aung for her amazing photographs. You can search her facebook to see her photographs about Burma.
Gaw Yan Gyi island is situated in Irrawaday division of Burma, Nga Pu Taw Township. I was in doubt when people said how mysterious the island is, but I found out it is really a fairy island and people should go there before the tourists destroy the genuine nature. As this post is going to be long, I am going to divide the blog into two parts. The first one is how to go there and where to stay.
HOW TO GO THERE
You might think you are very good in driving and you might want to drive there. Please don’t do this unless you have four wheel drive and you can drive like “ Fast and Furious”. The road till Pathein is quite ok, but after you pass Pathien, you will suffer a lot of road sickness as the roads are narrow lanes close to divine. The scenery may be nice but after watching outside for a while, your head will be spinning as the bus drives up and down the mountains. Luckily, there are two buses running directly to Gaw Yan Gyi and the bus is quite cheap. They charge only 10,000 kyats per person ( You might need to pay more if you are a foreigner ) for one way. The journey takes 9 hours. The roads are not developed yet and some area are still under construction. First , you have to arrive Nga yoke Kaung sub township where you need to take a boat to go to the island.
Here, I will give the phone number of the buses
Name of Bus : Kan Htoo Aung
Name of Bus station : Dagon Ayya in Yangon ( Hlaing Tharyar Township ), Other bus stops don’t have direct bus to Nga Yoke Kaung.
Phone : +95-9 4211 559 11, +95-9 4211 55922 ( From Yangon to Nga Yoke Kaung) departure time: 8.30 pm
Phone : +95-94900 2539 ( From Nga Yoke Kaung to Yangon ) Departure time : 6.30 pm
Name of Bus : Myat Mi Khin
Name of Bus station ; Dagon Ayya ( yangon, Hlaing Tharyar Township )
Phone : 09-444779309, 09-768612572 ( From Yangon TO Nga Yoke Kaung )
Phone : 09-444779314, 09-768612577 ( From Nga yoke Kaung to Yangon )
You will arrive very early morning at Nga Yoke Kaung town around 5 am. The sampans or boats will not be available till 6 am. But you can take coffee and snack at the café at the bus stand. Some people will ask you to go with mortor bike which can cost you around 7000 kyats. Please don’t do that. The road will be very bumpy and long. We were also misled by the motor biker because they sent us to the wrong jetty. By the way, the motor bike should charge you only 500 kyats per person to go to the jetty. There are two jetties called Nant Thar Pu jetty and Kway Chaing jetty. Ask your hotel which jetty is nearer to your hotel. The boat will take around 20 minutes to arrive Kway Chaing where you can have lots of hotels. The boat fare is only 200 kyats per person.
Where to stay
There are various places to stay . But I will start with the most expensive one.
1) The Log hotel
Price : 90,000 kyats per night for two people. If you need extra bed, they charge you 45,000 kyats for one extra bed. Yes, it’s crazy. The hotel is quite isolated and good for people who needs privacy such as Honey Moon goers. But there is no shady trees around the hotel and I guess it is hot in the afternoon. Remember, there is no Aircon in any hotel as there is no electricity on the island. They use engine to have electricity and can get it during night only. It is situated at Pa-lin-Chaing.
Unfortunately, I can’t find the contact of the hotel. If you know it, please comment below.
2) G7 Plage
Price : 50,000 kyats per night for two people, for extra bed 25,000 kyats per person.
For foreigner : 45 US D per night.
Review : The nicest location as the beach is the most beautiful and the best location for wind surfing. You can cycle, ride motor bike or jog just in front of the beach. The bungalows are modern and clean. They have western toilets and rain showers.
3) Adventure resort
Price : 50000 kyats per night for two people and extra bed is 15000 kyats. For the hotel which is a bit far from sea, 40,000 kyats per night . If you want to live on the upstairs, they charge 10,000 kyats extra.
Review: clean, comfortable. The food cooked by hotel chef is nice. Their prawn and crab curries are super delicious. The hotel does not charge extra for foreigner . The staff are very friendly and will do everything to make you feel comfortable.
Disadvantage : It is very hot as the wind does not blow across the hotel. There is fishy smell at the front beach as the fishermen dry the fishes there. There is a stretch of blue sea , but not rock formation near by. They give electricity only from 6 pm to 12 midnight while other hotels give from 6 pm to 6 am.
You can look for the contact from facebook page called Adventure Paradise Hotel, Gaw Yan Gyi. It’s always easier to message from Fb messenger.
Contact number : +95- 9444489991, +95-9444489992
4) Thirithuta Hotel
Price : 35000 kyats for two people. Extra bed 15000 kyats per person.
They also have tents and cheaper accomodation . For example, you pay only 8000 kyats for one person if you don’t mind to use common toilet and bathroom.
I stayed there for two nights in beach front bungalow and I really recommend it. The place is very near to pagoda and Lake Chaing . They have hammock in front of the beach. They also have beautiful scenery near by and to swim. There is no fishy smell. It is not too hot like Adventure resort. People are friendly
Disadvantage : The food is not so good . I recommend to eat outside or bring your own food there. They also display motor bike fare for various places so that motor bike people cannot cheat you.
5) Win Beach Hotel
It is recommended in one of the website. One bungalow charges only 4,000 kyats for four people. There are two kingsize bed and the bathroom and toilet attached to it. They cook for you like other hotel with fair prices according to review.
Phone : +95-9 49734702, +95-9 250118017
6) Family House resort
Price : 40000 kyats per two persons
Review: clean, good accommodation, understaffed, looks like the staff does not know much
Disadvantage : No Western toilet
I saw tents there also. The location otherwise is very nice.
There are lots of other hotels which I do not mention as I don’t have photos. Please find it in their facebook page for contact.
From Thirithuta to the pagoda, it is only 1000 kyats per person. But if you hire by only two person, they charge you 4000 kyats per person.
They can charge up to 10,000 kyats for the whole day. Otherwise, you can only give 500- 1000 kyats for near by places. Some hotels regulate the taxi fares and you should ask advice from your hotel.
There is no available taxis there and motor bike are only available transport. Although, the road is bumpy and spine chilling at certain areas, they are very skillful drivers.
Phone and internet availability
You can only use MPT phone line there. So please buy one sim card before you go there.
Things to bring
1) Sun screen
2) Sun glasses
4) Mosquito repellent ( not much mosquitoes, but certain hotels for example Adventure and G7 plage do not offer mosquitoes nets . But Thirithuta hotels give mosquitoes nets )
For Foreigners, you need permission from Pathein if I am not mistaken. Please contact the travel agent. Otherwise, I don’t think police will chase you just by visiting there as I saw some foreigners as well.
Note: I took some photos from Hay Mar facebook. Some photos are taken by me.
Please continue reading about myth and legends about island in my blog Gaw Yan Gyi island part II. Thank you
real live experience regarding travels, meeting strangers and daily life.