Getting off the Grid of Yangon, Explore the Peaceful Dala Village

I was in a trishaw on the narrow streets of a small village named Dala. My friend and I would come a young girl’s “coming of age ceremony”. When we came here, they dotted a bindi on the center of our forehead. I wondered what just happened

Both my friend and I come from a Western country, where is totally foreign to local people here. Therefore, it was not weird that the girl's father was amazed to our arrival in his front yard. He was so amazed that he jumped out cheerfully in his daughter's ceremony before coming closer and sending to us a goodwill invitation "Come, come, please come". Certainly, we could not refuse such an invitation.

"Warmly welcome and take care of tourists" was slogan I had seen on advertisement boarding throughout Myanmar. However, I'd never expected this.

dala village
Dala is just across the river but a world away from Yangon, Myanmar's largest city

Dala is a small village located to the south of the Yangon River. In spite of being nearby Yangon - the Myanmar's largest city, Dala is not a developed place. In 2008, the village was devastated by a cyclone. Additionally, the lack of local area connection and reliable supply also make Dala poorer than other villages. Fishing, farming and tourism are main activities in this small village.

In the coming of age ceremony, women in sari and men in sarong gathered in a circle around the young girl. She dressed an ornate maroon sari. Her hand holding a posy of flowers was painted with henna. She sited on the fabric covering the ground under a makeshift shrine. Even though this space was rather small, it seemed to be like a palace because of the usage of tinsel, fruit and flowers spectacularly. And the young girl became an Indian princess with her luxurious sari and gold jewellery.

dala village 1
Coming of age ceremony in Dala, Myanmar

Indians have lived in Myanmar since the middle of 19th century when India was ruled as a colonial land by the British. Nowadays, ethnic Indians account for about 2 percent of the population, which enriches cultural identity of beautiful Myanmar.

When the fragrance of garlic, onion and cardamom filled up the air, the feast began. Coming from a far country, as two guests of honor we are served first. The banana leaves were used instead of plates.  A metal bucket replaced bowls, and forks and spoons. I wondered why those people with so little were willing to share the most.

Our "plates" were served with spicy curries and pickles, fluffy rice and fresh fruits, which equaled in flavor to anything I've had during one week in Myanmar. I booked this tour in Scenic Company. Although our trip covered well-known destinations including Inle Lake, Mandalay and Bagan, we still had other activities to enjoy it individually.

In the early morning, we went on board in a crowded ferry from Yangon's Pansodan Jetty. After our tour guide Juditth checked our timetables and tickets, we were placed in front plastic seats. These ferries were of local villagers, so they often crossed the river to sell their products to tourists. It resembled a bustling market floating in the river.

dala village 2
Vendors plying their trade in Dala

Leaving Yangon's colonial charm and busy streets, we were on a rural backwater. From the rusty seat of the trishaw, I can take insights to local people and stunning views here. There were some people collecting water from wells, goats and chickens roving in the narrow streets and children playing football in their yard.

Dala itself appears as a village under hardship. Judith said that ponds and wells here dried up in dry season. And local people had to walk kilometers to collect water. Coming this small village, we seemed to be taken out of the usual tourist routes in order to see that Myanmar still needed a long way to go beyond after being closed to the outside world for a long time.

dala village 3
In the dry season, wells dry up and water is collected directly from the river

With the victory of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy against Union Solidarity and Development party, Burmese hope to be out of poverty thank to developing tourism and funding infrastructure. Judith said that if there was a bridge from Dala to Yangon, everything in this small village would be improved.

A man ran along streets, waved his hands and invited us to participate in his daughter's coming of age ceremony. It was that man who broke out quiet atmosphere of streets at that time. Just two weeks after the successful election, perhaps this celebration was not only of the young girl but also of the whole country.

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