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Twante,  Burma - flag Burma
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el2995's travel reports

Twante: A Rangoon 1/2-Day Trip Off The Beaten Path

  13 votes
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Twante, a rustic small town west of Rangoon, likely sees few foreign tourists given the ferry ride and rough roads required to get there, but it is worth the trip. Also: Rangoon's early-morning 'off the beaten path' gem.


Twante Waterfront
Twante Waterfront
The town of Twante is located on the banks of the Twante Canal. It is mainly known for the pottery that it produces, though given the present state of the Burmese economy, the number of active kilns has dwindled from 80 down to about 16. The quaint and decidedly rustic city has a very 'frontier town' feel to it, particularly given the two-wheel horse carts that can be seen ferrying passengers along its dusty streets, and the numerous stilted wood and thatched bamboo huts that surround (and are sometimes interspersed in between) the older stucco building of the city. It is possible to reach the city from Rangoon by boat, taking the Twante Canal from the Rangoon River downstream from the main jetty. You can also opt for a ferry ride across the Rangoon River to the village of Dalah (USD $2 for foreigners - have your passport or memorize your number to register your transit) and then drive to the city by hired car (about 70 minutes on fairly rough road). As I was in a family member's car, we took the (smallish) 1 pm vehicle ferry across to Dalah (same USD $2 + 1000 Kyats per auto, 30-minute dock-to-dock travel time). Dalat is interesting in that it is more more rural in appearance, though just as congested traffic-wise near the waterfront, than Rangoon. The first 40 minutes of 1-1/2 lane-wide road (alternately thin potholed tarmac, gravel and bare rocky dirt) was the roughest, but then things improve after the left-hand fork in the road (where a Buddhist temple featuring an large, Indian-styled rectangular pagoda can be seen in the distance), with the dry and barren paddy and crop fields soon giving way to lush green 'current crop' paddy fields sporadically flanked by picturesque bamboo shacks whose access from the elevated roadway is via spindly bamboo foot bridges that arch above narrow fingers of flooded low ground, which is sometimes occupied by water buffalos or small flocks of domestic ducks. Note that the last Dalah - Rangoon return vehicle ferry departs at 5 pm.

Favourite spots:
Twante Main Jetty
Twante Main Jetty
The area around the main jetty, which can be identified by the city clock tower a short distance up the road from it, is interesting. There is a collection of produce and food vendors on the left side of the road between the clock tower and the jetty that makes for some good photo opportunities. You can also spend a bit of time watching the boat traffic on the canal and the daily activity on the jetty, as local manufactured goods and produce are hand (or rather, shoulder) -carried along the ramp to load and unload the ferries and cargo vessels that facilitate commerce among the cities, towns and villages along the canal. The drive through the rural landscape after you pass through Dalah was quite enjoyable, save for the pot holes.

What's really great:
U Thein Tun's Pottery Factory
U Thein Tun's Pottery Factory
A tour of the pottery factory run by the U Thein Tun and Daw Kyi Kyi Myint family (No. 372 Yarza Thin Gyan Street; follow the street west of the clock tower traffic circle, though the narrow and steep dirt driveway may be hard to locate without asking one of the locals) was very interesting. Now in it's seventh generation, U Thein Tun carries on the family tradition of hand-thrown, bamboo-fired pottery, which uses a particular clay obtained from the region that, when dried in the sun for 3 days, glazed and then kiln-fired for 4 days, renders pottery that is exceedingly tough. The potter's wheel is a heavy flywheel-type stone disk that's spun up to speed by hand and runs on its momentum, with the potter and his assistant turning out 150 pots per day. The workshops and brick kilns are all housed in simple dirt floor thatched huts. U Thein also makes ceramic water filters using a water-permeable carbon composite clay; these are distributed by the UN in the Cyclone Nargis-hit delta region.

Sights:
Shwesandaw Phaya Stupa
Shwesandaw Phaya Stupa
In addition to the pottery factory, the city is home to the ethnic Mon-built Shwesandaw Phaya (Pagoda), which is seen on the left side of the road as you enter the city. The temple features a central gold-painted stupa ringed by a number of smaller temples and the standard array of pavilions containing a number of bronze and painted wooden Buddha statues. There were very few people at the temple when I visited, thus my counter-clockwise walk around the central stupa was very peaceful, with the only sounds heard being the sporadic call of a crow and the occasional three successive tomes of one of the temple bells as it's being symbolically struck by one of the worshippers. The effects of last year's Cyclone Nargis were evident in the exposed stumps and bare remains of felled palm tree trunks on the floor of the temple compound (Nargis would also likely be the reason why the the upper two-thirds of the central stupa currently wears a shroud of un-photogenic bamboo scafolding and canvas.)

Accommodations:
Rural Landscape on the Road to Twante
Rural Landscape on the Road to Twante
As we only made a day trip to Twante, I did not look into accommodations, though there may be something available that could be booked in advance through a travel agency in Rangoon (I had good luck with Columbus Travels and Tours when I did my Mandalay trip in 2006, and I'm sure they could help you with arrangements) if you wanted to use Twante as an overnight waypoint for a road trip to the west coast of Burma through the delta region. I imagine that sunrise and sunset on the Twante Canal would be quite nice when viewed from the jetty, and evening interactions with the curious locals (perhaps via a translator) over some Dagon Lagers would likely make for some good memories.

Restaurants:
'Seven' Restaurant
'Seven' Restaurant
We had lunch at the Seven Restaurant, which is located on the river's edge to the right of the main jetty (located behind a restaurant that fronts the main street) and was recommended to us by one of the locals as a good (and sanitary) place to eat. The tables are under a roof but open-air, so you can enjoy both the view of the canal and main jetty and the relatively cool breeze along the canal. My meal of fried noodles and fried freshwater eel paired with a Dagon Lager Beer was a tasty combination. The adjacent open-front restaurant that fronts the street and is next to the jetty ramp appeared to be quite popular with the locals, thought I don't know if it was because of the quality of the food or the TV in the corner that everyone seemed to be glued to. As good as some of the street vendor food looked across the street, you may want to exercise your best judgement and avoid any raw cut fruits and veggies or 'leht thoke' (hand-mixed rice and noodle salads) to be on the safe side.

Other recommendations:
Rangoon's Central Fish Wholesale Market
Rangoon's Central Fish Wholesale Market
If you are looking for an early-morning Rangoon 'off the beaten track' attraction that sees few, if any, tourists (which is definitely to their loss), then the Central Fish Wholesale Market is the ticket for you. Located on west Rangoon's waterfront, the wholesale market is where the fishing trawlers unload their catches, which are then sorted (which involves throwing the fish, which at times can be quite large, into the appropriate basket) both for type of fish and also size and quality, with the best seafood designated as 'export quality' and processed accordingly. The 'local quality' seafood is then briskly transported in ice-laden baskets and wheeled carts by yelling workers through the packed waiting crowds of local vendors to a number of warehouses where the seafood is set out for display and the energetic shouted negotiations begin. The market is an experience not to be missed for the adventurous. UPDATE: I've uploaded some video of the market at www.youtube.com/el2995 . Enjoy

Published on Wednesday April 1th, 2009


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Fri, Apr 09 2010 - 11:51 AM rating by sujoy

Very nice description of rangoon

Wed, May 06 2009 - 03:41 PM rating by murrayskinner

This is full of great information for a very exotic destination. I like to venture off the beaten path but this may be too remote for me.

Thu, Apr 02 2009 - 06:06 AM rating by pesu

I had to look for a lot of vocables but I really liked it: great report!

Wed, Apr 01 2009 - 11:05 PM rating by mistybleu

A wonderful report, thanks for sharing

Wed, Apr 01 2009 - 10:26 AM rating by krisek

Very interesting report. I was contemplating going to Myanmar when I was touring SE Asia, but ended up not going due to a lack of time. Your report is very encouraging...

Wed, Apr 01 2009 - 08:09 AM rating by jacko1

I enjoyed the detailed information and pics in this excellent report.

Wed, Apr 01 2009 - 04:23 AM rating by bineba

I like this report - and the pics- very much. What was the, rather glamorous looking, lady in red doing on the fish market?

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