Up A River, Without A Motor

Image of our longboat which took us up a river from Ngapali Beach to a remote village in Myanmar.

One of the things I love about RAKLife (not affiliated with them, just a huge fan) is that it’s not fully scripted, so depending on who we meet and what their needs are we can pull off opportune RAK’s (random acts of kindness). While in Ngapali Beach, on the Western Coast of Myanmar, our guide met a local Restaurant Owner who had a friend who owned a long boat. After explaining to the Restaurant Owner that we were doing random acts of kindness, he offered to take us to a remote village over an hour inland by river. We offered to purchase school supplies locally that we could donate to the school in the village. He told us that this village had never had an outsider visit, so it would be quite an experience! Of course, our guide jumped on the opportunity!

The next morning, we grab a ‘taxi’ and head to meet the Restaurant Owner’s friend at his boat. Long boats are basic, no seats just the wood floor and sometimes a cover to provide some shade. The motor sounds like a jet engine, but it worked…until we were about an hour up river when we noticed our pace slow down drastically. The Boat Owner and his wife talked frantically in Burmese for several minutes. He suddenly jumps into the water and starts feeling around under the boat. At this point, the Restaurant Owner tells us that one of the propellers on the motor had broken off. The only person we’ve seen on our journey was a woman kayaking alone, so getting help would not be easy. At one point the man’s wife jumps into the muddy water and is working with him. They both finally get back in, start the motor, and take off again.

Image of the boat owner walking along the edge of the boat while navigating the river from Ngapali Beach to a village in Myanmar.

This entire incident happened without hesitation or precaution. It was an interesting glimpse into the daily life of the boat owner.

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Smiling Faces Welcomed Us From The River Bank

As we approached the village from the river, we saw children’s smiling faces smiling and waving at us! As we exited the boat up a steep, muddy bank, the children helped us as they giggled and whispered to each other. They walked with us as the Restaurant Owner guided us through the village to a family’s home. They invited us to come inside and eat the box lunches we had brought before walking over to the school. We surprised the family by giving them an American football. The father was so excited when we taught him how to throw it!

Image of children laughing and giggling during our visit to a remote village in Myanmar.

After lunch, as we emerged from the home, there were kids everywhere – curious, smiling, hesitant. They grabbed our hands and guided us to the school. The restaurant owner arranged for us to speak with the Headmaster to offer our school supplies and learn about the school. He was nearly in tears as he received the gift, explaining that he would hand these out to the children who most needed the supplies. As a thank you for our gift, he let the children have the afternoon off of school to play with us.

RELATED POST: Myanmar: A Soulful Day in Dala Near Yangon

It’s Amazing What You Can Accomplish Without Words

Image of me with children playing in the schoolyard in a remote village in Myanmar.

And so, in possibly one of my favorite travel experiences, we played all afternoon with these beautiful children with barely a word shared among us. We attempted to teach the kids Four Square with a basketball we had brought. We bounced the ball back and forth, laughing for hours and challenging each other to bounce the highest or catch someone off guard. Other volunteers played soccer (football) and played pat-a-cake! Eventually everyone ended up in a big circle where we tried to teach Duck, Duck, Goose, which is a popular children’s game in the US that involves chasing each other around a circle. It was so heartwarming to see the children laughing and enjoying themselves all afternoon. Despite the fact that we were in a remote village, when we turned on Taylor Swift and started dancing they knew the tune, though they were too shy to dance!
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. As we said our goodbyes and made our way back towards the boat, the members of the village walked with us. After making my way back down the steep bank, I glanced back up to see the same smiling faces that greeted us holding up the ‘I love you’ hand sign and waving goodye. It’s safe to say we all slept well that night, both from exhaustion and from our hearts being full from an amazing day.

Image of children waving goodbye and giving 'I love you' hand sign as we left a remote village in Myanmar.

Like this post? Pin it or share!Considering volunteering abroad? Here's part of my experience visiting a remote village in Myanmar to deliver locally purchased school supplies with RAKLife.org. #volunteertravel | #culturaltravel | #ethicaltravel | #offthebeatenpathtravel


    • This Big Wild World Reply

      Thank you, Sarah! They were just so sweet! Unforgettable!

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