The boatman I had made arrangements with two days ago for today’s trip to Thang Tuo didn’t show up. Maybe he’d forgotten. On my way to the jetty, a middle-aged woman approaches me and offers a boat. The price for Thaung Thut with a side trip to Kyauk Taing and Kuang Kan is 20,000 which is standard. She brings me to the boat which looks like any other boat. I am told the trip would take 2 hours as the boat wouldn’t go very fast.
True, it didn’t go very fast especially when we enter the channel which, based on the map, leads to Thang Tuo. We meander steadily along which is fine with me as I get to enjoy the views. Unfortunately, I also need to really go to the toilet. We have been on the water for for close to 2 hours already and what seems like the last of the restaurants by the water where I could have taken a pee has gone by. I am seriously thinking of asking the boat man if he could stop by one of the porches so I could get off and pee on the water. Thinking we are near anyway, I hold on. Then the boat stops and the driver says something to two boys fishing that sounded like, “Cho peng.” The boys shake their heads. We move on. A few minutes later, he stops at a house and says it again. The man by the window points to the direction we had come from and make gestures. I then realize the boatman is asking for directions and cho peng is the name of a place! I tell him we are going to Thaung Thut and that I need to go to the toilet. “Thaung Thut, he answers” and points north. “Cho peng,” he repeats. I ask if we are going to cho peng. He says yes and that we are also going to Thaung Thut and Kyaing Kan. I figure its an additional village so why not. By this time, I have quite forgotten my bladder and have shifted to thinking about where we areheaded to. One more stop for directions and we are pointed to a narrow and shallow channel choked with water lilies.
The water was so shallow I can see the bottom. Soon we reached dry land and the boatman said something to a woman on the shore. He told me to follow her. I’m thinking, maybe she’ll guide me to the toilet. “Toilet?” “Yes, yes. Have pottery.” She takes me past rows of empty market stalls. She tells me she has pottery and I tell her aboit the toilet. I’m really ready to pee by now and I rush to the toilet as soon as she points it out.
I did say to the woman who arranged the boat earlier that I was interested in pottery, I really don’t think this seemingly remote and out of the way place, is the place for it. I mean, do I really need to get off the beaten path for some pottery? I am fine with Kyauk Tieng which is on LP. Aaarghh. I point to the floor and repeat, “place?” Again, “cho peng.” I open my LP and realize Kyauk Tieng is “cho peng.” We have arrived at the pottery village. My boatman did not take me to the frontiers. He was right on the itinerary. I now understand what is going on. We head to the southern most point of our itinerary which is this pottery village and head back to Ngyaungshwe with Thaung Thut as the last stop.
I try my hand at making a piece. “Beautiful,” she tells me. On display are some small glazed pieces. I settle on some figurines of the different ethnic groups in Myanmar and a Nativity scene which comes in its own wooden box. They all cost at a bargained-down price of 18,000.
Two tourists, a couple with a guide, arrive and I am back on my boat.
Next stop is a workshop where women are making threads out of lotus stems and then finally to Thaung Thut!