Exploring Dala Township definitely is one of the highlights when visiting Yangon, Myanmar. Located across the Yangon River life there is completely opposite to the busy city centre. Rather than modern skyscrapers and colonial buildings there are colourful fishing boats and houses which can only really be described as shacks.
To get there head to the Pansodan Ferry Terimal in downtown Yangon. Once inside that building you will be ushered into a ticket desk for foreigners. The fee for the ferry is 3000 kyat return and the boat runs every 10 minutes so you don’t have to wait long for the next one.
Outside the terminal building and down a wooden ramp is where the ferry docks. Jump on, not literally like I had to as it was pulling away. Though this did lead to some very impressed locals clapping and high fiving me. On board you will very likely be pestered by small children selling food to feed the seagulls, (for some reason here people get really excited about feeding birds). Just make polite conversation and advise them that you aren’t interested. The ferry ride will be your first insight as to what daily life is like here.
The trip take approximately five minutes. Once the boat is docked everybody makes a mad to depart. This is where you will be bombarded by hawkers. According to other online resources Dala is notorious for scams. There are also messages in the ferry terminal building advising of this. To take a tour walk away from the dock and up towards the township. Here is a less manic environment where you can haggle with the rickshaw, tuktuk or taxi drivers.
The price around the town for a one and a half hour to two hour tour should be approximately 3000 kyat each for two people, 6000 kyat total. As we had a group of four we managed to haggle this price down to 2000kyat each, 8000 kyat total. The gentleman in charge found us a tuktuk and we made sure he relayed the agreed pricing onto the drive. Though this was after he tried to convince us there were no tuktuks and that we should hire separate rickshaws. Soon enough a handful of tuktuks drove past and he gave in.
Heading out of the main township the first stop for us was a local pagoda there. Definitely not as stunning as the Swedagon Pagoda in the city centre this one is still alright to look at for a local minutes. There were a few stray dogs hanging around which seemed quite angry so best to keep a distance.
Next stop was at the local fishing village. If you stay by the river in Yangon you will see colourful small boats driving back and forth all day. The fishing village is where a lot of them dock. We went down the concrete wharf to the edge of the extremely murky river and watched as all the locals hoped in and out of the boats, returning from a days work in the city. The fishing village is also full of litter. Though, the majority of Yangon seems to be like this. Rubbish just fulls the streets, peoples yards, seemingly everywhere but a rubbish bin.
After this we headed further away from the river to a small local village to watch the sunset. There were so many children here completely fascinated by us tourists. It is highly unlikely these kids go to school and instead spent their days working for their parents. The houses were small. Made from plant materials and front yards full of rubbish. Dala is said to be place were people are blissfully unaware of their poverty. This statement is definitely true as everyone has smiles and seem happy about their lives.
Onwards to the last stop, the local markets. Set up alongside both sides of a dirt road the market was very welcoming and had a great atmosphere. There, we conversed with the locals and they even gave us free produce and refused to accept any money that we pulled out.
After the market place, it was time to head back to the very terminal. We paid the driver and left flowers for him to give to his wife. We show our return tickets, and this time, jump onto a boat that is still connected to the dock. With darkness setting in and a small patch of red sunset in the sky we head back across the Yangon River to downtown. The seagulls swarmed the boat as locals threw food and moths became extremely attracted to the light.
Visiting Dala Township is definitely one of the highlights from Yangon, Myanmar. There appears to be some uncertainty about visiting as a result of the scams. Though, as long as you go in knowledgeable about prices, confident and willing to negotiate with a smile then it can turn into a really good time.
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