Sangkhalaburi & Myanmar
July 19, 2013

Here’s the final episode in what has been a long, busy trip to SE Asia this time.

Returning from Cambodia, I was met at the Bangkok airport my my good friend and colleague living in Thailand and Myanmar, Treasure Shine, Thailand Project Manager for Partners Asia, a US non-profit headquartered in Seattle and San Francisco.

Off we went, first by taxi, then by mini-van, and finally by motorbike taxi to the P Guest House in Sankhalaburi, located on the western Thai border with Myanmar.

Quite a nice place to stay. Here’s a couple of views from my room.

The next morning we headed into Myanmar to visit a project with the monks at Dama Haywon. Treasure provides some of their support through Partners Asia. (Incidentally, I was surprised at how open the border was. No passport checks at all. Then again, these were back country dirt roads. Sometimes I could not even tell when we crossed from one country to the next).
This is a pretty big operation — on a 70 acre property — housing 70 monks, more than 400 children, and assorted other staff and teachers. These children, more than 50% girls, come from local Mon and Karen villages where there is relatively little or no opportunity for education. In addition, the monks are also working directly in 20 villages (some of them quite remote) and providing education for another 1,600 children there — for a total of more than 2,000 children served. These monks are incredibly focused on community development. Here’s some of the smaller kids — and one big one — in the monks’ onsite school.

We got to spend a lot of time with the head monk, a man that Treasure tells me is quite difficult to see unless there is an invitation to visit him on his home turf. When traveling with his contingent of bodyguards he remains in close protection for the obvious reasons.

Here’s a couple of photos of the very large girls dormitory housing about 250 girls.

Girl’s Dorm
Drying Area

We were able to fund a small project to build a shelter alongside one length of the building to provide a cover so clothes can air dry. It’s hard to imagine getting clothes dry when it is raining most days during the several months of the rainy season.

After a visit with the head monk and several of his colleagues, we ventured out into the jungle see their work in a couple of the relatively nearby villages.

Here’s one of the many schools they support there.
And here’s the bridge we had to cross to get there. We walked, but we did see two trucks drive across. Quite a delicate maneuver to get to the other side, especially the last bit. Those are bamboo bundles serving as pontoons to support the hardwood planks of the bridge surface. It takes some pretty heavy duty trucks to make it into this country. You can imagine the type: Hi clearance, four-wheel drive, big tires, reinforcing steel on the sides, lots of mud, and big dents in the rocker panels and most of the corners.
I’m truly impressed with the work these monks are doing to provide food, shelter, and education for so many impoverished children. They are clearly worthy of further support.
Working together with Treasure we developed two alternatives for a TWCCTW trip into Myanmar. One quite “adventurous”, and one more “tame”. Maybe we should do both. Details on those opportunities to follow.

Earlier the first day I got to get a close look at the Mon Bridge, engineered and build by the local Mon community a long time ago. Pretty impressive project.

We also visited three other projects during this trip, one of which is a woman’s shelter in a very small village in Myanmar. They asked that I not post any pictures on the web, so I’ll just show you this one of the beautiful rainstorm we had during our time there. And, naturally, we were traveling on motorbikes so the rain gear came in most handy. Incidentally, the “bundle” in the middle of the picture is a baby in a swing, taking a nap, sleeping through it all.

I returned to Bangkok after two full, interesting and informative days in Sangkhalaburi and Myanmar. I’m headed back to the US on the 13th — tomorrow.

Life is good … at least it is for some of us. Others need a bit of assistance — and together we can provide that.