In this fast paced life of gadgets and automation, a lot of traditional skills in the world have been lost forever. But, thanks to Burma having been closed for a long while from the rest of the world, some of these skills can still be seen in their truest form. And it is not for tourists that these skills survive like in many parts of South East Asia, but these skills are there for their livelihood and for feeding their family.
One can see such a skill through the many pottery workshops at Twante, a riverside town nestled in the Ayerawaddy delta of Burma. The town is not on the traditional tourist map and hence a lot of the experience is true rural Myanmar experience.
In Myanmar, it is said that most of their pots are made in Twante and its proximity to Yangon only helps with the broader reach. The pots here are made from the soil found in the Ayerawaddy delta. The soil here has pretty high clay content. Even before you enter a pottery workshop, you will see huge mounds of this soil and also the finished products of bright colored large pots kept arranged in nice straight lines.
A typical pottery workshop would be a thatched setup with mud walls, probably from the same mud that builds the pots. Inside this pottery workshop, one will find all the tools, all the burning furnaces and working areas for these potters.
These potters are local people, whose families have specialized in this ancient art for centuries. And they chose to continue on it in spite of making marginally higher income if they moved into paddy cultivation in the extremely fertile Ayerawaddy delta.
There are no costs associated with any of these pottery workshops and one can simply walk in and see the work and the end product. If you feel like contributing to their lives you can pay as much as you can. Even $2 per person means a lot of money for them.
While the pottery workshops are the main attraction of this pottery town, one can also drop by the Twante Pagoda, which is similar in design and structure to the Shwedagon Pagoda, but the good part is that this pagoda is free for all. Apart from visiting the pagoda, one can also spend some time around the riverside and even take a ride on a long tail boat on the delta waters.
And if you feel like getting your hands dirty, you can go and watch the workers work in a paddy field here all day long. This will be very interesting especially during the planting or harvest time.
How to get to Twante: Base yourself at Yangon. Leave early in the morning, say at 7 or 8 AM. Carry your passport and US Dollars and catch a ferry from the Pansodan ferry terminal to Dalla. The ticket costs US$1 per person for one way. From Dalla, one can either catch a taxi to Twante – 2500 kyat per person or take a public bus (500 kyat per person – this is what the locals pay). The public bus is slow, but offers a great way to understand the local culture and people.
For travel within Twante, one can hire a tricycle. A full city tour on a tricycle for 2 people should cost you 2500 kyat, but you can pay more if you feel like as these tricycle drivers are poor and do a lot of hard work. For your return, you can follow everything similar to the onward journey and if you feel like you can spend some time at the Dalla local market to see how the locals go about their business and what products are consumed by the local Myanmar people in this belt.