U Shwe Maung Thar is a painter and he lives in Mrauk U. I met him the very first day I went out to see the sights. It was such a nice experience to talk to a random Myanmar person whose English was so decent. He is able not only to communicate smoothly but so knowledgeable and gold-hearted that just being around is a real pleasure. I made sure to spend with him some time each of my day in Mrauk U but at the same time didn’t want him to feel I am too absorbing, so would usually appeared there after sunset for a while or two. Sometimes it happened that we just met in the village by accident. And then I left it up to him on how much of his precious time he wanted to give me.
Once, it was just two days after the pagoda donation festival, it happened that I left my bike in front of one of pagodas. A small monk asked me if he can take a ride and I agreed. Spending quite a time in Myanmar I no longer locked my bike when leaving it unattended. People, mainly in villages, wouldn’t even think about taking your things. I remember, two years ago in Bagan I left my unwanted flipflops close to one of pagodas. They were still there after a few days and no – their condition was not that bad. But coming back to the bike situation – I was on the way to Shit Thaung pagoda when U Shwe Maung Thar waved at me from a motorbike and asked if I wanted to have coffee. I told him I would just take a photo and will join shortly. I met his friend there and we drank tea and coffee. Afterwards, Ko Khine noticed that there is Char Tai, Arakan bamboo climbing game, and asked me if I wanted to see it. I did want.
Char Tai is a team game. There are as many teams as one wishes and 5-6 people in a team. The number of players per team depends on… the length of bamboo stick. The idea is that guys climb it to get the flag stuck on the top. They climb one by one forming a pyramid from their bodies – each steps on arms of his team partner. What makes it really difficult is the oil that is put in small holes in the upper part of the stick. The liquid comes off when the stick shakes under the weight and makes it really slippery. Amazing how much emotions the game reveals. It happened a few times that somebody was just about to catch the flag but for example his team partner standing on the ground turned out to be too weak to hold the whole group or one of the elements in the pyramid failed. Sometimes it last a few hours to complete the game and the longer, the more difficult as the guys are climbing it in the sun which makes them tired fast.
On the way back to Shit Thaung Pagoda I saw a boy riding my bike. Who cares! We left the pagoda and were on the way to U Shwe Maung Thar’s gallery. I was to pick up the bike on the way. When we approached the place, it turned out that there is no bike, no monk, no boy. My companion got angry. I told him that it was more probable that the guys just took the bike to have a ride. He was difficult to convince to wait and we went to the crowd where the game was still on. He told the people loudly what happened and by the time we got to the place where I left my bike (not more than 5 minutes), the bike was there, no monk, no boy. (The Myanmar adeveloped alternative ways of effective communications while they had no access to mobiles :)) I am still convinced nobody had bad intentions and it was just a coincident that the bike was not there before. It was such an attraction to the kids!