#18 Tales from Indochina – of the rich hearts

This is my favourite story from the travels in Indochina and I am sure I will remember the incident for a very long time. L and I did a classic Three Cities tour in Mandalay and our final stop for the day was U-Bein bridge located at Amarapura. By the way, the concept of “city” in Myanmar is rather different from the kind of metropolitan cities that we are used to. Burmese “cities” seem more like little village towns rather than urbanized areas. U-Bein bridge, which spans 1.2 km, is supposedly the oldest and longest teak bridge in the world. We heard that the U-Bein bridge is a popular place for locals to watch sunset in the evening and we were lucky enough to be there on time for the sunset.

We walked on the bridge and we were happily taking photos of each other. At one point, we decided to ask a local passerby to take a photo of the two of us sitting on the teak bridge. As I crossed my legs to sit down, my glasses accidentally dropped through the gaps between the planks into the lake. The passerby said he felt sorry that my glasses dropped into the lake. I replied quickly with an awkward laugh, “I’m sure that is not the first thing that has dropped into the water.”

L and I continued to make our way across the bridge and as we walked, we evaluated the consequences of the lost glasses. I told her I was short-sighted and I might need her to step up as our navigator for the rest of the trip. All of the sudden, the passerby, who took the photo for us earlier, ran up to us and said, “Excuse me, do you remember where you dropped your glasses?” I shook my head. He pointed at a boatman on a small boat and said, “This man will help you to get it. I think I remember where you dropped it. Come with me.”

So we followed the man to the spot where I allegedly dropped my glasses. The passerby said something to the man on the boat in Burmese and the boatman took off his shirt and dived into the water. After a few seconds, he came to the surface with a pair of glasses in his right hand. He asked me if this was the right one. We were not sure but we said yes because surely there wouldn’t be that many glasses in the water right?

We walked towards the pier and waited anxiously for the boatman to make his way there. I wasn’t sure if I should pay the boatman but in the end, I decided to give him some money as a way to express my gratitude towards him whatever the outcome may be. The pair of glasses turned out to be mine and I was really thankful that I got my glasses back. I didn’t even imagine that I could retrieve my glasses after it dropped into the water. When I wanted to hand the money to the boatman, he hesitated and he looked over at the passerby. The passerby said something to him and he gladly took the money.


I believe that there is kindness out there in the world. There are people who will go the extra mile to help you without asking for anything in return. The world may have cruel, pragmatic rules but as humans, shouldn’t we behave more like human beings towards one another? Sometimes I feel that when a person gets richer in terms of dollars and cents, he/ she becomes less rich in heart. And the same goes for societies since societies are made up of humans and human interactions. To me, it seems like richer societies are more self-serving, exclusive and clinical. Sometimes I don’t know where exactly the rich-poor divide lies.



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