By U Than Zaw (RO – Mercantile Marine)
My Sea voyage made me advantageous quite a lot. I started my first sea experience in 1969. In that year, I may express my daily financial hardship owing to the cost of living very high resulted from the Akyab Rice Crisis by rioters in 1967. I could not make efforts to spend every month with my salary as an airport in charge those days.
During that situation, I was a bit lucky to welcome the arrival of D.D.C.A (Deputy Director of Civil Aviation) of DCA (Department of Civil Aviation) at Magway Airport for necessary inspections: like-wise, I forwarded my financial problems facing every month. Finally, he realized and allowed my resignation from the Department very kindly as I had already had an offer to appoint as a Radio officer onboard one of the vessels in their fleet of the Maldivian Shipping Co., Ltd, in Columbo, Ceylon, with remunerations of Sterling pound at 25 per month plus other allowances.
Finally, I received an official order regarding the allowance of my resignation with the right to enjoy three months annual leave with full pay. I handed over all my duties to my relief and came down to Yangon.
I went straight to Ship Representative by the name of Mr Math at No 5, Merchant Street and reported for the post they offered me.
In November 1969, the company’s ship, MV Ocean Master called at Pansodan Port and signed on as supernumerary R/O in presence of Yangon Port Immigration personnel.
About a week later the ship set sail for Columbo. It was my first experience as a mercantile marine Radio Officer.
On arrival there, I reported to the GM (General Manager) Mr Maniku at his H.O (Head Office) and I was accommodated at a hotel not very far from the H.O.
I was waiting for a chance to carry out a delivery voyage of a newly bought ship in Singapore from Norwegian Shipping Co., Ltd.
After about twenty days stay at the hotel, a shipping clerk came and handed over an air ticket for a flight to Singapore via Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, leading a group of (30) crew. It was the second advantage I gained leading seamanship in my life. We all arrived at Changi Airport, Singapore at night time and we all were put up at a hotel just before H/O and T/O (Hand over and take over) of the newly bought ship, MV Maldives Skipper which was the first ship I worked as a Mercantile Marine Radio Officer.
To write in brief, we left Singapore crossing the Indian Ocean to Columbo, Ceylon. We entered alongside at the harbour nearest to the head office to do all the necessary survey. It will take some weeks. During those occasions, I slipped to Maradana Quarter where a Burmese temple was situated. There I met Burmese monk, U Ottama and the other three monks. They all welcome me very joyously. I’m, too, so happy to meet them and paid respect.
Next morning, I prepared for lunch (swan) for all the Sangha in the temple (monastery).
Then I, requested U Ottama to send me to some visiting points in Columbo. So, it was very kindly arranged to pay a visit to a Burmese Temple in Candi first. There I met a Burmese monk who came back to Burma already. It is known as Candi monastery on the west side of Yuzana garden city in the east of Yangon. The next very interesting site was in place in Candi where the Holy “Eye-tooth of Lord Buddha” was shown under a bodhi tree.
It was another advantage I gained in my sea voyage. Another “Eye-tooth” was seen in Burma in 1950 first time. MV Maldives Skipper ran along the coastline of India right up to Karachi of west Pakistan.
In 1970, on a voyage, we called Calcutta port alongside, but unexpectedly we experienced the labourers on strike and there would be no loading/unlading for at least a week or two. It is customary for labourers in India. It was advantageous for me to make use of my time. I, therefore, asked permission from my captain to allow me for about 3 days to pay a visit to Buddha-Ga-Ya (Bodh Gaya). He allowed me very kindly to do so.
I went to the Burmese temple in Calcutta first by a lan-char (two wheels vehicle pulled by man) paying him only one rupee out of my cash of which I sold out three packets of 555 cigarettes outside the port gate.
I paid respect to the monk and in the evening, he sent me to the Central Railway Station, bought me a round-trip train ticket to Buddha-Ga-Ya and back. It costs me only 18 rupees. In the meantime, I bought 10 big red apples paying only 5 rupees. I arrived early in the morning at Buddha-Ga-Ya. To a Burmese temple quite far away, I paid the tri-wheeler a fare of only two rupees. At the entrance gate, a European lady, covering her shoulder with a yellow rope, opened the door. I told her, “Good morning, I am a Burmese, may I see the monk, please.”
She answered, “Okay, sure, you will see him, come along with me.”
I said, “Thank you,” and accompanied her.
In the afternoon, after having lunch, I paid visiting around Buddha-Ga-Ya accompanied by the head of the monk. After paying worship to Buddha under the bodhi tree, he showed me around remarkable places like a stone-post marked where Ganar offered the boiled milk-rice to Godhamma; This was the former Nay-Rin-Sa-Ra River, where he floated the empty golden bowl upstream saying an oath: “If I may become Sat-bin-nyu-lord Buddha today, this golden bowl be swan — right to the mid-stream and changed direction to upstream for some distance and sunk.
He also pointed out to a place far beyond the eastern side of the Bodhi tree. There, you saw, was the Gateskoke mountain on which very famous Buddhist saints, dwelled there once. I thank the head of the monk very much that gained an abundance of knowledge.
I was so delighted with thrills every now and then. I believed it was a heaven-sent opportunity for me I had ever been to such a holy place like Buddha-Ga-Ya.
It was an unforgettable trip I had ever travelled in my life.
My first and second voyages made me valuable personal advantages.