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Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw by Train

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We had a bright an early start of 6.45 this morning to get breakfast, finish packing and check out in time to get the 8.20 train to Hsipaw. We are really fed up of the breakfasts here; every day is the same, horrible sweet, dry bread, an egg, banana and artificial jam. It is really not worth having to get up especially early for.

We ended up cutting it a bit fine, the train pulled into the station as we were in the station masters office paying for the ticket. The ticked cost $3 for ordinary class which is more than adequate even for the 7 hour duration. The train is slow and can be quite bumpy but Liam thinks it is more comfortable than the buses as he has leg room and can get up and walk around if need be.

Once we paid for the ticket the man told us something in broken English that we did not understand. There are only so many times you can ask someone to repeat something without sounding rude so we had to pretend we understood, smiled, said thank you and walked off. The train was stood in the station for a while but no one was making any attempt to board. In this time we met a ‘friend’ who was already on the train. He saw us through the window and smiled and waved at us, we were polite back but were concentrating on when to get on the train. Chelsea then decided to go ask the station master again what he said as it seemed important. Whilst she was gone Liam looked at the window where our ‘friend’ had been and he had gone, he looked around to see where Chelsea had got to and when he turned round our ‘friend’ was stood about 6 inch in front of him with a creepy grin on his face. Thankfully Chelsea came to Liam’s aid as she reappeared and he seemed more interested in her constantly stroking her arm until his wife appeared and he stopped. The station master was trying to tell us that three more carriages would be attached to the train and then we are in number three. Once the carriages were attached (basically they just rammed them into the rest of the train) we counted 1, 2,3, from the very back and got on. We found our seats but were almost immediately moved by the person checking our tickets. Apparently carriage 3 is the very back one, it goes 3, 2, 1 then who knows what the other dozen carriages numbers are.

The journey itself was great. It was 7 hours but it did not feel it. Sometimes it is very bumpy and you will be catapulted out of your seat, or you will be swaying violently left to right but for the most part it was smooth and steady. Our carriage was surprisingly empty apart from a handful of other people and it was quiet. At the next stop a woman and her young daughter got on the train and it was obvious the woman had let her daughter choose where to sit because she sat straight opposite us although most of the train was free. We did not mind though, they were very nice and although they spoke zero English we managed to communicate a bit. We shared our food and at one point the little girl was eating some kind of strawberry jelly in a jam out of a vacuum packed packet and offered Chelsea some. Chelsea tried it but it was incredibly sour and shocked her but she smiled and said thank you laughing and pretending to like it. We took a photo of her and showed her the picture and they were both excited and amazed. They were really lovely and smiled at us the whole way.

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Most of the journey is through very rural areas with farmers’ fields and shanty housing. The whole reason we came on the train however was to go over Goteik viaduct. Chelsea was a little disappointed as she thought it was wooden but it turned out to be a large metal viaduct spanning a valley. Barely wide enough for the train it is like several pylons holding up a rail way track. We stood at the back to get a good view and take some pictures. On the trains here the doors are open so we could stand in the doorway and look the hundreds of feet straight down, that is until we became a little too scared, and retreated back to the seats.

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After the viaduct we just sat back and took in the view. We managed to sleep a little bit but it wasn’t long before you were shook awake by the movement of the train. At one point the train was moving side to side so violently Liams backpack fell on Chelsea head almost knocking her out. We did wonder why the conductor had signalled for us to clip out bags on to the overhead compartment with our straps. We bought some noodles for lunch off a vendor with the help woman sat opposite; it was delicious, cold noodles tossed in veg and chilli, almost like a noodle salad. The woman then bought us what at first appeared to BBQ chicken on a stick but turned out to be chicken fat and skin on a stick, with a few bones thrown in for good measure. We ate it to be polite, thankfully we didn’t pick a skewer with chicken feet on. The only negative for our trip was our ‘friend’. Every time the train stopped at a major station he would appear in the carriage, making sure we were still on the train. Sometimes he would stand in the doorway staring, other times he would sit on one of the seats near us. Towards the end Liam just started pretending he was asleep until he went away as he was making him uncomfortable. Chelsea nervously laughed and smiled at him, the woman and little girl sat with us smiled and laughed at Chelsea laughing.

The woman opposite helped us again when getting off the train as we did not know which our stop was. It turned out that she was also going to Hsipaw. Low and behold though the first person we saw when we stepped on the platform at Hsipaw was our ‘friend’, we quickly made b-line in the opposite direction.

Our guesthouse that we had booked Pyin Oo Lwin was waiting for us when we arrived, so it was really easy to get to the guesthouse. We are staying in Lilly The Home, it was recommend by our friends we saw in Yangon and it is nice. It is new and clean and is only costing is $20 a night with a shared bathroom.

We were both quite exhausted from the journey so after we checked in we went for a drink. Our guesthouse told us of a coffee shop on the river so we checked it out. Liam ordered a beer and Chelsea an ice coffee as we went through the café and out onto the river side. It was a concrete backyard with mix match patio furniture. The highlight was the doors going off the backyard. Two of the doors read ‘Toilet’ and all the other doors leading off the backyard said, ‘Not Toilet’, we had a good chuckle at that. The coffee Chelsea ordered was terrible. It was like hot coffee that had been left to go cold and served as ice coffee. It was also made of filter coffee and had never seen the filter it was majorly gritty. The view however was very nice. It was blissfully quiet and we watched the famers return from a day in fields with their ox and wash in the river. We sat there for nearly an hour before moving on for something to eat.

Another recommendation of our guesthouse but this one was a lot better. It is a Chinese restaurant and we ordered pork and rice. It was spicy and cooked with fresh veg and was very tasty. We had another beer but by this point we were shattered so made our way back. It has been a long day but very enjoyable, tomorrow we are hoping to relax in the peacefulness of Hsipaw, once breakfast is out of the way.

Posted by Chelsandliam 22:13 Archived in Myanmar Tagged myanmar hsipaw Comments (4)

Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin and the Kandawgyi Gardens

Happy Mothers Day mums. We love you loads xxx

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Friday and Saturday have been a total write-off. Chelsea was really sick on Friday. We had planned to do some sightseeing of Mandalay and its ancient cities but she was too unwell so we stayed in the hot, dim hotel room all day. The fans kept going off as power cuts in Myanmar, especially in Mandalay happen several times a day. By Saturday morning Chelsea was feeling better but Liam had got a lot worse. Chelsea went to breakfast alone as she had not eaten for a full day and Liam stayed in bed. We had planned to get a shared pickup truck to Pyin Oo Lwin on Saturday morning for 1500Ks each but Liam was too fragile for the back of a pickup. We waited a few hours and then Chelsea arranged a car to take us for 7000Ks. The pickup takes 3 hours but in the car it only takes 2 and we assumed it would be more comfortable and Liam could just go to sleep in the ack. We assumed wrong. 

When we got in there was us two in the back and another man in the front. After only a few minutes it was clear the man wasn't going to be on his way until the car was totally full so he drove around the city, beeping his horn for half an hour until he had another passenger. The back was really cramped and hot and the journey would otherwise have been fine but our driver was a total maniac. He hung out of the window shouting at people, drove crazy fast up the mountains and didn't slow down on corners with no barriers. He had to stop regularly to hose down his engine to stop it from overheating and he picked up things from people on the way, apparently our car was also a currier service.  Thankfully that got us there quicker but the journey was extremely nerve-racking. It is safe to say it didn't help Liams churning stomach and he was on the verge of vomiting the whole way. 

When we got to Pyin Oo Lwin thankfully our hotel owner came rushing out to welcome us, remembering our names from the phone call we made a few days ago to book. Our bags were whipped off us and he immediately showed us to our room, stating we can fill in the forms and pay later. We are staying at Bravo hotel for thirty dollars a night and the place is beautiful. The rooms have their own bathroom with hot shower and your own toiletries, even a new toothbrush and toothpaste are provided. The rooms have air conditioning, a TV, a fridge stocked with drinks, and are decorated beautifully. A big double bed with fluffy pillows and even throw cushions. It is the best place by a long way we have stayed in and extremely welcoming, just what we needed after being ill. We settled in and Liam went to bed with a temperature. Chelsea filled in the paperwork and payed and we spend the rest of the day relaxing in our lovely room. Liam was really ill so slept all day, Chelsea went out for a few supplies but we basically stayed in the room all of Saturday recooperating. 

Thankfully today Liam has got a lot better. If he had not improved by this morning we were ready to leave Myanmar for Bangkok hospital as we were scared of his temperature. We went for breakfast and decided to visit the Kandawgyi Gardens. We hired some bicycles from the town and set off on our way. We took it steady as Liam was still a little off. It is not very far and you cycle along small roads past big colonial mansions that have mostly now been turned into nice hotels. There are lots of nurseries on the way and the temperature here is really pleasant. Nice and warm but manageable and breezy. A lovely hill station full of friendly people smiling and waving as we cycled past.

The gardens is five dollars for foreigners to visit. We thought this was a little expensive but it is hundred percent worth it. The place is beautiful.  It is really big and we spent the whole day there. We walked around the lake, explored all the gardens and sat in the sun watching the swans and the families. There is a military base near so the gardens was full of families visiting their relatives in the military, having picnics and sitting under trees chatting. There are lots of beautiful gardens, a rock garden, an orchid garden, a bamboo plantation, a swamp walk and an orchard. There are formal planted gardens and more informal grassy areas you can sit and relax next to the lake as well as a butterfly museum. We really enjoyed walking around, especially through the giant bamboo forrest. The highlight however was the walk in aviary

It is a huge area with a raised wooden walkway. After five minutes Chelsea dropped her sunglasses down off the walkway into the exhibit and Liam managed to hook them back up with her bag strap. A nice staff member came to help. Inside were some beautiful birds and he was hand feeding great hornbills. They were huge and amazing. We were really excited and went over to watch and he invited us to help him. We both helped him hand feed the giant hornbills. At first we were a little scared as they have huge beaks that look like they can do damage but they were incredibly gentle taking the fruit right out of our fingers. It was absolutely amazing and we loved it.  The nice young man who let us feed them seemed to be happy we had enjoyed it so much and he kept laughing at us. It was a lovely experience. 

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After this we carried on our walk and visited an elevated wooden walkway that goes through the trees. Whilst walking along we saw wild gibbons. They were huge and were eating strawberries that people had left on the banister. They swung through the trees with their huge, long arms and we stood and watched them for ages. 

We walked around for hours, enjoying the nice weather and the peaceful surroundings. Lots of people stared at us and took pictures of us. They waved at us and smiled and said hello and one lady came over and asked if she could pose with Chelsea for a photo. It was really funny and a little strange for people to be so intrigued. Along our travels through Myanmar we have noticed that many people are interested in western people but this was another level. We can only assume that lots of them had never seen western people before. 

For the rest of the day we sat in the cafe in the gardens admiring the view of the gardens and lake. It was lovely. We had an iced mocha drink and sat for over an hour and half relaxing and people watching. Many people took photos of us just sat there and we just smiled and said hello. 

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Spending the day at the gardens made a refreshing change to sightseeing. As much as we love seeing the sights of towns spending the day outside walking around such a beautiful place at a slow pace was gorgeous. There was no traffic, no noise and no pollution. It reminded us of gardens back home.

It was after 3pm when we made the journey back into town and we dropped the bikes off and went to explore. The town is small but quite busy and reminds us a little of a wild west film. Lots of the buildings are really old colonial wooden structures, fading in their former glory in a charming way. Their are horse and carts everywhere with old fashioned style carts like Cinderella's. We explored the streets and then went to the market for a walk around. It is a lot bigger than it looks. The outside area is full of fresh produce, fruit, veg, fish and meat. It was late in the day and lots of the food was covered in flies, it made us consider becoming vegetarian whilst in Myanmar, especially after our dose of sickness the past few days. The inside market area is like Aladdin's cave. Crammed full of stalls, each stall full to burst with everything you could possibly need, fabric, toiletries, hardware, clothes, cookware, woollens, spices, confectionary, shoes, basically anything and everything you could want. 

We wandered around aimlessness and came back to our hotel for a shower. We called our next guest house to make a reservation and enquired about the time of the train we need tomorrow. The reception here is really helpful and friendly, it is most defiantly our favourite hotel in Myanmar. 

Liam's stomach could not face anything but plain old western food tonight so we went to the only place in town advertising western food, a take away place. We both had a burger and shared some fries and enjoyed a delicious home made lemon iced tea.  We are extremely excited tomorrow for our train journey over the viaduct. 

Posted by Chelsandliam 21:21 Archived in Myanmar Tagged myanmar lwin oo pyin Comments (2)

Mandalay.... Walking the streets in midday heat.

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On today's agenda was seeing the main sights of Mandalay. We were up nice and early and had a pretty diabolical breakfasting on the roof terrace. Horrible melon, mouldy banana, sweet dry toast, weird white butter and a dry but greasy egg. The tea was nice though. We decided to walk it all the way down to Mahamuni Paya. This is the nations most famous Buddha image, thousands of people visit to apply gold leaf to the body. Apparently there is now more than six inch of gold leaf covering the Buddha. It took us all morning to walk to the temple as it is more than 20 blocks away and it was incredibly hot. Walking down 84th street is really different to the small streets our guest house is on. A massive main road with crazy traffic. People zoom past leaving clouds of vile exhaust smoke and constantly beep their horns. As always people waved and said hello as we walked past and helped us with directions. When we got to the correct street we could see an empty street with what looked like a temple at the end but it wasn't ornate or big. We walked towards it to ask and sure enough that was it. As you go inside you walk down a corridor of columns lined with stalls selling religious souvenirs, scarves and flowers to offer to Buddha. Apparently there is a ten dollar entry fee that will also get you into all the other sights in Mandalay and a one dollar camera fee however no one asked us for a ticket of to pay and there was no ticket office so we just went inside.

Inside there were hundreds of people, mostly Burmese people and a few tourists. All the children were dressed up and families had come to see the temple. There are several courtyards surrounding a huge golden Paya. In these were artefacts and bronze figures recovered from Angkor Wat. In the centre of the temple is the golden Buddha. Women are not permitted to approach and there were hundreds of people sat on a long carpet facing the Buddha worshiping and watching their families apply gold leaf to the Buddha on TV screens. The Buddha itself has a polished face and the body is bumpy where the gold leaf has been applied. Chelsea bought some pineapple and stood eating that and waiting while Liam went to explore the Buddha. It is an interesting place and is mainly full of local people worshiping.

After this we decided to find Shwe In Bin Kyaung monestary. We set off walking and called at a cafe to cool off and sat and had a beer. Finding the monestary proved to be difficult and by this point at mid day it was beyond bearable to walk. We wandered around the smaller streets, through villages and people helped us with directions several times. The smaller streets of Mandalay are another world. Small huts line the streets, open sewers and litter runs down the roads and people go about their normal lives. They shower in the street, sell their fruit and snacks, taxi drivers lay around waiting for business and children play. The roads are not tarmaced and people sit watching and smiling. After a VERY long walk we came to a street we thought it was on and were shown in through a door in a wall which we would have never found on our own. You take your shoes off as soon as you enter so be prepared to walk on the dirt as there are no paved paths. The monestary itself is free and is quite impressive. It is made entirely of teak and is ornately carved. The whole place was strangely quiet and there was no one around apart from the man and his little girl on the entrance doorway. His little girl was fascinated by us and came right up to us wanting to touch us.

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After visiting the monestary we decided to head back in to the centre of town towards Mandalay hill and find somewhere to sit for a few hours. The walk back was difficult in the heat and was a long way. On the way we managed to change some money. The rate in Mandalay is the best we have seen in Myanmar and we got 863Ks to the dollar instead of 850Ks. We also managed to check out transport and prices for the next few days. Tomorrow we are going to explore Amarapura so we went to the taxi corner that services this area and enquired. It costs 500Ks per person to go in the back of a pickup. The station is at the corner of 84th and 29th. We then carried on to the corner of 81st and 32nd to enquire about taxi to Pyin Oo Lwin, our next destination. Our guest house offers it at 7000Ks per person but you can get a taxi from here for 5000Ks. You can also ride the same journey in a pickup for the bargain price of 1500Ks so we think we might brave it and try this.

By this point our legs were tired and we were hot and hungry so we stopped off at a stall which looked like it was ran by a family. They had baskets full of street snacks so we pointed to some that looked like giant spring rolls. We sat down and they brought them to us cut up with some chilli sauce and cucumber salad. They were amazing and had curried potato inside and cost 500Ks. There was nothing to drink except water out of a cooler bucket which we didn't want to risk so after we had eaten we walked on and sat in a bar. We sat in the bar and had a cold frosty beer. Every time you sit down anywhere here you get a little plate of peanuts. As soon as they are finished they bring you another one and will just keep bringing more and more. Liam could not stop eating them and ate about 5 plates full before he decided he was too full of peanuts. After more than an hour and a half and three beers we thought we better be on our way to Madalay hill.

The walk was long and after half an hour we realised we were still nowhere near and as we wanted to watch the sunset from the top we better get some form of transport. We hailed a pickup truck and paid 500Ks each to take us to the bottom of the hill.

At the bottom we went inside Kuthodaw Paya, another pagoda with an entrance fee included in the ten dollar ticket but there was no one there to collect any money or ticket so we just went inside. This is the site of the worlds largests book. There are over 700 giant slabs that have been engraved each sat in their own Paya surrounding a central golden spire. We explored and then made our assent up Mandalay Hill. As we had lingered for so long over beer we basically had to sprint to the top to catch the sunset. Mandalay Hill is a hard climb up hundreds of steps, through several pagodas to the top. It is over 200 metres high and at the top we both thought we might pass out. Luckily though we had ran up so fast that we were way before sunset and sat and waited half an hour for the sun to set over the city. The views from the top are lovely, you can see the whole city, the river and the mountains. There are loads of squirrels at the top running through the trees and Liam became transfixed on watching and taking pictures of them and updating Chelsea on what they were doing.....'Chelsea, this one is eating a watermelon'.

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The way down was obviously a lot easier and on the way a girl walked and talked with us. She was a student at the University of Mandalay and came to the hill every day to practice her English with tourists. We have seen a lot of this in Myanmar. People approach you and want to talk just so they can practice their speech and learn new words. It is refreshing to have people just want to talk rather than sell you things. We were not asked for any ticket or to pay for Mandalay Hill or any of it's pagodas. We have not bought the ticket and would recommend not buying it as no one checks at any sights we have seen. We only know about the charges from our guide book and the Internet but without that we wouldn't even know how of where to buy one as there seem to be no official ticket offices or booths at any sight so far.

At the bottom we decided to get a taxi back. The driver wanted 4000Ks which was too high so we agreed with a motorcycle taxi on 1000Ks each. We thought he might get a friend to take one of us but no.... All three of us were going on one bike. It was beyond hair raising and as he zoomed through the traffic we both had to laugh and close our eyes.

It was late when we got back into the middle of town and dark. We went to the little street stall for food again and shared a mutton curry, chicken curry, chapatis and biryani and it came with loads of different side dishes, sauces and herbs. It was delicious again. Walking back to our guest house in the dark was a lot harder than expected. We couldn't recognise any of the small market streets without light and had to ask for directions several times. It is a good job people are so friendly of we would still be aimlessly wandering around empty market streets until the sun came up.

Posted by Chelsandliam 07:23 Archived in Myanmar Tagged mandalay myanmar Comments (2)

Arriving in Mandalay

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We had to get up nice and early this morning to fit in breakfast before our 8.30 bus to Mandalay. We finished packing and went downstairs to the lobby of the guesthouse to wait for our bus to pick us up. Of course it was late but Liam did not mind because he got to catch the second half of Man United V Real Madrid on the TV in the lobby. Chelsea was not amused.

The bus itself was one of the better buses we have caught, it had it was clean modern and roomy and had air con but was not too cold. It played Burmese pop and showed the videos on TV with the lyrics across the bottom. Liam asked Chelsea why they do this when no one is going to sing along on the bus. Sure enough pretty much as soon has he had said it a woman behind us starting singing along. When the Burmese pop ended, Western pop started and then it was Chelseas turn to sing along.

We admired the view of the tiny villages and rice fields until it became main road and then read for the reminded of the 5 hour journey. We stopped once in a village for a toilet break and for lunch. Chelsea braved the toilet but Liam gave it a miss as it was a row of bamboo cubicles, with plastic squat toilets. We were still okay from breakfast so just bought some homemade samosas of a little girl, they were delicious.

We arrived in Mandalay a little after 1pm, for once earlier than expected. We got off the bus and we were immediately swarmed by taxi drivers. We collected or bags and told them to give us a minute so we could sort ourselves out. The bus station is 11km out of the centre and they were charging is 8000 kyat. We asked two other westerners if they were interested in sharing the taxi to cut the fare in half. The agreed and then proceeded to haggle with the taxi driver to get it for 6000 kyat.

It was only about 20 minutes to our guesthouse and we checked in without any issues. We are staying in AD1 Hotel which is a little worse for wear but it is clean and we have an attached bathroom. After we had settled in we decided to roam the streets around where we are. Almost immediately out of our guesthouse we stumbled upon a large market. We love walking around Asian markets, especially in Myanmar. This one was just as crazy as usual and huge. The main thing on sale was onions and garlic; we have never seen so many bulbs just piled high in bags. The whole street smelt sweet with garlic. We took a few more streets and the produce on offer changed to chillies, bags upon bags of fresh and dried chillies and then tonnes of different chilli powders.

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Scattered around were other stalls selling fresh fruit and veg (not so fresh by this point) and other conveniences. The streets are in blocks and are narrow and extremely busy. Bycicles are piled high with rice, trucks are piled high with people and baskets and everywhere people sell their wares on the street. Mandalay is extremely friendly, everywhere you walk people smile and say hello and children wave. Unlike Bagan people talk to you because they are interested and no one has tried to sell us anything apart from the occasional motorcycle taxi driver.

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Once we finally got out of the market streets we decided to head towards the palace and see the walls and the moat that runs around it. It was a fair walk and the traffic here is even worse that Yangon. There are just as many cars as Yangon but the streets are about half as wide. On top of that there are thousands of bikes weaving in and out horns blaring, there were no bikes at all in Yangon for some reason. There are no traffic lights either so every junction is a mine field and crossing the road is a hair raising experience. One car today came within a foot of Liam and just stopped. The Burmese lady gave a little chuckle behind the wheel. The moat and palace walls were impressive. The moat is a lot cleaner than we expected and runs a perfect square around the walls. The walls are old but in great condition and several towers of the palace grounds were visible from where we stood. We walked parallel to the walls for a while, then we came along the biggest flock of pigeons we have ever seen. We wondered why there were so many, all over the floor, on the railings of the path, and covering the electrical wires above. Then a woman walked out with a giant bag of seed and poured it all over the pathway. It was really fun walking through them.

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After this we were too thirsty and hungry to go anywhere else so made our way back. We called into a café and had two refreshing draught Myanmar beers each in proper frosty glasses and sat for an hour before going to find somewhere to eat. We came across a tiny street restaurant called Nay Café with a guy flipping awesome looking chapatti‘s over an open fire and a hot plate and decided to go there. It is basically a few tables and chairs on the road and as we sat down a friendly man on the table next to us said hello and started chatting to us. We ordered a mutton curry, a biryani, a plain rice and a few chapatti’s but it came with more than half a dozen side dishes. We got several dips, a gravy sauce, a plate of herbs and a few small tasty salad dishes that we have no idea what they were but ate them all the same as they were gorgeous. Anything we were not sure of we asked the man on the next table and he told us what it was. The whole thing was one of the best meals we have had and cost 2900 kyat. Liam was shocked out how little it cost he left his first tip of the whole trip.

We were not sure what to expect before we got to Mandalay and sort of expected another city like Yangon but it is totally different. On first impressions I think we will love it. The atmosphere is friendly and the streets are busy and vibrant, full of people going about their normal lives. It is what we imagine some of the big towns in other parts of Southeast Asia used to be like before tourism really took off. It is real and exciting. We can’t wait to explore tomorrow.

Posted by Chelsandliam 05:23 Archived in Myanmar Tagged mandalay myanmar Comments (2)

The slow paced side of Bagan

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Today we took a break from templing and decided to have a relaxing day before our trip to Mandalay tomorrow. After getting up early to have breakfast (which is only served 7 until 9), we came back to the room and caught up on some much needed shut eye. We have had two early starts to see the temples so have never had chance to catch up on the sleep we missed from our eventful overnight bus.

Once we were ready we decided to go for a walk and explore Bagan or more precisely Nyaung Oo, where our guesthouse is. Around the corner from where we are staying there is a market so we started there. Before we got within 20 feet of the place we were harassed by a seller asking us if we wanted to by souvenirs. We kindly shrugged her off and made our way deep into the market where the touts left us alone. The market itself is very cramped and vibrant, it is covered by fine mesh that hangs low so Liam constantly had to duck whilst walking through. The ‘stalls’ are baskets and blankets on the floor that the ladies sit at with their scales. It was really interesting to walk around. Most sold food such as vegetables and fruit, dried fish and spices. There were stalls with huge vats of rice and huge bags of dried chillies and tea which you could smell a mile off. We walked around dodging the souvenir stalls as we went. We were asked if we wanted to by a longyi, a traditional skirt type item ninety per cent of the men wear, a face cream that all the women and most kids where to protect from the sun and the obligatory Burmese Days by George Orwell amongst other things. What we did buy were a few oranges from one of the stalls for the rest of our walk.

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From there we decided to go see the Ayeyarwaddy (Irewaddy) river. It was a short walk from where we were but it became apparent that not many tourists come up this way. There are a lot of local houses and a few colonial style buildings and huge trees line the road. A lot of people watched us as we went and said hello and waved, you get this reaction in a lot of places and it is really nice. We followed the road up to the jetty where you can catch the slow boat to Mandalay, unfortunately we do not have the time to do this but we imagine it would be really nice. Have to save that for next time. The river itself was huge and a lot cleaner than we imagined, there were a few boats docked, and a guy did try to sell us a boat ride in badly broken English that Liam understood none of but Chelsea seemed to get perfectly and kindly said no thank you. By the river is a working community and a small village. There are clusters of houses where people sit out front people watching a snoozing in the heat. Women washed their clothes and children swam in the river. People were working in the fields and everyone else was sat in their small shops and cafes waiting for customers. As soon as we approached a group of children ran towards us shouting hello and looking at our bag of oranges. There was only one left but Chelsea offered it them and they shared it between them. We had a walk around and took some photos before retreating to the shade. We took a rest at a little shop and had a drink overlooking the river. We sat for ages people watching and chatting before moving on.

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We decided to walk down the river on the road towards a place called Bagan Beach bar that was on our map. We walked down a really small street lined with people houses. Everyone was sat outside in the shade and they smiled and said hello. We crossed a few dry riverbeds that were filled to the brim with litter but the rest of the place was small and looked very basic. Often small bamboo or wooden houses nestled in between big colonial buildings. Whilst walking by a dog went for Chelsea and she weirdly shouted go away in Thai. Liam reminded her we weren’t in Thailand and the dog wouldn’t understand but it seemed to do the trick as the dog backed off. When we reached the bar we planned to go to it was packed with massive tour buses full of people so we decided to skip it and walk back into town. After having such a quiet and slow paced afternoon we weren’t up for sitting with 100 package tourists. It is amazing how different the village is just ten minute walk out of the main tourist strip. We didn’t see any other western people and the locals were smiling and friendly. The whole atmosphere was sleepy and small, totally opposite to the busy roads in the centre and thousands of tourists.

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In town we found a smallp lace and ordered a lime soda each. It was really bitter and not even a little a bit refreshing but being polite English people we drank it with grimacing faces and said thank you. We went a few doors down and had a few beers. We sat all afternoon, for hours talking and drinking in the small outdoor area they had and it was really enjoyable and relaxing.

We came home around 4.30pm and did our washing and showered to go out for some tea. Every time you go outside in Bagan you are covered in dust. It’s funny when you take your shoes off and you have perfect dust lines where your flip flops have been. For tea we both had a vegetable Masan Curry with rice. It is a Thai dish we have had before and it is delicious, spicy and creamy with a coconut flavour and full of potatoes. It was gorgeous.

We have had a lovely slow paced day today and feel like we have seen another side to Bagan. The temples are amazing but we would definitely recommend spending another day and just having a walk round the village talking to the locals and seeing their way of life. The market is vibrant and the river is where whole communities live. Bagan has been one of our favourite places so far. It is like no other place we have ever been.

Posted by Chelsandliam 05:45 Archived in Myanmar Tagged bagan myanmar Comments (2)

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