A Travellerspoint blog

Day 17 - Yangon (again)

sunny 33 °C
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After a relatively relaxing day yesterday ‘meandering’ from one place to another, shot out of the gates early this morning, skipped breakfast, but consumed my first cup of brewed coffee in 10 days.

The one thing about Myanmar that concerns me is the lack of freshly brewed coffee (first world problems I know). However, after surviving on instant 3 in 1 packets (milk powder, sugar and what loosely resembles coffee) with luke warm water, I was pretty desperate for a nice cup.

Anyways a few coffees later and I have all the energy in the world to tackle, a walk around the beautiful Inya Lake, the largest of the lakes in Yangon. I thought we had got there early but so many locals had already arrived for their morning exercise, which made the walk even more special being able to chat and smile with the every friendly people of Myanmar. This is the one this I have noticed with consistency, everyone, absolutely everyone we have met in Myanmar could not do enough to help us, chat or just through a smile our way, definitely a candidate for friendlies nation.

There we some beautiful views, and lunch will have to be had looking at them. We choose a restaurant right on the water’s edge, with its Milk Crate décor and extremely low tables, its what I will describe as quaint. However, the food is amazing and could not be topped, perfect combination between spice and sweetness.

From Inya Lake and Gardens, we hop a taxi to the Shwedagon Pagoda which is the most impressive man made landmark in Yangon and you can practically see its gold leave dome from everyone corner of the City.
We are told that as the sun sets over the Swedagon Pagoda, the gold leaf domes really starts to shine. So after a few escalators up we are greeted by its magnificence. The one thing that puts a slight damper on things is the strobe light, Christmas lights, or fairy lights that they place around the heads on the effigies and statues of Buddha, it’s almost looks like he has dressed for a rave (or for the kids and grandparents – a disco).

As the sun sets, something unexpected happens, what I can only describe as stadium light turn on and shine down on the gold roof lighting it up (so not really the sun setting then) which is a shame because the lights really ruin any photos you can take, unless like the pro’s you scouted a great location beforehand.

With the sun set and things getting dark we head off for dinner and retire for another night.

Posted by lee_1986 01:13 Archived in Myanmar Tagged pagoda yangon shwedagon inyalake Comments (0)

Day 16 - Inle Lake to Yangon

semi-overcast 33 °C
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It’s the first day of December, but no wintery northern hemisphere weather her in Inle Lake which provides another beautiful sunrise to go with our canal view from both the Villa and Restaurant.

Another beautiful breakfast spread at the hotel and we are jet setting back to Yangon which ends up taking most of the day I would definitely recommend staying at Viewpoint Lodge and Fine Cuisines if anyone makes it to Inle Lake.

I am used to usually booking red eye flights which save money on accommodation and maximises exploration time, but when you travel with family this goes out the window and most of the day is spent at the airport, flying, and getting taxi’s back to the hotel.

After a long day of what I will choose to call ‘meandering around’ for the lack of interesting events contained within this timeframe, I elect to write the rest of the afternoon off to go snack shopping, eating, and retiring to the hotel for much needed sleep.

Posted by lee_1986 01:07 Archived in Myanmar Tagged hotel flight lake yangon inle recommendation Comments (0)

Day 15 - Inle Lake (Side trip to Kakku)

semi-overcast 32 °C
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Up early this morning for another enormous breakfast provided by the hotel - starts with 2 different juices papaya and pineapple, yogurt with fruit, fruit platter, Parma ham and Swiss cheese, 4 different types of pastry, soup of the day, samosas, and tea and coffee after stuffing my face we take the 2.5 hour drive to Kakku where we are to see the Pa-O village and a collection of around 1200 stupas. After a long drive we arrive at our destination an are treated to the view of these 1200 stupas.'its amazing to see the shear quantity of the stupas which were built some 2000 years ago.

After walking through the stupas and hearing the guide take us through we stop for lunch - the menu has no prices but there is nothing else around so we order. When we ask for the bill - it seems like the just make up the prices as they go along and it costs me 5000 kyats or 5AUD for a soup!

After this we drive to the Pa-O village - we are taken to is old ladies house and are shown all the vegetables and dried chillis that she grows. She laughs with us even though she speaks no English and it's just nice to see someone that lives so simply be so happy with life. She shows her kitchen to us and see how spare and simple it is make me think that I could never cook in something so basic as wood fire and Calderon.

After the visit I brace myself for the 3 hour journey back to the hotel. We arrive back and head in for a walk around the small lake town. We stop at a cocktail bar and order a margarita, piña colada and tequila sunrise - never will u do that again the cocktails are horrible and we have a good laugh but they just haven't got making cocktails right yet half because of the mix and half because of the lack of order ingredients.

We retire to the hotel balcony for some coffee and honey cookies as we wait for tomorrow mornings flight to Yangon.

Posted by lee_1986 01:27 Archived in Myanmar Tagged lakes burma pagoda inle_lake myanmar stupa Comments (0)

Day 14 - Inle Lake (Side trip to Kalaw)

sunny 34 °C
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Today adventure takes us to the town of Kalaw and onto the the Green hills elephant park.

The short stop in the town of Kalaw is quite beautiful and we head to a tea house to stop and get some coffee the ladies are so sweet and pour us some green tea as a gift for coming to their shop - we tip big! The coffee is nice and piping hot so very happy.

The trekking to the green hills elephant park drop off point is reached and we meet our guide to take us on our trek. We are told that the trek takes about 2 hours and the heat is already exhausting. We start walking through a little village where we stop and use what seems to be the oldest outhouse in Myanmar. We go through the fields and the path is barely wide enough for my shoulders to get through. We cascade down through the jungle down many steep hills and steps cross ravines and over bamboo bridges.

As we reach our destination after only 1 hour and 15 minutes we a met by a lovely pool of water along the river. The guides give us some pants to wear for the aching of the elephants. Two elephants slowly meander down the river and lay down in the pool of water as is by routine. We are given coconut husks and wade into the water to help scrub down the elephants it's funny that even though their skin is 1.5 inches thick you can tell they enjoy the washing as their skin is that sensitive. We then get to ride on the elephants shoulders back to the camp for their lunch. We feed the 7 elephants their banana lunch.

After that amazing experience we settle in to for the 2 hour drive back to Nyung Shwe and then our hotel in Inle Lake.

Posted by lee_1986 01:23 Archived in Myanmar Tagged mountains lakes temple elephant burma inle_lake myanmar Comments (1)

Day 13 - Inle Lake

overcast 28 °C
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Back on the boats again this morning to take a trip to the 5 day markets as we arrive there are so many people pulling up their canoes trying to sell stuff to you it's quite harassing for the boat driver to move between them but ends up just hitting them with the bow out of the way. The 5 day markets used to be floating but now due to the tourists are on land and are filled with stalls that sell crap as opposed to the thriving fruit, vegetable and spice markets they used to be. We finally arrive at the fresh food markets and see many Pa-oh ladies buying groceries. Everyone is friendly and let's us try things along the way to see what the many spices taste like.

Leaving the markets we head to the Indien Archeological site which has the old huts and dam that the village constructed it's quite good to see this untouched area to see how villages used to live.

We go to the floating village and gardens on Inle Lake to see the Intha people also knows as the sons of the lake. The village is built in the middle of the lake and they get from place to place by wooden canoe. The village is amazing and the way people live having pigs and chickens where there is no dry land. All the homes are on stilts and allow for the lake to rise and drop with the seasons.

A canoe trip through the Nampan village shows you the floating gardens which the main crop is tomatoes - these gardens supply 60% of all the tomatoes in Myanmar and it's amazing that these gardens move around by floating the lake. The men rowing the canoes use the traditional Leg rowing technique where they balance on one leg and move the oar with the other while standing on the tip of the canoe.

The hour and a half journey back to the hotel has wiped me out and a nice coffee on the balcony suits me before bed.

Posted by lee_1986 00:32 Archived in Myanmar Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises lakes burma buddha pagoda inle_lake myanmar Comments (0)

Day 12 - Mandalay to Inle Lake

semi-overcast 29 °C
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The morning starts early as so many have, as we arrive at the airport for our flight to Inle Lake. Before the plane get to full flight we are already coming back down and the flight takes a whole 45 minutes.

Upon arrival at our beautiful hotel we have a coffee and drink as we wait for check in. Our guide suggests that while we wait we go to the nunnery where he teaches them English in his spare time. We take a walk through this lake town and are greeted by nuns in pink robes it's really quite a sight with their shave heads and gowns. The nuns are very hospitable and we talk to the head nun who tells us about the place and the work they do. She goes to the back of the cupboard and get the nice biscuits for us and some oranges and green tea. We leave the nunnery and leave a donation as they have been so hospitable to us.

We now are heading to the motor boats to take a ride on the lake - it's is vast and magnificent and you can see the nature preservation and along the banks and the fisherman rowing in their traditional one leg style. They all have fantastic balance and I still don't have my sea legs yet an still stumbling on and off the boat.

We have stopped at the normal touristy stops including a silversmiths, weaving factory, metal work factory, paper and umbrella which was only interesting because they had the women with the elongated necks because they place one ring per year for 25 years around they necks. The guide explains to us that where they life there are tigers and the males were able to fight off he tigers bet the women old not. Since they had no way to defend themselves and tigers attack for the neck they covered their neck with brass rings. The women who is weaving is kind and funny an jokes with us and shows us how she takes it off at the bottom to sleep. We then boat to the cigar making factory - this is the most interesting factory to date. The rate at which these women roll cigars is incredible to say the least. They make 100 cigars per hour and we time one lady at 24 second per cigar. It is truly amazing how much hard work they do.

After this we take the 1.5 hour boat journey back to the hotel for dinner where we feast on Curry and Myanmar wine which tastes great and is locally grown in one of two wineries that supply to the whole of Myanmar and export to China.

Retire to bed after a nice evening on the balcony looking over the water.

Posted by lee_1986 23:28 Archived in Myanmar Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises burma mandalay inle_lake myanmar Comments (0)

Day 11 - Mandalay (Side trip to Pyin Oo Lwin)

sunny 32 °C
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Today it's the side trip to Pyin Oo Lwin.

First stop though takes us to Mankala Primary School which caters for years PP to 3. The kids are fantastic and greet us in English all in unison. Stationary is offloaded to the kids, who are so grateful, even the cheeky ones who line up for extra stuff. We started to run low as we didnt budget very well and the kids towards the end didnt get quite as much, but it didnt matter they were all excited in any case. We saw the children in the classrooms learning and spoke to the headmaster who talks about the new schooling structure since the military are not controlling everything. Things are looking up for the future of Myanmar.

The drive to Pyin Oo Lwin is around 90 mins and we stop at a flower market along the way to see motorcycles being loaded up with flowers piled higher that the rider - I have no idea how they see anything coming.

The rest of the drive is windy as we arrive at our first stop Anaskin Falls - one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Myanmar. I trek downs the sloping hill to get to the bottom it takes about 30 minutes and we are accompanied by a few local girls as guides that fan you when you stop to rest and carry drinks and stuff too. They tell us that they take the trip once per day. Instead of making the climb back up I deceive to take a motorcycle ride back which is quite a steep journey. It's not until half way up when the bike slipped that I realised no helmets are required - nothing major is wrong but a bit of a scrape on the leg. Arriving at the top the guide has run to the car to get some traditional Burmese medicine - toothpaste! And smears it on the cuts. She explains that it keeps the dirt and infection out and seems to form a nice hard plaster over the wound which I found very interesting.

Continuing on we have lunch in the town - again not feeling so well so haven't rated and just opt for some water and lime soda.

After lunch a visit to the Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens is in order. The place is so green and a lake and fountains garnish this beautiful place. Walking through the orchid gardens and butterfly museum is nice but no live butterflied it's more like a butterfly funeral home and they are all open casket.

We see a traditional Burmese wedding for one the generals children - and it's interesting that there are all photos of the parents instead of the bride and groom on display - maybe to show who is paying for the wedding?

After a bit more of a walk we return to Mandalay for the evening. They are setting up for a festivals the next night and we have a look at the few market stalls selling nice greasy food and grab some to try! It's pretty nice and we eat enough to not need dinner.

Posted by lee_1986 23:23 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temple burma mandalay pagoda myanmar pyin_oo_lwin Comments (0)

Day 10 - Mandalay (Side trip to Ava Island)

sunny 32 °C
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We gear up today for our side trip to the beautiful Ava Island about 30 mins from Mandalay City.

On the way there is a short stop at the Paleik snake monastery where you can see the bathing of the Burmese pythons. As you enter there are two (on the smaller side of pythons laying around a Buddha statue with a lot of people praying. The handlers then take the pythons to be bathed it is quite the spectacle but ends up being a couple of snakes in a pool but is interesting to see them close up. There is then the opportunity to have a picture holding one which I pass on but read about the previous pythons the made it their home originally where are the current ones have been relocated to the temple.

We take a 2 minute boat trip to o Ava Island basically crossing the river. I'll just add in here that the Burmese food is not amazing and is a combination of Chinese, Thai and Indian dishes depending which boarder you are closest too. So just a warning I guess to future travellers expect the unexpected. For example coffee is sometime very luke warm so much so that the powdered milk does not dissolve. Cold chicken curry (not stated on the menu) so you get confused when it comes out. Don't edit the menu cause you get something really random and anything Western is always very hit and miss.

We take a horse cart ride, which mean squeeze in to a tiny wagon being pulled by the tiniest of horses. I feel horrible but the poor thing doesn't want to go but makes its way through to all the sights.

First stop is the Bagaya Okkyaung monastery which is in its original state and is only occupied by one monk who runs a school for the village children. Seeing the tiny desk and the dark conditions makes me realise how lucky we are to have access to great educational facilities.

We stop at a ancient temple which has not been restored by the government and is in a state of disrepair to say the least. The funny thing is this is my favourite of all the temples, pagodas, and stupas that we have seen. The restored buildings are a little gaudy and most of the Buddha statues have flashing lights around their heads which is quite bizarre from my perspective.

To Mandalay hill for sunset looking over the country on one side and City on the other. We take the elevator to the top and the spectacular view greats us. The viewing platform is littered with people trying to get the best spots for sunset. I stand back and chat to one of the trainee monks who climbs the hill by foot everyday (which is over 1000 steps) for the chance to speak to the foreigners to learn better English. His English is decent and we chat while the sun goes down he is actually very good wi advice and things to see in Mandalay.

We drive back down the hill on the worst drive I have ever been on flying around hair pin turns are ridiculous speeds but I manage to survive just chucking in some earphones and turning up the music.

Posted by lee_1986 23:20 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temple burma mandalay pagoda myanmar Comments (0)

Day 9 - Mandalay (side trip to Mingun)

sunny 30 °C
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Up a little early and did not get much sleep last night so a cruisy day might be nice.

We first head to Mandalay Fort and Palace which as the old capital of Myanmar housed the royal family. The shear amount of buildings for different ranks of the royal family is incredible and listen to stories about King Mingdon and his 60 wives.

I have the chance to climb one of the watch towers which isn't as high as I had first expected but you can see the view over all Mandalay and I realise that they must have don't the job as the palace is in good condition and are told that there have not been much restorative work completed.

Next we take the boat to Mingun for our side trip. The highlight of Mingun is it houses the second largest in tact bell in the world weighing in at approximately 101 tonnes. After having few rings of the bell we go to the Pondawhpaya and Settewa Pagodas which have been damaged in he earthquake in 2012. Big cracks stream through he construction as we have explained the the construction actually prevents the building from falling down if it is cracked. A combination of horizontal and vertical bricks have been used and this apparently is quite good against the threat of earthquakes.

We stop at a shrine for a guy that is in the Guinness world records for being able to recite the largest amount of text from a book from memory word for word. He was able to recite 12 volumes of Buddhist scripture and seeing the books on display It was no easy task.

In lieu of walking back to the boat I take the chance to ride on a bullock cart. The ride is bumpy and unpleasant but a great experience none the less.

We catcher the boat back to Mandalay and retire to the skybar once again not feeling the best after being sick for the last 4 days so have decided to skip dinner in lieu of a couple of glasses of juice.

Posted by lee_1986 23:12 Archived in Myanmar Tagged burma mandalay myanmar bell mingun Comments (0)

Day 8 - Mandalay

sunny 30 °C
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After a simple continental breakfast we take the drive 12km drive to Amarapura to the see the famously U Bein bridge which is the longest fully teak bridge in the world measuring 1.5 kilometres in length. The bridge is quite a sight and is busy with vendors selling a huge range of souvenirs the most unique being watermelon seed bracelets. Walked the length of the bridge and then returned before the heat set in. The girls selling jewellery on the bridge are fascinating and speak upto 6 different languages and it shows the the opportunity in Myanmar is greatly lacking as people with these skills in the western world would be highly regarded.

From the bridge we drive the the Mahagandayone monastery where over 1000 monks are fed and study throughout the day. We watch the procession of monks collecting and eating their food and then head to the kitchen watching rice and curry get cooked in giant woks and lots that I could easily take a nap in.

From here we have a looks at some of the local arts and crafts shops including stone carving, silk weaving and gold leaf making. The gold leaf process is Turkey the most amazing thing. Workers take a gold nugget and hammering it for 45 minutes with a mallet thin it out, after the flattened nugget is then placed into bamboo paper and malleted for another 2 hours. This heats and flattens further as water is added to cool the paper and metal. The process to make a 3x3 cm gold leaf piece takes 3 hours and Myanmar has entire pagodas covered in the stuff.

As we leave the factories we see a street painter that is completing painting using wine - the speed at which he is doing these pictures is amazing and sells them for 2AUD a piece. I have to buy a few to support the local talent.

We head back toward the U Bein bridge at the end of the day to experience the sunset over the water in a row boat. The view is amazing as the silhouette of people walking on the bridge and fisherman in the water is breathtaking.

We return to the hotel and have drinks at the skybar overlooking the whole of Mandalay.

Posted by lee_1986 23:06 Archived in Myanmar Tagged temple burma mandalay buddha pagoda myanmar Comments (0)

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