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Shazza's Escapades Light hearted look at my travel escapades

Burma July 2012

MYANMAR | Sunday, 22 July 2012 | Views [346]

Arrived in Yangon and headed straight for the tour briefing and then to dinner. I had a night of stomach cramps due to the ice in my drink not being purified like I thought. Headed for a city tour the following morning and spent hours in temples and then boarded an overnight train to Bagan. It was the same type of overnight train like all the ones in South East Asian countries, hot and humid, at least no cockroaches on this one. I spent most of my time with the guards in the other carriage to avoid the cramped conditions in our cabin with 4 people. At least I had my own window seat to take as many photos as I wanted.

Bagan is a heritage town full of temples, stupors and pagodas as far as the eye can see. Hired a bike on both days and cycled the whole town and explored all the temples, at least it felt like it. I cycled till I nearly passed out, the heat was just too much and my butt just about coped with the hard seat on my bike. During my ride a sparrow flew into my left thigh and I think it died but as I was going too fast I couldn’t stop. I felt bad but how could the bird miss me. I just hope it was just mildly concussed and then flew back to wherever it was going to. Then I climbed to the highest point of a stupor to view a beautiful sunset overlooking the Irrawaddy River.

The next morning it was a 5 am wake up to get to our boat to reach Mandalay. It was nearly 12 hours on the Irrawaddy River but we finally made it to Mandalay. Just a short walk around the block showed me that people seem to have lots of sex here. I counted at least 20 stalls selling condoms of one variation or another. They are on sale at night as well as the day time, not only condoms but sex toys too. I have no idea why this is huge in Mandalay but I guess everyone is having safe sex which is always a good thing.

The following morning I had another full day tour of temples and monasteries in the morning and then over the river to a small village. To get here you need to use a horse and cart. It was really bumpy but fun. Then we spent the rest of the evening looking at the sunset from the Ubein Bridge. This is a pedestrian bridge across the Irrawaddy River. Bikes can also go on it and it seemed to be a hot meeting point for local couples and strangely, monks taking time out from the monastery to listen to rock music.  For dinner I found a chapatti stall and had a meal for 15p.

The next morning I took another boat ride to Mingun Village. I climbed the giant rock to the top to get a panoramic view of the village. As it was a holy site I couldn’t wear shoes so I did the climb in bare feet. 174 steps plus very rickety rock to climb over. Then I found the biggest bell in the world. The sign does say second biggest but apparently the first biggest bell has a crack in it and therefore lost its title of the biggest bell in the world.  Then I finished off the day with a sunset view from Mandalay Hill.

The next morning I took a long bus ride to Kalaw, which is a summer spot for rich Burmese people. I took a walk around the village, found a market and then another temple. Then took the bus for 3 nights at Inle Lake.

I didn’t expect Inle Lake to be so big. It has several villages around this gigantic lake and to get from village to village you need to take a dugout canoe boat. On the way to the villages you can spot leg rowers on the lake. This is when the fishermen row with their leg. It looks weird but it works and leaves their hands for other things I guess.

In one of the villages I spotted 2 ladies from the long neck tribe. They wear heavy copper type wire wrapped around their necks from a young age so eventually their neck gets longer and longer.

Then I went to a cigar making factory and even smoked one cigar. I tried the aniseed flavour and a beetle nut flavoured cigar. I coughed a lot. Then I went to visit a monastery where the monks have trained the stray cats to jump. There are many cats that turn up at the monastery and as the monks feed them they train them to be jumping cats. They only jump when you put your hand in front of them and encourage them otherwise they will just stay still.

The next day I stupidly decided on a walk to visit 3 villages and 2 tribes. It rained first and then it stopped but it was a very muddy walk and I only wore flip flops. So it was tough walking in mud and it was a pointless walk and we didn’t see any tribes and the villages we visited were boring. Finally got back caked in mud and decided to chill out for the rest of the day.

The next day it was the hike to Golden Rock. This is a huge bolder balancing on a rock with a pagoda on the top of the bolder. Not only that but it is all golden. It’s an amazing site but as we started the day with torrential rain I didn’t think we were going to get anywhere. First we had to take a truck to base camp. This truck is huge with narrow slats of wooden seats in the back with no cover. The journey took another hour and my butt got numb and everyone on the truck got wet when the heavens opened up. The trek started from base camp and then it was supposed to be 1 hour to the top but with the rain it took longer. The walk was steep all the way and sometimes almost vertical. I didn’t want a porter to carry my bag so I did it myself and it was hard and I got really wet. In fact I didn’t get dry until I reached Yangon.  I finally reached the mountain top which was covered in mist so I headed straight to the hotel. The hotel reception was also wet almost like a wet room. Even my room was down 4 flights of stairs outside so I got wet again. I splashed out on dinner as it was in US dollars so it was mega expensive. The next morning I was supposed to get to the golden rock but it rained all day and night that I didn’t think I was going to see anything. Luckily I persevered in the rain after a late breakfast and saw the beautiful golden rock even in the rain it was quite amazing. In one moment the mist cleared and you could see the rock and pagoda very clearly. Then it was the very hard walk back down to base camp. It seemed steeper going down and with the rain my flip flops didn’t make it so I took them off and walked bare feet most of the way. The rain kept falling and eventually got to the truck and then had another hour to get back to our bus to Yangon. I got a seat on the back of the truck and was able to stand some way and take photos. It was an awesome ride and had a laugh with the locals.

By the time I got to my bus I was soaking wet right through to my underwear. I changed quickly in the bus and then spent the rest of the day looking around Bago. I saw several enormous Buddha’s and the reclining Buddha was the best. We drove through many villages that were flooded. The locals were having fun in the rain and the flood riding in their canoes and rubber tubes. Others were not having much fun as their mopeds stalled and the tuk tuks got stuck in the flood. The water was up to their knees.

Finally arrived back in Yangon tired but looking forward to visiting places associated with Aung Sang Su Kyi. First I went to the NLD (National League for Democracy) office and went mad buying all their merchandise. They sold t-shirts, bags, hats, posters, key rings, magnets, mugs and even umbrellas. I was glad to be supporting such a good cause. Then I tried to find the place where she was under house arrest. I found the entrance but it was difficult to get close to the house as it was behind huge razor wired gate. The house is situated on Inya Lake, which is the same lake the American guy came across to see Aung San Su Kyi and it was to her cost as she had a few more months added to her sentence. Then after a long walk I found her father’s house which has been turned into a museum. I learned a lot about this wonderful lady and I found Burma to be a beautiful country so full of hope. Let’s hope that come 2015 she will be Burma’s new President.

Still thinking about the sparrow that may or may not have died by flying into my thunder thighs. Bearing in mind it happened in Burma, where most of them are Buddhist and believe in life after death, I’m thinking if it did die then I will be coming back as a sparrow.


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