A couple of days have gone by in Bangkok before Adrian and me decided to go to Myanmar together. We picked up our visa’s at the embassy in Bangkok and booked a cheap Air Asia flight to Yangon. Let me tell you now: I stayed in Bangkok for a while now and was kinda used to the humidity, but Yangon was worse. After we found our Hotel, we were really looking forward to just throw our bags in the corner, take a shower and enjoy the AC. I knew that Myanmar was going to be more expensive then the neighbouring countries, but 25 dollars for a room without a window, AC and a decent shower was a bit rough. We were just too tired and sweaty, so we took it. The mattresses were kinda soggy and there was only a small fan. At least it was clean. Apparently, this place is known for it’s excellent breakfast, which they’re very proud of. There was a notice at the reception that this place was featured on Discovery Channel. Although we were late for breakfast, we still got a taste of the leftovers.
We spent the previous evening wandering around the Sule Pagoda and decided to already move on the next day. I’ve been in Yangon before and didn’t feel like staying any longer. So after our breakfast we booked a bus ticket to the Golden Rock. The bus wasn’t air conditioned and instead all windows were open. About 6 hours later we arrived in Kinpun, which is at the base of Mt. Kyaiktiyo. This little village offers some basic accommodations and some restaurants. During dinner we came up with this “brilliant” idea to climb up the mountain during the night, so we can see the sunrise. To be honest, this smart choice was made after a couple of Myanmar beers. The more we drank, more amazing ideas came up like hiking up in a longyi (a sheet of cloth worn around the waist) and go barefoot. Fortunately, we came to our senses and I put at least some flip flops on, but we still bought the longyis. The vendor was amused that two western guys bought a longyi at his stall. As we tried it on, others came to see this phenomenon of two tourists trying to knot the longyis around their waists.
All set for the hike, we took off for this traditional pilgrimage. I regretted it already after 5 minutes. It was really humid and the sweat just dripped off. Ok, maybe it also has something to do, that we’re not in the greatest shape. Too much Thai food and Leo beers in bangkok are showing its effects. Since we didn’t want to give up, we continued for our journey. The path wasn’t that steep, just a lot of stairs. There are little shops along the way in which the vendors also sleep in. It was kinda creepy walking through this pitch black jungle. All of a sudden, you hear some dogs barking at you and a random burmese guy looking out of the window just to see two sweaty white dudes. Adrian stripped down to his underpants at this point and I pulled up my longyi because of the heat, so I understand that they were confused to see two half naked guys walking up the mountain at 2 am.
And of course, it started to rain around 3 am. We found some shelter and waited for the rain to stop. And when I say waiting, I mean sleeping. The alarm clock was set for an hour and so we fell asleep outside during the heavy rain. As we continued, it got brighter really quickly. We realized that we would definitely miss the sunrise. But even if we’ve made it on time, it was too foggy that the sun could break through. So this whole night trip was actually for nothing.
The whole scenery was eerie because it was so foggy, monks were chanting and gongs were hit. The golden rock was really impressive. Women weren’t allowed to touch it, but we could take a closer look at it. As the rock seems to defy gravity, the legend says that a hair of buddha keeps the rock to a balance.
Next stop was the new capital city Naypyidaw. It’s one of the world’s 10 fastest growing cities. The construction began 2002 but there are still some construction sites, mostly for hotels. It felt like a ghost town, because other than rich burmese families and employees, no one really lives there. It was impossible to find a budget accommodation, so we took the cheapest hotel room for 35 dollars in a building that was still under construction except for the rooms. It was really comfortable and a nice change to sleep at this fancy place. As we moved to the main building for dinner, we spotted a lot of employees hanging around. The dining hall was empty and as soon as we entered, all employees got up and did their jobs.
The only way to go sightseeing in this huge city was with a taxi that cost us 50 $. It’s pretty steep, but we took it anyway. The city has a Theme Park, a gems museum, a zoo, a fountain park, shopping malls and much more. To our surprise, everything was pretty expensive. We proceeded to the theme park which is kind of a replica of myanmar. The outline of the park has the same outline like the country and there are miniature landmarks of each division. It was nearly empty, except for some monks. We got a service offered, that was specially for foreigners, to get driven around in a golf cart with a tour guide. We skipped the zoo, because 20 $ entrance fee wasn’t worth it to see some sad animals. The Uppatasanti Pagoda is almost an exact replica of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. Not to our surprise, it was also pretty empty.
Kalaw is a famous tourist destination for hiking. The route from there to Inle Lake is particularly popular. Our bus drove past Kalaw and we had to take a motorbike taxi back at 3 am. We didn’t realize it, but some burmese dude took care of it and was extremely helpful. He paid for our coffee’s and for the motorbike taxis. Crashed into our beds and got waken up by someone who offered hiking trips to Inle Lake. A group was waiting already to good to go, so we joined them. The weather was really nice, since Kalaw and Inle Lake is located in the mountainous Shan State. The path was pretty flat and not too hard. Our group contained of one english gentleman, a dutch girl and 2 french guys. It takes 2 days to walk to Inle Lake with some nice stops at some ethnic minorities villages.
I didn’t bother to take many pictures of Inle Lake and Bagan, since I’ve been there already. We rented some bicycles and drove around. But there is one night I won’t forget. Our hotel room was all nice and neat, but there was a hole in the mosquito net. Unfortunately we discovered it late at night when they already had a big feast with us. It was probably the worst night we had! We took our flip flops and killed like 20 mosquitos each.
After Bagan we went to Mandalay, Myanmars second largest city located in Upper Myanmar. Our hotel smelled like fish sauce as did the streets of Mandalay. The electricity went on and off the whole time, which was really annoying because of the AC. Besides some pagodas, a palace and a hill with a viewing point, Mandalay didn’t have that much that I find worth mentioning. We soon moved to Pyin U Lwin, which was a summer residence used by the brits back in the days. Because of it’s mild climate, we really enjoyed walking around and have some delicious strawberry shakes.
Back in Mandalay, we took a day trip to Inwa and Amarapura. The english dude from the Kalaw hike showed up at our hotel and he joined us immediately. The world’s largest teak wood bridge can be seen in Amarapura and some temples in Inwa.
We ended our trip and flew out from Mandalay back to Bangkok.