After 60+ days in Thailand we headed to Myanmar for a new adventure. We woke up early and headed to the green bus depot to take us to Mae Sot on the border. We stayed one night at a nice little place called Phanu Guesthouse.
First stop Myawaddy, right across the border from Mae Sot. We were helped by “Mike” and were soon sharing a taxi with Karen, nurse from USA who was volunteering in Thailand at the Burmese border during her retirement. Apparently lots of Burmese cross here to use the hospital at Mae Sot. After a harrowing drive through the countryside (1 dead body from moped accident) we arrived in Hpa-An and checked into the Galaxy Motel with it’s amazing rooftop views.
The next day we arranged a tuktuk tour of the surrounding caves and temples with Karen. We were joined by Verena from Germany and Clem from France. 11 hours later, we had been shaken around and were totally caved and templed out but we were all satisfied with a great experience. I was pooped on by a bird and a bat, apparently that’s lucky. Discovered tomato salad.
Spent the next day wandering the area with Karen and Verena having a relaxing time, more tomato salad. Then off to Yangon.
The bus station was utter chaos yet functioned. Took a long cab ride to our Shwe Yo Vintage Hostel. Went and checked out the Canadian embassy… they weren’t going to let us up but Paul said “it’s okay we’re Canadian” and flashed his passport. It didn’t change the fact that it was closed but we got to see it from outside. We wandered around and both got pooped on. At breakfast we were talking to a couple.. after a couple of questions discovered they were also Canadians… then more questions and we are all Calgarians. Awesome coincidence! Enter Liz and Pat. We spoke to a fellow from the French/German border who’d been travelling for 4 years all over in a massive camper truck and had amazing experiences. Enter Yann.
We took the circular train which was 3.5hours/50km through Yangon and the surrounding countryside with Yann. Went past some interesting sites, some sad, some crazy but good tour of the area. A girl on the train even made me a bracelet. Went to the Shwe Dagon Temple for sunset… amazing, overwhelming and beautiful all at the same time. Had a few bevvies with Liz, Pat and Yann that night before heading to Bagan on the overnight JJ Express bus.
We were dropped off at 4AM with a bunch of taxi drivers all colluding on high prices for dozy customers. Around the corner from where the bus drops people off there is a sign showing “Old Bagan: 8000K, New Bagan: 7000K and Nyaung U: 5000K”. Much cheaper than what the taxi drivers were quoting. We walked away, heading off in the direction of our hotel and then one of them sheepishly dropped his price to what we knew to be the correct amount. Since we were awake we decided on a 5am sunrise temple view before going to our hotel. After that we checked into the Oasis Hotel and had a nap. Later we rented an e-bike and we were off to see more temples. Yann arrived a day later so we arranged to tour the next day. We randomly met up with Pat and Liz at the white temple. Spent the rest of the day touring together along with Jen from Hong Kong. Had more tomato and tea leaf salads and Myanmar beer, mostly at the great Weather Spoon’s Restaurant and Bar. Arranged to spend the next day travelling around and had a great time exploring the temples and spending time together.
For our last day the 5 of us took a van to Mount Popa and braved the cheeky monkeys that tried to steal our stuff.
Headed off to Inle Lake with Yann on the day bus. The bus rides in Myanmar are definitely something else… but good overall. Liz and Pat arrived the next day and we all went for a bike ride around the lake which included a toe injury, stop at a winery and some racing. Met Karen at the Inlay Hut Indian Food House (313) for dinner, owned by the Myanmar version of Eminem. Did the boat tour of the lake the next day. Temples, silk workshop, tobacco factory and valet parking. After that we ate so much dim sum at the Live Dim Sum House it was almost embarrassing. We ordered one of everything on the 2 page menu but a serving for 5… then we ordered more. All in preparation for our 3 day trek from Kalaw back to Inle Lake. Needless to say the food and company was amazing.
3 Day Trek: Kalaw to Inle Lake
Next day, started the trek from Kalaw to Inle. Turns out one of the other people joining up also stayed at the same hotel in Yangon. Connie and Mara. Trek = amazing! Taser(face) our guide was awesome. Had two homestays, great meals and an awesome time. The scenery was incredible. Also attended a pre-wedding ceremony and tried on some local headgear, had fun with kids and the older people. Pat and Liz headed off right away, the rest of us spent two nights relaxing in Inle Lake at the wonderful Motel Album.
Then we headed to Mandalay to meet Pat and Liz staying at
Studio Hotel 82. 2 nights of beer gardens and earthquake cracked temples, then off to Hpa-An again on our way out of Myanmar, back to Thailand.
We all took the night bus together. Stayed at the Galaxy Hotel again when we got to Hpa-An with it’s spectacular rooftop views. Ate some more tomato salad and drank more Myanmar beer! Paul, Pat, Liz and Yann all climbed Mt. Zwegabin. Paul said it was one of the hardest things he has done. 750m of straight up stairs of random heights. I was smart and took care of my cankles, and had cold water, beer and oranges waiting for them. Next day our G5 split Yann heading to Yangon and Sri Lanka, Pat, Liz, Paul and I to Chiang Mai.