A Travellerspoint blog

Final bits

sunny 100 °F
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We are back in Yangon now after about an hour flight from Sittwe Friday night. Had a great day yesterday around the city. It is so easy to get around as there are taxis everywhere and it costs about $1-$3usd to get just about anywhere.

We started out with a trip to the Toyota dealership to see if spare parts are any cheaper here than in the US. Turns out the answer is no. Now we know. From there, we went downtown and had a nice lunch at a cute little place called the Tipsy Tiger. Talked to the nice Indian man that owns the place - he just opened about a month ago and is hoping the place catches on. So we bought a t-shirt and one should consider this a plug for the joint next time you are in Yangon.

Walked around some of the old colonial buildings a bit and had a drink at the famous Strand Hotel. Was built in 1901 I think and is super posh. The book says rooms start around $630 per night and the menu looked highly overpriced. Didn't take us long to get our fill and get out. Totally out of place. We did walk the alley behind them though and could see where they dump all their garbage and spare parts. Would expect more for their prices and pretense.

Came back to the room for a bit of a rest before heading to Chinatown on 19th street. Got the tip from an Aussie we met in Mrauk U. Boy was he right. I cannot explain the mass of people and food stalls. Primarily open air restaurants with beer and bbq. You just grab a little plastic basket and fill it with skewers from a case which contains all sorts of things and they bbq it up right there. I was too chicken (ha) to try the chicken feet but we did have some really good other bits we think were regular chicken meat, squid and ribs. The little place we ate was super busy. I think maybe because the book recalls it as being where Anthony Bourdain ate when he was here. The "waiters" are a couple of boys about 8 or 9 years of age. Pretty wild to see them schlepping big mugs of beer back and forth like pros. Great place to just take it in for a while.

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It's been a great trip but looking forward to being home again. Feeling so lucky to have these opportunities to experience.

Posted by madpax 19:20 Archived in Myanmar Comments (2)

Don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello....

sunny 96 °F
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We arrived in Mrauk U after a short flight from Ngapali to Sittwe and then 3 hours by car. The contrast couldn't be any greater. Mrauk U sees few tourists - Kelsey said the book says about 5000 per year. Our guide today said numbers are way down due to fighting in the Northwest of the state. The town itself is hot and DUSTY. The dirt is like powder so all manner of disturbance sends it flying. We are not sure why, but the children have all been greeting us with a hearty "bye bye" instead of a hello or a mingalabar (hello in burmese).

We spent the first day just stumbling around town and even out in the country a bit. Pretty compact area so not too far to wander. Couple pics of the stupas and surround we found by accident:

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Had dinner last night at the hotel that consisted of one bowl of sweet sour soup (massive), one plate of sweet sour noodle with burning awesome sauce, one giant beer (640ml) and the the topper - one rum. Not a mixed drink - an entire fifth of rum they brought to the table. So then of course we had to add a coke to the order. Sum total - less than $8usd.

Proof:

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Today we took a boat trip up the Lemro river to visit a few Chin villages - mostly known for their "tattooed ladies". The practice of tatooing their faces (eyelids and all) was once a coming of age ritual and considered a sign of beauty. This is no longer the case and the younger generation no longer partakes. The last of the tattooed ladies are in their 70's and are happy to receive tourists and sell you their wares in exchange for a photo. I felt seriously uncomfortable taking their picture so aside from the one below where I posed with them, you would be better served to google them. The posing came after buying a weaving from one who was a pretty slick saleswoman. The primary things happening on the river seemed to be harvesting and transporting of both bamboo and rock. All by hand. Boats would be anchored in one spot and one/two people would dive below to fetch river rocks by hand and come up to toss them into the boat - 2 or 3 at a time. All day. The bamboo they would cut from the hillside and slide down to the river, stacking in huge bundles and arranging around a small panga-like boat to form a bit of a barge I guess. A little bit of fishing was happening as well - small fish. I think we would call them minnows.

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Tomorrow we go back to Sittwe for a flight to Yangon. Two nights there and then back home. This has been altogether different. More so than any place we've been in a long time. I am not sure if western culture just hasen't reached Myanmar or if it has and they have rejected it. Either way, I couldn't be more grateful for the hospitality we have been shown and I hope the Burmese people maintain their obvious pride and confidence in who they are.

Posted by madpax 04:43 Archived in Myanmar Comments (1)

A good day

sunny 88 °F
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Went to the market in Thandwe this morning and was the largest we've seen so far. We were the only tourists in sight which was nice. Lots of dried fish and every manner of goods you can imagine.

Had lunch on the beach, a short nap and bad massages late afternoon. I suppose a bit unfair to call them bad at roughly $6usd for an hour but still.

The sun setting over the Bay of Bengal:

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It was a good day!

Posted by madpax 05:55 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Pindaya and Ngapali Beach

sunny 90 °F
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We spent our last day in the Inle Lake area visiting a cave outside of Pindaya which is about 2 hours drive each way. The cave houses over 8000 Buddhas, most of which have been put there fairly recently by various individuals and organizations. Crazy place - the cave itself is up on the side of a mountain. You can either take the stairs from the town below which was a fair distance or you can get your taxi to take you up to the main entrance (which for reasons I am not clear about is guarded by a massive spider statue). The last bit is a series of steep stairs or alternatively a lift was also in use.

The road to Pindaya cut through a good deal of agriculatural land and like other places, was under a lot of construction. The construction methods are humbling. They had big oil drums laying on their side and a hole cut in the top in which to heat the tar in - with an open wood fire right there along the road. The rock was all being cut but hand and tossed against straw screens to filter. The gravel was delivered to the tarred section of road exclusively by ladies who carried each load in a pan on their heads. Once they got to the area it was to be dumped, someone would take it from them, toss the gravel onto the tarred section and give them the pan back so they could return for another load. The line of women just kept going....hard to imagine doing that the entire day.

We took our first internal flight from Heho (about an hour from Inle) to Thandwe which is the main village near Ngapali Beach. We have been here at the beach for over two days now and have slipped into a serious state of laziness. Easy to do here. I haven't taken a single photo of the beach yet - maybe tomorrow. Pretty idyllic setting though. It's not a large beach - maybe a mile long or so and the resorts are modestly sized. Beautiful white sand and lots of palms. Reminds me of pictures you see of Thai beaches - would have never guessed to find similar in Myanmar. Lots of little thatched hut style restaurants serving fresh seafood up and down the beach. Meals are cheap - a really good coconut prawn curry fetches around $3usd. Kelsey's taken a strong liking to all sorts of fried noodles so long as they bring it with what has been dubbed the "awesome sauce" - chiles, garlic and soy I think. The chiles are HOT.

Today we took a little panga style boat out for a cruise around. Met up with a German lady at breakfast whose friend fell ill and she didn't want to boat alone so we took her in ours. Nice lady although she did get a little panicky upon noticing one of the boat boys bailing water from the boat. The poor kids didn't know what the fuss was all about.

Doing a lot of nothing really - maybe this is what vacation is supposed to be like. I can feel myself getting a little stir crazy already though. We have one more night here and then fly to Sittwe to make our way on to Mrauk U. It's a bit of a pain to get there as once you are in Sittwe, the most common way onward is a 4-5 hour boat ride. We get into town too late in the afternoon for this so have secured a driver (the river is not advisable after dark).

The pics below are from the cave in Pindaya. If I can work up the energy I hope to get some of the beach posted :)

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Posted by madpax 05:04 Archived in Myanmar Comments (1)

Inle Lake

90 °F
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We spent Sunday in Mandalay seeing a few sites. We went to the U Bein bridge - the longest teak bridge in the world at about 1400 meters and walked around some. Also saw the gold pounders district where they take bits of gold and pound it down to paper thin little squares which takes hours and hours. They sell them to Buddists (and tourists like us) which they use as an offering at some of the shrines. Some shrines have been patted down with these gold sheets for so many years that they now only resemble big blobs of gold. Mandalay was really hot - mid to upper 90's I think. And really dry. I guess we should be glad for the dryness as adding humidity to this heat would be pretty tough.

The evening bus to Inle Lake left around 6pm and it was just us and four kids going home from university. The road was extremely busy just out of Mandalay and then we took what seemed to be a shortcut through the mountains. It was under heavy construction and the lane was narrow and windy - many switchbacks up and down the mounains. Our driver took it pretty fast but you could tell he'd driven the route many times as he was pretty skilled.

We got into Inle around midnight and the bus driver took us right to our hotel (after stopping a few times for directions) instead of just dumping us so we were happy for that. Nice little place we are staying in. Maybe 8 little huts or so. No TV or phone and extremely quiet.

Took a boat ride up/down the lake today - was really interesting. Lots of little villages built on stilts with no other access than by boat. Quite a few gardens (mostly tomatoes) floating in the middle of the lake supported by bamboo framework. A person could get lost with all the little passageways among the water vegetation. In some places it is so dense you can stand on it right out in the middle of the lake. Went to a really cool market in the village of Inthein at the south end of the lake - all sorts of fruits, vegetables, dried fish, etc. Seems like more tourists here than anywhere we have been so far. The pics below are in and around the lake.

The last two pics are from a pub we found yesterday afternoon. In case you can't see the placard - it is a "Eat the Wall" Trump Pizza. One half meats (USA I think) and the other half jalepeno peppers and such (Mexico). And in the middle - a wall. We felt obligated to order the damn thing and eat the wall. So we did.

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Posted by madpax 01:45 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

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