Monthly Archives: March 2013

Did Burma…..

I am coming to the end of my 28 days here in Myanmar. This country is close to India in the degree of difficulty in getting around. I was blessed with the ability to make friends easily. That HELPS. I refuse to carry those heavy Lonely Planet books but I talk to people who have them.

I actually had some kind of game plan before I got here. Just like China before….I listed several cities that I was going to see…that is all. Last year on Cape Cod, I looked at a website about Bagan. It had a picture of a young monk with hundreds of Pagodas behind him. Bagan is like Angkor Wat but without the Wholesale International Tourist Business which has made Angkor Wat the way it is. Bagan was just so nice, the horse carts, the bike rides the calmness of such a beautiful unspoiled place. I am sure it will be ruined before my grandkids visit it someday… And I am hoping one of them have grandpa’s wunderlust.

I read the book “Burmese Days” by George Orwell while I was here. He captured the soul of Burma. He wrote 85 years ago about the UK control of this country. His description of the local market was amazingly similiar to the way things still are today.

Now I am reading “ON THE ROAD” by Jack Kerovac. He describes hitchiking across the USA in the late 1940’s…amazingly close to what I did in 1971. On the bus I am also reading “Dracula”…reminding me of beautiful Romania.

Back to Burma…..Mandalay sounds so romantic…it isn’t. But I had such a good time there. Good fish with my new Iranian friend, walking across an old wooden bridge, buying a jade/silver ring and a 140 mile motorbike ride up into the mountains.
I also visited Nyang Shui on the Innlay Lake. This place was so good. I stayed at a great hotel, took a boat ride across the lake, saw floating villages, floating farms, and met a great monk. He was the first monk I have ever talked to. He had a tablet and was playing western music.

I also rode my bike to some nice hot springs… The trip was about 20+ miles, including a boat trip across Innlay Lake.

I then went to Golden Rock. This is a pagoda up on top of a 3500 ft. mountain. I was not going to visit “another pagoda” but a group of French people at the bus station told me I had to go. So up the mountain I went. The trip in back of a monster truck up the mountain with all the Burmese people was memorable.

Then a long bus ride to Mawlamyine, the old capital of Burma. This turned out to be a very good last stop in Burma. I stayed at a real crummy hotel but it was right on the river. They found a driver for me who turned out to be the nicest guy. Not much English but he was great at showing me the sights. On the last day he took me up an alley to visit his home. Very modest and clean. His 85 year old grandma was watching Burmese music videos. I met his parents, his wife, his son and plenty of other family all living in this one house.

His father makes slipper/sandals for monks. He measured my feet and he made me a pair.

Back to hot Yangon and off to Cairo via Bangkok. Glad I came…glad I am leaving….

So Mandalay was not that BAD

Took the bus to Mandalay….It is a big dusty city. When I got off the bus there were plenty of bike drivers who wanted to take me to a hotel. I went to 4 hotels before I could find a vacancy. I stayed at the Rich Queen Hotel. I really hated this city. But I hired a motorbike driver to take me around. Nay Ye Aung was great. Once again I was lucky to get a good, safe driver with very good English.

He took me to the big pagoda, to the monestery where I saw hundreds of monks lining up for lunch and to U Bein’s a wooden bridge. We walked across it and it was a great experience.

The next day we visited the jade market. This place was big with people selling jade and making jewelry. We went to a jeweler and I bought a silver and black jade ring. There was alot of negotiation and it took a long time. I met another traveler from Iran at the hotel and we had some nice fish dinners together.

On the third day, Nay took me for a very long ride into the mountains. We went to the City of In Pyin Lwin. This is where Burma’s “West Point“ is located they also have a beautiful park, the National Kandawgyi Gardens. We got to see peacocks, swans and so many flowers…very impressive!

This city actually has working stage coaches.

I was so tired, we had gone 60 miles so far…but Nay went another 10 miles and took me to the Maymyo Caves. This place was AMAZING. I was so lucky to see this. The biggest cave I have ever been in. It is filled with many Buddhas and on the way back we ran into several festivals with people in costumes, loud music and ox carts all decorated…I am talking hundreds of ox teams pulling carts.

My luck is fantastic. Nay took me to the Mandalay bus station, about 6 miles out of town. I gave him a $20 bill as a tip and his face lit up. Off to Innlay Lake.

I got off the bus 40 miles too soon. Kawlo was a UK station in the mountains and it was cool at night. After a 3 day rest I took a local bus down to Innlay Lake….more to follow.

Note…no pixs.web is so slow in Burma.

Burma

I hated to leave Chaing Mai, but my month in Thailand was up. The night train to Bangkok was easy, one night at the same hostel, then the early morning train to the Bangkok Airport and a short ride to Yangon, Burma.

The road into town was interesting. It looked a little like Europe, neat and clean. My hostel was very strange. I got a dorm room for $12/night. Not that nice, but cheap and I got to meet some travellers.

Yangon was interesting…. The sidewalks are all torn up, people on the sidewalks selling stuff and cooking. No motorbikes in the city. I was downtown and it was way too hot in Yangon. I visited a couple of pagodas and found a great Indian restaurant. I also found a sidewalk place where I could buy strawberry ice cream.

One day I took a boat across the river and got a motorbike ride to a village about 40 miles away. It was great to get out of the city and seeing rural Burma. I had a couple of guides to go along with me. Kimya is 17 and Sen is 12. I paid for their motorbike ride. The first thing Kimya did was buy some sunscreen and apply it to my face. Most of the people wear this yellow paste and it does look strange.

They took me to a temple in a lake and I was surprised to find a bunch of Burmese Pythons living thete.

I got an overnight bus to Bagan and that was a great place to visit. Bagan has 3000 temples and has not been ruined by tourists yet. Our bus arrived at 4 am. I was with a young couple from Toronto. We found a guest house to stay at. We could not check in until 9 am so we got a horse and carriage to bring us out to a temple to see the sun come up over Bagan. It was a great sight.

The next day we hired another horse, cart and driver to go sight-seeing. It was a long dusty day which I will never forget. These places are so amazing to see.

I rented a bike and took a 15 mile bike ride around the temples. I can still do this kind of stuff and I am very lucky to be as healthy as I am.

Off to Mandalay in a couple of days, either by boat or bus. I am reading George Orwell’s book “Burmese Days“. The web is very slow here…will try to upload with one picture.