Published: January 27th 2011November 25th 2010
Mandalay bus to Nyaung Oo normally takes 7 hours but given the road situations here and the decrepid state of our bus it took longer. At the chaotic bus station in Mandalay we waited for half an hour for the bus to arrive, 4 other backpackers aside from us were on it, the bus is old and a/c was not that strong, we are sweating bullets and the seats does not recline very well and is just generally uncomfortable.
Connor opened a crack in the window only to be told to shut it by the bus attendant,fresh air is better than the vinegary stale air smell inside, Connor read his book while I tried to sleep. We broke down 2 times and thus set us back a couple hours, had a dinner break which we took the opportunity to drink beer and just fall asleep in the bus, 11 hours later we finally made it to Nyaung U. The young bus attendant asked us where we are staying, I just gave them the hostel our friend Merrel stayed before, Golden Inn GH, at the bus station, the brother of the bus attendant and his friend took us by rickshaw to
me and Connor getting wasted on turkey day
the GH, the air is cool, the moon is almost full everyone in the village is asleep, all we hear are the bats flapping about, our ride to the hostel was relaxing,woke up the receptionist and got our room, the rickshaw is free! We both crashed and woke up around 10am, the sun here is intense so I took advantage and washed a few clothes, as I shower,when Connor woke up he did the same thing, I sorted out our checking in process, paid the $10 fee to enter the Bagan sites, booked our Yangon return bus and rented bikes for the day.
When Connor was ready we took off and had lunch at one of the restaurants on the food street mentioned in LP, 1 minute from our GH, we bought our water and started heading off to the Old Bagan site, our rented bikes suck, no gear change and mine rattle because the chain housing was loose, I seem to be missing a screw, 15 minutes into biking, my bike broke down, the chain came off on the rear side and we cant fix it because we have no tools to unscrew the cover. A passing motorbike
stopped for us and helped us, they fixed the bike, tightened the bolts and off we go, but before then we decided to take a look at their paintings, they happened to be artists/painters, copying murals from the temples and selling them to tourists, we figured we will buy souvenirs here anyway, might as well give the dudes who helped us some business as compensation.
They are actually good paintings, and they claim to be the painters themselves, Let Let and Naing naing, very friendly guys, but we are off to sight see so we agreed to meet up later. We started biking towards the Old sites we went all the way to Myinkaba a small village full of ruins as well and a little passed it, we sat down on a shady place and looked at the map to plan which temples to see, locals came up and befriended us and tried to sell us paintings as well, seems like everyone here is a painter. Anyway we biked back where we came from and stopped at the 1st big temple we can see, Sein Nyet Ama and Nyima, sister pagodas we were told by the caretaker, he took
us all the way up the top climbing dodgy narrow stairs up, the caretaker was very helpful, spoke good English and explained to us a brief history of the place then at the end we have to sit through as he unfold his paintings collection, Connor was getting tired of the scenario so we have to cut it off and we left in a hurry, the guy chased me and wanted to come to my hotel to sell me more, I sped off.
Nagayon temple was next, and all the same the vendors are very aggressive we left in a hurry as well. The sun was about to set and we tried to find a perfect spot to see the sunset but somehow ended up in a crowded pagoda with white paint, we dont know the name but loads of tourists in buses were there before us, too crowded, we will try to see if we can go to an isolated place tomorrow. Rode back to town and we got lost in the dark, we asked the locals where to go and we eventually found our GH, we had a noodle dinner at the local eatery on the main
road just past the bus station, good meals, then we met up with Letlet and Naingnaing, the 2 artists that fixed my bike and we bought some of their collections then we treated them for a few beers at a local bar, then off to bed for us.
The next morning we got picked up by Let let, the dude we bought the paintings from, he will take us around Old Bagan on motorbike as we did not accomplish much yesterday, 10,000 kiats it is cheaper than the horse cart and faster we hope. The whole day we went from temple to temple and I could not keep up with names so let's just say I got templed out quickly, they are gorgeous though specially looking from the top of one of the pagodas that you could climb, the annoying factor is of course the touts selling at the outside of the temples, they are relentless, they even follow you inside the temples, we got fed up telling them where we are from so we make it harder for them, I say I am from Tajikistan and Connor says Nicaragua, if they can pronounce it and know anything about
it then they can converse with us if not they go away.
One thing we did not like was Let let took us to this small restaurant in a village and the woman there forcing us to buy souvenirs trinkets, one more, one more please she begs, Connor got annoyed and we left in a hurry, we got free peanuts with the water we bought from their store,no more than that. sunset was at this temple we thought will be ours for the eve but 10 minutes later hordes of university kids ran up the top of the temple where we sat waiting for the sunset, then hordes of tourists buses came along as well. The tourists we can tolerate as we all quietly anticipate dusk but the Uni kids starting screaming and clapping, running around taking photos, then cheering the setting sun, totally ruined a quiet sunset for us.
Let Let promised to take us fishing the next day in the river, we rented our bikes and waited, he was late by one hour but at least he showed up, then change of plan he said to us, we cannot fish as his mother is sick and
he needs to get back home soon so instead he took us to the local market, we biked there, it was a cool place, I love markets so I enjoyed it, they sell fruits, meats, fish like huge catfish from the river among other things. We bought whiskey and after visiting a few temples we settled in one eatery next to another big temple in Nyaung OO town, we got drunk out of boredom,hell it's Thanksgiving day so we may as well celebrate, the restaurant cooked us dried fish and some crickets! Connor tried the betel nuts too, 1st the mild sweet one then dared himself and tried the strong concoction the locals chew, he suddenly felt ill, sweaty and nauseous, this I did not know until later, he walked it off as we tour the temple and he recovered soon enough to make the bike ride back to the GH, we had a quick shower and while I was taking my shower Connor ran to the BBQ place to get some grilled pork and okra that we loved from last night's dinner, he made it back in the nick of time, 4:30pm and we got picked up and dropped
off at the bus station, the bus looks nice, a few tourists on board, the a/c is at super cold setting as expected, we went through a check point where they wrote our names down, it was about 12 hour bus trip arriving in Yangon at 4:30am and by chance we saw again the Japanese dude that we carpooled with to town arriving from Yangon airport on our 1st day, lucky for him, we saw him and we shared the cab fare to Shule pagoda.
We wanted to stay at Garden GH but we were told it was full, we tried Okinawa GH but is expensive, the Mangalooba hostel is also full, we walked around for an hour trying to decide what to do now, Connor was hungry so we sat down at sidestreet eatery, we tried a hotel it was way over our budget, the lady said try Garden GH, we told her they are full, but she said go at 6am, so we did and indeed they have space, turns out reception only opens at 6am so anyone arriving before then will be turned away unless you have prior reservations. We got a big a/c room for
$10, we have one big bed and we collapsed in exhaustion, waking up at 11amish we looked for the Shan noodle shop listed in the LP, 999, and it was really good and cheap, one of my favorites now. Connor's last day in Myanmar we tried to find the bar we went before but we got lost badly so we ended up drinking at the local bar across from the GH, we had fun though as we celebrate a belated Thanksgiving, a Dutch dude joined us later and had a few drinks and smokes with us.
Sad goodbye as I walked Connor outside to hail for a taxi to the airport, he is off to Bangkok and I have a couple more days to unwind, maybe go to the beach or just stay here and rest. Myanmar is changing fast according to other backpackers we met that had been here more than once before, well already we noticed greed in some hostel and GH owners, the touts now are relentless like Vietnam and Thailand, and internet is now all over the place and cheap except some sites are blocked like Facebook and Hotmail, most cafes though has a way
around it, with the icons already in place in their programs so that helps.
People are genuinely friendly but this is a police state still and people can rant on each other, i.e. our friend in Bagan who does not want to enter the GH premises as he is scared management will call the police on him as he was competition to the artists and horse cart drivers associated with the GH we are staying.
Anyway am glad to have been here and may one day come back hoping Aung Suu Kyi will be the head of state by then..
There are more photos below