Published: November 20th 2011November 8th 2011
Aung Htu Kan Tha pagoda
The pagoda nearby balloon festival
Before I start the Myanmar story, I will write something about Bangkok first, after Laos I stayed only 2 nights in Bangkok, just for transit, but there were some interesting things to describe. Actually my main goal in Bangkok was to fix my Swatch watch, that had too much rain in Vietnam, and completely stopped in Cambodia. Actually I found a Swatch maintenance center, but they said they can't fix my watch, because there is no way to open it, and I can keep it as collection if I want it... Well, I will keep it for a while. Bangkok was still flood in some places, really flood, and I met a interesting guy from Australia, named Jason, he have been travelling for 11 years, a lot of stories, he will go to Brazil by boat from India, maybe we can meet up again in India.
Flying into Myanmar on November 8th, flight? Yes, there is no way to travel freely in Myanmar, crossing the border you can only be around the border, so I must fly in and fly out.
Arriving in Yangon, the airport is quite far from the city center, there is no bus to get out, the
remained solution is the taxi, I found another 2 girls to share the taxi, Jana from Switzerland and Eszter from Hungary. Actually I had no big plan for Myanmar, because my plan was to stay 8 nights in Myanmar, to make India visa, and I got a very cheap flight to get out of Myanmar, USD 40.
On the way to Yangon center, Eszter told me there will be a balloon festival on November 10th, I didn't know it, but it seems a nice plan, but Eszter didn't know yet if she will go to festival or not, she will meet a friend up next day to decide, and Jana will also make a plan later, so each went to different places to stay, and we got contact from each other, but we don't know if we will meet up again or not, because the communication system from Myanmar isn't easy, specially internet.
Arriving in the center, around the Sule Pagoda, I found a place to stay, but that was USD 7 per double room, and I am only one, when I was trying to find another place to stay, there were some people sitting in front of guest house,
they are trying to help me to find some place to stay, but it seems every place is full, and a guy there said you won't find any place cheaper than USD 10, so take the one with USD 7, so I stayed, the guest house was Mahabandoola guest house.
Next day I woke up, the first thing to do was to make India visa, but I need to take photo first, I had more photos, but there were in my lost wallet in Laos. There are so many stores around the Sule Pagoda, so I was walking around to find one, and I found some watch fixing store, and for swiss made watch, humm... Let's try, they started to open my watch, and said to me to come back later, ok, I will go to India Embassy. On the way to embassy, I met the guy from yesterday, that one told me to take the room, his name is Kopwint, he asked me if I was waiting for someone (I was stopped on the bridge thinking), I said no, and I returned the same question, he said yes, he is waiting for someone from Hungary, Hungary? What is the
name of the person? Eszter. It can not be, I came with her in the same taxi to center, what small world!!! Ok, I am going to India Embassy first, and I will meet Kopwint later.
At India Embassy, they refuse to give me visa because I have Taiwan background, I should say I was Chinese, and not Taiwanese, what mistake, I think I will try India visa in Bangkok...
Back to Kopwint, and later Eszter showed up, what surprise!! And I said I am going to take bus to balloon festival, and she decided to go together, there were 2 places for festival, Taunggyi and Pyin U Lwin, first one is more traditional, but there was no bus tickets anymore, so I bought the tickets to Pyin U Lwin, leaving at 7 PM, because the festival was next day. So Eszter went back to pack her bag, I went back to get my watch, and we will meet again in my guest house at 4 PM. On the way back, I stopped in front of coffee shop to use wifi, but I was outside, because I had drink there yesterday night, and now I have password. Suddenly someone knock
to glass from inside the shop, I turned back, Jana?! What? It can not be!! What small world again!! I told to Jana what happened and what was our plan, but she couldn't go with us because that was too late. I got my watch back, and now it is working again!!! That wasn't a Swatch maintenance center, nobody told him it can not be opened, so he did it as well based on his knowledge, somehow the rules limit our actions and imaginations, sometimes don't know the rules can give us more freedom and courage to do anything, normally the limits and rules are used to organize and to protect, and they can easily block your mind if you don't mind.
Arriving in Pyin U Lwin, 5 AM in the morning, trying to find a place to stay, every place was full, there was a festival, a lot of people came for that, basically the local people, a whole day there we met only one foreigner, at least only one white people. We leaved the bags in a guest house without room, we went to check the train to Hsipaw next day in the morning, then we hitchhiked to
the festival place. There was the Aung Htu Kan Tha Pagoda, and a field at side to release the balloons, they started at 1 or 2 PM, there were a lot of teams, came from everywhere in Myanmar, every team started with dances and then they release balloon, actually the night balloons were much more beautiful and impressive than day one, the festival was running for whole night, ending around 1:30 AM or later, there was so cold at night, my feet skin was too dry and split a little on heel, that become a problem for hiking next day. One of most impressive thing in Myanmar is the people, they are so friendly and nice, always try to help, at balloon cold night, they gave me a jacket and a cap to Eszter. We didn't wait for festival ending, we went back to guest house around 2 AM, there was no room for us, so we asked to sleep on the floor, and they granted it.
The train from Pyin U Lwin to Hsipaw was at 8 AM, the price for local people was around USD 0.6, but for foreigner was USD 3, and we could only pay in
USD, the transportation and the accommodation in Myanmar have a different price for foreigner in the most of case. Train in Myanmar was so slow, so slow, to run about 200 km took 7 hours, somehow the train of Myanmar vibrate so much, and if train try more speed will fall of railway for sure.
Arriving in Hsipaw, we found a guest house to stay, cheapest one, 6000K a room for 2 people. That night we had a good sleep, that was all we needed for the trekking next day, our plan was to go to Pan Kan village on the mountain, 4 hours to go, another 4 hours back, so basically 8 hours trekking.
We woke up early to the morning market first, our plan was to start the trekking at 7:30, but we took long time in the market, and we only started at 9 AM. On the way we stopped so many times to take photos, and the greatest moment was in a little pagoda, we were invited by monks to drink tea, to have snack and to chat, and actually who was talking with us was a worker there, because the monks there don't know English,
anyway that was a such nice moment of our trekking. After that we were heading to the village, and we arrived in village about 4 PM, the place was amazing, that was a touristic place but somehow the people there preserved the own life style, maybe that was touristic recently. On the way back to city, that was completely dark, with our phone light we could trekking back as well, but my feet were hurt, that made my journey very painful, and we stopped in a hot spring on the way, that was all I needed to recover my energy, and we took a bath right there, completely naked to keep our cloth dry, in the darkness with full moon light, that was my first time taking a bath naked in the open air, that was a interesting experience.
Arriving in the city, we bought a bus ticket to Mandalay next day in the morning, that was cheapest one, only 3000K, and we are thinking to do the same from Pyin U Lwin, ask for sleeping on the floor of guest house, but the woman didn't allow it, so we tried a church, nope again, and finally we found a
pagoda to sleep like homeless people, that was fun and free again.
Our bus was 6 AM, but we woke up a little before 5 AM, just to avoid some monks see us there, sleeping without permission. Actually the price of train and bus were very similar, but bus is faster than train in Myanmar, from Hsipaw to Mandalay train will spend about 12 hours, by bus only 8 hours, that was the reason we took the bus, and that bus was the most trash one I have ever seen, but that was very interesting by the way, basically there were cargo on the floor and people sitting on that, that is why the bus cost only 3000K, because another bus cost 4000K or more.
Arriving in Mandalay around 2 PM, we started to search some guest house to stay, but we didn't find a good price, I mean really cheap one, so we were heading to monastery, Eszter got a invitation of monk in Pyin U Lwin to visit his monastery in Mandalay, arriving in monastery, the monk invited Eszter still travelling for 2 weeks more, however we asked to sleep there, and they granted! Now we have a
home in Mandalay!! But I am going back to Yangon next day night because of my flight, and I will try again India embassy, and this time I will be a Brazilian with Chinese background as Eszter suggested me, anyway, I have one whole next day to see Mandalay.
Mandalay is a big city with a lot of temples to see, so we rent a bicycle by 1500K per day, and that was really useful for our city tour. First of all we visited Shwe Kyaung Monastery, that was wood made temple, very nice and peaceful, no entrance fee. Next one was Mahanumi pagoda, one of the most important pagoda in Mandalay, USD 10 as entrance fee, but we found out the south gate is no ticket checking, inside the pagoda, there were so many people praying, and you can see how important that one was for local people. At 5 PM there is no ticket checking anymore for the temples, and they also close about 5:30 PM, but that was enough time for us to visit Sandamuni pagoda, that one was surrounding for many little white stupas, and there was Buddhism teach writing under every stupa, that was one
of hugest Buddhism library in the world.
We finalized the day in the middle of Mandalay hill, having a snack, smooth breeze and Mandalay night view. Now it is time for me to go, say goodbye to Eszter, she was a really budget traveller, also a great travel company, travelling with her was a fantastic experience, I learned a lot from her, and I think all I could return to her was teaching her how to make some nice photos with her camera.
Back to Yangon, the first time I tried was India visa, fortunely they accepted this time, but asked for 3 working days. After that I met Kopwint again, he suggested me to go to Hpaan, but I decided to stay in Yangon, just to relax and no hurry. For those 3 days, I just walked around, eating a lot of cheap street food, sleeping a lot to recover my feet, visiting the Shwedagon pagoda, the most important pagoda in Yangon, maybe in Myanmar as well, that was a huge place with a lot of prayers, and a lot of precious stone there decorating the stupas and Buddhas. I also went to cinema 3 times in Yangon, that
They always put that pouder on the face, sometimes man do as well
was the cheapest one I have ever had, only USD 0.8, I was sitting on first line near to screen, but it is OK by the way, the theater was very nice.
Actually I wasn't expecting too much for Myanmar, but the people and culture there really surprised me a lot. My plan was 8 days in Myanmar, but became 11 days because of the India visa, there are a lot of things I didn't visit in Myanmar, but I could feel how they are for these, very friendly people, really nice, if someday I have chance to go back to Myanmar, I will spend around 20 days there to feel and to visit more things slowly.
Final account of Myanmar:
- 11 days
- Total USD 216 ( including my watch fixing fee USD 20)
- Average USD 19.64 per day:
There are more photos below