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Published: July 16th 2012
Decisions, decisions, decisions. Where to go and what to do next... We were already half way down of our stay in Burma when we had to decide if we wanted to make a stopover in Mandalay or head straight to Hsipaw. We heard that trekking in Hsipaw is much more picturesque than the one from Kalaw to Inle Lake so we opted for this place. Yet before that we spent two days in Mandalay
just to see what this place is about. People don’t say anything great about it but we were really surprised how much we liked it. It is big but rather small, had good local transport to see the neighborhood and some very interesting old cities around. We loved the very impressive Mahamuni Paya
and old Amarapura City
with famous U Bein’s Bridge
(longest teakwood bridge in the world). As I mentioned you can get anywhere with local shared taxis for 100-400K depending if they are private or state owned and it is very easy to navigate around Mandalay. When we visited Mahamuni Paya there were some kind of celebrations taking place a loads of small kids were dressed up to in preparation for some ritual. It just all
love the way they look;-)
I wonder if we would be able to import one???;-)
looked so vivid and colorful that we could not stop smiling. This temple is a home to some very important Golden Buddha and once again I had to stay with all other local women on one end of an altar where else men were allowed to go in and even touch the statue.
Visit to Amarapura was a very nice morning excursion, entrance tickets are not checked there (it is included in the Mandalay 10$ tourist fee which we did not pay at all anyway as checks are lax) and we could wander around the U Bein’s Bridge talking to locals who were just taking a random walk between one village and another. We had a short break for coffee –unfortunately instant and sweet (bleee) as they did not serve Burmese black. What is it about this fascination with instant coffee and this horrible white toast bread in Burma anyway? They just love them and majority of billboards are occupied by instant coffee adds – I counted 10 different companies making them, of which Nescafe is the only western. Their black brewed coffee is so tasty and yet they prefer this artificial taste of powder. On the second thought
I can kind of understand that, being born in Poland. It is probably because they feel white bread and instant coffee are very western things hence they adore it. I remember a time as a child (when we finally got our independence back in 1990) that we all craved what they showed in western shows and movies i.e. white, 'square' toast bread (we only had what you now call organic loaf of bread), corn flakes and chocolate bars. I remember having my first Mars bar when I was already teenager – can you believe that? From that perspective it is understandable that they don’t want their delicious, organic, local produce – they want western!!!
We really wanted to take a train from Mandalay to Hsipaw as it is supposed to be very scenic but they only had standard class (wooden bench for 10h train was not ideal) as the upper and first class carriages... hmmm derailed!!! Now that was great news ha? We thought they were just saying that cause they did not want to sell us tickets but once in Hsipaw we actually spoke with someone who saw this train derailed when passing by. Bus it was, then.
The way was long and very bumpy and led between massive and beautiful hills. It was raining and we felt a little bit uncertain about the quality of the road and their driving skills in this weather but we made it in one piece ;-) Hsipaw
is so small that you can walk everywhere. It is not more than a village with some market and households around. We stayed at the very vast establishment of Mr. Charles Guesthouse
which should be called Mr. Charles rip-off place. Unfortunately there are only two places where you can stay, this one being the nicest one in terms of room quality and cleanness. We were now in Shan province so had to take on board very Chinese behaviors like being quite stingy (sorry, just an observation from previous travels). The fan room with bathroom and with breakfast was 20$ (in low season) so not cheap and additionally they would make sure you pay every little extra they can possibly charge you during your stay like overly expensive water (they don’t have water dispenser like everybody else), eggs or paper rolls. Yes, even eggs as for breakfast they would only allow 1 egg per person
he acted more like a baby pop star than novice but was nevertheless adorable;-)
and request 500Kyat – really 500Kyat - for every additional one, same with coffee and tea etc. I actually made a big deal about this one day (shame on me but could not stop myself hahha) as even though I could understand charging for this stupid extra egg but 500K when the whole 36 egg pack costs like 100Kiat on the market, is just going way too far. I said it was a disgrace that I pay 20$ for a room in a guesthouse and cannot have one more egg for breakfast. They looked very ashamed - but not happy - and gave it to me free of charge in the end….
It was before this unfortunate breakfast that we booked a trekking trip with them instead of going around and asking some other agency or freelance guides. We did wrong as even though our guide was fantastic we found out that Mr. Charles pays them only 2500K from the 10,000Kyat fee that he charges – horrible. We gave the boy little tip but felt very happy to be leaving this place when the time came. We could only do one or two day trekking around as the famous
Hsipaw-Namshan was not available. They were local riots caused by Shan Army near Namshan at the time so we could not go. We took the one day trekking option and felt so happy with our decision. It was so damn hot that we could hardly breathe and that made the whole thing a little bit less enjoyable. We are in good shapes and never have problems with trekking but this weather was just killing us. If we had signed up for a longer trek I know we would not have enjoyed it at all. We did 20km there and back, up and down the hills, saw some fantastic landscapes and shan villages. We even had delicious lunch provided in a Shan Homestay, which we at in a very modest house, sitting on a floor and being watched by locals. They only smiled and kept bringing more food for us to eat – so lovely. That was definitely a highlight of the day!!!
Our guide told us many interesting things about Myanmar. We finally found out why monks don’t speak highly of Islam and it has all to do with Muslim citizen not willing to blend into the community but
establishing their own districts in towns and trying to force everybody else to their way of believing. He could not understand why Hindu and Buddhist and Christian can merry between each other, live together and have children without forcing each other to follow their partners’ religion when Muslim people cannot. They also strongly disagree with halal way of killing animals and generally too many animals being killed and consumed which is against Buddhist religion. It was very honest and incredibly interesting conversation as he even went into criticizing Buddhist monks who don’t always leave their simple lives they supposed to but splash money on electronics, cars, mobiles etc. We have to remember that this is a country where 15 year old car costs 20,000$, mobile phone number about 500$ (handset and credit not included) and that people generally give around 20% of what they own to monasteries. It does not look good when villagers have nothing and monks walk around with Canon SLRs…. He was still optimistic about changes that are slowly taking place and that life is getting better and better – good for them!!!
Overall we had some good time, even better workout and our feet got
got invited for a smoke;-)
they make this great cigars with different tastes in Myanmar;-)
blisters as it had been a long time since we wore trekking shoes. We never got to bed so early and so quickly in the entire time away hahha
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