Namsan - Hsipaw
Namsan - Hsipow
Pyin U lwin
Actually I wanted to go to Inle lake next. But as Jan and I were told on the way there in Bago, the bus for that night was allready booked out. So we changed plans and took the train north to Mandalay instead. Like all busjourneys in Burma, teh ride was long…11 hours. and that after allready having done 6 hours on the bus from Hpa-an to Bago. In Mandalay we stayed one day - walked up mandalay hill -and then continued to Pyin U Lwin, a nice little town located in the shan highland, 3 hours from Mandalay by Pick up.
Pyin U Lwin has a wonderful botanic garden, which we visited one day. The sae day we cycled to a nearby waterfall - which turned out to be more like a bathing park for the locals -.
After two days in Pyin U it was time to move to Hsipow. By Train. On the trainroute we passed over a bridge, which is more than 100 years old and hase hardly ever been maintained. The wagons crept over the bridge at the speed of a turtle preparing to hibernate. And the bridge squeeked and moaned under our weight. but the view was fantastic again.
Arrived in Hsipow, we looked for some information about the 3 days trekk from Namsan, a mountain shan village 50 miles from Hsipow, back. Apparently it was no problem and there would be a “bus” up the next day.
O.k. so th next day we took this “bus”, which turned out to be a overfilled Pick-up like car. It took us 6 hours for 50 miles. Try to imagine the road…
Well, seeing the trip we had to take to get there you can probably easily imagine our frustration when we arrived in Namsan in the evening, just to hear that trekking was presently forbidden to forreigners in that area because of fights between Shan-villagers and the military. No guide was allowed to either lead us the way, nor giving us information about the route we had to take. We had a few villagenames on a piece of paper though, and so we decided to do the track anyways regardless the current situation.And it was great! No one around exept for the local teafarmers every now and then. The kids in the villages we passed were all after us. Unfortunately it rained a lot and for that the trail got very slippery. What was a bit problematic inbetween, since we had to climb up and down pretty steep hills. Up and down, and up and down…
The first night we stayed in a monastery. It was a shame none of the nons spoke english though. But still we had some sort of conversations. With hand and feet.
The seconde night we crashed at a teafarmers house who invited us to stay with him and his family. He was keen on improving his english, and for thathe often invites foreigners in, so he told us. He showed us how the fermented tea is made and each of us got a bag of tea afterwards to take along. Cheers!
The third day was harder than the other two. it took us ages to cross the jungle. We walked 6 hours instead of four to our lunchstop. After one more hour from there I was feeling like falling asleep while walking. Jan also didn’t seem to keen on walking an other 20 km from there, so he somehow organised 2 motos, which played mototaxi for us. What was kind of difficult, because noone seemed to speak english. But again: the peoples hospitality was incredible.
So in the end we made it home to Hsipow in the early evening. I was exhausted, but happy, and the track was great irregardless the shitty weather! But after that I needed a day of being lazy.
This gentleman is wearing a Longyi.
My first impression when I arrived at Yangon was, that this country was very different from the other ones I had been to so far. The first thing I noticed was everyone wearing the traditional Longyi, a kind of towel-like skirt. Secondly, allmost all the kids and women had their faces painted with Thanaka.
“Thanaka is a yellowish-whitecosmetic paste made from ground bark. It is a distinctive feature ofMyanmar (formerly Burma) seen commonly applied to the face and sometimes the arms of women and girls and to a lesser extent men and boys[…] Apart from cosmetic beauty, thanaka also gives a cooling sensation and provides protection fromsunburn”.
The first few days in Burma were a bit strange for me, for the simple reason, that I had to get used to people being so nice to me all the time. I was still so used to the Bangkok tuk-tuk drivers and corrupt travelagents, that it was hard to believe in the beginning that the people just want to talk to you for the sake of talking, and not to make you buy something (like overpriced bustickets etc.).
lThe two days I stayed in Yangon it was raining continuously. The streets were flodded in an instant and it took me more than a week to get my shoes dry afterwards…So I followed the advice of a Burmese tourguide I was sitting in a Teashop with (trying to avoid the rain) and got a busticket to Mawlamyine, south east from Yangon. Unfortunately, I was not at my best during the couple of days I stayed there. Yangons streetfood seemed to be more than my steal-stomach could take and so I mainly enjoyed the view out of my window on to the river and a lot of rain.
One very memorable moment in mawlamyine for me was, when I was walking from the busstation in direction town/river and got a little bit lost in some backstreets. There was a burmese family, apparently pitying me for trying to make it to the guesthouse by foot. So, eventhough non of them spoke english, the families grandfather - he must have been at least around 80 years old - understood where I was trying to goand without further ado I found myself on the back of his Moto and he brought me all the way to the Guesthouse.
After a couple of days I moved on to Hpa-An together with Jan, who I met - together with Franzi, another german girl - in the Guesthouse of mawlamyine. Hpa-an was a really nice place to be in. There were almost no western people to be seen, the locals were friendly and very interested into communicating with travelers. In order to properly explore the surrounding countryside I rented a motorbike - two wheels, an engine, and…that was pretty much it - and went on some exploration rides to a cave, some other sights and a lot of paddy fields, watching the hard work of the ricefarmers. And everyone seemed so happy about seeing forreigners, specially on motorbikes. Always smiling, trying to speak english and getting some sort of conversation started - many times it was simply a smiling, nodding and pointing conversation, due to the lack of a common language. But hey, signlanguage works quite good for the basics -. And the countryside was simply beautiful. So green!
After one month in Burma, I have returned to my home-base Bangkok yesterday.It was a wonderful month in a very different and unique country. A country where the travelling itself, the hour (or sometimes day)-long bus, train and boatrides are already a big part of the fun: 13 hours of karaoke music in the bus - mainly burmese covers of european/american songs - and you’ll not pay attention to the horrible roads anymore. Trainrides that feel more like sailing through a thunderstorm, rocking back and forth, left and right, up and down. But that’s o.k. because the landscape and the people you meet on these trips make you forget how much you dislike bus or train journeys very quickly.
And be careful with food. Deepfrying everything alone doesn’t seem to sufice to kill all the bacteria that accumulate while the food is lying in the sun all day…But one gets used to it. And afterwards you can call yourself “Iron Stomach”.
Bangkok round two. Getting the Burma visa fixed.
29.06 - 03.06