“We went to Burma!” – text on a souvenir t-shirt available in Yangon tourist market.
You’re in for a treat – instead of the traditional “What we liked most in country X” summary post after leaving a country, you get a (redacted) version of Gerda’s diary to folks back at home. Enjoy the reading!
2012-06-17 – Successfull touchdown in the land of the Burmese (it feels unusual to fly again after 8 months). Our hotel is unbelievably expensive and the room is crappy, but at least we get a rooftop terrace with pretty good views of Yangon and a really big breakfast buffet! Street food is really cheap here (and delicious too) and people seem to be friendly and smile a lot. So far, everything is going great and we’re really enjoying it.
2012-06-27 – Hello from Yangon again! We’re still in the same hotel, but a different room :) Last week we spent in south-east of Burma: went for a train ride to nearby town of Bago, a place of thousand Buddhas; spent 4.5 hours trekking up to the famous Golden Rock (a large rock miraculously lying on the edge of a clif); visited a small riverside town of Hpa-An, where we climbed 3,700 steps (we counted!) for 2 hours to reach a mountain-top temple. No joking matter, the climb was epic and it seemed like the steps were never gonna end. The humidity was increadibly high, you sweat like crazy and twice it rained cats and dogs! On top of the mountain, above the clouds, it was quite chilly and windy. This was too much for Zygis, he caught a cold and now he’s spending his second day in bed. He’s doing much better today, so we’re aiming to depart north to Inle Lake tomorrow after breakfast! We’re told up there it doesn’t rain quite as much as here in the south, fingers crossed :) Also, today I picked-up our passports with 6-month visa for India! Tata!
2012-07-03 – Hello from a village Internet cafe! At the computers next to me sit two monks. We’re enjoying our 4th day of excellent weather here by Inle Lake. One day was dedicated for cycling around the lakeside villages and visiting a local winery! Next, went on a day trip on the lake, criss-crossing all the interesting spots – floating tomato gardens and whole villages built on water (houses on stilts as oppossed to rafts like in Viet Nam). Today we went for a day trek with a local guide. Spent 8 hours going up and down the nearby mountain range, visiting minority villages and also enjoying a meal at a local’s home. The village we’re staying in is hosting young Buddhist monk examinations, so the whole place has a festive atmosphere – there are many people visiting and the streets (and Internet cafes) are full of monks. There’s even a market setup for this occasion, selling everything from snacks to Tanaka to plastic guns for children :) Tomorrow we’re off to Bagan, the place of thousands of temples.
2012-07-07 – Hello! This time I’m reporting from the sandy and hot Bagan. Its hard to believe how much different the weather is here. Its at least as hot as April was in Cambodia, probably between 35 and 40C and the sun appears to be directly above your head all throughout the day. Incredibly, the locals insist this is the “cool” time of the year :) We spent all the 3 days cycling through little sandy roads surrounded by thousands of temples. It feels magical! Especially, when you climb up one of the taller temples and gaze at the horizon, full of sharp red sandstone peaks of the temples around. Or, when you inevitably stumble upon a lesser-visited, smaller temple, where all you find is cool silence, quietly meditating Buddha, faded tapestry and narrow and dark staircases leading up to the top platform for another unforgettable view. Small discoveries, and this place is full of them! On the way from Inle Lake we met a fellow traveler from Australia, Simon, so we all spent the evenings enjoying many bottles of the special 7% Red Mandalay beer :D We only have a week left for Burma. Tomorrow, we’re heading off to Mandalay, the second largest city. Another bone-rattling 8-9 hour trip on a “local” (as opposed to “tourist”) bus.
2012-07-12 – Howdy! Writing after 3 enjoyable days in Mandalay. We decided it was time to drop chasing the “amazing” temples, the “must-see” golden Buddhas and busy monasteries and instead spent the days wondering around the huge central market and the small surrounding streets, drinking plenty of Burmese tea (strong, sweet and white) and exchanging breaf conversations with the locals. A lot of the time they seemed surprised to see us, even though most of the tourists pass through Mandalay, but were very happy to help us order tea and have a chat :) We were happy with them :) Running out of Burmese time, we decided to start heading back towards Yangon. After another 9 hours in an “ordinary class” train carriage, we arrived at Taungoo, a town about half-way between Mandalay and Yangon. Taungoo is a small place and one day was enough for us to walk most of it, including the market of course :) Today we’re spending time on the terrace at our guesthouse situated on the outskirts of the town. In front of us lay lush, fresh green coloured rice fields and villagers working them. In the evening we listen to the performance of hundreds of frogs and crickets and rare moments of complete silence. Tomorrow, another 7 hours on a train to reach Yangon. Saturday we’re flying back to Bangkok for a connecting flight on Sunday to Delhi. So, that’s all from Burma, next message will be from India ;)