A Travellerspoint blog

January 2012

Inle Lake

Nyaungshwe

04 January 2012

As with each morning during our stay in Mandalay, we were greeted at 0400 by chanting from the mosque that we could see from our window. I was usually able to go back to sleep. Not this morning, so I was awake for the follow up chanter at 0600 who was definitely not as pleasant a singer as the 0400 chanter.

Off to the airport, which is about an hour outside of Mandalay: in the middle of nowhere. It is a strange building: large, but appears mostly unused with few vehicles, overgrown grass and a ghostlike feel to it.

It’s a 25 minute flight to Heho Airport (which is close to Heho town but about 45 minutes from Nyaungshwe). I can only guess as to why it was located where it is – maybe to give commerce to an area that didn’t have much. Nyaungshwe gets the tourist trade for Inle Lake. Just a thought.

We get to Mingalar Guest House and after checking in and walking around a bit – I am a happy person. Nyaungshwe is just what we needed after Mandalay. It’s a laid back small town with some tourist trade but (at least this time of year) not crazy with tourist – though our guesthouse was totally booked the whole time we were there. After staying at Mingalar, I know why they were totally booked but I can also say that about Motherland 2 and May Kah Lar, the owners are WONDEFUL!!!

It’s a Wednesday and the children aren’t in school. I find out that it is a holiday: Myanmar Independence Day. 64 years ago, the Myanmar people won their independence from the British. Hmmm, seems a bit of a contradiction in light of today’s political situation.

05 January 2012

Up really early after a great night sleep – no chanting and a very comfortable bed!

Out for breakfast and it’s pretty yummy. There were samosas (potato and/or veggie), eggs (of, course), but we had the option of tomato and onion omelets which were delicious, pancakes (sweet or savory and more like crepes) and fruit along with coffee and/or Chinese tea.
Today is catching up day – journal entries to write and we have to switch rooms – B4 to B2 – both nice but B4 was only available one night.
We wandered around town – pretty much a take it easy day.

Over breakfast this morning, we ran into Sebastian (from ML2 in Yangon), chatted for a while and decided to meet for dinner which we did: biryani and beers at Indira India.

06 January 2012

Again up early, but for a good reason. We’re off on a day trip, by long boat, on Inle Lake. We meet our boat mates (Sophie and Owe, doctor friends from Germany traveling together) and chat as we walk to the river with our boat driver – who looks about 12 years old. Come to find out, he’s 18 but drives the boat like he’s been doing since he was born – which is probably not much off the mark.

Great day on the lake!!! Our first stop is the daily market. The markets in this area move around from town to town on a five day cycle – today’s market is at the far south end of the lake at Nampan. There are some tourists, but this is primarily for locals. From the market, we make, again, the obligatory “shop” stops: weaving shop (which is actually very interesting – they make thread from fibers of the lotus plants), cigar making, lunch, temple and the silversmith. Of all our stops, the silversmith ends up being a highlight. Not necessarily for me but for Sophie. She has a bangle (more than just a bracelet) and she has been trying for years to have another one made for her sister. She inquires and the silversmith at this shop says that he can do it and gives her a very reasonable price but she will need to leave her bangle and pick it up tomorrow. She asks our opinion. If this was my first stop in Myanmar and I hadn’t gotten to know the Myanmar people (just a little) I would have said, “No”. But after almost three weeks here, neither Jim nor I had any hesitation. We just weren’t sure if in 24 hours they could come up with a match for this piece. With much trepidation, she did leave the bracelet. Time will tell!!!

07 January 2012

We’ve allotted six days on this last portion of our Myanmar trip and again it’s good for many reasons. This time, after a couple days of touring, it’s Jim’s turn to get sick. Starting at about 0200, he’s up all night. In India, we would call it Delhi Belly – I’ve named it the Myanmar Malady. Jim has had a touch of it for most of the trip but this is full on food poisoning. He ends up in bed all day feeling pretty bad.

I’m not too sure what to do and having left (inadvertently) our antibiotics in Yangon with our other bag; I accept the offer of some from another couple. About midafternoon and Jim is still feeling bad, he does end up taking them. Thanks to Andy and Mina for Jim’s meds – yes, they worked but he still wasn’t feeling up to dinner.

Having arrived back from their trip to other areas of the lake and to pick up the bangle, Sophie and Owe join me for dinner. (Bangle update: really good news – the silversmith did the most fantastic job of replicating this bracelet. It is beautiful!!) We were going to have dinner at Aurorae and go to the Puppet Show but dinner and talking over took our desire for puppet entertainment, besides Owe was starting to look a little “off’. Back to Mingalar, with an order of plain white rice, to check on Jim.

08 January 2012

I saw Sophie at breakfast; Owe is sick, similar to Jim. Sophie thinks it was the restaurant we ate at while on our lake tour. Both Jim and Owe had stir fried food while I had soup and Sophie fruit. Could be!!

Jim is still not back to 100% so it’s another lay low day. Late breakfast and a late lunch with hopes that Jim will feel well enough to take bikes out tomorrow.

09 January 2012

….and he does!!!! The bike ride takes us out of town to the west (you can go either way but this way seemed to work for us). The first 2-3km are pretty rough. Jim keeps reminding me of photo ops but I can’t take my eyes off the road for fear of ending up in a ditch (which I have done before and it’s not fun). We make it around towards the lake and stop and talk with another group of bikers who tell us they’ve heard it will be 7000K per person (about $15) to get across the lake. We have our doubts. That sounds way too much! The first boat driver we meet starts at 5000k and we get him down to 3000K - much better.

Before getting on our boat, we met another guy in the little village who was looking to share the boat so off we go – five people and three bikes towards the east side of the lake. It’s a beautiful sunny day.

From our departure point, we head back towards town but not before stopping at one of the only wineries in Myanmar. We can see it in the distance, like a red sentry standing guard on the hillside. We leave the bikes at the bottom and hike up. The Red Mountain Winery overlooks the north end of Inle Lake and the country side. It does have a feel of Sonoma or Renwick (NZ), if they had a large lake in their valley floor instead of vineyards. Lunch, a little wine tasting and a chat with Richard (from UK – living in Hong Kong) and we’re off again. Ok…so you want to know how was the wine?? It was ok – having just come from NZ we’ve been spoiled but we’ve definitely had worse. We would not have poured it down the sink as we did a bottle in China.

Back to town, Green Chilli Thai for dinner and it’s an early night for us. Off to Yangon tomorrow.

Note: 20 Jan 2012 a few days ago, I found out that one of the couples we met in Mui Ne (Julie and TJ) were in Nyaungshwe the same time we were but we never ran into them. Booo!

My memories of Nyaungshwe will be Mao win, her family and wonderful staff, the comfortable feeling I had there (I could stay here for a while), the smiles of the Myanmar people and the melodious sounds of a lone sax player we heard playing each evening. We found him our last night, playing in the tea house just around the corner – just because he could.

10 January 2012

Yangon

I know it’s getting repetitious but …up early, our good byes to Mao win, Shwe O, Sophie and Owe and we’re off to Heho.
Our flight to Yangon (via Air Bagan – on a JET – the only one we’ve seen here in Myanmar) was again seamless. Taxi to ML 2, we retrieve our other bag and start to repack again. We end up having dinner at ML2, chat with Chris (UK), Sean (US) and Henry and Barbara.

Posted by pjburke 22:39 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Mandalay

31 December 2011

New Year’s Eve and we’re off to Mandalay by boat. We’re up really early for a 0600 departure. There were ten passengers on a boat that could fit 130. We had plenty of room to move around on our twelve hour trip.

The trip started out in total darkness but within 30 minutes a glow to the east gave us just a glimmer of what would be a fantastic sunrise.
As we motored upstream towards Mandalay, we observed some small villages stretched out along the river’s edge. Some, just a few houses, some actually more like “encampments” on high areas in the river and others large villages that I’m sure extended a bit in land.

The one bit of excitement we did have was when we observed what appeared to be some type of festival. A bridge (the only other bridge we saw except for those near Mandalay) that expanded one of the widest areas of the Ayeyarwady, had balloons floating from its expanses, many people (no vehicles) walking on it and a helicopter flying over it. We knew it had to be much more than a festival. When we asked the crew, they told us that it was the grand opening of this bridge that had been in the works for over three years. The helicopters’ presence made more of a stir when the crew told us that it was their President who was coming in for the ceremony. They were extremely excited – it was for them a “Kodak moment”.

After this little bit of excitement, the remainder of the trip was extremely “uneventful”.

Arriving in the dark at the ET Hotel, the mood on the street was festive. We checked in, walked up the four flights of stairs, dropped our bags and headed out for dinner. Lashio Lay (Shan food – recommended in LP and TA) was close so we headed there. Still getting oriented to this new city, I thought I was hearing things when I heard someone call my name as we were sitting down. Nope, it was Barbara and Henry (from Yangon) waving us over to sit with them. We thought they were going to be in Bagan for New Years, but as we know, plans are always subject to change. We had a nice dinner, chatted about where we and they had been and made plans to meet for dinner the next day and also for a day trip the following day. Jim was starting to fade and to avoid having him fall asleep at the table, we bid a good night and Happy New Year’s as we made our way back up the “four flights of stairs”. We were worried that we would have trouble sleeping but New Year’s Eve in Myanmar is definitely not Times Square.

1 January 2012

It proved to be a quiet New Year’s Day. We did the walking tour (from LP) around the market and later in the day met Barbara and Henry for dinner at another Shan restaurant (Too Too – not my favorite). Henry had asked us if we had any interest in seeing the Mustache Brothers show! It was on our agenda, so no better time than the present. The Mustache Brothers (Google them for more in depth info) are a trio who mix political humor with their vaudeville type act. The government doesn’t really have a great sense of humor as shown by the fact that two (Par Par Lay and Lu Zaw) spent time in prison for making jokes about the government. Due to government restrictions, the show can only take place in their garage, only in English (as per the government) and only for tourists. It is different (to say the least) but I thoroughly enjoyed (and appreciated) their humor and courage. At any point, they could be arrested again but with channels starting to open up, and many (not all) political prisoners having recently been released from prison, I’m hoping that won’t be the case. Lu Maw, Par Par Lay and Lu Zaw, good show!!

2 January 2012

Barbara and Henry met us at our hotel and after resolving our taxi issues we were on our way. Being new to the city, we weren’t aware that a “blue taxi” was not just a color but a VERY small vehicle with very little room in the open bench seat back area. A full day trip with four full sized western adults was not going to work. We settled on a little bit larger pick up with bench seats in the back and with Jim in the front seat.

Our day trip took us to three different areas outside Mandalay. Our first stop was the obligatory carving area, which we actually found pretty interesting. Marble, sandstone, jade are among a few of the stones being carved in this huge area. Creations ranged from small souvenirs to statues ten to twelve feet tall.

Our next stop was Sagaing, which is a town located along the Ayeyarwady River, dotted with numerous temples throughout its hilly terrain. The main pagoda, U Ponya Shin Pagoda, has two entrances: about 400 steps from street level or the back driveway which the tour buses take – we went up the stairs. We decided later we were dropped at the steps probably because our transportation couldn’t make it up the hill. Beautiful pagoda complex with a lovely view to the winding river below. As peaceful as it seemed while we were there, it was the scene of demonstrations in 1988 that ended in the massacre of 300. (This was not information relayed by anyone in Myanmar)

On to, Innwa (formerly Ava), which is an ancient city and former capital (1364 – 1841) that is now visited by tourists’ from all over. After traveling across the river by small boat, we took horse carts to a few of the pagodas. Note: This is an area where small government collection booths are set up in some (not all) of the sites. If you decide you want to see those particular sites, it is a $10USD charge for all (not each). Since we had seen more than our share of temples, I opted to spend my dollars with the locals. I won’t preach regarding the government charges at tourist sites, Lonely Planet has done all the preaching that needs to be done. There are some areas, depending on how you arrive, that you will not be able to opt out of, i.e.: Bagan (at the airport) and Nyaungshwe (on the road into town). Just FYI!!

On to our third and final stop, Amarapura, this is another former capital (1841 -1857). Here we visited a local weaver and then on to the U Bein Bridge which at 1.2km long and made entirely from teakwood crosses the very shallow Taungthaman Lake. A cold beer and a few photo ops and we were on our way back to Mandalay.

We said good-bye to Henry and Barbara but made plans to see each other again in Yangon, at Motherland 2 on the 10th as we’ll all be there before heading out of Myanmar. Jim and I headed to Ko’s Kitchen Thai for dinner. Large, crowded with mostly westerners but the food was good – no complaints here.

03 January 2012

Our last day in Mandalay is quiet and we’re ready to move on.

Posted by pjburke 22:31 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Bagan

Nyaung U


View On the Road Again ...2011 on pjburke's travel map.

26 December 2011

Nyaung U is located along the Irrawaddy (Ayeyarwady) River east of Old Bagan (where no one actually lives after being evicted and relocated to New Bagan in 1998). It’s a crusty town with semi paved/dirt roads, a central market and a number of guesthouses, hotels and restaurants. The sound of horse hooves from the street was our alarm clock each morning. Horse carts are a major mode of transportation, not just for tourists but for transporting just about anything (groceries, wood, bamboo, families of 10)

Our flight up to Nyuang U (gateway to the Bagan area) was seamless. Getting our bags once we got there was “different”, most being brought from the plane by cart or people power, each person claiming their own but then being checked before leaving the small receiving area.

Our casa in Nyaung U was May Kha Lar run by Chou and her wonderful staff (especially KoKu, a cousin’s son on holiday from Mandalay and the ever-smiling Aye Naing Soe).

We arrived very early on our first day and found that another guest was looking for someone to share a car to Mount Popa. It wasn’t really in our plans but after a brief discussion, about which room we would take, we met Keith from Singapore and off we went. We stopped at the palm/peanut oil factory (see photo) and tasted the palm sugar candy (it reminded me of maple sugar candy). Before we headed on, our driver told us he wanted share with us some Myanmar snakes. Oh no we won’t!!!! But “snakes” turn out to be “snacks” – to my relief – a vinegary tea leaf salad served with peanuts, fried garlic and other items which were all quite good.

In each village we passed through, the roads to Mt Popa were lined with children, yelling at our vehicle. What’s up with that??? We find out that it’s a holiday where it is traditional for people passing by to throw bonbons (candy) to the children. I found this a bit disconcerting, since a few times the children came very close to being hit.

Mt Popa, it’s a very sacred place for Buddhists. The people-fed monkeys are very popular but they also urinated and defecate on the 700 steps (where we walked barefoot) to the temple. There were men and boys along the way who wash the steps and ask for donations. We have been to many, many temples and this was the first that I could have bypassed.

Dinner that night was at Aroma 2, excellent Indian food and was the first time we were treated to our new guilty pleasure – Tamarind flake candies. (Having a bag in the refrigerator right now, I’m trying to resist so that they make it back to the US.)

27 December 2011

Up early and we were off on a day trip to tour the temples of ancient Bagan. Our driver, Ping, and his trusty steed 99 were waiting right outside the front door. Ping drove us along the dirt trails from temple to temple. This temple area has been compared to Angkor but we found the feel to be very different. As far as you can see, across the flat landscape, the scenery is dotted with over 2500 temples and wats. There were times when I would get out of the cart to take photos and have Jim and Ping meet me down the road.

At one of the temples, I started talking with a woman I had noticed at breakfast at our guesthouse. We followed each other for the next couple of temples and finally made the rest of the trip to a village and then to lunch as a small caravan. Sabine (from Germany) joined us for dinner after our day trip. She was traveling on her own and we found we had much in common.

28 December 2011

Originally, I thought it was just the dust in the air but I had a scratchy throat going to bed and woke up with a full blown head cold. The only saving grace was that it poured all day long. With some meds from the pharmacy and green tea from Chou, I read and slept for the whole day.

Jim wandered around town for a bit. Since we decided to go to Inle Lake after Mandalay where the weather would be quite a bit cooler, Jim’s mission was to find a jacket or polar tec that would fit. Not such an easy task in Asia but he was successful, even if it was baby blue.

29 December 2011

A little better, but still feeling pretty crappy, we made our way back to the market to get me a polar tec also. I was lucky, mine was more navy blue and for about $8 I couldn’t complain.

After the market we strolled for a bit and then stopped for lunch. Just as lunch is being served I started to get really dizzy. Tried to make it back to the guesthouse (two doors down) but ended up sitting on the curb. Maybe we walked just a little too much. I scared the hell out of Chou who must have seen me. She made me sit in the lobby while the staff brought me water and green tea. Green tea seems to be the cure for just about anything and I won’t argue because it worked.

Back up in the room, while I was resting, KoKu brought up some flu meds for me (same as I already had) and a vase with some flowers. How could I not feel better after such special care?

30 December 2011

A good nights’ sleep and I’m feeling better but now Jim has a little stomach upset. Don’t know why but it always seems to work that way. Our original plan was to take bikes out but to give ourselves a little more time; we planned a 3pm horse cart ride for sunset. We made it to Sunset Wat (Site #324) just about 5:15pm and there was already a large group with equally large cameras waiting for that perfect shot. The soft light and quiet hush made the atmosphere very special for our last sunset in Bagan.

Dinner ended up being at a small place I had seen in our travels - Weather Spoon. We chatted with its owner, Winston, a young Myanmar guy who trained in England, and is now back in Myanmar training his local staff to cook healthy, tasty food. Only seven or eight tables, but they were all filled while we were there and we enjoyed our meal very much. (Note: I think we were destined to stop – every time we walked by I thought of my golf buddy MaryAnn “Witherspoon”)

It was back to the room to pack and set the alarm clock (not like I’ll need it) for 0430. Tomorrow it’s off on a boat trip to Mandalay.

Posted by pjburke 22:32 Archived in Myanmar Comments (1)

Myanmar

23 December 2011 – 11 January 2012

Myanmar….It was so much more about the total experience than each individual day. Hopefully from what I will write you will get a slight glimpse of our experiences.

Many people have preconceived notions about Myanmar – I did. If you’ve read about or even heard anything about this country in the media, you can’t help but think the worst and maybe, hope for the best. So many people were surprised when we told them we wanted to go to Myanmar. More than one expressed thoughts along the lines of “be careful”, “stay safe” or “are you sure you want to go there?” Having experienced just a very small portion of Myanmar, my response is “thanks for your good wishes but you had absolutely no reason to think that we would be in harm’s way.” The Myanmar people are some of the most wonderful people we’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

I was asked what it was like in a country under a military regime. With regards to Myanmar, on a daily basis, I actually saw fewer police officers on the streets than I would normally see in the US. The only place I saw military officers was the occasional one in the airport. My anticipation of seeing armed military on each street corner was totally blown out of proportion by “what we see and hear in the media”. Please, don’t take this as condoning or validating the current Myanmar government and their policies. It is not and I do not. I’m just sharing what I personally experienced.

If you get the chance, leave those notions behind and go (no run) to Myanmar and experience it for yourself.
Don’t fool yourself – it’s not a fairyland. In many ways, it’s a very difficult country to travel. The infrastructure is pretty much nonexistent. In short – the roads suck!! At times, there is no electricity and the internet, when it is available is some of the slowest I’ve experienced. I decided, forget the internet and experience the country.

They are starting to make changes but with regards to the roads, that only means instead of one and half car width, rutted dirt roads, which handle buses, cars, trucks, bikes, motos and people, the roads might be getting a new layer of stone. The roadwork, by the way, is being carried out by people power, mostly women. Also, the rocks we saw came from nearby each location, where they were broken down by hand or small machines, by the bucket load. No, not buckets from a dump truck or other motorized vehicle, containers usually carried on their heads. The rocks started out large and were broken down into smaller rocks and then those rocks are broken down into even smaller rocks.

Air travel in Myanmar is fairly inexpensive (by western standards): $95 Yangon to Bagan or Heho (near Inle Lake) to Yangon and $45 from Mandalay to Heho. Yes, bus travel is much less expensive. If your time here is limited, weigh the cost factor. We had a little less than three weeks and bus travel for Jim is fairly exhausting. To maximize our time, we traveled by plane.

Due to our time constraints, our tour of Myanmar hit the four main tourist stops. There are many more places to see and experiences to be had. Now that we know what travel to and around Myanmar entails, we hope to return someday for a more in depth look at this wonderful country and its wonderful people.

First stop…..Yangon

23 December 2011– 26 December 2011

Yangon is a big city, no more, no less. Most international flights arrive and depart from this point. Our “home” in Yangon was Motherland 2 and it was our first experience with the friendliness and warmth of the Myanmar people. Smiles and helpfulness greeted us at every turn.

Compared to many(or even Asian cities) western cities, Yangon has few hostels. At Motherland 2, we met people who we continually saw on and off during the rest of our trip. People were either just arriving into Myanmar, sharing their experiences before making their way on to new destinations or as we were trying to make up our minds which direction to head. The accommodations are good, the staff is wonderful: always willing to help and never without a smile.

As in all of Myanmar, payas (temples, pagodas) dot the cityscape. We saw at least a half dozen just coming in from the airport. During our time here, we visited Sule Paya, Botathang Paya and the huge complex at Shwedagon Pagoda. Shwedagon is a very sacred pagoda that many Myanmar people have dreams of visiting maybe once (if they are lucky) in their lifetime. The complex is reported to house nine hairs of Buddha hence its holy status. We spent a couple of hours here on Christmas evening, learning about the complex from a wonderful tour guide. Lily’s English was excellent and she was a wealth of knowledge.

For lunch or dinner, try New Delhi – the toesay (aka dosa) was wonderful. Busy, busy place!!! If you’re in the mode for western food, Café Dibar (near the Savoy), does a decent Italian. We enjoyed Christmas dinner there will Barbara and Henry (Americans now living in Bali).

My feel for Yangon was that at one time she was a beautiful city. There are many old building that at one time, I’m sure, were elegant but time and the ravages of weather and poverty have taken their toll. As we walked this city, people glanced with curious eyes, but a simple “mingala ba (hello) and a smile always brought the same response in turn.

Posted by pjburke 01:34 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Bangkok

Our Myanmar Visa Adventure

sunny

21 December 2011

Our main reason for putting Bangkok on our itinerary was to get our Myanmar visa. From what I had read, Bangkok was one of the most convenient places for this process.

The BTS (Skytrain) was a simple ride from very close to our guesthouse. We arrived about 0830 and there was a short line (about 10 to 15 people) ahead of us. As time passed, the line behind us grew and grew. Having paid attention to postings on line and the experiences of others, we had our paperwork in order (passports, a photocopy of each of our passports, two passport type photos with white background, the visa applications, which we had downloaded and filled out and our 2562 Thai Baht ($80USD) for two people) when we got to the embassy. Once we got inside, we all lined to get a number which is coordinated with the type of visa one would be applying for: Myanmar citizens, foreigners and/or business visas.

Having our number in hand, we sat for no more than 10 minutes before our number was called. Up we go, we handed in our paperwork in, paid out Baht and we were told to come back at 3pm. Pretty simple!

Back at the hotel, I worked on the website and Jim headed over to Siam Paragon (huge, modern mall) to check out movies for that evening. He came back with tickets for the IMAX showing of the new Mission Impossible movie. At $20USD each, we both thought they were a bit expensive but the young lady told Jim they were really good seats. (At most Asian movie theaters, you get to pick you seat, similar to picking airline seats.)
1445hrs and we’re back at the Myanmar Embassy and this time another short wait and we were out the door with our visas. Yes!!! My thoughts? – “I guess we’re really going to Myanmar.” It didn’t seem real until that moment.

Siam Paragon has a nice food court on its first level. You name it, they were serving it: Thai, Indian, Sushi, etc., etc., etc. We stopped by for a late lunch.

The movie time was 1930hours and upon entering the theater we noticed that the rows started about “N” and kept going up to “A” (where our seats were). We kept climbing and climbing until we hit the very last row, right at the top of the stairs with a 180 degree view of the IMAX movie screen and there was our love seat with a comforter. I couldn’t believe – we actually did have the best seat in the house. It was a good night, the special effects for the movie were great and on IMAX.

22 December 2011

We had given ourselves an extra day in Bangkok just in case the visa process wasn’t as smooth as we were hoping. Fortunately, we didn’t need it. What to do, what to do??? On our last couple of visits, we had done the tourist route and we knew that Myanmar would also have their share of temples so we decided on a “Pamper day” 90 minute foot massage for both of us and then fingers and toes for me. We found a restaurant for lunch called Secret Garden, not such a secret but the food was really good.

The rest of the day was spent packing, a late dinner at Pisces (a little place down the street from our guesthouse that we’d visited on a previous trip).

23 December 2011

Bangkok to Myanmar
(Wendy House to Motherland 2)

Considering the traffic and an afternoon departure, we decided to take the new Express Airport Link train. It was quite efficient. From Wendy House, the Skytrain (National Stadium stop) is just around the corner. We changed trains at Siam Station – just one stop away and then two more stations and we got off at Phaya Thai. The local train to the airport is 45TB (about $1.50), we splurged for the Express Train at 95TB (about $3), and it was an 18 minute ride to the airport. Very easy!!

One hour from Bangkok (via Air Asia) and we landed in Yangon. I’m not sure what I expected but it wasn’t the clean, modern Yangon International Airport. It was an easy process through Immigration and then on to baggage claim. It was a bit more disorganized with people claiming their own luggage as it was brought in on carts and then in to a scanner before we left the airport.

We easily found our guesthouse rep, who was waiting just outside the arrivals area. Unfortunately, we were on an early flight and had to wait for people getting off one or two of the flights arriving behind us. When we were finally organized we made our way out to the roadway and we were picked up by the guesthouse bus, and a very interesting bus it was. I’m not sure how old this bus was but I think it was probably older than some of the guests it was transporting, of course, that didn’t include us.

Our ride through the dark streets of Yangon was bumpy but unbelievable. We passed golden temple after golden temple that just got bigger and bigger.

Arriving at Motherland 2, we were greeted by the smiling Kin and shown to our room (twin beds/private bath $21).

A couple beers, dinner and we’re off to bed. As guesthouses go, Motherland 2 is a good one. Customer service is great. The only downer ….they have the hardest pillows I’ve ever slept on.

Posted by pjburke 23:17 Archived in Thailand Comments (2)

Back up North...ern Hemisphere that is!

Singapore

rain

14Jan2012 - It’s been almost a month since I’ve posted much. Singapore and Bangkok were quick visits and the internet service in Myanmar was slow to say the least. I resorted back to my written journal for this portion of the trip. I hope you enjoy my reliving our last month and I’ll bring you to Bali very shortly.

Note: as I try and download photos, I find that Bali internet service is a bit slow. Photos will follow soon- I hope!!!


18 December 2011

Dropped the van off yesterday – we’ll actually miss our little hovel. It wasn’t the most glamorous vehicle, quite the contrary, but it got us from place to place – and boy, some great places we saw.

Our last night in NZ was very quiet. I’m not sure if the rain followed us, or we followed it but it stayed around for the last day to wave good-bye.
0900 and we’re on our way to the airport and by 1130 we were on our way to Singapore.

The flight was long (about ten hours) but uneventful, when we arrived, of course, it was pouring rain.

The directions I copied to our hostel (Five Stones Hostel) were good, except I left off just “one little piece” and we wandered in the rain for a bit, finally finding it but looking more than a bit soggy.

With regards to my husband, hungry = grumpy, so after dropping our bags in our room (with a real bed), we wandered down the street towards Chinatown and a little local food. It’s gotten to a point where Chinese, Asian and Indian are our “comfort foods”. My shrimp wontons with noodles, Jim’s nasi goring and a couple of Tiger beers (for $19Sg=$14USD) really hit the spot. We’re back in the zone!!!

19 December 2011

Woke up to pouring rain but with a suggestion from Jane (at the front desk), instead of trying to walk around, we opted for the hop on-hop off bus. We were able to get a deal – 2 days for $25SG – which included any bus on any line (there are three) and a boat tour of the inland quays and harbors. Our first stop will be near the Myanmar Embassy. We decided to check and see if it was possible to get our visas in Singapore instead of Bangkok (just because we’re here). After getting lost (just a little), we found the embassy but there is a sign out front stating that it would be a three day wait. We know we can get our visas in one day in Bangkok, so, nothing ventured, nothing gained!! Off to lunch…where to go??? Back on the bus and we got off in Little India. We were going to stop at one place, there were quite a few people, but no one had food, only coffee. Guess we’ll move on. Jim saw a small shop on a corner boasting the “Best Biryani” in Singapore. Sounded good to us! Walking in, Jim asked for a menu. “No menu, only biryani!” OK!! “Chicken or Mutton??” We decided on one of each. Small place, one cook, one waiter and one hell of a biryani! As you can tell by the photo – it doesn’t look like much but it was so good. We could smell the spices walking in. This will definitely hold us until dinner.

The rain was holding off for the most part – a little sprinkle here and there – so we wandered around Little India. It reminded us of Little India in KL (Kuala Lumpur).

Our next stop was one of the markets: I was looking for clothes, not food but there were both. Being in need of some new pajamas, Burkit Market was recommended by Jane. It’s huge, three stories and packed with clothes kiosks. After about two minutes, I knew I would get nothing accomplished with Jim in tow. I told him, “Meet me out front by the durian in about 30 minutes”. If I couldn’t find what I was looking for in 30 minutes, I’d look somewhere else. Lo and behold, I did find what I was looking for but there was no one around, so I thought – I’ll look some more and then come back – bad move. Looking some more wasn’t the problem – finding that first stall again was. By that time, the crowds were even getting to me. I met Jim and we made our way to the bus stop getting on just before the skies opened up again.

Deciding that Singapore must be just beautiful at night, we made our way over to Clarke’s Quay. It’s quite close to our hostel. (Not sure if I noted it or not but Five Stones Hostel is in a great location, about five minute walk to Clarke Quay in one direction, about ten minutes to Boat Quay in the other and Chinatown about five in the other.) It was raining, but not hard, on our walk over. We checked in and got on our boat for the harbor tour. Unfortunately, we were one of the last on and all the seats under the canopy were taken, but it wasn’t raining very hard. Yet!!!! In the ideal, front seats of the boat, with my umbrella over our heads and Jim’s shielding our legs, we saw Singapore at night, or at least most of it. The tour is only about thirty minutes long. About five minutes in, again, it started to rain. No, it started to pour. Fortunately, it’s pretty warm in Singapore because by the time we got off we were drenched.

Isabelle and Jane were at the front desk when we came it looking like drowned rats. They found it hard not to laugh. After all, it’s only rain. We changed clothes and headed off to one of the Night Markets for dinner.

Singapore is great for food. We wandered from kiosk to kiosk, picking out a little of this and a little of that, leaving satisfied but not stuffed.

20 December 2011

Singapore to Bangkok

Since this was our first trip to Singapore, we scheduled our flight out to give us the day to explore. We decided to head over to the harbor front to explore some very interesting buildings. I’ll let the architecture speak for itself. (…as soon as I can get them downloaded. Austin, you would love these buildings).

After a morning with no rain (how could that be??),we headed to the airport by taxi – the quickest taxi driver we’ve had in a long time. We thought it would take about 45 minutes – I think we were there in 20 minutes. Checked in and headed to the lower level for dinner at the employee cafeteria. Great food at good prices.

Arriving in Bangkok late (about 2330) we opted for a taxi and again (in the same day) another great (read: quick) taxi driver. We were into Wendy House before midnight.

Posted by pjburke 22:38 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

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