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Showing posts from February, 2018

Golden Rock and Mawlamyine

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After a stressful moment in Yangon station where they said the train we wanted was full and we couldn't get tickets, then mysteriously managed to sell us 2 on the exact same train, we were on our way to Kyaikto. This was slightly off the normal tourist route to one of the must sacred Buddhist worship sites in Myanmar – Mount Kayiktiyo (aka the Golden Rock). When we got off the train there were only two other tourists that we could see and we and lots of locals were all ushered to a large roundabout in the carpark to wait for the taxis that take you up to the small town of Kin Pun. These taxis are flat bed trucks with 3 benches squeezed in and they fill them to overflowing with people, luggage and shopping, all for the price of 500k each (26p). In hindsight I wish we'd put our luggage on the roof rack as once you get everyone on the benches there isn't an opportunity to get you and your luggage out over everyone and it meant we sailed past our hotel and down into the town…

Change of plan!

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So back in early December, Sadie posted a blog for our rough itinerary we had in mind here, as people were asking us for it. As we have gotten closer to our next border crossing later this week, we have been looking at our overall travel plan for the rest of the year.
Whilst we have enjoyed the last 2 months in Nepal and Myanmar immensely, we now both want a bit of beach life that we are craving, and try to get slightly cooler temperatures from being nearer the sea. Obviously we wouldn't get that if we did North Thailand next as originally planned and it would have been at least May before we hit Vietnam and it's wonderful beaches.
Also we have been looking at climates and temperatures of our itinerary a bit closer, and we definitely didn't want to be in Indonesia in typhoon season later in the year (Sep-Oct), and have also been trying to work a route around the wet seasons back on the mainland to avoid the worst of it. We would prefer to do the beaches and islands in …

Yangon

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We had booked a standard room, which unfortunately smelt of stale tobacco, plus the room had a dividing partition in it which meant you couldn’t watch the TV from bed, not a big deal at end of day, but the smell was strong. We dumped our stuff and went for dinner in the hotel restaurant as we were starving by that point, then Sadie went to speak to reception about the room. We were happy enough to pay the extra few quid a night to upgrade to a bigger room, but after a quick conversation with the duty manager, she managed to get us a free upgrade to another room anyway, result!
The next morning, we planned out a few things we wanted to do with our 4 days in Yangon, and one of them that was recommended in blogs etc. was to do the Yangon Circle Line. This route is a 39 station, 28-mile loop and provides a vital link in the transport system for the city, not just for getting local commuters around, but it also plays a huge part in the supply chain for locals to buy and sell local produce…

Inle Lake to Yangon

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Our next destination in Myanmar nearly didn't happen because it's a bit out of the way an expensive to get to, but it’s worth it. Inle Lake is a large peaceful freshwater lake back in the Shan state, that has towns and villages built on stilts, fishermen with a unique rowing style and floating allotments and gardens growing produce for market. The nearest town to the lake that you can drive and stay in is called Nyaungshwe, it’s about 4km away from the main lake and whilst you can spend a fortune to be on the actual lake staying in the town means you have a choice of pubs, restaurants and tour operators. To save time we decided to fly from Bagan into the local region, we then hoped to share a taxi to Nyaungshwe as we’d read that the 1hr road journey can cost a fair bit (25k kyat). Having arrived and waited for our luggage we didn’t spot any other couples or solo travellers that we could share with, so decided to walk the 1km to the main road where the cheap buses pass. We had…

Bagan

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It was yet another early rise for our next journey from Mandalay to Bagan. We decided to do this by river boat that is mainly for tourists due to the cost and duration of trip at around 10 hours, compared to the slower local’s boat which takes around 2 days! We could have taken a bus at around 6 hours, but the appeal of cruising all day down the Irrawaddy River sounded a good way to go, and it turned out a good decision.

So, an early morning taxi from the hotel to the jetty for a 7am departure got us there a bit early thankfully, as it turned out to be a busy boat and with limited space on the shaded upstairs deck, we did manage to get a couple of seats in that area.


It was a decent river cruise boat and with better toilets and food than expected, it made it a nice relaxing way to enjoy the day, with stunning views over the river banks at all the local villages, fishermen at work and of course the sun shining on the golden pagoda stupas. Breakfast was served not long after departure,…

Hsipaw

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Getting up at 2:30am for a 10hr train journey to Hsipaw was painful, but as it is known to be one of the world's top train journeys we were both looking forward to it. As we'd be back at the hotel in a few days they agreed to look after our big backpacks so we could travel light with just small bags, so with these packed with a few days clothes and snacks for the journey we set off. Tickets purchased we followed the other tired looking backpackers to the only train in the station and found our seats in the ‘upper class' carriage. This means you get cushioned reclining seats instead of wooden benches and as it was only about £2 each it was a luxury we splashed out on. 4am came and the train trundled off through the darkness, sunrise isn't until 7ish but sleep is pretty impossible even if your seat recline lever does work. The train judders from side to side, pretty violently at times, and the noise as it clacks over the rails is deafening.


After 4hrs or so we reached t…

Mandalay

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So after our short sleep, we decided just to eat in the hotel that evening, plus our room was on the 4th floor and just down the corridor was the Sky Bar. It had a nightly free cocktail per guest, which was either a rum sour or gin sour, so we went for the gin one and it was delicious.
They also put on some entertainment in the form of a woman who played a wooden xylophone for an hour, followed by a puppet show which is a big thing over here and was interesting at bits! After dinner we went for a little stroll, but Sadie wasn't feeling 100% so we had a fairly early night.


Sadie had bought a SIM card at the airport as in general the WiFi in Myanmar isn't very good, and the data bundles are very cheap (£5.50 for 5.5GB per month). However we couldn't get her phone to load any pages, and despite trying all the tricks we both knew, it still didn't work.
There was an Ooredoo shop not far from the hotel which is the network provider, so the next morning we went to see if th…