Yesterday my housemate went off on an adventure to Iran (not at all jealous, much!) She cleared out the fridge of stuff that wouldn’t last which included an orange puree and some almond milk, these two things screamed ‘bake a cake’ to me so I […]
Our next destination was to be Mandalay. We had investigated over night buses and worked out it would take us about sixteen hours to get there. So instead we looked at flying. There was an airport about an hour away from where we were staying and as we discovered it took about thirty-five minutes to fly to Mandalay. It was a no brainer which option we should choose. It was wonderful to see the area from the sky and observe the gentle patchwork fields and fluffy clouds. We literally took of were given a boiled sweet and landed!
We arrived in Mandalay and found our lodgings for the next couple of nights. Next was a wander around town and a search for food. We seem to have settled in the Indian quarter as there were lots of curry related places. This bit of Myanmar history was something I hadn’t known about. A generation or two ago many Indian families moved here for work and settled and made this country their home. There subsequent generation are interested in their roots in India but are unable to visit due to cost and red tape. It is such a foreign concept to me as a westerner that someones never going to be able to visit family they have never met and places that shaped their history today. We take so much for granted.
After an good wander we came back to one of the first places we passed quite near to our lodgings. Karaweik is a street cafe that takes up two sections of pavement meeting at the corner. The chefs are outside to so you can watch your food being made. It is mostly a kind of high bred Indian food with the odd bit of Southeast Asia thrown in.
This was simply delicious! Lots of little bowls of tastiness so you could assemble your plate the way you like it. Green tea in endless amounts was provided and I was a very happy lady. The lovely owner of this place came and sat with us to ask where we were from and we asked lots about him. He kept filling up the little bowls as soon as we had emptied them. This food was very fresh and full of flavour. I know my Indian food and this was excellent! If you ever find yourself in Mandalay make sure you visit and say hi to Abdul from me.
Once we arrived at our new temporary home at Inley Lake we were delighted to discover how lovely it was, up until this point we had experienced a mixed bag of cheap accommodation. Having been on the go for over a week we collectively felt […]
We had a very early start as the aim was to arrive at one end of Inle lake by lunchtime so we could explore the lake by boat in the afternoon and we had quite a few miles to cover. The landscape was beautiful in the morning we caught the end of the sunrise and then the whole area around us was heavy with mist probably from the reaction of the cold evening with the warm earth. We were quite high up so were above the mist level it was all quite magical.
As we walked the mist slowly dispersed and gave way to bright lush views across the valleys and exposed beautiful undulating scenery all around. It started to heat up very quickly and as we were heading essentially down hill for most of the day it got warmer and warmer which was another reason to use the earliest part of the day to walk. It was great having Cam our guide with us as he was so knowledgeable about the countryside around us. He was full of information about all the plant life and the insects and animals we encountered along the way, we learnt so much!
These were the first two examples of wildlife we encountered…a very nosey pig who was stuck in a shed but really wanted to join us and a beetle of some kind who was one of several taking shelter on the same plant.
The next thing we walked past was this launch site for a rocket which is part of an annual rocket launching competition to see who could get their rocket to go the furthest. Cam was a bit impressed I think that we knew what it was, and that was only really because we had watched a documentary on Myanmar when we were planning the trip! Teri and I were a little over excited to actually stumble across one. Next we encountered cows. First of all these two gently meandering through the countryside and then a whole herd being a little bit more playful and boisterous and one in particular got a little over amorous so we kept right out of the way! Incidentally the clouds/mist in the distance of the first picture is Inle lake but at this stage we were still high above the valley so all we could see was the clouds.
Cam told us that a fully grown cow was worth about $500 so we all concluded whoever owned these was a millionaire as the herd stretched for quite a long distance. Next I had an encounter with a large dung beetle who was stuck on his back and couldn’t flip over by himself his little legs were going mad in an attempt to move. I tried a number of times to get him the right way up but each time he flipped himself back over pretty much immediately. Eventually we got him sorted and off on his way. The dog below followed us for pretty much all of our journey she was beautiful and I named her foxy as she looked like she had some fox genes in her. I have two dogs at home so particularly loved the fact that she attached herself to us.
Along the way we saw some wonderfully old trees full of personality I would love to be able to ask them what they have seen pass by during all their years of standing there.
For quite a distance the earth was a vibrant terracotta colour and looked very rich and fertile. When the rainy season comes so much water appears quickly that there are all sorts of systems in place to catch and direct the rain fall so that as much of the water is used and not lost. We came across many channels dug into the earth creating a fascinating irrigation system and a whole range of dam like structures. Cam explained to us that they were more about filtering the water as it ran down the hillside to get rid of all the debris that had collected along the way so that the end result would be clean fresh water.
As we descended into the valley the earth changed colour and became more sandy the plant life got greener and more luscious and the temperature rose. Cam continued to impress us with facts about the land and plants and he picked flowers for us to wear. We began to see houses and temples and people so we knew we were close to our final destination.
We were becoming aware of more and more areas of water and the stunning reflections that came with them. This is clearly a very fertile area and provides a living for many people from farming produce to catching fish and boat building.
It was interesting to see many piles of huge bamboo poles prepared ready for building purposes. All of the houses in this area are built on stilts so they won’t be effected by any change in water level and I suspect in the rainy season that can be quite significant.
Finally we reached our end point and were presented with this delicious meal. Rice, egg, peanut sauce, stir fried morning glory and tea leaf salad. We had tasted tea leaf salad in Yangon and found it incredibly bitter but this one was just right. The balance of the bitter tea leaves with the other ingredients (chickpeas, red pepper and pomegranate I think) worked very well and was very welcome. We rested out of the way of the midday sun and let our legs recover before the next bit of adventure began.
Anywhere that I have travelled in the world it has always been the people that leave a lasting impression and are the icing on the cake of the whole experience. In this regard Asia has blown me away with the kindness, welcome and warm hearts […]
We chose a two day hiking trip. You only have to carry what you need for one night and lots of water. The rest of the luggage is taken directly to the final stop ready to collect at the end of the hike. We started at 7.30am with an hours drive to the spot that marks the end of the first day of the three day trip. We met our guide who was called Cam. Cam was great to hang out with and was full of knowledge about the countryside we were walking through which was his home state.
It was chilli season so right from the start of the hike we saw chillis everywhere. They were growing in the fields and drying outside many houses creating bold patchwork arrangements of many shades of red. The colour was incredible especially accompanied by blue sky’s and bright sunshine.
It was fascinating watching all of these industrious cottage industries busy at work preparing produce. Garlic was another item being prepared in great volume we chatted in broken English with this lady and I discovered she was the same age as me. She then apologised for not being glamorous but did agree to this photo which I was very pleased about. I told her she was beautiful but I’m not sure she believed me!
We also met these delightful children in the same village who knew how to say ‘hello’ and ‘bye’ in English. We reciprocated and they continued to say hello about twenty-five times and at least double that with bye! As we walked away down the lane for some distance we could still hear a faint ‘bye’ and much giggling.
The next person we met was this chap who had just harvested some naturally occurring honey which he was wanting to sell to us. Unfortunately we couldn’t buy it as none of us had a container to store it in and it would have been a very sticky thing to hike with but it would have been great to taste it!
From this point on we saw less and less people and more and more wide open spaces.
The hiking trip come with all meals provided and by lunch time we were very ready for a break out of the midday sun. We had an hour to rest and eat before setting off for the afternoon. Lunch was lovely home cooked food and fresh fruit just perfect.
It was served to us by a family in a remote village along the way. We were the first group there so had an upstairs room to ourselves with a great view…After eating we took the welcome opportunity to have forty winks and be horizontal before resuming the hike.
The afternoon was full of beautiful scenery and wide open landscapes. We saw many cows dotted about the countryside, lots of butterflies, birds and even a snake that took my friend by surprise at one point!
Something we became very aware of was the amount of spiders there were in all of the trees along the way. You really needed to keep your eyes open to avoid walking through whole colonies of spiders in their webs it would have not been pleasant to get tangled up with these chaps! As we neared the end of the day we started to notice people again and particularly basket weavers. The area seemed to be a focal point for these particular type of basket. I would have loved to bring one home but obviously was not at all practical unfortunately.
And finally we stopped for a celebratory drink just before the monastery we were spending the night in. This little shop/cafe was home to the most adorable pair of sisters who were very shy but at the same time fascinated by the strange visitors that had arrived.
We tried to chat to the little girl in the red top but she disappeared blushing as she went but returned some time later and presented me with this beautiful string of flowers carefully threaded onto a piece of grass. I was so touched by this gesture and although we couldn’t speak the same language her gesture spoke volumes. She then went away again only to reappear with one each for my friends to. It is these little moments that are priceless and make travelling so delightful reminding you that the essence of the human spirit is so very lovely and words are not always necessary for a meaningful connection to be made.
From Hpa-An we took a night bus to Kalaw in Shan state. It took about eight hours including a stop half way. As we left Hpa-An the coach stopped numerous times taking more and more people and packages on board so much so we had […]