Harry and I have now finished our trip in Myanmar, and we can honestly say we loved it. We spent 21 days here and kind of wish we stayed a few more, but we did the best we could in the time we had. I have a lot to talk about and a ton of photos, so I’m going to split my blog post into three parts.
Once again a reminder of the currency- $1 CAD = 1000 kyat (chat)
The third and final part to my blog about Myanmar. I’m glad to be able to stop blogging for a while; it does get tiring and I am certainly no writer. One more after this- Malaysia. Then I’m done until I start travelling again in 90 days (visa requirements). Anyway, here I go.
After another long bus ride, we arrived in Inle lake. We had to pay a tourist tax of 5000 kyat per person (another rip off, we were sure), but there was no avoiding this one. We immediately began to look for a hotel, and after checking out several quite pricy options, we settled for the Golden Fish hotel who gave us a great deal of 20,000 with AC and breakfast included. I really don’t know how we kept finding these killer deals.
The next morning, we took a boat tour, because that’s the thing you do in Inle other than trekking. We began around 8AM, although sunrise would have been much nicer, and we paid a total of 18,000 between 4 people after bargaining.
We sped off in the boat and our first “attraction” was a man in a boat, who when saw us coming, immediately stood up and posed for the camera with his special Burmese fishing net. It’s something you see a lot of pictures of online and thing “wow how cool and cultural”, but in reality, these days it’s all just for tourism. It was so weird and awkward that I couldn’t bring myself to take a photo, and also I didn’t want to be asked to tip him.
Our next stop was fairly typical for boat tours, at least I’ve noticed. We went to a community on the water, held up by bamboo stilts, where they weave clothes- in this case it was out of lotus plants. We watched the women work away and make real clothes (this was slightly more authentic). All of their products ended up in their local store where you could buy them at a high price quoted in American dollars.
Next was watching some men make jewellery out of silver. The jewellery was beautiful, I will admit, but again, the prices were all in USD and for us it was a bit unaffordable and more-so unnecessary. I love to look at jewellery, I can stare at it for much longer than probably appropriate, but I never really wear it.
There were some temples included on the tour, nothing out of the ordinary, and then we went for lunch. We had a surprisingly not-so-expensive meal at one of the restaurants and I was happy to finally get to try the local delight, green tea salad. I love green tea, so why wouldn’t I love the salad? It is quite crunchy because it has dried lima beans in it, and I think I would have loved it if the sauce hadn’t been made with olives.
The best part of our lunch stop was there were so many kittens! They were all sleeping together, then one of them decided to play with me. You can’t go wrong with kittens…
Next we learned how they make their local cigarettes. They are all natural, wrapped in banana leaves and sealed with honey. We see people smoke them often and they are sometimes given in hotels along with toiletries. Neither Harry nor I are smokers at all, and we are super against tobacco, but we tried a puff of the mint one since we were there. And I can’t believe I’m saying this- but it actually tasted really good, super minty. I really felt like I just used mouthwash or ate a mint. Regardless, we didn’t buy any and I doubt I’ll ever try one again.
Next up was the floating tomato farms, which were exactly as they sound; a grove of tomato plants floating on the water. There were several fishermen around doing some actual fishing with different nets than “advertised” and pushing themselves around with the oars by using their feet. The water isn’t too deep so their oars can touch the ground if they’re long enough, and so that’s how they tend to paddle while standing and fishing.
Finally we went to our last stop, Indein. It’s a religious site with a ton of stupas that takes about an hour to boat there. It was cool to see, worth the extra 3,000 kyat (without Indein the tours are 15,000). We saw some puppies living inside one of the stupas and that was really cute, can’t go wrong with puppies either. We had to pay 500 kyat to use our cameras, but we skipped out on that and decided to take no photos. I may have snuck in a photo or two with my phone though.
After all that, we finally took the boat back home. The trip was good to do, worth it, but I wouldn’t say anything crazy or special. That could be the over-travelled version of myself talking though, after seeing so many things that are way cooler this just seemed mediocre. Like I said though, worth it.
When we got back we bought a bus ticket for the next day to go to the capital of Myanmar, Naypidaw, for 11,000. We took a walk around Inle one last time, checked out the market and all, and enjoyed the rest of the evening.
We were picked up the next morning by taxi and taken to our bus. We hopped on our bus and after around 7 hours, we arrived to Naypidaw. We got off the bus a bit early because we noticed we were much closer to our hotel than if we went all the way to the bus park. We were still 10km out and certainly did not want to walk it all, so we began thumbing (there are no local buses). We first got a ride in the back of a pickup with some government workers, they took us about halfway and dropped us off at a petrol station. Our next ride was a guy in an AC little black car, also a government worker. He luckily took us all the way.
We stayed at Jade City hotel for 25,000 with a free scooter rental. Scooter is the only way to get around Naypidaw unless you hire a taxi for the day, because the city is HUGE. Everything is super far away.
We checked in and we were the only guests of the whole hotel. The hotel was also huge, over 100 rooms, and none of the occupied. We were in a modern ghost town. They said their last guests had been there about a month ago. I’m not quite sure how these places stay alive- government funding I guess.
The story of Naypidaw, supposedly, is Myanmar feared terrorist attacks on Yangon so they built this whole new city to be a sort of distraction away from where everything is actually happening. The whole city is only full of government workers and the odd tourists who want to see a city full of nobody. It’s quite surreal; when we went to eat breakfast the next morning we were the only ones in a large banquet hall. Creepy.
So we scooted around and checked out the city. There is this area of a 20 lane highway with only a few cars here and there, and some police watching over it. The parliament building is around it, but it is heavily guarded and you’re not allowed to go too close.
We drove around several beautiful lotus roundabouts and watched as the workers kept the place so beautiful and clean. There was no inch of grass left uncut, the bushes were moulded perfectly, and the streets kept clean. So they could show off to who? Who knows.
We ate at a restaurant that evening and found a crowd of people, finally. There is a district where there are many restaurants, and I guess that’s where people spend their free time. After our meal we checked out the water park as it was dark. There was a show going on and we found an area where they were playing a movie by projector, projecting on spraying water. It was kind of cool, neither of us had ever seen that before. There were some lit up fountains and quite a few people here as well. I guess we caught movie night for the locals.
We then checked out a Buddhist temple and the lit up main pagoda of the area. Both were cool, nothing new for Myanmar though as there are temples and pagodas everywhere.
The next morning, we were off. One night in that city is certainly enough. We bought a ticket to Yangon (65000 kyat), although our next destination was Ngapali beach. There was no direct bus there so we had to make the detour. After a few hours, we arrived, and looked for an immediate bus to Ngapali. To our dismay, the buses for that evening were sold out. We bought a ticket for the next evening (15,000 kyat) and made our way to downtown, with hopes that our good friend Namit could host us that night. Luckily he could, so we spent the night and chilled out a bit the next day.
Around 1pm we made our way back to the bus station. We caught our bus and off we went on another night bus.
After a horrible, windy, ride (quite a few locals lost their dinners along the way), we arrived early in the morning around 5AM and began our search for another hotel. We settled with Kyaw Ngapali hotel for 25,000 with AC and breakfast included. We were a short walk from the beach, with access through the closest resort (which, by the way, was amazingly beautiful and we felt a little sad we weren’t staying there).
Since we were up so early, we caught sunrise on the beach, and it was gorgeous. The beach in general was gorgeous to our surprise, and we’ve seen some really nice beaches in our lives. Highly recommend it.
We pulled out the drove for some epic beach shots of the blue water, white sand, and palm trees. The long shadows made it perfect and in that moment we felt really happy we went because we almost skipped it due to it being monsoon season. The weather we had was beautiful for the most part, a little cloudy during the afternoon, but we couldn’t have asked for a better day.
Everywhere it smelled so nice because of all of the tropical flowers that bloomed all around. We hitch hiked to the other side on the back of an ice truck and quickly realized why there were no hotels on that end. It was dirty, the beach was full of plastic and glass, and there were dead fish everywhere either being dried or forgotten leftovers from fishing. This is the real beach, in a way, and needs some serious clean up. Even if I weren’t vegetarian, after seeing that mess, I wouldn’t eat the fish.
For sunset we made it back to the beautiful end of the beach. There were a few tourists, only a handful, and they were all sitting on the beachfront restaurants enjoying life. By beachfront I mean on the sand, footwear optional. Harry and I relaxed in some beach chairs and shared a beer while watching the sun go down. It was really spectacular- one of the highlights of the trip most definitely. There were no sand flies and not too many mosquitos; heaven for me. We wished we could spend more time there, but already the next day we had to leave.
We left the next morning to go back to Yangon. The ride back wasn’t quite as bad, but still it seems that Burmese people have a hard time with windy roads (from previous experience as well). We caught a spectacular sunset on a random beach where we stopped for dinner- really one of the best I’ve seen. Then off we went again.
We arrived in Yangon around 4AM and made our way back to Namit’s place. He left the door open for us and we quietly snuck inside and went to get in a few more Z’s. We spent the last day chilling around the house and eating dragon fruit (I miss it so much). That night we meant to go out to a bar, but ended up watching geeky videography videos together since we’re all into the art of making videos.
Early the next morning we left and said goodbye to our awesome host and to Myanmar. We had a great time and were so glad we got to see the country before it’s completely turned over by tourism. The people were some of the nicest we’ve met in Asia and we would recommend seeing this country ASAP if it’s on your list.
Next up, Malaysia!