Bangkok

Trip Start Sep 21, 2007
1
130
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Trip End Apr 10, 2009


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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sawadee!


Yesterday I arrived in Bangkok from Yangon. I've stayed 28 days (the full visa length) in Myanmar. A lot happened after my last entry from Mandalay, so that justifies a new entry I guess.

After Mandalay I took a bus to Monywa, a provincial town about four hours west of Mandalay. In Monywa itself there's not a whole lot to see, but I rented a bicycle to tour the surroundings. After about ten kilometers of cycling the first stop (and after two flat tyres) was Thanboddhay Paya, a very interesting paya and quite different from other payas as well, because this one contains more than 550,000 Buddha statues (big ones and very tiny ones). Quite impressive.  Another ten kilometers to the north there is another almost theme park like collection of Buddha statues. The most impressive here is a 167 meter high statue of a standing Buddha. In front of it is another 90 meter reclining Buddha, where I could go inside as well. Around these Buddhas were a lot of other Buddha statues in all different designs, colours and sizes.

The next day I took a bus to Pakokku on the Ayeyarwady river and changed here to ferry, which brought me downriver to Bagan. Bagan is an area (42 km2) dotted with an enormous amount of temples, more than 2000 (of the original more than 4400). The thing to do here is hire a bicycle (or a horse-cart which I didn't do) and cycle from one temple to another. It's impossible to see them all, but I managed to see quite a few (see the uploaded pictures) in three days of cycling around. While cycling around, you really get to understand the enormity of Bagan. Another thing is to climb some payas and to look around from there, especially at sunset. All in all, Bagan is my favourite place in Myanmar (as with most people I guess). In Bagan I also met the well-travelled older Dutch couple again.

From Bagan I took a bus to Kalaw, which left at 03h30 in the morning! In the bus next to me sat a Canadian guy called Sean whom I met somewhere in Bagan before. After about 11 hours we arrived in the mountain town of Kalaw. Sean and I checked in into a hotel and booked the friendly and knowledgeable Sikh guide Robin for a one day trek around the area the next day.
This trek was better than I expected. We walked about 25 kilometers around the mountains surrounding Kalaw and passed a few tribal villages. We had lunch at a medicine man's house (a friend of Robin). Robin knew a lot about the local flora as well and he let us smell all different kinds of herbs. Just before sunset we arrived back in Kalaw.

The next day we got on an early bus to Shwenyaung and changed there to a taxi to take us to Nyaungshwe near Inle Lake. That same afternoon we cycled to a hot springs pool, which was rather disappointing, but since we cycled (more like bouncing up and down) all the way, we still enjoyed, especially because most of the time we had the pool to ourselves.

The second day in Inle Lake we did a boat tour of Inle Lake, together with a Chinese couple from Hong Kong. This boat trip was the second highlight of my Myanmar trip. There was so much to see and to photograph, that I broke my own record and took hundreds of pictures that day. On the lake itself there a quite a few fishermen, who have a strange rowing technique, because they use one of their legs to row: very interesting to watch. All along and on the very shallow lake are villages with houses built on stilts. The first village where we stopped had a very photogenic floating market. After this village we continued to Indein and the main thing here is a very large temple complex with hundreds of (ruined) stupas around it: very beautiful. Sean and I walked back via a different  and interesting route following a river. The next thing on the list was a weaving centre, where they wove from the stems of lotus plants. Although interesting, this was mainly a tourist trap. The last place we stopped before going back to Nyaungshwe was the Jumping Cat Monastery, where monks let cats jump through hoops: very tacky I thought.

The last day in Inle Lake was a lazy day because we wanted to get seats on a luxury bus to Bago, and we could only get them the day after. This bus turned out to be quite a nice bus, which was important, because we had to travel 16 hours or more and sleep in the bus as well. I got off the bus in Bago at 03h50 and Sean continued to Yangon. I checked in into a hotel, slept a little bit and saw the sights of Bago (more temples) during the day. The enthusiasm for seeing temples is fading quickly.

After Bago I went to Kyaiktiyo, also known as the Golden Rock. This overpriced temple on the top of a mountain was basically a major disappointment: it was very small, quite expensive (US$8) and not as precariously balancing as I expected. After coming back to my hotel here, I got a little sick (diarrhoea) as well.

While not completely recovered from being sick I took the 4,5 hour bus ride to Yangon (formerly called Rangoon), the capital of Myanmar. I had no 'accidents' during that trip and after checking in into a hotel, I slept or took it easy the rest of the day.

The next day I did some sightseeing of Yangon, but because it was very hot it made me tired very quickly. A walked around town and saw quite a bit of colonial architecture. In the afternoon I went to the holiest place in Myanmar for Buddhists, the Shwedagon Paya. Unfortunately I was already fully 'templed out', so I could fully appreciate the beauty of the complex as I would have normally done.

The last full day in Yangon I bought some dvd's and watched a few movies and basically had a very lazy day. Yesterday I flew from Yangon to Bangkok in the early morning and I settled myself in a nice hotel. I did a lot of internetting and uploaded loads of pictures. After that I had something to eat and drank a few beers with the Australian Paul, who was on the plane as well.

I will stay in Bangkok a few days more and then I will go to the south of Thailand and to Langkawi in Malaysia. That's roughly the plan for the next two weeks.


Everybody take care and keep in touch!

Michel.

 

By the way, I've been uploading almost 100 new pictures since yesterday, so check them out I'll say.
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