How clean is your colon?

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
ET Guesthouse.... no really ET Guesthouse

Flag of Myanmar  ,
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We got off the bus to a hoard of taxi drivers and hotel touts but we saw a board for the hotel we all wanted to go to. The man threw our bags on the roof and all 7 of us jumped in the Jumbo for a 25 minute ride to the hotel with the guy who we thought was from the hotel, who turned out to be a tout, who picked people up with about 5 or 6 guys with boards took us to the hotel. He went into a great level of detail about the level of hatred people have for the Government and how they are so rich and the people are so poor. All this whilst being hung off the back of a jumbo, skilful.

We spent about 10 minutes outside the hotel 'negotiating' using group solidarity before checking in and heading straight back out on a group trip that somebody, maybe Lionelle, had negotiated with a driver outside. With an additional French father and daughter joining us we had a big group so the cost became about 3 each with a guide and a guaranteed avoidance of any Government fees.

We firstly went to Shwe In Bin Kyaung , known by locals as the ‘Teak Monastery’ with its intricately carved woodwork, we then took in some craft type places where they produced tapestries and puppets but it was more a tourist trap than essential on an itinerary. The one real noticeable thing outside of Yangon is that horse and cart and the ox cart is becoming the vehicle of choice (after the motorbike ban in downtown Yangon) over the 1970’s white Toyota Corolla.

We then went to a huge monastery where we watched over 1,000 monks queuing for and eating their final meal of the day (at about 11:00am). It was a great sight but you couldn’t help feel sorry for these guys. Some people (with their big cameras) would be right up in the monks faces taking loads of pictures. This is not a paid attraction and we did feel more than a little guilty, we took quite a lot of pictures but from a good distance. A couple of bus loads of people turned up after the monks had collected their food and it all became a little too much for us, people leaning in through the open seating area to take hundreds and hundreds more pictures. Sometimes when things are free and become touristy they can rip the soul out of places so feeling guilty we went and spoke to one of the senior monks and ended up making a donation to the monastery and buying a book on Buddhism (which is actually very interesting). At least someone or something is benefiting.

We soon headed over to Sagaing, the capital of an old Shan Kingdom to climb Sagaing Hill, to reach a huge pagoda at the top with great views of the city’s 500 stupas and of the Irrawaddy River.  We managed to dodge the 3 Dollar entrance fee which would have gone to the Government (its great I can indulge my passion for fee dodging guilt free).  After a sweaty climb the views were stunning.  By this time we were starting to flag after no sleep and no food it was about 13:45 so we headed for lunch at the lake. The food here is very odd, e.g. I ordered chicken curry, the chicken curry was in a very small bowl, however I got a large bowl of soup, a fish curry (the same size as the chicken curry), lime pickle, chilli paste, butter bean curry and mixed vegetables, the funny thing is Lionelle wanted fish curry but they didn’t have any left, so he had chicken but got the same amount of fish curry?? Figure that if you can.

The scenery next to the lake was gorgeous and the family restaurant doubled up as the house so our lake view table was next to a bed, how typically Burmese everything is so....well different.  Our guide starting to show more of his hand and soon, talking in very low voices we got deeply political. We also found strangers were eager to tell us about examples of the hatred of the regime. I’ll try and sum up all this at the end of the blog for Myanmar. Of more amusement however was my basic stupidity, when discussing bathrooms with Europeans they are far more cultured than us scag bags from the North West.  Attached to each toilet (i.e. where it is a western toilet only really in the guest houses) there is a hose attachment which sprays jets of water out. Now I thought the hose was for spraying off any skid stains on the toilet to remove them, yes I had the wrong idea. It is in essence a French bidet alternative. So when my French companion asked if anyone had used it I responded "of course, whenever I leave it dirty Erica is very angry with me", there was a strange silence around the table and a few odd glances before the conversation was changed. I only found out what it was later on that night when Erica told me.

After lunch we took a boat trip to an island, however we turned down the horse and cart rides for both cost reasons and animal welfare, these horses looked seriously malnourished. All the guys started to kick off and the prices tumbled however the group had made a decision and we stuck with it so left.

We then did a lot more climbing up flights of stairs getting to lots of other temples which was really tiring in the heat. We then visited a textile factory reminiscent of the textile mills at home during the Industrial Revolution (I know because I was there). All the weaving was done with bobbins controlled by the feet and the spinning of the cotton still done through human power not machine. The girls who worked on the factory floor were getting paid $50 per month which is a good salary apparently.  The factory produced mainly longyis, which their most popular type was a ‘Manchester Longyi’, ha.

We then went to Amarapura, another former Royal capital, to visit the 200 year old famous teak bridge, U Bein Bridge, for sunset which was great.  This bridge is the one on the cover of the Lonely Planet Myanmar book and spans 1300 yards, the longest teak bridge in the world and consists of 1000 teak posts emerging from the river.  We probably spent a few hours there in total however we managed to keep our eyes open through purchasing a litre bottle of rum for 1.00 and sharing it out to be drank with pineapple juice or coke depending on how much you had slept (Erica was on the pineapple). At sunset I got harassed by an old drunk woman, well Erica got harassed at first, when I turned around she had hold of both her arms so in the process of freeing Lady E she got a right good grip of me. Anyway it was dark by the time we got back. We opted to miss the Moustache brothers (a political comedy, which has to be done in their own home and only in English for tourists, I don’t know how this makes any difference but they have done lots of time in prison between them but still do the show). The rest of the guys mentioned they may go out for dinner, we however fell straight to sleep in our $10 air conditioned room and left them to it.  It was bliss.
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