I arrived in Hsipaw around 4pm and had a quick look around, it's a great looking town
. Very pretty and nobody in the town hassles you trying to sell you crap. It's great. I went on an organised boat tour through Mr. Charles' Guest House (where it appears 100% of the tourists stay). We walked through fields of pinapple and Papaya, sampling them as we went, that was the best pinapple I think I've ever had. An American called David had a friend that was also ill in Mandalay, exept he'd been to hospital. This is the worst country I've every visited for getting sick. Over half of the travellers here have had the bad bad stomachs, and that's usually within the first week of arriving. I'm now on a vegetarian diet for the remainder of my time here. It's just not worth it. Anyway, When we arrived back at the Guest House David asked if his friend had arrived, he had. I asked if mine had arrive, she hadn't so I started getting a little once I heard about Shane the Kiwi's hospital experiance. The three of us and Michael the French man headed into town in the evening for a little bit of pool with the locals, they were rubbish, but sadly managed to give us a 2-0 gubbing in games that lasted over half an hour each. Honest, it was the table, not us, they were on home ground.
The next day David, Shane and I excused ourselves from the 8 hour hike that many of the others in the guest house decided to undertake and instead played cards and had a shorter walk around town. We were given a hand drawn map to explore some of the more local attractions but didn't manage to follow it at all, instead we found ourselves walking along the rail track in a "Stand By Me" kind of way, worrying about when the once daily train would pass
. We weren't alone as we passed many children walking along as well returning from school. It was fabulous scenery and the locals that we passed were fantastic. Rachel failed to arrive in Hsipaw again that evening, so I decided to return to Mandalay the next day as originally planned to make sure she was ok, and to start heading back south.
I played a game of Chess with Thomas the Norwegian. Due to my complete incompetence with opening theory I managed to go the exchange (a Rook for a Knight) and a pawn down. My only hope was my more active pieces as I had two excellent bishops, control of the d file and his queenside bishop and rook still stuck on their original squares. After some shuffling of pieces he got the queens off the board and things started to look bad. I did manage to open up his King a little and due to my bishops working together and my rook on the 7th rank I turned the game around gaining a rook and a pawn for nothing, he was spent and a little upset. It wasn't long before the enevitable resignation came and I marked up the score of Scotland 1 Norway 0, oh yes. He also told me of a place in Yangon where the locals play chess on the street so I'll be visiting there, he did warn me though that they were good and that they played for money. I think that this could be a repeat performance of my Mongolian games, but hey, we'll see.
In the morning it was into a shared taxi with David and Shane to head for Mandalay in a little more comfort.
I was up at stupid O'Clock again, 6am. Rachel wasn't feeling well enough to come to Hsipaw (Pronounced Sipaw!!) so she decided to stay in Mandalay one more day before heading out. The bus ride was really beautiful over a mountain range, although it did get a little uncomfortable after a number of hours. We stopped at a little restuarant at the side of the road, but after being ill twice within two weeks I've applied a ban to myself which means that I no longer eat at these places. I had a short conversation with the lady beside me on the bus which was much more physical than verbal. I pointed at her and said, "You, Mandalay, Nat", putting on my now practised quizical look. She nodded. I then immitated the 'spirit dancing' that I'd seen a couple of nights before. She just burst out laughing at me, probably concluding that I was possessed and hadn't visited the cleansing monk.