Bye-bye Burma. Burma Bye-bye
Trip Start Mar 23, 2010
33Trip End Aug 11, 2010
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Where I stayed
In the last post I'd just arrived at Inle Lake. The next day I took a boat tour around the lake with the American couple I'd met during the trek the days before. We stopped at a few different buildings that were on stilts over the lake. The first one was a Burmese traditional cigarette factory, which consisted of about 5 women sat in a circle rolling up dried tobacco leaves and gluing them closed with some kind of tree sap. Each one could make 700 cigarettes an hour! The place also made lacquered bamboo things, such as tea sets, tooth pick holders, but mainly cigarette boxes.
Next we stopped at a silverware shop, which made all there stuff starting from the silver ore and we got to see a guy smelting it.
We went to a place that wove clothes and fabrics from lotus fiber after that, where I played (and lost, badly) this games that's a cross between pool and air hockey.
After that we had a lunch stop at a place called 'Nice Restaurant' which couldn't have had a more misguiding name. I had a sweet and sour chicken there that tasted how dog food smells. It was awful and I genuinely considered going veggie for the rest of the trip, but I think that only lasted until the next day.
We then passed the floating gardens where people grow tomatoes and other fruits. They are basically a big clump of roots that have to be skewered into the ground with bamboo so that they don't float around the lake. It turned out that I was wrong about the jumping cat monastery, its actually at Inle Lake and I got to see it. This time the place was full of sleepy cats but unfortunately none of them were jumping through hoops. The day worked out well because it was cloudy but not rainy so we didn't get to hot on the lake.
We planned to meet up that night for a drink at the Americans place because they had a really nice balcony over-looking some (dried up) paddy fields. I ended up staying there until midnight before I realised how late it was. When I arrived back at my guest house I found out that, annoyingly, it had a curfew. All the gates had been locked and I spent a long time shouting and shining my torch trying to get anyones attention. Eventually I realized that I would have to climb over the fence. For some reason, that day I had decided to wear my longhi. It's what the locals wear and it's pretty much a ankle length skirt, which makes climbing in it impossible. In the end I had had to climb over the fence in my pants, and I was so glad that nobody came out while I was half way over. That could have been pretty embarrassing.
A few days later I took a 12 hour bus over to Bagan. It left at 4 in the morning so luckily I managed to sleep through the first half of it, but the rest of the journey was awful. There was no leg room and the chairs couldn't be lent back at all.
On a vehicle related note, all the cars and buses in Burma are made to be driven on the left had side of the road but the rule is to drive on the right. This means that all the buses need a look out man hanging out of the door to act as the drivers eyes. All UN countries placed an embargo on Burma about 2 decades ago so all the cars are pretty old. Shame it hadn't been a few decades earlier then the place would have a cool, retro Cuban vibe to it.
Anyway, Bagan is this amazing place that is covered in about 4000 1000-year-old temples that are scattered around the small towns and villages in the area. When I arrived there I had enough time to rent a bike and try to see the sunset from the top of a temple, which I failed to do on every attempt due to the clouds.
I met a local guy there who showed me around and then later asked if I had any old things that I could give him in exchange. I told him that I had an old T shirt which he turned down because he wanted something more like a torch or pen knife which I didn't want to give away. It's funny, lots of the stalls in Bagan would sell stuff like primary school swapsies, so if I had anything they wanted I could trade it for there stuff. This allowed me to get rid of stuff that I didn't want at all for stuff that I still don't really want anyway.
This was the first place in Burma that there where really loads of people that followed tourists around trying to sell stuff. I'd got used to wandering around in Burma and not getting hassled, but I'll have to get ready for it again when I go back in to Thailand and Laos.
I spent the next two days cycling around Bagan seeing as many of the temples as possible. Most of them have little staircases that lead up to the top levels, but all the really big ones have had them closed by the government to preserve them. The place is so big that it was easily possible to find temples with 2 or more stories all to myself. I now have a massive urge to watch the Indiana Jones films. I got up at 5 one morning to try to see the sun ruse but it was still too cloudy, but still very nice though.
I've seen some funny things here. At the guest house in Bagan I heard the best quote ever. One of the guys staying there asked the owner what the weather would be like the next day. Reply: "I don't know, I'm not Buddha." And no matter how many times I hear it, when people say "Oh my Buddha" I always laugh. Also, loads if the beauty salons here are actually called "Beauty Saloons." English footballs really big here so lots of people have a team badge on their motorbike, but whatever team it is the motto is always "You'll never walk alone."
Moving on, yesterday I got an overnight 15 hour bus here, to Yangon. The monsoon season has begun so I got away from the rain by going to see a movie, Clash of the Titans. In case you were considering it, don't. It's very bad.
Tomorrow morning I'm getting my flight back to Bangkok, where hopefully I'll be able to get on a train and pass straight through into Laos. I'll enjoy having the ease of chain stores and decent public transport again, but I'll miss the friendly people and the authentic-ness of Burma.
I am really looking forward to getting a Subway sandwich though.