Oh my backside!

Trip Start Jan 02, 2013
Trip End Apr 25, 2013

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Where I stayed
Soe Brothers Guesthouse Pa-an
Read my review - 1/5 stars

Flag of Myanmar  , Kayin,
Saturday, January 5, 2013

we traveled from Yangon to Hpa-an in the South by car with hired bikes, Khin our guide and a mental driver who' s name we have yet to discover. Leaving at 5am was not a problem thanks to residual jet lag. No chance of sleep on the long journey as the roads are bumpy and pot holed and the driver was a bettel nut chewing nutter. still, we arrived in one piece and immediately went out for a 25 mile buttock bruising afternoon cycle through local villages and plantations. 
This region is special as their are lots of natural caves housing pagoda and places of Buddhist worship. Some of the caves are vast, spreading back into the mountains and are absolutely jam packed full of sitting and reclining Buddhas and occasionally some nice flashing neon lights similar to those that adorn kebab vans in the UK. These caves provide a welcome refuge from the oppressive Southern heat. 
Our guide Khin takes us to some paddy fields beside one of these caves where the locals have bricked off an area to make a shallow swimming pool which is cool and absolutely full of children and teenagers playing and swimming, all fully clothed! tempting as it is to join them, neither of us fancy a soggy ride home in the failing light. It is around this pool that we are first introduced to 'Toddy' which we notice our guide knocking back. It is fermented palm juice, squeezed freshly in the morning and left in the sun to mature, getting stronger as the day goes on and being rancid the following day. It tastes like warm bathwater with a bit of fructose in it and has minimal effect on our multitude of Caucasian liver enzymes. For Khin however, it is clearly giggle juice and we donate the rest of our bottle to him.

Unfortunately the light does fail several miles from the hostel and as only fifty percent of the vehicles bother to turn their lights on (or indeed have any) we pedal faster and pray. That evening back in the hostel, we are delighted to discover that there is no hot water. Never mind, fantastic Chinese food and beer make us happy.

I awake at the crack of dawn on day two of cycling thanks to the start of rush hour AT 5am! Serious backside soreness thanks to mountain bike saddle. We cycle through delightful countryside, along flat roads watching farmers tend to their fields. By 11am it's just too hot to continue and Jon is getting bored of having to wait for me to catch up so we break for lunch.

In the first week of our travels in Myanmar we have started to realise that most Burmese estimations of time or distance are grossly inaccurate. I don't know if they just guess or if they''re trying to put a positive spin on the journey. The man in the lunch shack said that our next destination was only a short distance away, maybe 20 minutes in the car so we could cycle in 40 or so. Mercifully we thought better of his local knowledge and took the car which negotiated roadworks and almost impassable sections of road in well over an hour.

on returning to the hostel in the evening we are again delighted to discover no hot water and the following morning, no water at all. some terribly British moaning gets us nothing more than a $4 discount. Grrr.

One thing that struck me in Hpa-an is that we have been free to roam around the markets and stands without anyone trying to sell us anything, they smile and let us browse unhassled, happy to answer questions in sign language, giggling and seemingly very pleased at hearing us try our handful of Burmese words. I took my most prized travel possession, an engraved St. Christopher (thanks Nadia) to a jewellery shack to get the broken chain fixed and watched on as the little chap soldered it back together beautifully. He wouldn't let me pay him and kept saying 'present'. Rarely would you see this kindness in the UK. I feel humbled and thank him in Burmese making a mental note to personally contribute to the kindness reservoirs regularly.
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My Review Of The Place I Stayed

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Nadia on

It broke? Oh no, that's annoying. Very sweet of that man to fix it for you though. Hope it's keeping you safe. Enjoying the blog you two xx

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