Small town shenanigans
Trip Start Mar 03, 2005
80Trip End Apr 08, 2006
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After a brief stop at Pyin U Lwin we continued onto a spectacular gorge which took about 45 minutes to descend into and then climb out of following even more ludicrous hairpin bends than the ascent onto the plateau. In the distance was a clearly visible viaduct, once the second highest in the world according to my guidebook.
I had a short sleep as we continued on as it was the only way I could ignore the fact I really had to piss! These Burmese bus drivers were inhuman! I'm sure I wasn't the only person feeling every bump in the highway as our driver continued on as if he were driving a truck load of rice. The scenery was still interesting though, and we passed some scenic rolling hills and small villages before we arrived in Hsipaw at around 1pm.
Upon leaving the bus a very shady character, reminiscent of a dark skinned Kevin Spacey with a very sinister laugh who may well have been a cannibal followed us to our guesthouse. It was as if three white people with backpacks was just the kind of entertainment he was waiting for! We finally managed to shake him off when we checked into Mr Charles guesthouse though.
The plan in Hsipaw was to find out how to get to Namhsan, in the mountainous region to the north. Our first port of call in town was at a guesthouse where "Mr Bean" resided, the man supposedly able to guide us on a four day trek there. We were told to come back in an hours time, so to keep ourselves occupied we grabbed some noodles at a street stall. To our amusement, or shock, I'm not sure, we witnessed the guy at the stall scoop a big dollop of a jelly like substance into our noodles, which we were told to mix in. We weren't convinced, as none of us knew what it was, but the laughs of the other customers and the cooks insistance that it was fine made us eat it. In the end it tasted fine, but to this day I don't know what that stuff was!
We tried our luck with the elusive Mr Bean again, although the meeting was hardly a success. It felt more like a job interview, with lots of long pauses and strange looks coming our way. In the end he said he would do it, but for $10 each, per day. We said we'd think about it when a young man working at the guesthouse told us about Ms Maureen, an Australian lady who'd recently opened a coffee shop in town. I suggested we go for a coffee (actually, I dragged the others along cause I was desperate), and Guy noted that Maureen may be a good person to talk to about the trek. We found her place relatively easily and it really was the last thing I expected to see in what really was a wild west kind of town. A true Aussie serving up the best coffee in Burma! We stayed for over an hour getting plenty of gossip, and were informed that Mr Bean probably wouldn't be a reliable guide. It was suggested we look into trekking around Namhsan, instead of to it, and a man named "Tun Tun" might be able to help us. What kind of town was this that had such strange characters - Mr Charles and Mr Book, who had an ongoing vendetta, Mr Bean, Mr Food, Tun Tun and our friend from the bus station Mr Kevin Spacey?!
The following morning the three of us joined other guests from Mr Charles guesthouse for a boat trip up the Dokhtawady river. After meeting Tun Tun the previous evening we organised the trip to Namhsan for the following day, which gave us a full day to see a few of the sites around Hsipaw. When we arrived at the riverbank at 9am the river was covered in fog which gave it a look similar to that in the film Apocalypse Now. After a few minutes on the boat the fog lifted and we were treated to a beautiful site of jungle covered hills and villages, as well as the beautiful green colour of the water.
We travelled upriver for an hour or so until we disembarked and began a short trek to a monastery. Along the way our trusty guide, Mr Charles, showed us some pineapple and papaya plantations. It wasn't a spectacular excursion, but it was a nice relaxing way to spend the morning. After seeing the monastery we travelled a little further upriver to see the confluence of two rivers before turning around for the trip bach to Hsipaw.
Unfortunately, after eating lunch and having another fantastic capuccino at Ms Maureens I felt very dehydrated and nauseus, which was to cause me quite a bit of discomfort over the next few hours. It may or may not have been due to the jelly like substance I had mixed in with my noodles the previous day! I spent the afternoon relaxing as best I could, and when the lights went out that night I hit the sack, excited about the trip to Namhsan which was to happen the following day.