A night in Bangkok and a connection flight to Mandalay, it was time to explore Myanmar from north to south. My first impression of Myanmar was the “red mouth” of bus driver at the airport when he smiled at me. And I was like “oh wow!he must have some troubles with his teeth”. However after a few days in Myanmar I have come to a conclusion that almost every man has this kind of “red mouth”.
Mandalay is a good place to start your trip in Myanmar, stayed at the Ace star hostel where I met Laila (from Spain). There isn’t much to do in Myanmar.
However we rented a scooter on the first day and went to the Whak kar waterfall and to the famous U-Bein Bridge there after – the longest teak bridge in the world for sunset. The very next day we’ve been to Mandalay Hill for sunset. All of these are totally worth a visit! On our way back from Mandalay Hill we ran out of petrol half way through and was stuck in the middle of a highway. A passing by local stopped by and asked what’s going on? Upon explaining he quickly transferred some petrol from his bike onto ours. While talking to him we came to know that he saw us having problems while driving by and he took a u-turn to come back to help us. We were so thankful for his help and the least we could do was to give him the money for the petrol but he refused to take it. When we insist he simply said: “thank you for visiting my country” – that moment I felt so blessed and grateful. No words could express my feelings at that moment.
We got back to hostel just in time, to go to the bus stop. We headed off to Kalaw to start our trek to Inle Lake and to have the first impression of the beautiful sceneries of Myanmar.
Kalaw – Inle Lake – Trek
Night bus dropped us off in Kalaw at 3am. After 5 hours of sleep we tried to find an agency to go trekking with. While having breakfast at our Guesthouse we met Daniela (from Chile). She told us about her plans and the agency that she is going with. There are two agencies Jungle King and Ever Smile next to each other. Both are well known for jungle trekking in Kalaw and not so expensive either. We got a quote of $28 for 3 days and 2 nights trekking including food and accommodation but excluding the 10$ Inle Lake Zone fee. It was an easy decision to make to join Jungle King and Daniela, it turned out to be a good one. We were a group of 6 people. Nisha, Claudia (from Mexico), Julian (from Germany), Daniela,Me and our 62 years old guide Wellington.
First day trek was from Kalaw to Kyauk Su and covering 13.1 miles through a misty scenery. Stayed at a local place arranged by Jungle King. Dinner was amazing. Next day we headed towards a monastery near Teetain. Trek was about 13.2 miles. Once we got there we saw monks everywhere. Some of them were playing football and tennis. Of course I had to join them and it was so much fun. Our dinner at the monastery was so delicious. At night we played same card games and went to bed early. Waking up early In the morning listening to some loud music played by the monks weren’t as much fun as playing with them (I guess it’s party of their kind). After a descent breakfast we started our last day of hiking to Inle Lake. At one point we walked through a little village and they were celebrating their annual firework festival which is called … Five hours hiking we reached a village on the other side of Inle Lake. Then an hour and a half boat trip to the main side of Inle Lake, boat ride was really beautiful.
The Song of Travel Hostel was our place to stay for the next 2 days. I met some lovely people from South America (Javier – Peru and …). We took the free bike from our hostel and explored the surroundings. Had to cross the lake once more by loading all of our bikes on the boat. Watched sunset at the vineyard, which is a little bit out of town. After 2 days in Inle Lake we took a night bus to Hsipaw to catch the famous train to Pyin Oo Lwin.
Hsipaw is a good spot for hiking, but we rented a scooter for one day and explored the beautiful scenery by ourselves. The Nam Tuk Waterfall is definitely worth a drive and also the Kumudra Hill for sunset. To me Hsipaw wasn’t a place for hiking. Main reason to go Hsipaw was to catch the train to Pyin Oo Lwin. So let’s start this journey.
Goke Hteik Viaduct
2.700 Kyat for an upper class ticket to travel 87 miles? 12 hours to cover the same distance? Oh well these doesn’t happen in Europe! It was a journey of lifetime. I really loved it – the beautiful landscape, A TRAIN traveling at a speed of 19 miles/hour on a track which was not well maintained and obviously the part much awaited for Goke Hteik Viaduct. 150 years old bridge connecting two mountains with a waterfall flowing in between. What a spectacular scenery!
Pyin Oo Lwin
Pyin Oo Lwin is a nice place for hiking so as Hsipaw. However we rented a scooter for a day and explored Pyin Oo Lwin by ourselves. The adventure and little loop around the Dat Taw Gyaint Waterfall was one of my highlights in Myanmar. The waterfall itself was so impressive and also the old broken bridge was quite an adventure. On our way back from the waterfall we stopped by the National Kandawgyi Botanical Garden. After almost a week it was time to say goodbye to Daniela – it was a pleasure. The next day I took a bus to Bagan and to be honest I was really excited about going to Bagan.
Bagan – the temples
I spend 3 nights at the lovely Ostello Bello Bagan Hostel and staying here was so worth it. I don’t know where to start. After arriving in Bagan I decided to rent a scooter for a couple of hours to explore the village right next to New Bagan. I was lucky to meet an old man and he was showing me around, every little corner of the village. He invited me for lunch and dinner the very next day. After that I was heading to the temples to have my first temple experience in Bagan. On my way to the temples a young Burmese guy driving by me asked, if I need any help. At the end he showed me three hidden temples and we watched my first sunset in Bagan together. I couldn’t have had a better start.
Next day I’ve joined free guided tour with the e-bike organized by the hostel. During the tour I met Alex and Dillon (Netherlands), Tichna (Sweden), Luis (USA), Anna and Alvaro (Mexico) and Lorenzo (Italy). Guide showed us all the big temples and pagodas in Bagan. He told us a lot about the history of Bagan and it’s temples and also about the difference between a stupa, a temple and a pagoda. There are quite a lot of interesting stories about some of the temples, must mention the “bad luck” temple, which brought bad luck to two of us!!!
Very next day morning we were sooo lucky and saw an unforgettable sunrise. After exploring the temples a whole day by ourselves, we went on a boat trip to see the sunset on the river. We were very lucky, especially during this time of the year to see a good sunrise and sunset ??
Last day we explored the temples by ourselves again and watched the most beautiful and impressive sunset I have seen in the last few weeks. Witnessed the sunset from one of the highest temples in Bagan, Myauk Guni Phaya. We had to sneak in to the temple because the temple was closed – it was quite an adventure to climb all the way to top. Beyond words totally worth the risk!
I could have stayed here longer. Loved driving around and exploring every single temple and the little villages nearby, hanging out at the hostel and also amazing food at the Moon (2) Be Kind To Animals restaurant. I simply loved it. Bagan is definitely one of my highlights in Myanmar.
After 4 days in Bagan I took a night bus to Yangon and arrived early in the morning. I was looking for a hostel and found Once in Yangon Hostel. The staff member Max is the best. From the minute I met him till the last moment he was taking care of everything – such a great guy. After a long bus journey I decided to take a day off and make my plans for the next few days – more details are coming. On the second day we went to the Bogyoke Aung San Market, I had my first hair cut after 5 months in Asia, had an amazing açaí bowl at the Nourish Cafe and went to the famous Shwedagon Pagoda at night. On the last day I went for a run and stopped by at the Nourish Cafe again – sorry but I had to ?
After 2 1/2 weeks in Myanmar it was time to say goodbye to this authentic country, those kind and amazing Burmese people and this beautiful scenery. Myanmar I’m so glad that I came to visit you and I sincerely hope that you remains the same forever like now!
As I said, on my first day In Yangon I took my time to figure out where I want to go next. Long story short – a few changes in my plans and I decided to go two weeks to Thailand and start my trip in Pai. A lot of people I met on the road told me about Pai and highly recommended to go there – so why not. Let’s cross the border to Thailand by land and start the next adventure. To be honest I’m really excited to go to Pai after hearing all the stories ??