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Myanmar or Burma. So, they moved from Burma to Myanmar - and also change some cities' name, Rangoon became Yangon, Pagan became Bagan and so on. So we finally said goodbye to KL and got on our airplane to Yangon - and drove forward for one and a half h!
Arriving in Yangon at 6pm, we quickly went through migration and after many negotiations and our fourth cab we had asked for, we got a cab to our $5 to our $8-$8! As if you were going to a Myanmar based establishment, we pre-booked our accommodation over the web and they will bill you twice what you could make through an agen!
We had 3 properties tried before we secured a reservation at the Yuzana Inn - just outside the city center, but still one of the lowest rates we could have. When we were brought to our room, it was a room on the edge with a view of the Shwedagon Paya - as Rudyard Kipling described''A wonderful miracle with a wink that was blazing in the light of the day, of a form that was neither a Muslim cupola nor the tip of a Hindus cult shrine... The Golden Cathedral'.
An astonishingly beautiful gilded lighthouse just a few hundred meters from our motel, and we had a sixth storey room with the best night views. Even more spectacular views in the mornings of the unadulterated Goldtower, which rises from the lower part of the street, surrounded by the windows in our room - must correspond to a room in a luxury Eiffel room with a beautiful Eiffel turret in it!
On the next morning we drove to the city centre to exchange some US$ for the indigenous language of the country - expressed talk. There is only one way to get the cash on the money exchange is on the money exchange and we have changed some for the exchange from 880 kyats to $1 - we have not changed all our US$, as all our hotel's still have to be payed in US$, but for meals, fines, taxis you have to buy in it!
However, we were said that the best installment in Yangon is hopefully enough for our stay here in Myanmar. So we also agreed to take a coach to Mandalay - an accommodation coach that leaves the next night at 7pm - a 12-hour journey (10,400 Kyat each) that arrives in Mandalay early in the mornings - and could also find an agency who could arrange a room for us.
Luckily, our motel got checked out for our 7:00 pm coach at 6:00 pm - we had a bad days still looking at the views from our motel room and watched the rains! After many negotiations and our third cab we made it back to the coach terminal - the first prize was 7000 Kat, but we found a cab that would take us for 5000 Kat - a longer drive than we thought and a cabbie, who didn't speak much anglophone - but he was able to talk to John about the quake in Japan and a conversation with John about the anglophone - not sure how much John could understand, but the cabbie waved his hands around !
After many reorganisations of travel and grain sacks, we were the only travellers to bring our luggage securely into the city! As Mynmar is going back in history, the men still wearing the long traditionally long skirts like stuff bound in a node at the front - there are no such things as ATM's, 7-levens, restricted web accessibility (which is monitored by the goverment, no hotsmail, yeahoo - only g-mail is available if you are fortunate enough to find a computer that connects !), cell Phones here are a luxurious, so there are those with landline telephones on the side of the roads for those who want to communi ate with other parts of the nation...
Arriving in Mandalay at 4am - a much short journey we had been expecting - we were prepared for a 12-15 hours journey, so when we got there at 4am we didn't get off the coach because we thought it was a city on the way to Mandalay, then, after a short request from the rider, we noticed that we were in Mandalay!
Then we dismounted and got into a small picked up van to our hotels - and fortunately we were able to get checked in at 5am and jump right into it! Later in the morning we got up and went for a stroll through Mandalay - not much of the city, big market, a masonry palace and very powdery roads, we went to the dinner in the nearby China restaurants and got to know a pair from Belgium, Daniel and Ingrid, who acquainted us with Mandalay rum!
beers in Myanmar is costly because it is collectively manufactured by the Myanmar authorities, a 640 ml tank of beers is 1600k yat ($1.82) or the less costly alternative is a 350 ml tank of rhum is 1000k yat ($1.14) with the resident star cola at 300k yat (34c) a can!!
Next morning we took another stroll to book Mandalay and a coach to Bagan - we passed by a coach and just barely passed the flow of fluid that came out of the gate and ended up on the road right in front of us - another Myanmar tradition, munching something named Betel that drips blood-red fluid into their mouth, then they spat it on the ground wherever they were (or from coach lights or doors!) - they went through the roads that stain them with reds.
In the end we found an agency that would take us a coach to Bagan, everyone we asked was very useful and pointed us in the right directions, everyone interested, where we came from and everyone wanted to speak to John about the game! Myanmar has many brief blackouts, so it's not uncommon to sit in the darkness for a few moments in a local restaurants - but oddly enough, these blackouts never occur when there's a game!
Men love their soccer and whiskey! At 8am our coach to Bagan departed and we were collected from our hotels at 7am and taken to the lively and confused coach station - fortunately in the right directions and on to our coach - surprised about another 6 guests in our one!
Mandalay to Bagan is mainly a gravel track, so the 6-hour drive was very hectic! A short stop on the way, as all international tourists to the Bagan Archaeological Zone have to cover the entry price of $10. Getting off at our goal - a small village named Nyaung U, just outside Bagan - was a welcome relieve.
Afterwards we got a ride from the coach terminal to a guesthouse Ingrid and Daniel recommend - May Kha Lar Guesthouse and got a big room with A/C, TV and bath for $20 per room and reserved our rider for the next morning for a tour to Bagan, New Bagan and the many temple for 12.000 Kyats per days ($13,64).
known as the "Heart of Myanmar", the main plains are dotted with sanctuaries, the story of past years. But, unfortunately, John was up all dark with'Burma Belly', so we had to call off our journey - but fortunately I was able to find a beautiful pair of Frenchmen at breakfasts looking for a rider and stepping into our boots - so at least we didn't felt bad enough to let him down and out of a guaratee.
Coco, a Mandalay native who works in the guest house during his summers, will return to university in a few week to learn more about the city' s historical past, he has to bike 6km from his home town every day from 6am to 8pm! As John felt powerful enough, he set up another steed and chariot for us to go to the Bagan Sanctuaries - our rider was Zo Zo and we set off at 10am - Tempel to Tempel and Buddhas to Budhah, stupas to stupas as far as the eyes can see - the Bagan Planes are dotted with tombs of 4400 in all, all with Buddhas of various size, an 1975 seismic on the Richter scales has corrupted many of them. 6. 5 on the Richter-Skala, of which some of them have been destroyed.
Bagan's most recent change was in 1990, when the regime forcefully resettled the inhabitants of Old Bagan and settled them in vacant lands 4 km southward - now known as New Bagan. So we had the old Bagan restaurant for dinner and the typical Myanian dinner (3000 kyat $3.50 each), many small basins of pig meat, poultry and lamb curries, olives pastes, cloves of dried bean, roasted seafood and chickens, various indescribably delicious veggies and a rather peculiar lettuce and of course handicrafts - all not very appetizing to be frank, but we had a few of them.
On the next morning we got places in a collective cab to Mount Popa - we drove at 8.30 am for the two-hour trip to Mount Popa and stopped at a small store producing vegetable oils and peanuts. Then we went to the village square, where the village people walked for kilometres to get some food for the group.
Then, we continue to Mount Popa, a 737 metre high convent that is home to many Buddhas and Nat (guardian spirits) - the 20-minute stroll up to the summit via a roofed, paved staircase littered with apes that are willing to grab everything you have on them - with long stretches of view from the summit.
At about 2 pm we returned to Nyaung U (Bagan), in good season for the parade through the city to guide the kids, who were to be the equivalence of the church. We didn't get off in the city, but at an intersection nearby - so we had to leap the next 14 km into a city named Nyaunhsh at the north end of Inle Sea - then we developed, hurt and fell on our bed in the first guesthouse we named Remember Inn.
On the next morning, after we had our breakfasts on the roof, we went exploring the city and John came into a hairdresser at the side of the road for a fast haircut! Bargains for only 2000 yat ! Then we went down to the pond to book a next days cruise around Inle pond, we negotiated a 15,000 kyats cruise - our cruise began at 8am on our own personal longboat, the waters on the pond were so calm, we came past fishermen, algae gatherers and freight carrying vessels, as the pond is the primary means of transportation.
Inedine, a 30-minute tour of a bay off Inle Lake, where we can sit back and relax to take in the warm summer outdoors. At about 5.30 pm we returned to Nyaunhsh - in good season to View Point to have a drink at the happily hours and observe the sunset in the faraway.
The next morning we rented bicycles to get to know more of the city and the surrounding area, we went to the towns where all the locals were waving as we drove by - a very simple way of life that lived off the country without power and flowing waters - but all with a smiling face on their faces when we came by!
Mingala Ba' Since we still had 9 extra working hours, we agreed to go to the shore for a few extra nights, but that was to go via Yangon - we took the 2.30pm Nyaunhshwe coach, which arrived in Yangon at 5am, then we had to take a cab from one coach terminal to the other and at 6.30am take a coach to Ngwe Suang beach, which arrived there at 2pm - a VERY long uneven one.
So we got off the coach and took a trishaw to the guest house 4km southwards of the city - I was very sorry that my biker had me and my purse on his little sidecar! During the next 6 nights we stayed at the shore, swam in the ocean, walked the 4 km along the sandy beaches into the city and watched the astonishing sunset from our terrace - I even had nothing against the coldwater-jet.
Admittedly, we have not found the Myanmar diet very appetizing or appetizing, everything comes with a great deal of groundnut seed and no taste, but we have found a way in Ngwe Suang.......ish ! We thought for a long time if we could make it 14 hrs by coach, we thought that no trip to Myanmar was completed without seeing the Golden Rock - as we still had 3 remaining nights, we took the uneven 6-hour coach back to Yangon and stayed the whole day in a Yangon downtown resort - and most of all..... had a nice showers !!!! ahhh luck !!
Then we went back to the Kyat village and made it to the US dollar exchange rate - and it feels pretty annoying because there are no "official" currency exchanges - someone just goes past you and says "change money" and you whisper and follows them to their state!
However, it is no wonder that the natives are anxious about their currencies, because in 1985 the regime of the profoundly superstitional sovereign Ne Win declared that the 25, 50 and 100 Kyoto banknotes were no longer lawful means of payment - they were soon superseded by the 15, 35 and 75 Kyoto banknotes (it was the 75th anniversary of the sovereign Ne Win!), but the actual issue was that only small quantities of the old banknotes could be swapped for the new one, which made million of human beings penniless.
A victory was still not a lucky one and in 1987 he did what most people in Burma thought was not possible and demonized the money again - the 35 and 75 bills went out and the 45 and 90 bills came in - but this times no exchange of the old bills was permitted - and saving money was little more than overnight lavatory-papers.
It is said that Kyaiktiyo has a mystic atmosphere; a place of wonders - the greatest is, how come the rock has been able to withstand several cataclysm. At about 6 pm we arrived in Kinpun and reserved a Golden Sunrise Inn a few walking minute from the city - because our last 2 overnight stays in Myanmar decided on a little exclusiv!
One room with warm showers, A/C, TV, refrigerator etc. - it's just a pity that the power was off for about 80% of the period we were there! However, the room was beautiful and a number of cottages surrounded by a backyard and away from the city' s on-road.
Fortunately, an officer came to my salvation and asked me to borrow a longgyi - which relieved me after the 45-minute stroll, because I was desperately trying to see this astonishing Golden Rock! Well, we are happy that we have come to Myanmar, a very interesting land that has preserved many of its traditions, and the local population is so kind and curious.
That' probably why this is such a long blogs. On to Bangkok to make the next part of our journey......... who knows what could happen next!