Myanmar / Burma
Just a message from Mandalay, Myanmar, where we are now 9 days. It is really great, a “Golden land”. We thought that referred to the many gold of the pagodas, but it turns out to be more about the hearts of the people. The city centers are already getting a bit western (Coca Cola, email, Britney Spears, Westlife and our own Venga Boys have already made their way here), but that is probably more due to the influence of TV and Chinese than tourism , because except at the hotspots you hardly see them here. Whenever you get out of the city centers, it seems like you go one or more centuries back in time. We cycled for 4 days and visited many places that were rarely visited by tourists. You are then really a sight and at stops.
Arrived in Yangon – Myanmar in the dark on November 16, so the next day we got the first impression of the city. Although it is already somewhat westernized, Yangon is a pleasant, quiet city, with lots of cozy (food) stalls and teashops (with delicious Burmese snacks) along the street. The first thing that strikes you is that most men still wear traditional longyis (a kind of skirt to the ankles), a nice sight. In addition, you will find many, unfortunately somewhat dilapidated, colonial buildings from the British era. In Yangon we went to the Sule Paya and Swedagon Paya, among others. M.n. at the latter (a large temple complex with a lot of gold) a lot of Burmese who performed all kinds of prayer ceremonies. When we wanted to take a break in a park, it was immediately swarming with young people and monks who wanted to practice their English; very nice.
From Yangon to Bago, where we cycled a lot through nice little villages and the countryside. Here a lot of very nice people, who want to talk to you, play football, just want to stare at you or smile or offer you food / drinks. Also made a trip to the “balancing rock” an overrated tourist attraction in Kyaiktyo. Then with the bumpy night bus on to the less atmospheric Mandalay, where you will find many tourists. Just ignored the temples a bit and cycled through the poor villages south of the city and immediately visited the old city of “Amarapura” with the famous long teak bridge.
Flew by plane to Bagan from Mandalay for next to nothing. The vast expanse of the temple complex appears to be very impressive from the air. However, if you only arrive in the dark due to the delay, that kite unfortunately does not work. In Bagan again a lot of cycling, this time along the hundreds of temples. Indeed an impressively large site with temples everywhere that seem to have sprung up like mushrooms. Made a trip to Mount Popa, “home of the nats”. The Nats are the nature spirits who, according to Burmese spiritualism, are everywhere and must always be properly tuned. Everywhere are also daily sacrifices to these Nats and at Mount Popa you see many pilgrims, who sometimes perform very nice dances.
A tough bus ride, where the bus had a few “bad luck” (can you speak of bad luck with such dramatic maintenance, is more a matter of probability), brought us back to Mandalay, from where we continued to Pyin-oo-Lwin, a idyllic hill town, where one of the most important forms of public transport is the horse-drawn carriage. Here by bike and hitchhiking on a truck up into the hills, where you come to the Shan tribes, who rarely if ever see a Westerner. Children sometimes stood wide-eyed or even fled to their parents in fear.
From Pyin-oo-Lwin by train to Hsipaw. A long ride with a lot of wiggling, where we were sometimes afraid that the train would fall on its side. As we passed the well-known Gokteik Bridge, an official literally sat down on our necks for almost an hour to prevent us from taking photos of this supposedly strategically important place. In Hsipaw again cycled through very nice Shan villages and, among others, Mr. Visited Donald in Shan palace. Talked about the situation in Myanmar with this man for about 3 hours. A deeply impressive afternoon that we will remember for a long time. In any case, the stories of the Burmese, who speak English and dare to talk about politics, are quite impressive. However, on the frequently asked question of whether it is “ethical” to go to Myanmar, we can only answer in the affirmative. Especially to keep the information and money flows going. Only a very limited part of your expenditure ends up with the rulers, the rest directly with the people.
On December 5, we left the country with mixed feelings via Yangon to Chiangmai (Thailand) to quickly travel via Chiang Rai to Laos (Little Thailand).