Public transport in Myanmar is always a one, big surprise – it’s almost never on time, the quality of the roads cries to heaven and air-conditioning doesn’t work or the other way around – you might feel like an Eskimo in an igloo. This is only a small inconvenience; because it is always fun and you will never be bored! Burmese people will try to talk to you and constantly feed you until you will get a sugar rush or serious stomach indigestion. The other attractions include loads of Burmese disco video clips and then a movie, because there is always a TV on the bus. It is a good excuse to practice your Burmese dance moves together with the people beside you. 🙂 On the way from Hpa-an to Bago we even found out that the monk that we met before climbing Zwegabin mountain is a real celebrity here and that’s thanks to the bus telly! We used his business card in Bagan, when we were trying to enter one of the pagodas, but I will write about it in another post. 🙂
Tourists visit Bago usually on a one-day trip from Yangoon. There are a few temples to see -Shwemawdaw Pagoda, Sha-Khat Wain monastery, Kanbawzathadi palace, Shwethalyaung Buddha, Mya Tha Lyaung – big, reclining Buddha and Shwe Aung Ywe – pagoda on the hill. There is a beautiful view overlooking Bago i Shwemawdaw Paya. I would also recommend to visit Snake Monastery. It is famous because of a charming creature that lives in the monastery – a giant python. He is 118 years old, he weights 125 kilograms and people believe that the snake is a reincarnation of one of the monks. He is a really well treated chap – devoted people would put the money on him to show the respect, he gets 14 whole chickens once per week and he has his own private swimming pool – very luxurious life!
There is not a big choice of accommodation for backpackers in Bago. We stayed in San Francisco Motel, run by very friendly and helpful sisters. We also met a Spanish couple, went for a dinner with them and listened do their amazing stories about hitchhiking around India and Myanmar.
Next day, just after sunrise, we were ready for our first Burmese train trip. Somehow we bought the tickets, hoping that we will get to Taungoo – the ticket was only in Burmese and nobody spoke English there. Sure, it’s all about adventures! Sometimes knowing how to read body language and how to communicate without words is very useful skill in non-English speaking countries. 🙂 When the train arrived, the men working at the station approached us and escorted us to our cabin – the best customer service ever! 🙂 The trains in Myanmar are very slow, but it’s so much fun! I love any kind of local, public transport. Every time we stopped (and it was many, many stops) there were women coming into the cabins with all sort of food – sticky rice in the bamboo sticks, fried rice, chickens in every possible way and other delicacies that we couldn’t identify. On the platform there were also people cooking and eating. Kevin was even more excited and he couldn’t get over how much leg space he had! Every tall person in Asia has to face that problem – usually buses here are not designed for passengers bigger than an average Asian person. 🙂 After a great 5 hours journey we arrived to Taungoo. This attraction cost us only K3000.
Bikes and papaya salad – living like a celebrity in the Burmese countryside
After we arrived at Taungoo we came to the conclusion that we have to be the only tourists here – regarding the people who were looking at us with big interest and big agitation in general. Every minute we heard people screaming: “Hello, Mingalabar!” It is easy to become speechless with admiration and feel like a celebrity, but that time has past and we had to get to our hotel. Yes, hotel indeed! We decided to treat ourselves and booked a night in Myanmar Beauty Hotel, in the middle of nowhere. The problem was there were no tuk-tuk’s or taxi’s in town. After 1 hour walking with the backpacks and waving back to people, we finally found our godsend. The man with his bicycle rickshaw appeared in front us like an angel from heavens. He looked like he was struggling a bit with the weight of us and our backpacks (damn you, everyday noodles and Asian sweets!). I was ready to jump on that bike and to pedal myself, but at the end he managed to cycle this 5 kilometres and we arrived to Myanmar Beauty Hotel. It is an oasis of calm indeed – also because there was nobody else staying here apart from us. 🙂 It has such beautiful scenery around, perfect if you want to get away from the civilization for a while. Ms.Chan Senior took really good care of us and made sure we were happy. She walked us around the garden and the land beside and had us try all of the fruit they had. Her husband spent an evening with us and told us so many interesting stories about Myanmar. My favourite was the anecdote about women from ethnic group Pa’O. They wear black outfits and colorful, handmade scarves on their heads. They would go to the local markets around the Shan state and sell their goods – crafts, fruits and vegetables. Apparently it is a dream of every Burmese man to marry a Pa’O woman. The reason is very simple – they are such hard-working ladies that the hubby doesn’t have to do anything apart from sitting, drinking beer and smoking Burmese cigars! 🙂
There is no restaurant nearby, but there is a possibility to order “take away”. The food, in fact, was delicious, tasted like a homemade dish. The soup that we ordered could easily fill 2 people. In the evening we sat on our veranda and just listened to the melody of the nature.
The day after there was a big breakfast feast waiting for us. We read about it before and that was one of the reasons that we actually booked this hotel. Our expectations were exceeded – it was so much food! The lady kept bringing more and more dishes – I think we got around 15! It was the best breakfast that we had in Asia. It was 2 hours of trying to eat everything (not possible!) and also we had a chance to have a lovely chat with Dr.Chan Junior. We also learned how thanaka paste is made – popular cosmetic very common in Burma. In fact, the first thing I have noticed while crossing the border between Thailand and Myanmar, was people with this yellowish-white mask on their faces. It is nothing else then finely ground bark of the Thanaka tree that must mature for at least 35 years before becoming viable. Paste is made from grinding the bark against a flat, wet stone and then applied to the face. It protects the skin from the sun, moisture, has strong anti-inflammatory, antioxidation and antibacterial activities. It is also sort of make-up too. It is widely use in Burma since 2,000 years. In Western counties many woman wouldn’t leave the house without mascara – here almost everybody puts thanaka on in the morning – stripes, circles or even more fancy designs – all depends on how creative they are at the moment. 🙂
After that huge breakfast it was time for a bit of movement. We rented bikes and decided to visit the nearby villages. It was one of the most memorable moments that we experienced in Myanmar! Just after 20 minutes cycling we were invited by a young men into his family home. They owned a little local store and they offered us cookies, Burmese Redbull and Coca-Cola. We spent with them 1 hour, just exchanging smiles and good energy. Few neighbours joined us too and they looked very interested about our visit here. At the end a young girl gave me a present – her hat. It is so amazing in Myanmar – people have so little, but they want to offer you everything! You are not a walking piggy bank here (at least not yet) like in some of the SEA countries. They simply want to talk to you, spend some time and practice their English.
On the way back while passing the local market, we were invited again – this time to the local restaurant to try papaya salad. It was the best papaya salad ever! We got a chance to talk to the owner who is a teacher at the local school. The young girls, daughters of the neighbours, joined us too as well as the son of the lady – novice monk. The lady seemed to be really concerned about the fact that we are leaving Taungoo this evening. She offered that next time we can stay with her family. She didn’t want to take any money for the food and also gave us a pot of tea. While travelling in Myanmar you will realize how much they love this beverage – I guess the leftover after English colonialism. Before the meal there is always tea served. Everybody wants to offer you a cup of tea. Even when you go to the local Coffee Shops there is a big chance that you will get tea instead. It is not a country for coffee lovers! 🙂 In the evening we jumped into the night bus towards Kalaw and promised ourselves that we will be back here!
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” R.W.Emerson
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Do you want to practice your Burmese dance moves that I mentioned before? 🙂 Click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGfTNV4hwzc&list=PLD71FDCA5003CF7C7