Myanmar – Stuff We Did

Here is what our itinerary looked like, bearing in mind we had two kids (6 yrs old and 11 yrs old) in tow.

Yangon (2 1/2 days)

We opted to hire a car and a guide for the one day. The driver was 6000 kyat an hour (roughly $5 USD) and the guide was $35 USD (roughly 41,000 kyat) for the day. We later found that our guide has his own car and can drive for an additional fee. I cannot remember what the fee is, but it is something we would consider in future!

Yangon – Day 2

 

We were up at around 4:30am and left the hotel for Shwedagon Pagoda to see the sunrise. It was about a 10-15 minute walk. When we arrived the escalators weren’t running yet so we climbed the stairs to the top, which wasn’t too bad – really. A few things to note:

  • You will have to take off your shoes before the climb
  • You must dress appropriately. I thought my below the knee skirt would work, but they want all of your legs covered. Fortunately they had longyis to sell at the entrance for 5,000 kyat each (roughly $4.50 USD). The entrance fee was $8 USD (roughly 9,000 kyat) for three of us (our 7 year old was free).
  • Seeing it during sunrise is so worth it. Although our kids were angry as hornets about getting up so early, once we were there – they were amazed. It is like nothing we had seen before with all of the stupas, people worshiping and just the beauty of it all with the sun rising was breathtaking.
  • Don’t forget this is a place of worship, respect that.

We went back to our hotel for breakfast and then met our guide Aung San Kyaw and our driver Agaso at 8:00am.

I’ll just start off the bat by saying our guide Aung San Kyaw was fantastic!  He is an official guide (he has gone through the appropriate training and is certified) who knows Yangon very well and speaks fluent English. I was especially impressed because he was patient and knowledgeable with our daughters and their countless questions. If you are traveling with kids, I would highly recommend a tour guide who can drive or hire a driver. Yangon doesn’t have so much along the lines of public transportation (subway trains, easy to figure out bus system, etc.) and we personally wanted to make the best use of our time – see the sights we wanted to see and learn about them vs. wandering the streets and getting lost in the heat.

Prior to starting our tour, Aung San and I reviewed the sights the family and I were interested in and I told him that we were up for anything else he would suggest.

  • Our first stop on the tour was St. Mary’s Cathedral. I know, you’re thinking – “a church in Yangon?” Well, they do have a Christian minority and seeing this church was actually really interesting – more so with the information Aung San Kyaw shared with us regarding it’s history.
  • Botahtung Pagoda was next. It contains many holy relics including the sacred hair of Gautama Buddha. Okay, not just holy relics, but holy relics that are thousands of years old! It was like going through a golden maze and during your walk you would see people praying, holy relics, and monks praying too. Our six year old is going through a “gold obsession” now and so she was going bananas (think Scrooge McDuck). There were other other places of worship to see as well. It took us just over an hour to go through it.  Don’t forget, you will be asked to take off your shoes and encouraged to dress appropriately (my husband and I wore our longyis).
  • We went for a quick walk to the Yangon river nearby just to see life happen, which to us was interesting.
  • We then went to Kandawgyi Lake as we were keen to see what one of the two major lakes in Yangon is like. We started our walk at Karaweik Hall which was a nice photo op as it was designed to look like a royal barge now. It apparently serves as a buffet restaurant. We walked through the park and had the opportunity to see life happening among the locals.
  • Next stop was Nga Htat Gyi Paya, the temple with the sitting Buddha.  The size and look of it was very impressive.  Our kids marveled at the pictures and statues that told various stories such as how Buddha found enlightenment as well as the follies and punishment of wrong doers. They were particularly obsessed with the butcher whose punishment was being treated like the animals he had slaughtered. It reminded me of the paintings I have seen in churches depicting hell. Nice to know the day of reckoning will come for all wrongdoers in every religion eh?
  • Having seen the sitting Buddha, we of course had to see Chauk Htat Gyi, the temple of the reclining Buddha. Being from Bangkok I thought, “well, I have seen Wat Pho so how impressive can this be?” Well sir, I was pretty amazed. It was a whole different reclining Buddha. For me, it was fascinating to see the nuances such as the soles of the feet and the surroundings which were so different to Thailand. DUH! It is a different country and a different culture. That’s when I realized I just need to soak it all in for what it is and cast aside any preconceived notions I had coming from Thailand.
  • On our way to lunch we quickly stopped by Aung San Suu Kyi‘s house to take a picture at her front gate. I was hesitant at first, but Aung San Kyaw assured me that a lot of folks do this (even the Burmese) so we took a family photo.  As we were leaving, a fancy car drove up and I thought, maybe this is Aung San Suu Kyi!  Alas, it was another fan who was there to take a picture in front of her house too.
  • We took a break for lunch and then went to Bogyoke Market.  A lot of shopping opportunities, but truth be told, we were all a bit tired and although we did buy a few things (fridge magnet, thanaka) we breezed through it.
  • We went back to the hotel to take a three hour break as it was high noon and the heat was in full effect.  If you are traveling with kids (even if not), I would highly recommend a high noon break because there is still stuff to see in the late afternoon early evening.
  • We were back out around 5:00pm and headed out to Chinatown.  It was good fun just walking through the markets and being part of the hustle and bustle on Yangon. It was a lot of walking, looking and chatting with our guide.
  • We went to 19th Street for dinner and basically hung out and chatted. My husband and I enjoy meeting new people, eating new foods, and learning about new cultures. Isn’t that the joy of traveling?

Yangon – Day 3

On our third day in Yangon, we decided to travel independently as we wanted to take the Yangon Circular Train around the city. It is quite literally a train that goes in a circle around the city, I believe it is roughly 45 kilometers and take about 3 hours to do the entire loop. We took a taxi from our hotel to get to the train station and purchased our tickets for 200 kyat per person (roughly .17 cents per person) and hopped on. Be warned, there is no A/C; however, you get a glimpse into life in Yangon in and outside of the train.

At the end of the train ride we were hot and ready for A/C so we ducked in to a restaurant for lunch, then a coffee and then flagged down a taxi to get back to our hotel. We ended up stopping three taxis because the first two did not speak English well and could not understand where we needed to go.  Oh, there are no meters so you had better name your price before you go. Thankfully our hotel gave us a good idea of the pricing estimates. We knew we were close to the hotel so agreed to 3000 kyat (roughly $2.50 USD).

We arrived at the hotel, collected our things and were picked up by our hired driver to take us to the next adventure. Bagan here we come!

Bagan – Day 4

We arrived around 6:00 am and after haggling the price for our taxi we were on our way the Arthawka Hotel. Note, when you first arrive you will need to pay a Bagan Archaeological Zone fee. This will give you access to all of the temples for one week from the date of issue.  It cost us 15,000 kyat (roughly $13 USD) per person (our youngest who is 6 yrs old was free). Although I have heard you can also pay this fee at the airport, we paid shortly before entering New Bagan at a kiosk at the side of the road. Also, note that you have to take off your shoes for all of the temples. Now if you are going to get all funny about taking off your shoes, just don’t go. If everyone else is doing it and respects the rules they sure don’t need your sorry a** moaning about taking off your shoes.

We arrived at our hotel and after freshening up, we went to Everstand Lacquerware workshop. My husband is in the fine furniture industry so this was a visit near and dear to his heart. It was such a treat to learning about the lacquer process in detail and watch the artisans at work. Learning about the process and seeing them at work really gave me a new perspective on the pieces as well as a new respect for the lacquer craft. Admittedly, the kids were more interested in the seven puppies who lived beside the workshop, but we all enjoyed ourselves nonetheless!

We went for lunch and then a high noon break at the hotel. I was not kidding when I suggested doing things in the morning and resting when it’s high noon. It was a grand 111F/ 43.8C and there was no way in hot hell any of us felt like sightseeing. If you and your family would do otherwise, I salute you, but my family and I will take the mid-afternoon break thank you very much. We hung out at the pool and rested until 4:00 pm.

At 4:00 pm we went on a horse cart tour for 12,000 kyat (roughly $10 USD). Before leaving we reviewed our map and he showed us where we could go within the amount of time we had booked. We decided to stay close to our hotel in New Bagan.

As someone with kids, I would say it was a big win for us. The kids enjoyed riding in the cart and feeding Lucky the horse. My husband and I enjoyed chatting with our driver (whose name escapes me now – gah!!) and hearing about the different temples, hearing about his life and his excitement about the changes unfolding in his country.

Our first stop was the Lay Myet Hnar temple (on the map it is marked as 1185, by the Nagayon Temple).  We were met by a lady who was selling paintings and was happy to show us around the temple, share some of her knowledge of the temple and take us upstairs to see the view. Although the frescos were quite faint, the view was pretty amazing and a lovely way to start our trip. She did try to a sell of the paintings (you’ll see plenty of the same throughout Bagan), but we politely declined and instead gave a donation for the tour she gave. You’ll find that starting prices tend to be 5,000 kyat (roughly $4 USD) when folks are selling things. “How much is this blouse?” “5,000 kyat.” “How much is this fridge magnet?” “5,000 kyat.” Well, you get it…

We made our way to Gubyaukgyi Temple, which we were told had some amazing frescos (yes, we were all on a “spot the best fresco” mission, because that’s how we roll).  We weren’t disappointed. There are some amazing paintings to be seen. Just be sure to bring a flashlight or have a light on your phone as there are some dark areas, which once illuminated are beautiful.

Next stop was Manuha Temple, which they say was built in 1067. It was buzzing with activity that might be contributed to the holiday – I think? Well, anyhooo…it was really cool to see another version of a reclining Buddha and sitting Buddha. For us, it was also about enjoying the feel of life going on around us, people in prayer, people excited about the holiday, people buying items from the market in front.

The sun was starting to set when we arrived at the Abeyadana Temple. I don’t remember a whole lot about the structure, other than some interesting carvings, but it was a lovely sunset. There weren’t loads of people to contend with for space and at one point it was just us watching the sun begin to set.

Last stop was Lawkananda Pagoda. It apparently has a tooth relic and sits on the bank of the Irrawady river. This was another pagoda which as amazing to visit simply to see life happening in Bagan. We even met some friendly monks who asked to have pictures taken with our family. We were told that Myanmar still doesn’t get a lot of foreigners so seeing us was a bit of a novelty, hence the photos.

Bagan – Day 5

We were up at the crack of dawn in hopes of seeing a marvelous sunrise. Our e-bikes were ready and off we went. Unfortunately my husband and I had a bit of a disagreement (sh*t happens) regarding where to go and in the end, we went to Shwezigon Pagoda – which is beautiful, but it isn’t the “climb up and see the view” kind of pagoda.  We eventually made a few stops, Ananda and some of the smaller clusters of pagodas and it was still beautiful, just no “money shots” that morning and thankfully all was well in the end and  I did not have to figure out where to hide a body after the disagreement.

Back to the hotel for breakfast and then we got back  on the e-bikes to check out a few temples before hot high noon.  We headed to Dhammayazaka Zedi, which has that beautiful red brick thing going on and a big golden stupa.  My husband recalled our horse cart driver saying something about a temple near Dhammayazaka that you can climb for a great view, but it isn’t one of the more popular temples so after recalling this we left in search of this temple.

We went to the left upon immediately exiting the temple along a dirt road and had a bit of a traffic jam with some goats. Admittedly in my head I was thinking “here we go again…” Hurrah! We did come upon a small temple with lovely frescos and while I am not sure if it was THE TEMPLE the driver spoke of, it was a great experience. It was shortly before Thamuti and looking on the map, I don’t even see a name. Nevertheless, it was a small temple which we were able to climb, explore and were rewarded with a lovely view to ourselves.

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The heat took over and we decided it was siesta time.

That evening at 5:00pm, we were picked up to go on a sunset cruise on the Irrawady. Some local friends had organized the trip for us so I don’t know how much it was, but from what I understand you can usually book these through an agent or your hotel. WE LOVED IT. It was simple, literally some dude and his friend taking us out on his motorboat on the river. Being out there on the river and watching the sunset gave us that “okay, so this is what it is all about” kind of feeling. I would suggest bringing snacks and/or beverages if you go the boat with the dude route (vs. one of those fancy organized cruises) because the kids got thirsty and annoying and my husband and I realized how perfect a glass of wine would have been with the sunset. Also, the wine could have dulled the whining voices of the kids. I kid you of course. Children are such a joy, such a joy.

Bagan – Day 6

After two days of hitting the pagodas we decided to take it easy and got a late start. Following breakfast we popped up and over the road to purchase water guns for Thingyan. It was the first official day of the celebrations so we felt we had to be armed and ready.

We hired a driver for through our hotel and headed out around 11:00am. Our thought was it wouldn’t be so bad hitting the sights in an air-conditioned car. Oh man, I can’t remember how much it was. I think it was 15,000/20,000 Kyat ($13-$17 USD) for the half day. For the most part it worked, but we were only out from 11:00 am until around 3:00 pm, including a one hour lunch break.

First stop was Shwesandae Pagoda, which is one of the larger and more popular ones to watch the sunrise/sunset.   Be it noted that Shwe Leik Too Pagoda is another popular sunrise/sunset pagoda.

We then went to Dhannayangyi Pagoda which also had some beautiful frescos. Although the Keminga Pagodas (see below) are closed off to the public, the groundskeeper was there and our driver talked her into letting us in to see some of the most fantastic frescos we had seen during our trip. Note that we did tip her, you guessed 5,000 kyat (roughly $4 USD).

You’re probably thinking, sh*t this is a lot of pagodas and that my friends is because Bagan is known for all of its pagodas. So we continue…

Htilminlo Pagoda is not only impressive from the outside, it had fantastic frescos on the ceiling.

Upalithein (see below), a mid-13th century ordination hall which is small and at first glance doesn’t seem like much, but look inside. Really – LOOK INSIDE. You will usually have to look inside through the bars because they rarely (if at all) open it and you will be rewarded with some beautiful frescos in which the detail is still so clear. Also, bear in mind the purple floor is not original.

Thatbyinnyu Pagoda was beautiful to look at from the outside. To me it actually almost seemed a bit gothic and I thought, wow! This is going to be amazing! Alas! We were horrified to find inside that they had painted most of it white – covering up the beautiful frescos!!!

We then were back at the hotel to cool down and prepare ourselves for Thingyan celebrations. Around 5:00 pm we headed out with water guns in hand and WOW! There were people everywhere spraying and throwing water. There were stages in certain areas manned by people squirting water as well as people performing musical numbers. I have to admit I was concerned about the mix of water and electrical equipment, but no one else seemed worried so I figured as long as I stayed away from the stage, I would be fine.

Again. If you don’t like getting wet, don’t want to get splashed – stay away from water festivals. No one was safe while walking the streets or riding by for that matter. We all got into the spirit of it and had a brilliant time. At one point we were dancing with a group of local teenagers, laughing and wishing each other a Happy New Year. We were out for a good two hours and then headed back to our hotel where we had dinner and packed in anticipation of our journey to Inle Lake the next day.

Journey to Inle Lake – Day 7

We left Bagan around 7:00 am via private driver in a van. We thought it would be fun to see the country, making a few stops here and there, especially during Thingyan.

We stopped at Mount Popa which is smack in between Bagan and Inle Lake because we had heard so much about the experience. Personally, it was okay. The experience itself was climbing a lot of stairs with a lot of people encountering aggressive monkeys for a view. Don’t forget, for a majority of that climb you cannot wear shoes. When we got to the top that song by Tammy Wynette started playing in my head “is that all there is?” I realize it is touted as a “must to go destination” and it is interesting in its own right; however, for me – although, I am glad to have done it to say I have done it, would I insist someone else do it? No.

We drove through various towns and it was really cool to see them all celebrating. The constant site was a stage, dancing, and great house music and loads of water.

Did I mention how we really dug the music there? It wasn’t the usual Asian pop we are used to, but this “no holds barred” rock as the kids seem to listen to a lot of death metal and punk music. Also we heard a lot of house and hard house. We couldn’t understand the language, but the music itself was pretty f*cking cool.

All was well until we hit the mountains. The roads do a lot of winding about and in the end our six year old vomited most of what she had eaten and drank that day. Thankfully I always carry small plastic bags and wet wipes, but that sh*t still grosses me out. Our driver was pretty crap so that could have been a big part of hit – going fast, a lot of halting stops and screeching tires.

Sadly, since there were issues with our driver, the romantic idea of stopping often and learning more about the country didn’t happen during that trip. He didn’t speak much English and just seemed intent in getting us there ASAP. It would have been nice to hear the story behind the stretch of road (several kilometers) where there were people begging on every side, I will have to Google it. Note to self, if you want a particular experience, arrange it with a proper tour company.

We arrived at our Golden Island Cottages Nampan hotel just before sunset so we were treated to a beautiful sunset at a beautiful place, cooler weather, had dinner and turned in for the night.

Inle Lake – Day 8

We hired a boat and driver to do a tour around Inle Lake which came out to 30,000 kyat (roughly $25 USD) as we wanted to add on a trip to Indein Village; otherwise it would have been 25,000 kyat (roughly $21 USD). We had been warned that these tours would not be authentic (that damn word!) and are geared to tourist activities (buying, buying, buying), but we were okay with that as really it is their livelihood and in the end helps preserve what they have at Inle Lake. Also, I’m a tourist and while I understand the “authentic experience” I do get tired of that word.

We got things started at 8:00 am.

The first stop on the boat was a “silversmith”. We were worried because there was a huge crowd of people docked there too and we thought “ugh, we’ll be lost in a sea of tour groups” – BUT NO! We were whisked away to one side of the building. The first room was a few fellows working on silver pieces. Our guide advised that most of the employees were away for the holiday, but they are usually quite busy and there are more people around. Our guide gave us a brief overview on the process and the craft and then led us to the shop which was also empty except for the employees. The silver items were beautiful and moderately priced; however, I realized I hadn’t brought a bounty of cash. I say bounty because the items were western tourist prices (e.g. all items priced in USD). Note to self, be prepared to spend like a Westerner and bring lots of cash or a credit card because yes, they do accept them.

As we exited we realized what had happened. The tour group was Burmese and were therefore whisked away to what I am guessing is the Burmese side of the shop, which was probably cheaper. We weren’t too upset though as we are used to dual pricing living in Thailand. As a side note, I am from NYC and often wonder how blatant dual pricing would be received by tourists in NYC.

We then continued on to Indein village, which was a ways away (about one hour from the silversmith), but the sites were so beautiful on the way there. We saw kids playing in the river (and were duly splashed), women washing their clothes/dishes, men working and all sorts of snapshots of life.  I loved seeing the various bridges over the waterway.

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When we arrived we realized our driver unfortunately could not speak a lot of English and my meager Burmese, which is limited to greetings and asking for the bathroom/toilet wasn’t going to bridge that divide. So through a few words and hand gestures we agreed to meet again in one hour. From there we walked towards a hill that looked like a sea of stupas, which are known as the Chedi Ruins. It was a big mixture of old and restored pagodas – unfortunately some of the restorations were not so great. Some were so old that they were crumbling and had trees, vines and all sorts growing in them. It was eerie and fascinating all at once. The sun was beginning to beat down so we headed towards what looked like a long covered hall heading up to the main temple.

There were a few market vendors here and there along the way, but I am guessing during high season (and when it isn’t a national holiday) there are loads of vendors and it is teeming with life. It was nice to walk without the sun directly on us and I think I felt a breeze at times. While it was cooler in Inle vs. Bagan, during high noon there was still heat.

We made our way to Indein temple and were greeted at the temple entrance by lady providing refreshments. Another thing I loved about Thingyan, all of the treats being handed out.

The temple was busy with a combination of worship and socializing. Walking outside behind the temple was a bit magical as you could hear the tinkling of the bells in the wind. There were also loads of people socializing, having lunch and worshiping.

To the left of the temple entrance (walking into the temple), there is another entrance/exit. You will pass the toilets (on the left) and see a hill to the right with a small path. The small path leads to lookout with a great view and yes, there is a stupa too.

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We then went back to the boat and headed to the Jumping Cat Monastery. Now before you get super excited at the idea of a monastery bursting with jumping cats-aplenty, know that while there are some cats in the monastery, they are no longer jumping for your viewing pleasure. They may need to rethink the name. The is collection of different Buddhas that are actually pretty cool. Keep an eye out for a big chair that looks quite amazing, but don’t sit on it as I think it is specifically for the Grand Abbot.

After the monastery we stopped for lunch and then we went to bamboo weaving workshop, called Hein Thapyay.  The man who greeted us at the front cracked us up as he had no pretenses and just said – “this side is the bamboo weaving or if you just want to shop, here is the shop.”  We enjoyed talking owners about their business, which is relatively new although their family has been working with bamboo for generations.

We then went to a boat workshop, but unfortunately the dude who actually makes the boats was away for the holiday (fair enough), but his wife(?) was there and gave us an overview on the process before trying to sell her wares (a lot of “handmade” knick-knacks, although some of the items seemed mass produced). Inside the workshop they had folks making cigarettes by hand, both tobacco and non-tobacco (herbs, not of the “illegal” kind). If you know someone who smokes, these would make a fine gift as they come in a lovely wooden box and are very reasonably priced. Yeah, yeah I know smoking is bad for you and we shouldn’t encourage people to do it, but that aside – it was fascinating to see them make the cigarettes.

I have heard people say that Inle Lake is too touristy, it is losing or has lost its authenticity and I think that sure, maybe that’s true; however, they are trying to make a living like everyone else and probably trying to work out how to keep relevant as the times change. So I wasn’t telling folks off in their shops for being inauthentic, blah, blah, blah! I just took the moments for what they were and enjoyed them.

We decided it was time to head back and tried to ask our driver to stop by a shop so we could pick up some reasonably priced beer, but I think the boat drivers hired by the hotels are instructed not to do such thing because they want you to spend more on the resort, which I suppose is fair enough. Annoying, but I get it.

Inle Lake – Day 9

Okay so I don’t have a bike, but I like to cycle. Ever since cycling through Cape Cod when I was seven months pregnant (it was a 3-wheeler thanks), I believe cycling is a great way to see a city, town, etc. While living in NYC I had a bike and also used the Citibike program and savored my rides from Manhattan to Brooklyn. I was hoping for a bicycle experience in Bagan, but was overruled by my family – which was probably a good thing given the heat. Now here we are at Inle Lake! I had read about a cycle loop that folks had done and so I very enthusiastically proposed it and I was pleased to find everyone was in agreement.

We had to take boat to Nyaung Shwe and I was armed with the name and address of the vendor. We had to take a boat from our hotel (13,000 kyat/ $11 USD) to Nyaung Shwe and I was armed with the name and address of the vendor I found on a travel blog that had great reviews. They looked like they had a great set-up and some nice bikes, but unfortunately I did not take the holiday into consideration and they were closed. I got a lot of eye rolling from my family, but I was determined and by golly we were going to cycle that day. So I suggested we just walk along the main road (Yone Gyi St.) as there seemed to be a lot of signs advertising travel services and bike rentals. It was just perfect, we were getting splashed left, right and centre and wandering aimlessly as most of the vendors were closed, everyone’s favorite thing!

We did come across one place (a restaurant, travel agent and bike rental all in one), but unfortunately they didn’t have any children’s bikes or children’s seats to put on the adult bikes. We continued to walk when I looked across the street (I think it was before we hit Myawady Road) and saw a little tour agent with bikes to rent and holy sh*t! They had a bike with a little seat on the back! Hooray! They were open, they would rent to us and if I remember correctly, I think it was about 1,500 Kyat (roughly $1.30USD), but no more than that. Bear in mind all the bikes seemed like they had seen better days (maybe in the 70s), but the brakes worked and they seemed sturdy enough. The owner was really helpful and even offered to let our 11-yr old use his daughter’s bike, but our daughter opted for the bigger one because she is kind of past the Hello Kitty phase.

So with a map and our wits, off we went! We decided to do the loop around half of the lake, which would require getting the bikes on a boat (more on that later). As soon as we hit the road we were getting soaked from all directions. Thankfully there was always a warning before it would happen. Also sometimes, just sometimes they handed out sweet treats as well.

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The views weren’t so much of the lake, but of the land surrounding it and getting splashed. The ride was really enjoyable. We really didn’t mind getting wet as it was fun to see and be part of the celebrations. We road for about an hour and decided to take a break at a cafe.

We were debating whether we should try to find the graves of some British soldiers who were murdered in the late 1800s. Apparently they are difficult to find, but apparently you can possibly ask someone at a local orphanage to take you and then you trek through the jungle. This all seemed very exciting until we remembered we had kids in tow and while it could be exciting, the risk factor of it being more frightening than exciting shoots way up with you have kids in tow. Maybe our 11 year-old could do it, but probably not our 6-year old. Our luck she’d end of a treat for a Burmese python. There’s a status update for you. So in the end, we decided not to go grave hunting.

We were at the point where we would need to take a boat across the river so we rode to the pier where a gang of boat men (drivers, captains?) were hanging out. Here is how it went:

Lounging Boat Man #1: Mingalaba! You need a boat to cross?

English Husband:  Yes, if you please old chap. We need to get these jolly bicycles across the river. (No, he didn’t really say it that way, but it is more fun to imagine him talking like that with the voice of David Attenborough)

Lounging Boat Man #1: Oh no, cannot do. You need to leave bikes!

English Husband: Good God no! Are you mad man? <angrily taps walking stick>

Lounging Boat Man #2: You can come back for bikes!

English Husband: I’m not just going to leave these bloody bikes here for you lot! We need to take these bicycles!

Lounging boat men #1 & #2: Cannot do.

It was then my husband turned to me and spoke in a whisper,  “I know we can get these bloody bikes across. I have read about this on the internet! Let us walk to the end of this pier and see if we might find someone to help us.”

Reluctantly the girls agreed. The idea of going back the way we came just didn’t seem as fun and the boat men seemed quite sure that this would be an impossible task, but on the other hand, we had read about it on the internet…

We casually strolled on to the pier leaving our bikes with no locks, but I think if anyone stole them they would be sorely disappointed. We got to the end of the pier when a woman on a small boat paddled up to us and asked if we would like to go to her restaurant. The idea of mulling over our plight while downing a few cold beers and eating lahpet thoke seemed brilliant idea so we said yes and hopped on board.

She paddled us across to the restaurant where an assortment of locals and one white guy drinking and dining.  We eventually ended up asking the woman on the boat if she knew anyone who would take us over. We told her about the Boat Men who said it could not be done and she shook her head and said it could be. She said she could get her brother to do it, but first:

  • We must return to where the Boat Men were lounging and ask them again:
    • If they said yes, great!
    • If this said no, we could return to the end of the pier with our bikes and she would arrange for a boat, BUT we must ask them first!

From what we gathered this area is the Boat Men’s turf and you have to go through them first; otherwise, there will be trouble.

Thankfully when we went back, we had a Boat Man who heartily agreed to take us to the other side of the lake for 10,000 kyat (roughly $8.50 USD). Be it noted that it was a new group of Boat Men, a kinder and more accommodating group I suppose.

So across we and our bikes went. Wahoo! When we got to the other side it was an easy right back to town, although we still got wet. I should mention that we didn’t have any issues with crazy drivers and you would be challenged to drift off of the main road as it is a big a** road. All in all it took us just over four hours, including our restaurant stops

We were all quite weary when we returned, but it was a good weary. The rest is not very exciting because it was packing and preparation for our return the next day.

It was real, it was fun and it was real fun! We hope to return again some day.

 

 

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Ufasaha Yarish says:

    So awesome! I thoroughly enjoyed the curiosity and adventure spirit of you and your husband. I can only imagine the wonderful and eye-opening experience that your girls will carry with them for a lifetime from your trip!

    Like

    1. Thanks so much Ufasaha! It has been a great time and we have just barely scratched the surface here!

      Like

  2. Aurelien says:

    Thanks for the link back to our blog. I’m sorry the bike place was closed the day you tried to visit.

    Like

    1. No worries, it was the holidays! We really enjoy your blog and the biking around Inle piece was super helpful.

      Like

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