Monday, February 22, 2016

Heading North into Myanmar


After Bagan Mandy, Line, and I headed north to visit Mandalay, a town that was so drastically different than Bagan and seemingly more congested than Yangon. We checked into our hotel and then rushed to find a taxi that would take us to the U-bein bridge, the worlds longest teak bridge and our main reason for visiting Mandalay. We found at taxi for 15,000ks ($15) which was definitely overpaying but absolutely worth it since we were in a rush and the driver was a great guy who taught us a lot about Myanmar. It was through him that we learned more about the recent election that had actually gone peacefully, how many Burmese schools taught English, and most interestingly we learned why the cars in Myanmar are so confusing. Every car has the steering wheel on the right side, however they also drive on the right side of the road. Apparently they used to drive on the left until 1970 when the ruler of the country changed it to the right side....based on the advice of a wizard (crazy military government). Since then all modern cars with left side steering wheels are too pricey so they buy second hand cars from Japan with right hand steering wheels. Seriously. A wizard.

We arrived at the U-bein bridge and while I hadn't been to excited for it before, I was pretty impressed by it. Mandy and I were too cheap to spend the 4,000ks ($4) to watch the sunset by boat so instead we walked the length of the bridge and at the midpoint we still saw a pretty spectacular sunset.


Getting the bus to Hsipaw was further proof of how awesome the Burmese people are. Finding the bus station was difficult since the signs are impossible to read and it was just an open garage door with a desk but while looking for it every single person along the way was incredibly helpful, even if they had no grasp of the English language. We stayed one night at the Yee Shin Guesthouse and the next day we swapped places to the Red Dragon Hotel where I was thrilled that there were finally cheap accommodations in Myanmar. Mandy, Line and I went out to explore a bit and we wandered through the small village of Hsipaw, walked through the daytime market and found the famous Mr. Shake where we had dumplings, ridiculously good guacamole and magical oreo shakes that were dirt cheap and awesome.

After a day of bumming around we decided to rent bikes and go exploring along with a random friend Jeffrey that we had met outside our hotel. Whoever said its just like riding a bike was wrong, after months and months of not being on one I was pretty wobbly. Luckily the stunning country roads, the farmers working in the green fields, and the misty mountain views distracted me from my wobblyness. On our way to the falls I somehow was tasked with being the leader and at one point I look behind me and the other 3 had disappeared. Mandy's bike had died so it ended up just being Line, Jeffrey and I heading to the falls. After being sick in Bagan it was so good to finally be hiking and biking again. We passed a monastery, hiked through fields, passed farmers houses that surprisingly had satellite and finally reached the falls which were surprisingly large and impressive. After a day of hiking and biking we also rewarded ourselves with more dumplings and fruit shakes at Mr. Shake. Afterwards we visited the bamboo buddha and a monk school and soon I found myself saying goodbye to the girls. They decided to leave and I felt like staying another night.
Heading to the Nam Tok Waterfall
Monk school

I'd gotten used to traveling solo so after the girls left I actually found myself feeling a bit relieved, I'd been somewhat of a third wheel for the duration anyways and now I was free to do what I wanted. Which after I said goodbye to them was finding a small bookstore and finally getting the book Burmese Days and talking for ages with the Burmese store owner who shared tons of information and history on the area and the setting of the book. Later, while I was feeling antisocial the universe apparently had other plans for me. I ordered a pina colada shake at Mr. Shakes (they're only $1!) and 3 people asked if they could join my table. We parted ways and as I was leaving a large table of girls called me over and I saw that it was 2 of the girls who had been on the bus with us from Mandalay. I ended up sitting with them for more hours sampling the pina coladas, mojitos and caipirinhas, all of which were amazing.

Despite the late evening with the girls I was finally able to make it out to the morning market, a market that is open from around 3-5am. I arrived a little after 3am and being there was a little bit like going back in time. Instead of using electricity most of the produce stalls were lit by candlelight, a completely bizarre concept. After going back to bed for a few more hours I spent my last day in Hsipaw exploring the city (on foot) and visiting Mr. Popcorns garden which also had great shakes, delicious food, and was a great place to sit in nature and read and relax before I had to get on my umpteenth night bus.

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