Every now and then whilst travelling it’s blatantly obvious that we are getting hugely overcharged for things in comparison to what a local would pay. We generally spot it straight away and barter the price down if we’re unsure what it should be exactly but in some instances we know it’s a flat rate, everyone pays the same and we should pay what the locals do. This was the case as we travelled from our guesthouse in Mandalay to the bus station, we knew that the journey should be no more than 1000Kyat each. When we got told midway that the price was 3000Kyat each we weren’t pleased about how dishonest they were being with the price and when they got challenged bottom lips came out in full force. All the other people on the journey kept quiet, all knowing we were being expected to pay way too much, one brave woman was the only person to stand up for us and tell the bus conductor that he wasn’t right in trying to charge us that much. She told us what we should pay and we were so grateful for her help. The bus man was not and sulked all the way to the station. Our bus took us to a tiny little town called Hsipaw on a very scenic road. Our main reason for visiting this town was so that we could travel from it to another town on what is supposed to be one of the most scenic train journeys in Myanmar and that also passes over a huge gorge. We had no preconceptions of what to expect from this sleepy town so spent our one day there exploring the area. We popped into the local market, ate locally, then had a walk through the villages to a teak monastery. The walk through the villages was probably the highlight, it’s nice to see how back to basics some people’s lives are. The villages are set around some old brick temples and a teak monastery which we enjoyed exploring. Whilst our day in Hspiaw was spent doing nothing of any real note we both had a lovely day there and looked forward to our train journey the following day.
The first few hours on the train were slow. Very slow. Although we knew this would be the case when travelling by train in Myanmar. At one station stop a couple of girls got on the train and bombarded me with questions as they were trying to improve their English. I had half a dozen photos taken and then they left. Things got exciting as the bridge came into view, imagine a huge valley with a roaring river at the bottom and a massive metal bridge spanning across the Middle of it all. Due to how slow the trains go we got to fully experience the bridge, everyone hanging out of the windows admiring the view and the sheer drop below us. The clunking and cracking sounds of the train and the bridge just added to the excitement. We were under the impression that it was one of the biggest railway bridges in the world but after a quick google we found out it was number 86… Oh well.
Our accommodation options were limited on arrival into Pyin Oo Lwin, we swiftly turned down the over priced options that closely resembled prison cells and settled for a room that would turn out to cover me in bed bug bites and give us no sleep due to loud traffic. Best of a bad bunch and all that. We strolled the area, played some cards over tea and sampled some of Pyin Oo Lwins infamous wine. Due to its slightly cooler temperatures than the rest of Myanmar, the town grows lots of strawberries which are sold in the markets all over town and are also made into some rather interesting strawberry wine. The next day we got some of the strawberries as well as various bakery goods to form a picnic that we would enjoy at the botanical garden. The gardens were so beautiful, immaculately kept, so colourful! We strolled around the grounds, finding a butterfly museum and an orchid garden. Both preferring the orchid garden as its contents were alive as opposed to the contents in the butterfly museum which were not. Eager to set up our picnic we headed to the grassy area that over looks the lake, on the way we heard the most peculiar noise coming from the trees we were walking past. We were sure it was monkeys. A raised walkway lead us through the trees where there were hoolock gibbons swinging around the trees! We were so amazed! We had no idea there would be this wildlife in the park and stood mesmerised as the gibbons swung round the forest and made their loud call from the treetops. It’s been a while since we’ve seen any wildlife and we both loved to see the gibbons without our usual guide taking us round. Day made!
You’ll all be pleased to know our picnic was a success and we rested our full tums by reading in the shade with the beautiful view out to the lake. Next on the agenda was a visit to the bird enclosure! Something else we didn’t expect to see on our visit to the botanical gardens. There were some incredible tropical birds, our favourite being the hornbill and the peacocks. Chris was just saying how he had never seen the peacock with its feathers displayed before as two of them opened up their feathers in an amazing showdown for the females attention. It was so beautiful to watch and Chris couldn’t refuse the opportunity to take a photo of Sarah Peacock, wearing peacock pattern pants in a photo with a peacock. It’s the small things. After a stroll through a bamboo forest we came across some Tawkins. We’d never heard of one before but on inspection we decided they look half moose/ half goat. Very interesting animals and they were very intrigued by us. We had our last stroll through the gardens reflecting on what an interesting and fun day we had.
Our next destination would be Bagan, in an attempt to save ourselves money we asked about for bus prices only to find that the one bus of the day was fully booked and we’d missed out trying to get a better price. Whoops. So this meant we had to have a journey back to baking hot Mandalay and catch a bus from there to Bagan, looking on the bright side doing it the long way round saved us a few quid!
Until next time.
Photos here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskbv9zji