Just a quick recap with a map of Myanmar. I've posted Part 1 already and you can read it again here  where I've covered Bagan (th...

Myanmar (Part 2) - Motorbike fall, Cold weather and Trekking

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Just a quick recap with a map of Myanmar. I've posted Part 1 already and you can read it again here where I've covered Bagan (the place of a thousand temples) and Mandalay (which holds one of the fondest memories for me).

Now, onwards to Pyin Oo Lwin, Hsipaw and Taunggyi!

[ PYIN OO LWIN - 2 Days 2 Nights ]

So we finished at Mandalay and are now heading towards Pyin Oo Lwin, on guess what? A train again! And this train ride was my favourite one of all - not just in Myanmar - but the entire trip. I'll show you why.

It was dark, not because it was late, but because it was toooo early.
We woke up at 3am so that we could catch the 4am train ride!!

At bus stations - people were up selling bananas and breakfast.
I remember buying a bunch of bananas from that lady over there and I remember them being so cheap. I think 20 cents for a bunch of them.

I love bananas as snacks on the train. Especially since you can just fling out the skin from the window coz it's biodegradable. 


And this was why I enjoyed the train ride,

I saw a canvas of the moon against a sheet of black with sunrays peeking out ever so slightly from behind the silhouette of the mountains,

turn into milky, subtle colours of dawn,

which eventually transformed into the brightness of day.

I couldn't stop staring out the window

watching people as the train chugged by.

What was exciting was also how the temperature started to drop as the train elevated to higher altitudes and we could even see markings on the ground that told us how many metres above sea level we were at.

I could feel the freshness and lightness of the air with a slight dampness from morning dew, as the train went through thicket of trees, bushes and wild native flowers. It was wonderful! 

Soon, we arrived on the shores of Pyin Oo Lwin, just like how the British Colonials first set foot on this land, which I tell you....


WAS A FREAKIN OASIS.

I was shocked. I was truly shocked.
This was a side of Myanmar I had never seen before and never thought or dreamed I would see.

Myanmar has always been dirty and noisy to me.
At least where I stayed at Yangon.

So Pyin Oo Lwin was like a piece of heaven.... Like I couldn't BELIEVE that Myanmar had a place like that! It was unarguably, an undiscovered gem. Not even just in Myanmar but I believe, Southeast Asia. It had just the right temperature, right amount of sunshine, and well, enough of the talking, let me just SHOW YOU.

Pyin Oo Lwin used to be called May Myo, named after a British general.

Therefore, they have...

Horse carriages as one of their main modes of transportation.

Even locals use it. And their horses are just the cutest... because they wear cute little flowery hats on their heads and oh, Sianpei and I went crazy whenever we saw one of these cute horseys. 

Horses are my absolute favourite animal. 

I think every former British colony has a Botanical Gardens and Myanmar, no less.
This was where my astonishment for the place grew and grew...


Entrance.

And soon after entering, we were greeted by...




Rows and rows of beautiful flowers,
lakes,
and eternal sunshine.

Just imagine that, as you walk around with cool air all around you...
A-mazing.


As we walked around, people were taking pictures, and people were HAPPY.
Genuinely HAPPY.

There were, 
Swans too.

Forests.

And a science teacher to boot!




So beautiful that I couldn't even help taking photos of individual flowers!!!
How aunty is that?!?!
But I couldn't help it....

After an exhausting train ride, and walking around the Botanical gardens for at least 3 hours (it was huge), we chilled at a nice little cafe, where they brewed good coffee the traditional way.


Happy Sianpei.

I am a tea person, hence it was me and tea. I've never liked coffee and the taste of it. Strange eh? There is only one coffee lover in my family - My mom. The rest of us stay away.


When it got dark, we decided to head back to our hotel by....


HORSE CARRIAGE!!! WAHHAHA
We couldn't resist taking one lah, after seeing them all around, though we felt damn pitiful for our horse who had to put up with not just our weight, but the carriage and his horse driver too.

Heh.

Our driver!

He was so cute, so enthu about taking photos for us even when we didn't ask for any. And he was the one who kept asking us to take his carriage and we actually walked back to find him specifically.
I remember he's called Dragon. And his horse is called Yoe Yar.
I'm pretty sure the names belong to each respectively, even though it sounds like the horse should be called Dragon instead hahahhaha.

It's interesting how Pyin Oo Lwin has a significant amount of Indians more than in other places...
And sorry about the stereotype, but yes, they spoke really good English. I think the British left quite a legacy here.

But before we went back to our hotels to rest, we of course, needed to fill our bellies.

And we spotted this Korean steamboat thingy when the Burmese food stall that we wanted to try was closed,

Cold weather + Hot pot GO SO BLOODY WELL TOGETHER


The beginnings of a messy war.
What's spectacular about this buffet, and let me repeat - BUFFET- was that it costed 7,500 kyat (yes I still remember the amount). And that amounts to about SGD 10.

By the end of our battle, we asked the waiter how much in TOTAL, he repeated, "7,500 kyat."

Holy Christ!!!!!!!!! A $10 buffet for two!!!!!!
Which means $5 each for unlimited rounds of hot pot!!!!!!!!
Thank the Lord for hot pot in SEA. Hallelujah.

Speaking of food, our hotel, Royal Flower Guesthouse (hahaha) serves MAGNIFICENT breakfast.

The strawberry jam and tea are priceless. Unfortunately, I have no pictures to show you because we always ate them too fast too furious. But their homemade strawberry jam is magnificent. The freshest, tastiest jam I've ever eaten. I usually don't like jams coz they're too sweet. But this was fresh and incredibly lovely and our hosts would put generous, copious amounts of jam and butter for us. 

That's what you get when you can grow strawberries on your own. In a place with weather like that.
It made me think about whether the Burmese people know and understand that their country is abundant in resources. That they're actually rich. And not as poor as everyone makes Myanmar out to be. Vast lands, with so much natural resources, I am in awe. 

Speaking of natural resources, Day 2 was waterfall sightseeing!


And of course I had to take a picture with it.

Take a closer look at the picture and you will realise...a gaping hole in my jeans because....


THIS HAPPENED.

Hahahah looks really bad eh?
Getting to the waterfalls was an uphill task. Quite literally, but it was down hill.
Because while riding motorbike, with Sianpei as pillion, I lost control of the motorbike while making our way down hill to the water fall!!!! It was steep as hell with rocks and gravel all over as you can see and I couldn't brake properly. So. We slid.

I was so concerned about Sianpei coz you know they always say, the pillion gets the worst of it all. Sometimes they die instead of the driver. Then the driver lives in guilt for the rest of his life. 

Miraculously, however, SIANPEI EMERGED WITHOUT A SCRATCH!!!! I was so relieved.

Then, I was concerned about the bike. Coz it ain't ours. We rented it from the hotel.
The mirror broke off!!! Shittttt. But luckily Sianpei found it lying a few metres away from us.

Then, FINALLY, I looked down to check myself.

O m g. My beloved jeans that fit me so well, was torn.

Then I looked inside, crap, I was bleeding. Sigh, yet another damn wound on my already battered knees with scars from yesteryears. Hahhaha.

Nobody cried, there wasn't really much of drama, cept for the fact that we kept giggling at ourselves lolol and how onlookers seemed concerned but just kept going. 


I took this picture to remind myself how horrible my scar looked and my petrified face hahaha.
But all was fine. Tiring though because walking to the waterfall and back was quite a hike!

Quite exhausting actually, and eventually we only had time left for one more place, which wasn't really much because it was just the old Governor's House.



That's what we really liked about Pyin Oo Lwin.. the British influence could be felt everywhere.
It was a small place, but really quaint with old colonial houses everywhere and nice light that seeped through the trees. And yeah, the cool weather made it even better. It was really strange for me since it was so much different from what I had expected.

As we motorbiked back, we caught the hues of the sky as it grew darker gradually...







I believe it is these skies that I will miss a lot after our trip around Southeast Asia.

Pyin Oo Lwin was nice. So nice that we decided to make one more stop before going to our last destination in Myanmar hahaha. It'll come later.

After this, one more stop by train... to Hsipaw. Yeah, there's a train. which runs the entire length from Mandalay to Hsipaw, one of the last stops along the line.


[ HSIPAW - 4 Days 3 Nights ]

This train ride was recommended by a lot of tour books and guides because of a special train track that the train ran on, which you will see later. We were lucky we got to ride on this train, coz when we left Hsipaw, there wasn't any train service back - perhaps maintenance or something, whatever it is, you can't trust the reliability of systems here haha.

So off we went as we headed to the trekking mecca of Myanmar! - Hsipaw (pronounced as thi-paw but since so many tourists pronounce it as see-paw, the locals prolly gave up correcting them tourists and use it themselves)

Children playing in villages along the way


Now, this was what everyone on the train was waiting for....

The Gokteik-Viaduct! 

Everyone was craning their heads out to see it and snapping photos everywhere.

On the other side of the train - valleys and rivers

Cameras out!

What's funny is that the train snakes along the railway and so, the Gokteik Viaduct can be seen on both sides at different times and tourists like myself would be going from the windows on the left to the right and left again every now and then to get the perfect snap of this wonder!

Two German ladies envied us because they didn't get to sit on the train when they were making their way out of Hsipaw. Yikes! We were lucky.

Two trains side by side - tourists would wave to one another hahaha

At one of the train stops where people sometimes got down to get a stretch, or a breather.

This is why I love the trains here!! STICK THAT HEAD OUT!!!


After a while, we arrived at Hsipaw and made a booking at Lily Home. Since the train started out in the afternoon, it was already getting dark by the time we arrived.

And not only was it getting dark, the sky looked incredibly gloomy... because, it was.. Going to rain.

And that sucked because we intended to go trekking in the days ahead. At least 2 days of it. And if it's gonna rain for all 3-4 days that we're there, MAN, it will SUCKKKK. So bad. We prayed for good weather. Not in the literal sense since neither of us truly subscribe to a religion haha.

But anyway, we left it in the hands of the universe and played by ear on whether or not to go ahead with trekking. I gave the universe the choice of being awesome by giving us good weather or being a total bitch with rain.

And guess what happened the next day?


The Universe decided to be a bitch to us.

UGH. Totally U-G-H.
The rain even got so heavy in midday.
We heard people went ahead with trekking even with the rain.. so can you imagine what they'd see? Total ugh-ness.

But there is also beauty in the ugliest of times. The Universe has its ways~
When it was quite depressing, we decided to head back to our hotel after walking out for a bit. Then we met a lady whom we had met the night before. Because on the night of our arrival, a man approached us to ask if we'd like to rent a motorbike, which led him to invite us to his brother's home, whose family we got acquainted with. Long story short, we met that family again and they invited us in once more when they saw us trudging back to our hotel.

That's their home! The first one on the left.

What's lovely is that the Madam of that household is Chinese and could speak a few words of Mandarin. She married an Indian Muslim Burmese and have Chindian children, who in turn, have children of their own. And they're the cutest!!!!!!!!



Oh just look at that boy eyeing our dragon fruit.

Awesome colour from the dragon fruit that they offered us both.
And that wasn't the only thing they offered us...

When we first saw them, the lady was whipping up a chapati storm!!!



IT WAS SOOOOO GOOOOOD.
Just imagine cold weather and warm freshly-made chapati. Wah. lau. eh.
Actually it was the chapati that drew us to them that day, because she'd only make and sell them early in the morning or late afternoons. We were lucky!! Serendipitous rain. Since they were selling it, we bought it lah. So not exactly offer. But they're so warm-hearted and welcomed us to their homes so openly!!! :')

She also offered us water to go with our chapati.

which Sianpei fed to one of those two  little cuties.

After the rain subsided and a few hours in the house, we left, but decided that we had to go back one last time a few days later to see them and eat their awesome chapati before leaving Hsipaw for good.


Back to trekking.
I hoped beyond hope that the weather forecast would say "sunny skies" the next day. Otherwise we'd be stuck in the stupid rain with nothing to do. And I tell you that sucks because being confined sucks when you're supposed to be out seeing things. Didn't want to make a wasted trip.

Sometimes travelling is a gamble. No wait, it IS a gambling game. And you'll have to be prepared to play it.

Our gamble was: The rain would only last for a day so we'll skip Day One and not trek. And then, if the rain persists, we'll trek no matter what since that was what we came to Hsipaw for. But we'll choose to do a homestay at the village for only one night instead of two.

With bated breath, our plan in place and guns loaded, we approached the receptionist to check the forecast for the days ahead and...

After googling for a bit, the man looked at us and said in a lazy, matter-of-fact way (I think too many travellers were bugging him with the same question hahaha)... THAT IT WOULD BE CLOUDY BUT..... NO RAIN!!!!

We were so lucky!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yay yay yay.

And so the trekking commenced on Day 2.

The trek consists of visiting two villages and then sleeping over one night at a villager's home, before making our way back to our hotel. It was our first trek for the trip so I was psyched!

We could leave our heavy backpacks at the hotel so that wasn't an issue. Off we went to trek, after wholesome breakfast at Lily Guesthouse!


Rows of paddy fields greeted us as we made our way...

This German couple was our trekking companion on our way there.
We had to join them because our trek guide had to make a U-Turn to fetch other trekkers stranded without a guide. So we had to join their group instead for a while, and the guide happened to be our guide's father. This is a trade that runs in the family ; )

lemme also just say that this couple was an awesome couple.
Once again, Germans have proven to be the best. So knowledgeable and curious about other cultures just as we are. And I enjoy making friends with travellers like them. The girl is incredibly funny as well!



Our guide's father showing us his pink nail-polished finger nail. 
We doubted his sexual orientation for a moment until he revealed that it was his way of starting convos with strangers. Hahahah such a queer way of doing so!

Fields of native flowers that were so pretty like sunflowers (my current favourite flower) that were sprinkled EVERYWHERE.
And they were HUGE. The size of my hand.

Had to selfie with them.

Sianpei trudging on

Guide's father trudging on 
hahahahahahha he's got the same expression as Sianpei lololol.

The first day of trekking was really nice~ with nice scenery.


Soon, our guide was back and we had to say goodbye to two Germans and hello to three French.


After a few hours of trekking, we arrived at the first village!



Homestay house that we were gonna stay at.

With OCIP experiences in Laos, Sianpei and I weren't as surprised or excited coz almost everything felt the same! But it was still cool to see how the villages in Myanmar were like.

After exchanging greetings, our guide took us to see a beautiful little summit as the sun started to set.

Woooooooah!



Had to get our jackets out coz the weather was turning chilly. 
Macam like in China like that hor? hhaha. Actually come to think of it, we were quite close to the border of China.

Cute lil dandelions~

Colourful hues as the sun set...

And then the weather started to seriouslyyy DROP.
And I couldn't stop sniffing. Sniff sniff sniff.
I hate the cold brrr.. and I didn't have warm enough jackets.

So we warmed up with...


Yeap. This was a night to remember.

What I really enjoyed about that night was the cultural exchange we had as a group.
Initially, I thought they were stereotypically French - kinda stuck up, and didn't want to talk much. I held that belief until this gathering when we had a chance to sit down and mingle for a bit. 

The man sitting next to me, to the right of the photo, is partially blind. His friends were helping him by guiding him through the trek for a lot of the time. It took him a while to navigate sometimes, especially when there were branches sticking out, streams coming through and rocks in the way. But he never gave up. In fact, he'd always be singing French tunes and keeping a positive disposition while trekking. 

 Even though he couldn't speak a word of English, we conversed in the universal language of Music, songs and laughter during that evening of good ol' beer... Him and his friend excitedly wrote down music titles for us to look up. And they taught us a few French words. Our guide had also worked in Singapore before so we exchanged a bit of Burmese and a bit of Mandarin. 

I really liked that night and I appreciated it.

I hadn't known then, what I knew a few days after - The Paris attacks happened the next day. But we were still trekking so nobody was aware of the news. On hindsight however, our meeting with the French people was so apt at that time. And quite coincidental coz we never really met many French along the way in our travels. And we had to meet them when the attacks happened. So. strangely coincidental. But it made me learn: Despite our differences in race, language and religious background, shouldn't we all still try to get along? It should be just like that night. When things were jolly and merry, with a love for music and all other things overcoming my initial judgement of them. That's how the world should be. Sigh.


But anyway, the next day, we were off for another day of trekking as we headed back towards our hostel.

Japan??

School where Burmese village children went to

It was anarchy in the morning lol.

This time it was a lot of marching through the jungle and making sure not to slip from the muddy ground after the previous day's rain.

Flowers a village girl and I picked together as she led me all around hahaha she was a wild child, but a cute one indeed.

Finding our way around

Flowersss

More rice fielddsss

Apparently to tell the difference between rice and wheat plants, is that rice and its leaves grow downwards while wheat plants stand tall and grow upwards

Dried corn firleds

Long marching route ahead.

Before reaching another village! Where we rested for a while.

The end was near...

And this was where we finished the trek to wait for a tuk tuk to pick us up back to our hotel.

Shan noodles to end the trekking day!
I didn't quite like this Shan noodles actually coz it was oily as hell.
Felt.. really unhealthy ugh. But Burmese people really LOVE their oil.


We then made one last pitstop at a temple...

Many many mirrors.

Our guide told us that this is the ONLY temple in Myanmar that has glass mirrors in the temple. But I told him, "No... we've seen mirrors in a temple in Mandalay too!" I saw his confidence waver even though he denied it. Fake one lah he.. I think he anyhow say this is the only temple with mirrors cheh. I think he needs to do a bit of his own exploration of his own country hahahaha.

After returning back to our hotels, we had a good rest and were prepared to leave Hsipaw the next day.

But before we left, we had to make one last visit to our favourite family and eat their chapati for breakfast...

Me lookin ecstatic - woke up at 5am just for this man.

Before we said our final goodbyes, we took a selfie.
Matriarchal society with all the ladiesssss.
The mothers of both boys are in this picture and they're both so youngggg I can't imagine having my first child at 18/19.

Hahha he's the naughtier one

Omg. when we saw the cutie on the left in a total Michelin Man onesie, we went berserk. Absolutely berserk. So bloody cute, it's impossible.

New friends made, with fond memories : )

Now... On to our FINAL stop in Myanmar..

Lemme pull out my map again.


Taunggyi is our final stop.

But to get to Taunggyi, we had to backtrack to Pyin Oo Lwin so that we could get a bus from there since Hsipaw is too small and too far an area for bus services to be there. Besides, we liked Pyin Oo Lwin a lot so we wanted to see it one last time,


[ PYIN OO LWIN - 2 Days 1 Night ]
A really short and quick visit


Strawberry farm - which to our disappointment had no strawberries to pick/or eat.
I think our hotel's host got us overly-excited haha and our expectations sky-rocketed up the roof.

Enjoyed yogurt and milk instead~ yum yum.

We had the same hot pot again for dinner and that was it....


We wave Pyin Oo Lwin goodbye officially, as we took a bus towards Taunggyi - which broke the train cycle since there weren't any trains heading towards it. 

Before we left, our host told us that it was the right time to come to Myanmar. Coz while we were in Pyin Oo Lwin, Myanmar's National League of Democracy party spearheaded by Aung San Suu Kyi had just won the election and we all knew change was to come. Even though our host welcomed the change in government, he saw the many imminent changes that would come to his country that would destroy much of the environment and nature. So we were in that sense, lucky to see Myanmar as it is now when not too many changes have been made.

Exciting times eh? To be in a country at a time when elections are ongoing.


[ TAUNGGYI - 2 Days 2 Nights ]

After taking a bus, which left Pyin Oo Lwin at midday, it took us a damn long time before we finally reached Taunggyi. And we reached Taunggyi at 3am and it was the only place we hadn't booked accommodation for. And it was freezing at 3am. With teeth chattering and our heavy backpacks, we scoured the place for hostels and it was pretty torturous haha. After trying our luck to secure cheap hostels, we gave up and settled for a hotel, which was about USD 60 a night. Pheeyooh. We were desperate for rest lah, and just wanted to sleep. What was interesting was that we forgot we came in past midnight, so it felt like we slept on the beds for 3 nights in a row, but it was only 2. So technically, we kinda saved one night of accommodation HAHAHA.

Anyway, our initial intention to go to Taunggyi was to see the Hot Air Balloon Festival. But... the festival was held too late and we didn't have any more time to spare in Myanmar anymore, if we were to cover the entire South East Asia. And we almost wanted to skip Taunggyi altogether until our Hsipaw guide convinced us to head there since it was his favourite Myanmar city. He says he loves the cool weather and the cleanliness of the city because people didn't litter like how they do in Yangon.. The people seemed more civilised for some reason unknown. So Taunggyi was back on track.

Unfortunately, when we asked if there was anything to explore at our reception counter, they told us there was nothing. It was not a tourist spot at all. Haha and true enough we saw no other tourists except one other angmoh dude. But I guess in a sense, we're seeing a part of Myanmar that was not blemished yet by tourists. 

We tried TripAdvisor nevertheless, and the wet market was a must-go because there were tribal-looking ladies with towels on their heads walking around. Literal towels.


Locals walking around on a clear blue day

Clock tower - every British colony seems to have this I think

Water drainage needed but nonetheless, still really clean.

3 towel ladies at a stall eating Mohinga

One of the tastiest mohingas I've eaten throughout my stay in Myanmar!
Portions are pretty big.

Chilled for a few hours at a temple, which was not amazing hahaha.
But was sort of our rest stop.

Sky getting darker

Silhouette of church.
I like how Myanmar is pretty diverse in terms of race and religious backgrounds.


A place that served bloody awesome fried rice because they served in large amounts for a good price.
We chomped our way in the hotel yum yum yum.

That was Day 1. We rested at a cafe at midday too and while talking to the owner of the cafe, I spotted a beautiful picture looking over the entire Taunggyi city. She told us that the picture was taken at the top of a mountain where there was a temple.

That more or less settled our itinerary for Day 2 : )

Hiking up Shwe Pon Pwint pagoda

Woke up at 7am to have breakfast and then hike we went! 

As always, the view was rewarding with clouds rolling by..

It took about 2-3 hours to get up there and the route seemed neverending. But we pushed on, before we finally saw this sign to the entrance,

Ahhh!! So happy to see it because we weren't sure where it was and how long more of a hike there was.

Just a bit more to go...

Temple yay!

View from the top.
There was a better view at the lower parts while we were hiking coz of the rolling clouds, which cleared by the time we were here.

Gonna miss these golden stupas.
Or maybe not.

Victory pose with my favourite flower at the top hehe.

Haha the picture is blur because a Burmese man took it for us.
I was so sure I got it right this time by telling him exactly where to stand and what to take.. But this time, it was the focus of the photo that was off. Sigh. Can't help but reinforce the notion that Burmese people can't take photos hahaha.

After that we took about an hour to get back to solid ground and slowly made our way back to our hotel.

We knew it was goodbye~




I really liked the path just outside of our hotel because it had perfect light in the early morning and an extremely tranquil atmosphere. We somehow managed to find it by wandering deep inside~

People playing football along the way

Our hotel's compound. 
Really pretty coz it has the view of the mountains!

We returned to a room that was tidied up.

Wistful feelings~~~ final goodbyes.

We were soon whisked away to the bus station where we were headed for Yangon~


As our van drove us a way down, I took a video to capture the light from the sun coz it was the golden hour and a girl was singing in Burmese right behind me.

All the feels~~ will miss the rustic charms of this country


Now before I end this post, let me just say that it took a really long time to finish HAHAH. I fell asleep thrice on three separate days while typing hahaha. Takes up a lot of brain juice.

Alright, next post! Our transition from Myanmar to Thailand : )


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