From Diary 5 and the amassing Bagan, I now try to
reach the western coast.
The landscape starts with farmland. Then start the Banyan trees to almost form an alley along
the road. The ox-wagons are numerous, and the harvest seems to be at its
end. Despite the fields are rather big, all transport are done by the
ox-wagons and the harvesting by hand.
Around noon, we do a short lunch break in a little
village. Soon after, we reach Magway. Here, we split up; he have to wait
four hours for his next bus, I want to start exploring - after a quick cup
Several moped drivers offers their service, but I'm
not that interested, especially when they fail to understand; "Bridge"," river"
As I had hoped, I reach the market next to the river. It
is rather big, but here are only familiar things, and I only do a breath
It is quite a detour to get on to the bridge. It then leads to an island, and another branch of the river is crossed by another bridge, which again leads to a big loop. We pass a huge pagoda, and I fear that could be the moped drivers target. Luckily, we passes it, and drive out in what look as a primitive industrial area - similar to what I found on Google maps.
And here are a huge area, covered in sterile mud. The
tallest volcano have been vandalised with a crappy building in tin-plates and
a real shitty brick-wall. It is real rarely I see nature's wonders corrupted
With the help of some Burman tourists, I get the
driver to take me to the Pyay/Pye bus station. It is only three, and I have
seen every thing here, including most of the town.
The 20 kilometre tour sets me back 6.000K. I'm glad I don't have to work
It is another minibus, and I get the shotgun seat. We
leave 40 minutes ahead of schedule! It
should be 189 kilometres, and four hours. A bit late to arrival in Pyay, but
I feel like saving half a day or more. And I kind of have seen Magway. The road is just as bumpy and narrow
as the road who brought me here.
We have to slowdown significantly, when we meet one of the many trucks and
Soon after dinner, we reach a larger town, and I'm the
only remaining passenger. The find a large bus and transferee me, so they
can go home sooner.
Then I get the hint, and find my self in the outskirts of a larger city: Pyay/Pye. A cup of tea, and the first one speaking English - and French at the same time, try to help me. A moped to a reasonable priced hotel. But their last hot-water-room have gone. The next hotel have no hot water, one won't have foreigners, then a 70.000K which look good, but...
End up at a 20.600K hotel with a shitty, three bed room but
and hot, shared bath. This city seems so much more expensive than all the
others I've been in. It must be good...
I share breakfast with a few other backpackers. The last pale-faced I see
today. I walk down to the mighty Ayeyarweddy River, which look like a big
fjord. Along it, I find the huge Pyay market. I try to find out how big it
is, but apparently, it is endless. The only edge I find, is the corner I
entered it in.
After a hour and a half, and a cup of tea in the middle
of this organised chaos, I forces myself to leave, and head for the
Shwesandaw Pagoda, placed on a small hill, in the middle of town.
Half pass ten, I have had enough of the big city, and
find a moped to drive me out to the ancient town of Sri Ksetra. It was the
capital around 6-700 AD, and it is said to be a bit like Bagan. Well, it is
Small areas of disturbed nature is found scattered around in the waste area, and I try to find something interesting, along with buildings from ancient times. A few ponds are still filled with water - and grass or rice. The old rampant can be found most way around the symbolic remains of the palace.
few building left here is actually outside the outer
wall, and in the fare end. I enjoy the piece but wished I have brought
water. Luckily, one of the farmer have a little shop, and here are two
bottles of water.
Next to it is a few, smaller buildings from around
700-1300 AD. Nothing impressive - after Bagan. I get a few photos of some
plants I don't recognises, and some I do.
Right out of the area, i find some tea - or is it coffee? Then I start walking the ten kilometres back to town. I get a short lift to Thayekhittaya town with a private pick-up, and not long out of the mainroad, an other pick-up pick me up.
Back in Pyay, I jump of before the centre of town. The central place is marked with a golden horse and man, but dominated by the large billboards. I do a walk up and down the entire mainstreet, but fail to find any food. When I return to the central area, the night market have started to get alive. A thick pancake with a fried egg is real tasteful, and the tea afterwards great.
Then I return shortly to the hotel to find out, how to get to the beach. The host have a great offer: Shotgun in a minibus at eight in the morning, eight hours driving, and I'll be in Ngapali. It is around 250 kilometres accordantly to my GPS, and it could be across a mountain range. 18.500K is a bit steep, but if it really is eight hours of great landscape, it might be worth it.
Back in town to catch the last sun beams on the
Shwesandaw Pagoda, and then around the night market to find some deep fried
tofu, spicy noodles and another pancake with egg.
23/12 The shuttle bus is on the dot - which unfortunately can't be said about my hotel breakfast. A drive cross town to a bus station, where I have almost a hour to find breakfast, while they make a copy of my passport. I can get all kind of roasted meat, but finally I find some deep fried bread.
It turns out to be the same minibus that is my drive of
the day. I get the promised shotgun seat, while two Germans have to share
the crammed seats with tinted windows and a carsick old woman.
We pass small villages and wooden bridges. The villages are real out in the wild, and seems so undeveloped, compared to where else I have been. At ten, me make a longer stop at a tiny village with a control-post, to get something to eat, and I do a tour around the area.
Someone have a giant hornbilled as a pet. It plays with
the poppies and their laundry. Apparently a real intelligent animal. Several
of the tiny shops have orchids for sale, at least five species. I have seen
many in the trees we have passed.
Out in the wild, the road turn to gravel in some stretches, and pigs and water buffalos are tied up along it. The only road signs are about horns: Blow your horn before most corners. The clouds takes over, but the mountain views are still fantastic, although impossible to capture from a moving car. We passes several control-points where the driver have to present only my passport. Apparently, I am not aloud to jump off the bus on this stretch, as they are in a state of civil-war. Journalists are completely banned.
At two, my but get much deserved break in a larger town: Taunggok. I find a quick meal; cold noodles with spices - which turns out to be a real bad choice. The I see the local temple, how the boys play their bob-game, and I also find some orchids, grown on coconuts.
We head on, and passes tuck-tucks with water buffalos and pigs on. A few places, we crosses large rivers, and the flat areas along them are rice patches, which just have been harvested. Then we pass through a area where chicken are bread in huge houses.
At six, after ten hours on the road, we reach the beach at Ngapali. The Germans have a reservation - of cause, but are not that eager to pay US$35 for a room with shared bath. Our driver do a huge effort to find us something better, and drive us up and down the costal road. But the hotels are either real posh and charge US$99 for an single, or locals that are full. Finally, he find us a nice place 500 metres from the coast, where only locals live. I get a real nice room with toilet for 20.000K, which seems to be a bargain around here.
I drop the bag and head back to a restaurant. At seven,
I'm back in my room, and go right to bed: No energy at all! It turns out the
cold noodles were something more, and I spend the next 36 hours regretting
that choice badly.
24/12 I forces my self to walk the 500 metres to the beach around noon, and are completely exhausted, when I reach it. I have a one kilometre perfect cove with white sand and palm trees, all to my self and two friendly dogs. I lay in the shadow to gain strength for the long way home and my bed. In the evening, I find a bunch of bananas, and call it a day.
25/12 I almost feel alive, and join in for breakfast. Then I start on my laundry, but figures my pans will need quite some soaking in the cold water, after 25 days of misuse. I planned to catch-up with the rest of the world, but a 12 hour "brown-out" (planned power-off) prevents me from doing that.
I get through the last days pictures, do the laundry, and
then I need a extensive power-nap. Around noon, I do the walk down to the
beach, and a stroll on the one kilometre perfect sandy beach with coconut
palm trees. At each end of the beach, some strange rocks form a barrier.
Some local tourists want to show me something, might be a cave, but I lack
the energy to follow them.
Fishermen are drying their catch of small fish on the beach, while two small hotels are used by Yangon families. I buy an overpriced Sunkist, and use their beach chair for yet another nap. Then a bit further out the beach to capture a photo of the small fishing boats.
Back at my hotel, it is straight to bed. I am so lucky that this "tourist stomach" happened here, with a nice room and good toilet, a fantastic family who cares, and time to recover. Considering I have been travelling for more than four and a half years in total, and the amount of street food and tapwater I have consumed, I consider my self very lucky only having experienced this once!
At dusk, I do a long walk on the beach road to find an ATM. I find several after a few kilometres, but all out of order. I guess the Brown-out can be blamed. A moped with sidecar bring me back to a seafood restaurant, which can offer fried rice with vegetables. After that, I need a nap. My stomach is still not quite all right, I keep having a fewer, and my energy level is about 20% - all in all a clear improvement from yesterday.
26/12 And then again; at midnight, my stomach takes control over my life, and keep me busy until dawn. When I join in for breakfast, I meet a police officer right outside my door. Then 20 more in full show-uniform in the restaurant. More than I have seen in total!
The internet is still malfunction, and I retire to my bed. I have to realise, I can't cure myself with the Immodium (stop-pils), and get the family to organise a ride to the local doctor. He speak quite well English, and confirm that I will have to have the bacteria killed. He describe Metronidazole and Ciprofoxacin to do that, Paracetamil to lover my fever and some rehydration salts. And he tell me not to eat vegetables! All for 20.000K, and I won't bother using my insurance for that.
We try two ATMs on the way back, but as we have yet
another Brown-out, they won't cooperate. I reach back to my toilet just in
time, and use the afternoon in the comfort zone: Five metres away or less.
This is a fantastic beach area, and the inland vegetation is so tempting -
but I have no energy at all!
At four, I head out on a five kilometre walk, just to find an ATM that works. I am completely exhausted, and have to take a moped-with-side-car back. I pay my bill at 62.000K and add 63.000K for the good care they have taken of me. At six, I pack my bag and call it a day. I had not planned to spend much time at the beach, but I would have like a bit more!
27/12 I feel quite alive in a good way this morning. The 7;00 bus is 20 minutes early, but we head backwards. It turns out the few foreigners have to have their passports copied at the bus station. At eight we head down the coastal road for the 400 kilometre drive to Yangon.
There is a mist hanging over the rice patches, but the tinted windows and the non-windowseat spoil the pleasure a bit. It is a beautiful coastal road, but the narrow, one lane and very winding road is not mend for a large bus. The average speed never exceeds 30 kilometre a hour.
We pass many river mouths and coves with coconuts, and one tiny rice patch after the other. Then, after five hours, we turn inland in Gwa, and meet the mountains. We have so fare driven 170 kilometres! It is another great scenery, but the check-points make it impossible to jump of. The locals have to present their ID cards in person, where the ticketboy just collect our passports and present them for us.
Two Canadian women tell me, one have to apply for
permission at three government offices and the local village, if one want to
jump of - in advance. That does explain why there are no records of
plants and animals in this country!
At nine, after 14 hours of driving, we reach Yangon. I've been speaking with six Britts, and they have a hotel-plan. We share two taxis into town, but their reservation turns out to be another hotel. This one only have room for one, and I go for it. I leave my passport and the money, but bring my bag alongas I don't see the room, as I follow them a few blocks to their hotel.
Then they show me a nice Indian restaurant, and we get some real good, vegetarian dishes. A bit pass eleven, I'm back, and it turns out "my room" already have seven other sleeping people in it. Well, can't win them all. I do the diary, but not the photos.
28/12 Despite the room is real quiet, I don't get much sleep. I guess the last three days including most of the last bus drive's sleeping, have brought me up to speed - or down? At breakfast, I spend quite some time talking to a American photographer before I finish my own photos, and finally get into town in the heat.
It is a small hour walk to the impressive Shwedagon Pagoda, which is placed on a hilltop. Next to it is a flower park - by name. I would just call it a park, although they do have a large shadow-house with a small collection of un-interesting plants. I do a tour around, just to be sure, and find back to the entrance for the pagoda.
Several escalators bring the visitors up to the top from
one side. Another side have lifts. Along the main pagoda, numerous temples,
pagodas and alike are scattered around the area.
Back outside, I try to get some images of the not too LED-up-lighted Buddha figures, and by pure luck, I find a group of young nuns in prayer. I have less luck at the giant gongs. Not a single child get tempted, and I can't get my self to hammer it. But the bells get their banning for sure. By the kids and adults.
It is a bit hard to see it, way up on the top of the big pagoda, but here are actually half a ton of gold and 4.351 diamonds with a total carat of 1.800. And then there are all the other gems and the big vane with its 2000 assorted gems. It weight half a ton as well.
I feel a bit peckish, and last night, after have been starving for three days (due to lack of hunger) and because my doctor said "no vegetables", I babbled about pizza to the young Brits. And on the other side of the road, I see the word Pizza. I get a fairly descent "Thin Crusty" vegetarian style, but have to pay 14.000K. I categorises that as my Christmas dinner of the year.
From here, I head down to the river and the harbour area. Real old ferries and freighters along with river-taxis. I do a short walk along the docks, but return to the hotel, to get some work done. It is Cambodia tomorrow, I would like to finish up everything here tonight.
Dinner is a bit tricky; I don't dare street-food the
evening before my flight, but it is a long walk to Little Delhi. My new New
York Jewish friend recommend another nearby restaurant, and I get a great
tasting tofu in, what best can be described as the best spiced Italian tomato
To sum everything up a bit: I have spend the legal four weeks here, and got around as much as I was aloud to. That was not that much actually, but I have travels quite some kilometres by public busses, but only taken 3939 photos. The people have been absolutely fantastic, the nature some what disappointing, the travelling a bit slow and painful and the amount of plastic trash astonishing. The price, including the flight, insurance and all, turned out quite low:
Next stop; CAMBODIA