Arrived in Bagan: around 900 of the biggest urban communities in Southeast Asia - with more than 150000 people, one of the many historic capitals of ancient Burma, a metropolis abandoned only three centuries later after the attack of Mongols coming from the North. What rest are ruins of the pagodas and temples, a wide valley of innumerable pagodas standing there in the sand, testimonies of a time that's gone for so long. A land that tells thousands of stories. A mystic place where earth meets sky, that you can feel just watching the sunset.
9 January 2017
Just a long sunny day on the Inle Lake. Wonderful having done it. The evening before for the sunset was simply too short. This day I met incredible people, living just in their houses and cabins high over the water of the lake - for centuries. Until nowadays the live partly with two levels in these houses, do fishing, cultivate their vegetables on the lake or hold pigs - everything on the lake!
Sorry for not having written for such a long time! I am doing fine. Now back in Thailand, enjoying my last days of my trip on the beach. Just to make it short: from Inle Lake I traveled further to Bagan, highlight and most important historical heritage of old Burm now known as Myanmar.
Nyaungshwe at Inle Lake was quite impressive, not because of his beauty just because of his originality! Besides being the starting point for individual tourists to visit Inle Lake and its Shante people, it's nothing more than a market place where the farmers around bring their stuff to sell it in their stands or just sitting on the ground. A wonderful place where you can watch how a small fisherman's place stands still with one foot in the past meanwhile tourists change it to one of the touristic destinations of Myanmar. And they do it just like centuries before. At last, it's a very dusty place, not easy to breathe.
8 January 2017
As you might know, the world is small... if you just make it like that. And yesterday evening, who did I meet? Good old friends, on their honeymoon trip through Asia since September, who by chance have been in Nyaungshe, too. And I only learnt it the day before! Just the day before! Yes, but possible if you have friends everywhere.
Arrived in Nyaungshe at Inle Lake around 16 by taxi from a little airport 1h away over mountain, hills and railroad passings. Crazy place full of tourists, a domicile of backpackers. A place that isn't really a place. Only 2 big crossing streets, a chaos of dust, cabins, hotels, restaurants, bars, and the sounds of motorbikes, hooters, shouting people. And the lake! Why so famous? Because of the Intha people, one of the hundreds of ethnicities in Myanmar, that for centuries live "on" the water. On the water?! Yes, with cabins, pile constructions, only linked to the shore via wooden piers. And how do they live? By fishing and cultivating vegetables on the surface of the water. How? By using seaweed and compost, fixed by long bamboo sticks. However, what's the most interesting thing is how they're fishing: they use their right leg to paddle, while their hands use fishing nets to catch the fishes.
Reading the first pages of Jack Kerouacs On the Road makes me feel to have chosen the right book for any individual traveling. So realistic, right to the bottom, with true emotions, and thrilling, that every traveller recognizes when he starts a journey to fulfill his heart with new experiences. Being on the road means being again on the search for life.
7 January 2017
Yesterday I was eating in the famous 19th road of Yangon downtown, one of the touristic hotspots, one of these must-sees, based on its indisputable authenticity. A narrow street that you could expect to meet in every big Asian city with restaurants so small that you can't even estimate how many really exist in this secret place.
The first thing you realize when you arrive is how loud people can be, what a chaos they can produce just eating, chatting and laughing: that's crazy! Imerged in this atmosphere without comparison, you feel safe... safe?! Yes safe, cause you feel you are not alone. Everyone here has the same quest: just stay, enjoy life and simply taste it. And the barbecue sticks of meat, chicken, lamb, pity or fish, or simply vegetables, together with rice and if you ask for it also spicy sauces tastes good! Life can be so yummy!
I made it! This afternoon I visited the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, as it is believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas, the Shwedagon Pagoda. In the evening hours it was a wonderful atmosphere. It's always crowded there, with four entrances in total, which went up to the complex on a hill in middle of Yangon, consisting of the stupa itself and the surrounding terrace where all pilgrims go around clockwise to stop now and then for a prayer on the ground. Visible from every point of the city, the stupa with 105 meters height surmounts every roof of Yangon. By night, totally illuminated, it buries with its golden appearance the dark emptiness of the black sky.
Today's a sunny day, the sun shines brightly over Yangon. The city is very crowded by cars, traffic is getting crazy, 6 lines in one street is nothing, taxi after taxi, between upend busses, parking cars, walking people from one side to another - and the typical noise of hooters.
I opted for a visit of the Botataung Pagoda close to the peers of the Yangon river in the Eastern part of the Colonial Quarter, the city centre with the Sulf Pagoda in its centre. When I arrived, expecting only some tourists, I was stunned by the hundreds of Myanmar people doing processions in front of the Pagoda entrance. As the taxi driver explained to me, it's only at some days of the year. Nevertheless, it was impressive how they decorate thrones with fruits, flowers and a big picture showing mostly a young woman or Buddha itself. Accompanied by sounds of drums, they brought it then inside of the Pagoda to offer it to a Buddha statue.
6 January 2017
Yesterday in Bago I took a bus in the late afternoon, with destination Kyaiktiyo to visit one of the 3 hot-spot sanctuaries in Myanmar. Only 80 km away, it took 4 hours, on a bus with me as the only Non-Asian. We crossed fields of rice, stopped in every village with houses made of iron sheets or simply wood. Crazy!
Arrived at 7.30 pm in Kinpun, the base village of the Kyaiktiyo site, I stayed in a hotel in front of the terminal where all the trucks depart to the Golden Rock. Slept well, I was surprised around 4am (!) by the noise of the first pilgrims arriving in droves at the terminal to climb on the trucks that should take them up to the sanctuary. Incredible scenes that I presumably will never forget.
I climbed on a truck as well - at 6pm! Couldn't sleep anymore. Up on the mountain, amazing view of the planes of Mon State. Very emotional when young Burmese asked me to take pictures together with them, or to meet little monks in their typical red clothes, pleasing for money.
5 January 2017
Driving around in Bago, a very busy market town in South East Myanmar only 1,5 hours from Yangon, in the middle of nowhere, no streets, no pavement, only motorbikes, people and dust, is like immersing in a time thought past. My driver was a 50 years old man who took me around on his motorbike, without helmet, only in my blue jeans, t-shirt, backpack and asics. For little money, maybe 4 Euros, he was so kind to bring me to every archeological site and wait outside of temples and pagodas, and pick me up again, giving me tips and bringing me to ATM cash points to withdraw money. His name is Win, for me a real winner.
4 January 2017
Just arrived in Yangon! And today is national holiday, the city isn't really busy. In general, first impression in the taxi talking to the driver, who in his early life was traveling around the world by profession cause he was a seaman, was that Myanmar is much more calmer than Thailand or presumably other countries in South East Asia. Politically opened for some five years now, it's changing right now. Ok, they arrived in the 21st Century, they know the so-called Internet, stare like us on the smartphone while walking in the streets and laugh on the same shit like us. However, they're really poor, and the fact you can see it immediately is literally lying on the street... small kids sleeping, eating, chatting or playing football or volleyball in the street, while next door prayers and tourists visit the Sule Pagoda. Then they don't have a focus on tourists. Finally, they're only curious, smile and their kids shout 'Hello!', proud to know a word in another language.
Meeting Burma People is like starting a friendship: sight by sight, a first smile and nice words at the beginning. Nothing else - and the story continues! I helped them to make a picture of them, they invited me to do a picture with them. Buddha says: you get what you give. Later one, I tasted the first street food. Not bad, but it wasn't a Thai dish...