A day on the lake

Day 79, Friday 23 March 2012,  Inle Lake

I am sure the pickup ride yesterday didn’t help, so I woke up with a streaming nose this morning, bugger it.

Nyaunshwe is a dusty little town, there may be some small sealed sections of road, but largely it is dirt roads and small single storied buildings – I liked it !

After all the ‘fun’ yesterday I forgot to mention we ran into Giovanni (G) at an internet cafe in town and he said he had arranged a boat ride for us today on Inle Lake, along with Richard and Blathnaid (sorry for murdering your name : ) ) to now be known as R n B – which kinda has a wee bit of funkiness to it, who he had met earlier in Myanmar.

Inle lake has a number  of points of interest around it and the only way to see them is to hire a boat, though one day is never enough and that ignorance is definitely milked by the boat drivers and you get taken to many places where you have the chance to “invest in local crafts”, as it were…

We met with G over breakfast and were introduced to R n B,  R is Scottish and B is Irish and they were of similar age to me, well travelled and very interesting (and as turned out- very cool to hang with). Breakfast at the remember inn was the best in Myanmar, with  more choices than others and mine was fried rice and egg, the rice was great – not stodgy boiled and they did the eggs perfectly, yumbo !

We also had Lisa join us on our cruise, a Chinese woman (I guess late 20s) who spoke good English and was cruising SE Asis like the rest of us – which is highly unusual for a Chinese woman !

Our boat

Our driver collected us at 8.30 and we walked down to the canal to get on our boat for the day, we had hired it from 8.30 to 6.00 PM for about $4 each, though it only had 4 chairs. Mike and Lisa were happy to slob on mats on the deck.

The ride up the canal was interesting – I shot more photos today than any other single day on my trip – and deleted as many – taking photos from a moving boat – with head cold – of moving objects is not that simple!

After 20 or so minutes we hit the lake. The lake is the primary source of LIFE in these parts, it provides water (for everything), food, fertiliser, transport – and lastly a large and growing source of income in tourism.

The fishing boats are all canoes and mostly powered by humans. They have a unique style of paddling here – using the leg !

Collecting lake weed to be later used as fertiliser for the floating market.

Our first stop, (shopping opportunity) was at a weaving shop where they hand make a number of products, Mike has been gagging to buy a longyi – which is the male skirt worn by most Burmese men, and he picked up one here. It was interesting to see local cottage industries at work, and if I was not such a horrible cynic (and in need of a skirt) I could have been tempted to buy something. The technology is basic here, as is common in a very poor country – until you visit you do not appreciate poverty – nothing goes to waste and as there is no electricity so many things are done manually. Cotton is spooled on an old bike wheel…

I loved this crude form of pool/snooker/billiards, played all over SE Asia, using all sorts of material, old beer bottle tops being quite common in Myanmar. The guy with his back to camera is our boat driver.

We then stopped at a Myanmar cigar making place – now I know for a fact that Cuban cigars are rolled on the thighs of virgins so I was bitterly disappointed by this.

We had a further opportunity to share financially at a silver smith, but they were all lying about till the boat docked, leaped into action to make things, then all went back to drinking tea when it became obvious we were not spending any money – so, so much for cottage industry !

The package tour tourists got given nice umbrellas, we got to roast in the unrelenting sun, my cold did not improve! But I know where I would rather be.

After a lunch stop we went upriver to see an old temple site, the river was very cool, with a lot of buffalo cooling off and some wonderful bamboo weirs to manage the water level – my weir photos suck so you don’t see them.

We arrived in the village with the temple site which was surrounded by spending opportunities, I managed t make my way to a wonderful collection of very old stupas and was merrily snapping away when i got approached by a guy who demanded I pay to take photos. Apparently I had missed a sign saying I needed a photo pass, by this stage my snozz was a streaming mess, I had a monster headache and was no way paying to take photos. I said I would stop and he said I had taken some photos, so I walked over to him and deleted every photo in front to him and stormed off in a monster huff – and huge loss of face. He followed me all the way back to the boat. I was steaming (it was 36 degrees – everyone was steaming !) . I found this on the seat by the water – my only photo of the site- but fuck it, I am not paying to take photos – a tourist scam, bastards. 

I waited an hour for everyone else though, so more fool me, tough R n B joined me after 20 minutes so we got a good chat in. I did get a nice shot of some of the local women in this particular head dress (which I am sure has a name) but it is unique to this area.

Once the suckers who had paid their 60 cents to take photos (it was a matter of principal, no cost) had arrived back on the boat we head back down stream to the jumping cat monastery.  I had heard that the cats only jumped in the morning so I had told the boat driver that if there were no jumping cats then I was not paying any money… luckily there was one !

Though whether it was worth visiting or not is a mute point. The monastery has been teaching cats to jump through hoops for decades, well before it was a tourist thing, so I was not concerned about any weird animal cruelty thing. The monastery itself was quite interesting, some awesome Buddha and monk statues, but so badly lit it was impossible to take photos.

From the monastery we had a quick whip through the floating gardens – a vast vege patch built out of the lake – and where all the fertiliser goes, and then back out to the lake for an hour long ride back towards the canal for sunset. I was feeling so crap by this stage, nose streaming, sneezing and coughing all the way, no fun on a large uncovered canoe for 10 hours –  at least my hanky got to dry in the sun : )

We stopped at a great sunset spot and the local poser drifted past for some classic Inle Lake photos – I took a lot, posed, but hey I am not going to get them again – he drifted past for a collection and we were all happy to throw a few dollars in the pot.

Once we got back to the hotel, I crashed for a few hours while the others went for dinner and then I joined them for a beer later on.

Bagan to Inle Lake – really it’s not that far…

Day 78, Thursday 22 March 2012, Bagan to Inle Lake

You will be glad to know this post features no temples, but I still managed to make it a long one; which sums up the day I guess. One of those days I will remember for a while I suspect !

We were up at 6.15 to get ready for the 7 am bus and were wondering about breakfast when the breakfast guy knocked on our room door and asked if we would like him to make us some food, that was so awesome, most places wouldn’t bother – we said yes to coffee and he didn’t need to make eggs for us.

We were down in reception waiting for the bus to arrive to take us to Meiktila, a town about 4 hours away and the main junction point for buses going to Mandalay. We had to pay for a seat to Mandalay even though we got off less than halfway,  I am guessing that as soon as we were off the seat was resold to some one else. We were thinking – stupidly that this would be some sort of directi(ish) bus, but an utterly ridiculous thought, though there is only one road, we stopped everywhere and must have packed dozens of people on. At one point, when we were so full I though we would burst we stopped in a town and seven more people got on – from there we were obviously full as we stopped no more  I highly suspect the driver and ticket guy/spotter get paid for x number of people, I guess the legal limit, and anything else is a bonus, they do not give a shit about how many get on, and I guess for those in rural towns with no transport apart from these buses, this is how they normally travel.

The bus…  Are you loving the grungy unshaven look ? it is now 7 days later and the face has still not seen a blade, a new unshaven record. The heads up the centre of the shot are people sitting in the aisle seats, so yep – there is no aisle.

There were 7 or 8 people crammed in the stairwell…

Back to the spotter reference. As mentioned a few posts ago in Myanmar the cars are predominately right hand drive, which is fine in NZ where you drive on the left hand side (and Thailand where I guess vehicles come from), but in Myanmar they drive on the right. This puts the driver on the sidewalk side of the vehicle, which must suck big time if you want to overtake safely, which they generally do here,  but they love to overtake so they have a guy who stands on the left hand side and signals the driver when it is safe to move out into the middle of the road. The roads here are so narrow that any parked vehicle will force a moving vehicle on to the other side of the road. The spotters on these trucks must have one of the crappest jobs out – the roads are extremely dusty.

We stopped for breakfast under an hour into the journey (where I took the above photo), once on the way we went five minutes before stopping for gas, and to allow the driver to flirt with the gas girls, once under way again, we stopped to pick up more passengers and then broke down… seemed to be dirty gas as there was a lot of tools being used and a strong smell of fuel in the bus, I am assuming they were cleaning diesel filters. Under way after twenty minutes we stopped to pick up passengers – repeat….  though this was the last time. I suspect all bus drivers in Myanmar are mechanics at heart – though we got away lucky as you will see later in the day. (though lucky is erm yes interesting…)

After so many stops I lost count, we arrived in Meiktila, one hour late after five hours of the four hour bus ride. We were suppoed to be taken to the bus station but were unceremoniously dumped on the side of the road and vague finger pointing suggested which direction the bus station was in so we could make our way to find the bus to Nyaungshwe, the main town by Inle lake. Or at least to the junction at Shwenyaung which is the main town on the Shan highway, which is where the buses to Nyaungshwe stop and from there you get a taxi or pickup to the Nyaungshwe.

The road from Meiktila is the Shan Highway, lonely planet calls it a national disgrace. Given how crap some of the roads in Myanmar  are you can only imagine…  I may as well cover it now, as far as roads go, yes it was bad, it was so bad that all vehicles went slowly, which really makes it not so bad after all – if we had been doing Malaysian bus speeds on this road it would have been awful. As a notified highway it was bad though – very narrow, barely two car widths wide in most places so passing an oncoming truck or bus in the hills was slow or at least interesting, the road is very rough and in a few places just dirt and rock. However, there are a lot of road works going on so in a year it will be not as bad –  still bad, but not as bad ! I liked it as it is – at least it was slow – I would hate to be doing it at pace… Right,  back to the story (and another whisky)

The eight of us found our way to the Meiktila bus terminal only to discover there were no buses to Shwenyaung until tomorrow, however the kind gentleman could offer us a ride in the back of his truck – no seats, just a tray – we asked him how long and he said 7 hours. We laughed…. his second offer was a ride in a pickup.

The pickups are an extremely common form of public transport in Myanmar, we argued over price and availability of buses, but ended up facing the possibility that it was this or nothing (I am still not sure if we were conned or not, but the Burmese are pretty genuine, so I don’t think so, maybe on the price). We agreed on a price and foolishly thought it was just us going in the pickup, oh how naive we were ! Once we said yes, 3 burmese jumped onto the pick up and the 8 of us were left to find spots.  You can sort of see this grin on Mike’s face as he was thinking this is just silly, little did he (or we) know, silly got sillier and sillier…

We made it about 100 metres before the first stop where we picked up half a gear box, on the floor under our feet, and a massive bag of something on the roof. The second stop was to pick up 6 massive bails of something that went on the roof, plus a bunch of people.

Third stop saw a big bag of something, dumped under our feet and a person sitting on it….. stop, stop stop. We were soon under way with about 25 people on the vehicle. In NZ you would legally be allowed 2 – in the front – both wearing seatbelts.  The ride was still 7 hours…. The ute had 3 in the front, two rows of 4 each facing fwd in the back, 6/7 of us facing inwards in the back back, with 2 sitting on sacks/gearboxes in the middle and up to 4 standing on the tray and 5 on the roof…

The road was rough, dusty and dirty, we were crammed in, we let people off and more got on, we stopped for ciggies, for wees, for drinks (hopefully not the driver) and we stopped to allow the engine to cool. The good thing was it was slow, though my butt was killing me after a while, the padding was a layer of vinyl on wood. Bizarrely, once the inevitable was accepted, which didn’t take long, I actually enjoyed the ride, we saw a lot, we shared the travelling experience with numerous people, some quite intimately – if they were sitting in the middle, they were sitting on my feet, if they were standing on the tray then there crotch was in my face… The worst was the dust and the fumes, I had the start of a head cold and was blowing and coughing all the way and the dust just made it all worse. I was wearing a bandana over my nose and mouth cowboy styles for a chunk of the way – I wasn’t the only one…

The ride up the Shan hills took about 2 half hours, of slow grind, though the scenery was amazing, the villages, rural, but friendly . We stopped half way to allow the engine to cool down, parked next to a truck of chickens. The driver is hosing the engine, not urinating on it !

And a really broken down bus, –  that is the engine on the road side with the head off… I did say earlier our wee bus issues were minor compared to some.

There were loads of road works all the way up the hills which forced a lot of vehicles to share a single narrow lane, the drivers here are used to this type of driving so giving way and patience is part of their style – thank God ! apart from road rollers the road works are done by hand, rock breaking and laying, the heating of tar is done by road side fires and the tar is poured by hand – I would hate to see the lungs of these poor men, women and children. Sadly children are part of the workforce in the remote areas:( this is a hard hard life.

After 7 hours we arrived in Shwenyaung and got shifted to another pickup, where there was just the 6 of us (we lost 2 at a trekking town further back) and the last few kms were done at a good speed on a (my Myanmar standards) good road. It was dark by now and it was amazing to see the amount of fires burning all around, lots of burning off of corn and cane fields, the sky was alight in many directions.

13 hours after leaving Bagan we arrived in Nyaungshwe, we asked the pickup to drop us off at the Remember Inn where we had arranged to meet Giovanni who theoretically had arrived hours before us on the direct bus. Fortunately he had and they even knew who we were and had a room for us when arrived – awesome!

We unloaded our gear and I jumped straight into the shower in my shirt and undies in attempt to get the dust out (my shorts were too far gone!). After washing my shirt while it was still on my body I discovered I still had my non-waterproof money belt on, I so rarely use it that I had totally forgotten I had it on. Mucho swearing ensued, though luckily my passport was only damp around the edges, but all money was soaked – the room looked like a money laundry as I dried it out – I had close to 80 notes of various currencies – mostly worthless mind….

Once the passport panic was over Mike and I went for a wander around town and had Italian for dinner while my nose streamed nonstop.

Bed was a relief.

I am going to say, the new NZ passport with the silver fern on the front and back is the most distinctive passport out there, it utterly rocks for coolness – so well done NZ Passport designers – the coolest passport in the world.

I have washed that shirt 3 times and it is indelibly stained with dust of the Shan highway, I am not sure whether to keep it as a badge of honour or toss it in the bin as a dirty dusty relic, and to think that Nike shirt cost me at least $3 maybe even $4…

The temples of Bagan – day 3

Day 77, Wednesday 21 March 2012, Bagan

Back to using MS Word, not that I disliked BlogDesk, I just realised I lost my own original copy of the blog… I may go back to it yet.

Mike was feeling unwell this morning so we hung around the hotel for a while to see if things would improve, around mid-morning the power went out which knocked off the fan and air con, didn’t do much for Mike feeling lousy but was a good reason for me to go out. I had sort of arranged with Giovanni to ride out to Old Bagan with him, do a couple of the temples that neither of us  had seen and then go our separate ways.

Our first stop was LokaHteik Pann, one of the big temples on the way to Bagan.

This temple had steps right up the outside which was quite unusual for the area but great for the views…. A tour bus full of Burmese arrived as we were there, they were escorted to the top and back down again and back onto their bus, all quite normal tour bus behaviour.

When we got to the bottom I ventured off into one of the other buildings and found this stunning example of a reclining Buddha, probably 20 metres long, the Buddha was only lit by the three doorways it was just awesome and I cannot believe the tour group did not stop to see it. It was the most beautiful one I have seen in Myanmar.

Next was Sulameni Pagoda, which had been extensively repaired with assistance from the Korean government, and this was subtly noticeable in the site. We were here at mid-day again, which sucks photographically, but does mean very few other tourists and more time to look at the detail. This temple had some stunning art work inside, a lot of which was in original condition, or if it had been repaired it had been done very well – so maybe good on the Koreans for being subtle. I was faffing about admiring the art and taking photos and found Giovanni sitting around outside. I said how much I loved the murals, and he said “I am Italian, we have great murals” . I had to laugh, I guess when you are used to Michaelangelo , the works here are very crude…. plus a wall with 999 Buddhas is probably not that interesting !  I still loved it. (apologies, just saw that this image is wonky !! and i cannot be stuffed fixing it !)

We went our separate ways from here with Giovanni going back to the temples in Old Bagan and me heading out to the southern area. My first stop was Dhamma Yazika pagoda, which was an odd 5 sided pagoda built in 1196, quite different to the others in Bagan. It has also had extensive renovation and is quite well visited by local worshipers.

This was the most southern point on my travels and for me the last place that was ‘fun’.

[rant warning] I like temples, I mean I really do like them, not for any religious reason as I am a confirmed non-believer, but I like them as sacred places and respect their reason for being.  I like to spend time looking through them at my own pace, looking at what I can (I respect all the rules and never go across barriers) and in the order that takes my fancy, and often this is in the “wrong” order – but I don’t care. What pisses me off is being followed or ‘guided’ around the sites by souvenir touts, at the next temple I went to the ‘guide’ got quite annoyed as I was not going where he wanted nor at the pace he was dictating, I chose to stop and look out at the view, or look at the images that were ‘uninteresting”.  it got worse as I went around the southern temples so I rode off in a huff and it ruined my day. Well not really as it was still freaking awesome ! [end rant]

Stupidly I did not get the name of this white pagoda, but it is stunningly beautiful and you cannot get inside without the guide. This was the first locked pagoda I have come across in the 3 days of touring Bagan, I can understand why they are locked (sort of), the murals here are great and it appears few people come here. And I am sure the guide is trying to be helpful, but not speaking anything but Burmese and speaking through a mouthful of betel nut was next to useless. He also got grumpy as I was wandering at my own pace, but at least I could take photos…

I loved this nat image.

I left there a wee bit frustrated and rode off hoping to find some more obscure pagodas down the dirt roads.

I got to Nandamannya Pahto which had some stunning mural work, but this one I was not allowed to take photos, though the betel nut chewing incomprehensible guide was willing to sell me some art works showing the murals.

I just got the hump(not visibly – bad loss of face and offensive in SE Asia!) , got on my bike and rode back to the hostel.  I met an American guy who was heading in the opposite direction to me and he said it just got worse…. and damnit my bike was awesome all day !

I guess most of you (if you have made it this far – maybe not ! are sick of temple photos anyway)

I had a wee lie down and Mike was feeling a whole lot better for not going out today. Giovanni and I caught up again later on and went out for a final ride around town to look for a sunset, we headed down to the river and found these  monk trainees kicking a ball around at the back of the monastery.

Then went down to the river for sunset.

The three of us left reconvened for a final meal at Weatherspoons and I spoiled myself with a big burger – a massive protein hit. It was damn good… while we there we watched the owners kids  counting spaghetti sticks, we asked him why and he said he imports his spag from Italy, it was expensive so he wanted to make sure all his customers got the same amount per meal, rather one getting too much and another not enough. Awesome.

Giovanni was on the 5 am direct bus to Inle and Mike and I were on the indirect at 7.00 so it was an early night.

I loved Bagan !!!

Mt Popa

Day 75, Monday 19 March 2012, Bagan – Mt Popa

At dinner last night we discussed the possibility of joining Bob, Paulo and Giovanni on a trip to Mt Popa, about an hour and half drive from Bagan in a hired van. Mike and I decided to go ahead so agreed with Bob over breakfast. The total cost for the van was 35,000 Kyat and worth it split five ways, under $10 NZ a head.

Mt Popa is known for the Popa Taungkalat monastery on its peak and the the 37 nats (spirits) that live on the mountain. Me Wunna is the main nat.

The van left town with the five of us on board soon after 9.00 and we had a mandatory tourist stop (which wasn’t on our plan) at a jaggery making place. Jaggery is a sugar like substance made from the sap from the seed of a Toddy palm tree. It was actually quite interesting to see how it was all made using the primitive technology that is available to the Burmese villages where there is no electricity,this farm had sixty palm trees. They also make peanut oil from grinding peanuts using a bullock drive pestle and mortar and “whisky” which is basically pure fermented sugar alcohol.

Alcoholism is a big killer with young men frequently drinking themselves to death on the cheap locally produced fire water.

After our local tourism show we set off on the real journey to Mt Popa.

After an hour or so of driving and soon after we hit the low hills our driver stopped for us to take a photo of the view of Mt Popa and the temples. It was a wow moment  ! none of us had any idea of what to expect, i was thinking a monastery on a hill, but nothing like this. Another foggy/smoggy/dusty skyline, everyday in Myanmar was the same, it is the time of year, little wind and no rain to blow away the dust and the constant fires from burning off old cane and corn fields as well as the destruction of forests, cooking and dirty old cars.

Sadly it is ‘the” place to stop so the local villagers had the young girls out selling souvenirs, so sad they are not at school.

It was another half an hour to the temple entrance and there were a lot more tourists here than i expected, the whole village is geared towards tourists and there was a significant amount of industry around it, stair wipers, monkey shoo-ers, souvenir and water sellers etc etc.

Note the slingshot, used to deter the more aggressive monkeys.

The monastery is quite ordinary (by the regions standards !!) , but the walk up to the top was interesting, there are numerous stops on the way with descriptions of the life of Me Wunna and the various nats. Me Wunna is in the green.

The top had some semi-spectacular views (hazy again) and plenty of Buddha and monk statues. There was a MASSIVE amount of cash offerings in all the small temples – a guy with a gun and helicopter could be very rich ! 

We spent a couple of hours there and headed back down to the village.

Giovanni, Paulo, Bob and Mike.

Love this cow.

Obviously NZ farmers have been bullshitting us (pun intended) for years about how many acres are required per cattle beast !

Our driver was a bit miffed that we did not want to have lunch at the local restaurant, we assume he got some kickback. Bob had been to a great vegetarian place Yar Pyi in Old Bagan and wanted to go back there today. Our driver was initially reluctant to take us, but once the inevitable had sunk in he was OK with it, turns out Yar Pyi is owned by his uncle.

The food at Yar Pyi was great, most of the guys had the famous guacamole but i went for a pumpkin curry and it was very good. The owners family were great, very friendly and a bit of a laugh. They loved Bob as he had been there twice before and kept coming back with more people in tow. After lunch it was back to the hotel for a lie down and a clean up before dinner.

Dinner was back at the Weatherspoon again, I had my first salad since being in SE Asia and it was great!

Though this post may not inspire any potential visitors, if you are in Bagan and can get a crew together to take vehicle, it is definitely a worthwhile day trip, I did enjoy the day !

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Popa

Bagan – beautiful Bagan (day 1 of 3)

Day 74, Sunday 18 March 2012, Bagan

Ah, Bagan !  Bagan is what I have most wanted to see in Myanmar. The Bagan archaeological zone is approx 42 square km’s and contains over 3000 (yep three thousand, or 4400 depending on your source) stupas’ monasteries and temples dating back to the 1100’s. Angkor may contain big and impressive temples but Bagan has the volume, and oh how I loved them !

The plan for the day was to hire bicycles (1500 kyat (2 NZD) for a day), leave late morning and ride to New Bagan about 10km away and the furthest point from Nyaung U. At New Bagan we would check out some of the mid-range accommodation options and see if any had wifi (our hotel has no internet) or would be a good place to chill if we got sick of the Eden Hotel after the two nights we had booked for. We would then check out the temples etc on the way back and hit one of the biggies for sunset.

At the free breakfast – toast, egg and fruit I was chatting to Bob who I met last night and he was meeting an Italian guy he had met at Inle Lake who arrived in town yesterday, I asked him the Italians name and he said it was Paulo. I replied that I thought it might have been Giovanni (who I first met in KL and again 2 days ago in Mandalay) and he said that Paulo had just met with Giovanni and was meeting him again in town tonight, so we planned on all meeting up for dinner later –  a small world. Unfortunately breakfast pretty much went straight through me , so I was really hoping it was not a re-occurrence of last week.

I went and checked the internet shop again and the web was still out of action, damnit ! I wanted to email a few people and let them know what was happening in my week. I am so reliant on the web, so different to when I went to Europe in the eighties and it was all slow post and no one worried if they didn’t here from you for a few weeks.

Around 10.30 we went to the bike rental place over the road from the hotel and rented two (untrustworthy) steeds. I would call them girly bikes, but everyone rides them and the basket on the front is so much better than having a backpack sweating away on your back. The seat was way too low, it had one gear and virtually no brakes, but it was a bike and we were off exploring.

If you got bored with me going on about Angkor Wat, now would be a good time to stop reading, as this is all about temples, and I soooooo love the temples – and the buddhas and monks and nats and ogres and all the other bits and pieces associated with Myanmar’s Buddhism.

The first km was riding through the outskirts of town, past the villager’s houses and gardens, cows and chickens and pigs. It is very dry so not a lot of small greenery, though plenty of trees and as with most of SE Asia, lots of cafes, small restaurants and little shops selling all sorts of useful things. Out of town we started to see stupas and small pagodas on the road side. It is a six 6km ride to Old Bagan on the old road and there is plenty to see on the way, we had decided that we would focus on the further away sites today and come back tomorrow for the closer ones, so we just rode on past. The road was not pancake flat like I expected, with lots of small dips and rises and the surface was not too bad. Mike got his first flat tyre just outside of Old Bagan, fortunately bikes are very common here so there are numerous bike repair stands around the place, so we were soon back on the road after a valve replacement.

The archaeological museum is in Old Bagan, so we paid the $5 entry fee and took an hour or so to wander around the museum (relishing the air con) and learning about the things we will see today. It seems a lot of the carvings and features of the temples have been removed, either stolen or damaged or taken to museums for safe keeping. It was a useful trip as there is little or no information out in the field and my guidebook is next to useless for detail. The museum looks like it has been built at great expense by the government, which sucks when you see how little money the real people have 😦

Old Bagan used to just be called Bagan until 1990, when the government forced all the residents out of town and moved them to a new village – now called New Bagan, four kms down the road. Old Bagan is now full of resorts for rich people and package tour tourists as well as some of the big temples – hence the clean out…

The massive temple building effort in Bagan was started in 1044 when King Anawratha took the throne and embraced Buddhism. The building frenzy lasted 200 years until King Narathihapati bankrupted the city building Mingalazedi pagoda leaving the area vulnerable to invasion by Kublai Khan in 1287. The whole area was damaged in an earthquake in 1975. Sadly Mingalazedi, which is supposed to be beautiful inside is under renovation.

We carried on the ride to New Bagan, where we had lunch at the Green Elephant, it was a tourist place with inflated prices but we decided to eat there as we had not had decent  food for a few days and my stomach was not feeling that great. The food was very good too ! one of the great things in Myanmar is a lot of the restaurants give a gift of a small plate of fruit as a dessert, I ate a bit of the fruit but pretty much had to go straight to the loo again, I had a lot of fruit at breakfast as well so I am wondering if I am overdosing on fruit after a long period without it ? I was a bit worried that this was going to be the start of another four days of stomach illness, but fortunately it was the last real episode.

Outside the restaurant I found my first flat tyre of the day, so walked down the road  till we found a tyre repair man who pumped my tyre up and we rode around and looked at a couple of hostels. At the second hostel we visited my tyre was flat again so had a valve change and rode on some more, this time we managed to make it out of town and it was time to go sight see.

We stopped at numerous small pagodas during the day, a lot are empty of anything at all, most of the stupas had four Buddha figures inside and most of those are locked behind gates. There are a lot of great Buddha and monk statues to see though.

My wheels…

Lay Myet Hnar temple

The view from the roof. A lot of the pagodas have access to the roof, but the passages are small and tight and in some cases very easy to miss.

Dhammayangi temple

Some of the temple have remains of murals on the walls, a lot in a state of disrepair, which I like, in some cases touch up work has been completed which ruins the authenticity for me. The same applies to most of the large Buddha figures. This monk was part of a series of monks painted on the wall.

This temple was built in the mid 1100s and is one of the biggest temples in the area, the inner part of the temple was blocked soon after it was built, but we could walk around two external passageways.  I found a sneaky passage way to an upper window and shot a few photos of the view.

The big temples close to the villages where the roads are sealed and in reasonable condition draw all the package tour tourists and late in the day is when they all come out. Like some pre-dusk vampire hoard they magically appear and suck all the vitality out of the sites, luckily they only seem to stay for a few minutes – or maybe the light is just too much for them. This is why I suffer the heat of the day. (Mum – sorry !!!)

Ananda Paya

This is supposed to be the most beautiful temple in Bagan, but frankly I found it dull. It had been extensively renovated and all the small figures were behind bars. It is possibly the most beautiful on the package tour trips, but i found some stunningly preserved sites out in the field over the next few days.

There was very little mural work., but it was in original condition and hard to find, it is lucky I like poking my nose into all the doorways and walkways….

What was cool was the inner wall was lined with indented shelves, presumably with Buddha figures, right up to the ceiling five or six metres up.

When we left Ananda I found I had another flat tyre, which I had pumped up at the place Mike had his flat repaired earlier in the day. We were originally planning on going to one of the big temples and getting to the roof with the horrible herds for some photos, but the sunset looked like it was going to be as dire as every other day in Myanmar and with the constant flat tyres and a six km ride between towns we decided to head back before nightfall and check some of the small temples on the way.

At the Upalithein Monastery

Mike found he too had another flat tyre so started walking towards town and I rode ahead and stopped to take photos along the way. After stopping to at my final temple I had a flat front tyre this time so ended up walking with Mike back into town. It was a looong 3km…

We got back later than expected so had a quick shower as we were meeting Bob for dinner, we  walked way the heck out to the small Weather Spoon cafe where we had an excellent meal and a couple of well earned beers with Aussie Bob and Italian Paulo. The cafe had slow and sporadic internet and I managed to get one email and one facebook posting away before giving up !

On the way back I was drawn into one of the local cafes to watch the end of the Chelsea / Leicester City FA cup tie, they LOVE their football here.

Surprisingly after a warm day of riding and walking I felt good. The weather here is not as hot as elsewhere and definitely not as humid as Cambodia.

Did I love the day – yes I did !

The last of the prepared posts, back to writing and some photo editing now !

The boat from Mandalay to Bagan

Day 73, Saturday 17 March 2012 , Mandalay to Bagan

Up early, no internet again, I found out that the connection was in the hotel owner’s house and he doesn’t turn it on until 8.00 AM, we left at 7.15.

Today we caught the fast tourist boat to the town of Bagan down the Ayeyarwady River, a theoretical six hour ride that took eight. The boat was great, big and half full with a small, but expensive cafe and definitely priced so that only tourists could afford it at $40US a ride.  It was a lot more expensive and slightly faster than the bus, but a whole lot nicer I suspect.

The morning was very glarey again so the early photos are quite washed out. Stupidly I did not get a photo of our boat, but I suspect the one below is one of the slow ones.

And this fishing boat should not be on the water at all.

As we passed Saigang we saw a few of the things we missed when we only did the quick stop yesterday, there was some nice colonial buildings near the water front.

This is the dry season so the river is incredibly low, small communities move down onto the sand to fish and have easy access to water. Thatched huts with no power or water are common throughout the parts of Myanmar that we travelled.

The ride was long and uneventful (thankfully) though it was far from boring, lots to see from the side was we made our way down the, not so beautiful, Ayeyarwady River to Bagan.  

This lady was selling snack food from another boat when we pulled in to pick up a river pilot for a section of the river. You will see on her face a white/yellow paste, this is called Thanakha and is on most women’s, a lot of children’s and some men’s faces, throughout Mynamar. It is part make-up, part skin freshener and part sun block. I would suggest this woman is using it as a sun block as normally it is only applied to the cheeks and forward. it is an old tradition in Myanmar and one that has thankfully not died. Thanakha is made from the ground up root and bark of (I am assuming) the Thanakha tree… 

The sun was setting just as we arrived in town.

We had not arranged any accommodation as there is a vast array in the three large villages that make up the Bagan region, Nyaung U is the budget village, Old Bagan, the resort village and New Bagan is the mid range. The boat docked at Nyaung U so we decided to try there first.

Once on dry land we encountered the usual manic state of dozens of cab, motorbike and tri-shaw drivers trying to sell us their services or suggest a hostel. I got a bit ticked off with them as i tried to consult the guide book on hotel names. Naturally the one I chose happened to be owned by the uncle of one of the tri-shaws so we ended up with him and his friend transporting us, via the archaeological site ticket office ($10US for a week) to the Eden Hotel. The hotel is cheapish, reasonably comfortable so we decided to stay. My pack on the back of the tri-shaw.

We had dinner in a cheap Myanmar/Chinese place up the road (we found way better eats the next day) and then went to the internet shop, where the internet was apparently broken. I found the cheapest beer in Myanmar (Andaman Gold), so grabbed a couple of very cold cans and went back to the hostel. Outside our room I ran into Bob an Aussie of similar age to me who is living in China, we chatted for a while and I shared a beer.

And that was the end of a reasonably enjoyable day, as a means of transport I have enjoyed the boats I have caught.

Mandalay – 3 ancient cities tour

Day 72, Friday 16 March 2012, Mandalay

Yesterday we booked a car to take us on the ‘3 cities’ tour, it is a well worn tourist route that takes in three ancient cities that are near Mandalay. There is limited public transport available to tourists and this just seems to be the only way to get out of the city to see the sites when you do not have much time. It was just over $30 for the day for the car so not unreasonable. Jacqueline, who we met in Yangon joined us for the day as well so the cost between three was good.

The car was a small, old, Mazda ute and we sat on a couple of bench seats facing inwards in the back. I like travelling out in the open, though the dust and fumes got to us by the end of the day. We left the hotel at 8.30 into the tail end of rush hour, the roads in Mandalay are not as wide as those in central Yangon so there was a lot more traffic, mixed in with the scooters and the usual lack of any traffic control at intersections and it was a noisy stop start ride to the edge of town. It appears that Mandalay has every type of transport available to man, horse and cow drawn carts, cars, bikes, buses and trucks, all fully laden. I particularly love these small trucks and have yet to see them elsewhere, they are very loud, slow and belch out masses of dirty black smoke. I have seen a number of Toyota Hiace trucks with these engines bolted on to the front.

The main road out of town has been fortunately split into two separate roads, one for each direction, so reasonably safe, given the way they drive. On the way to Sagaing we hit a traffic snarl up, after a while I took a peek round the side of the ute and was staring at the bum of an elephant in a truck, not something I see every day !

The first stop was Sagaing Hill, sadly our driver had lousy English so we didn’t get any explanation about things during the day and I don’t think we got to see much outside of the big attractions. As we were walking around yesterday we were offered day tours from a number of people who had excellent English, but we had already booked through the hotel so had to turn them down. Next time I will wait and make better informed decisions.

I could have spent a day in Sagaing alone, the area has over 500 temples and stupas all seemingly connected by vast covered walkways up and down the small hills. Sadly, as it has been everywhere in Myanmar, the sky was foggy/dusty/smoggy so there was limited view and the glare really made photography tough. Like the other large stupas in Myanmar the main stupa on the hill is layered in gold leaf. 

Around all around Myanmar are these drink stations (I am not willing to try them) . I am quite fascinated by them, not sure why as they are mostly the same and quite simple, I will do a photo post of them at some stage.

From the hill we had the driver drop us off at the start  of the Ava Bridge, which crosses the Ayeyarwady river (Irrawady) and we walked over to the other side, with me stopping for photos along the way. Bizarrely the walkway over the bridge was infested with small moths, thousands of them, not something I have seen anywhere else. The Ayeywady runs pretty much north to south through central Myanmar and is the key source of transport and water for many people.

The next stop was the ‘island’ of  Inwa, largely cut off from the mainland, by the river and canals the island held the Burmese capital of and on for four centuries from the mid 1300s ,  but few remains of this exist, parts of the palace wall and one tower are all that are viewable.

[rant warning] I really liked the things we saw today, would loved to have spent more time exploring all the places we visited, and much more around Mandalay, but from Inwa till bed time I was very frustrated by unexpected costs. I didn’t realise you had to get a boat to Inwa (I didn’t know it was an island before we left, should have read more), so the boat was an extra expense for the day, it wasn’t much but by the end of the day we had shelled out a bit here and a bit there and I pretty much spent three times my daily allowance. Hopefully this will not haunt me later in the trip as the budget was tight and I cannot get more money as there are no ATM’s. Inwa was also the start of Siem Reap size hassle by children (and adults) trying to sell souvenirs, they are persistent and annoying. [rant over]

The boat ride was a couple of hundred metres and once on the other side we found we had to take a horse and cart ride around the sites (it was further than we thought – ignorance strikes again) this was a further $10 for the three of us. Again our guide spoke no English so I have no idea about the first stupa was stopped at as it was not in the book. The ogre motif is not something I have seen anywhere else in SE Asia.

Some extremely shoddy repair work had been done on some of the stupas here, it was a real shame as a lot of it is unnecessary, it wasn’t needed for safety reasons, and it was appallingly and slightly randomly done. I am glad this Buddha had not been touched as I liked the state of disrepair.

We made our way to Bagaya Kyaung a teak monastery from the mid 1800’s, which is still being used as a school. Here we had to pay $10 each for a week long pass to visit all the old sites around Mandalay, an expense I was anticipating. The monastery was bare but fascinating, the external carvings being quite weathered. The Buddha inside was a lovely alabaster creation, but too dark too photograph.

The monastery had a small working school inside, I am not sure if this was for the benefit of the tourists or not. Don’t get me wrong seeing kids in school was a great thing as most do not seem to go at all, so any education is good, but the monk was just sitting there while the kids did their thing.

[edit] At breakfast on our last day in Myanmar I was talking to an American volunteer teacher who said that school is mandatory in Myanmar, and most kids go, maybe she hasn’t been to Inwa or maybe the school day is short and kids go in shifts as is the case elsewhere in Asia. I was pondering a post on ‘well meaning’ christian teachers after listening to a couple at the airport in Yangon as I was leaving the country, but I wont as I may offend. [end edit]

The next pagoda we stopped was mostly collapsed but had a very nice, weathered Buddha figure with a monk on each side. I haven’t seen this style, I particularly liked the peaceful expression on the kneeling monks faces.

The royal palace watch tower was built in 1822 and is virtually all that remains within the palace walls, the tower was badly damaged in an earthquake in 1838 and has been partly restored the view from the top was pretty good (though of course hazy !) and we got to share the space with some young girls trying to sell us post cards, we didn’t stay long. The tower is on an angle and is known as ‘the leaning tower of inwa’.

The final stop on Inwa was the Maha Aung Me Bonzan monastry, which was started in 1822.

After the monastery it was back in the boat and back to the mainland, where we pretty much were forced to stop and buy lunch at the local cafe for about twice normal prices. The food was BAD, so we were not entirely amused. At lunch I  ran into Giovanni, the Italian guy I did the night visit to the Thaipusam festival in Kuala Lumpur with back in Feb. It was good to catch up. [edit] and the first of many catch-ups!

From Inwa we went to Amarapura and for the me the highlight of the day [edit] maybe of all Myanmar[end edit] – U Bein’s bridge. This is the world’s longest teak bridge at 1.2km, during the rainy season the river is almost to the bridge – there must be a huge amount of water going through.

We arrived too early for sunset so we took a leisurely walk across the bridge and visited a small temple on the far side, we then took a slower stroll back. In theory we should have spent more money and hired a boat to row us out into the river to take photos of the sunset over the bridge. Instead we walked down some steps to a sand bank in the river and hung out there until the sun set, which was entirely unspectacular. Giovanni joined us here for an hour. (and I run into him again in a couple of days). I loved the bridge and had a good time on the river bank taking photos of the people walking across.

I was desperate to get a good monk shot here and I was rewarded with a few.

After the sunset over the bridge it was a dirty, dusty, fumey, eye watering ride back to the hostel. Jacqueline and I had decided to meet with some others from her hostel to go and see the Moustache Brothers political cabaret show. So it was a quick shower and out down to her hostel to get a cab to the show. We were expecting normal cheap SE Asia prices but we were told it would be $10 return and no negotiating. We told the driver no and went and found another driver who said the same thing – i suspect a rort, the ride is about 4kms, and basically it is the only way there. I would feel safe(ish) walking the streets of Mandalay, well safe from being robbed, but there are no sidewalks, a lot of the cars and bikes have no lights running and the air is foul, so we took the cab.

The beer at the cafe next to the show was twice the price of beer at the hotel, but we had a local guy with us so paid a normal price for beer and some snacks. The show also cost $10, which was more than it was worth and way more than we all expected, I had to borrow a couple of thousand kyat (pronounced chat) from Jacqueline as I didn’t have enough money on me. The show was interesting I suppose a mix of political jokes (the govt.  Does not like burglars as it doesn’t want the competition) comment on their past and a song and dance show showing Burmese dress styles (weird)…. The Moustache brothers have been doing the show for many years and have been arrested a couple of times, in 1996 they were sentenced to six years hard labour for dissent after a show at Aung San Su Kyi’s house. They are only allowed to perform the show  in their house and in English, which they do nightly – it was funny in parts and weird in others, regrettably I did not think to take my camera.

Internet was off when I got back to the hostel.

The text was written at the time, but not posted till 12 days later due WordPress being blocked in most of Myanmar, and slow internet where it wasn’t. I have noted where I changed from the original.

Mandalay

Day 71, Thursday 15 March 2012, Mandalay

Mandalay, Mandalay.

I have always been an avid reader, as a child and young adult I was drawn to novels of adventure and mystery and there are certain place names that even now send a small shiver of expectation of adventure up my spine. Mandalay is one of those places names.

Up at 5.00 am for a 5.15 taxi to Yangon airport. This was probably the crustiest taxi we have had and the driver certainly had a touch of the formula one driver about him, his intent was to pass everybody on the road and not allow anyone to pass him, it was a fairly fast ride to the airport. Check in was as manual as the ticket purchase, but at least it was straightforward. There was a lot of people in the airport, I am guessing that to save costs they maybe only open the airport for certain periods ? A lot of flights went out at a similar time to us.

The flight left 15 minutes early ! I guess when everyone is on you may as well go. The plane was an ATR prop jet, it was about half full. It was a full service flight so we had coffee and a croissant and a free newspaper. Great flight but the visibility was appalling and I didn’t get to see much, so I read the paper and caught up on Myanmar news.

We arrived in Mandalay at 8.00 and took a mini-van to town, the mini-van seems to be the  only choice to get there, accept maybe tour buses. Cost for the mini-van was 4000 kyat each (about $5) for the forty five minute drive, and we were taken to the hostel we wanted to go to. Which was full…. Bugger. Luckily there were a few others in the immediate vicinity so we wandered up the road to the Nylon Guest house, which turned out to be pretty good and better value than The Winner Inn in Yangon, it did have wifi, but it was sporadic at best. The view from the room.

We took a small walk around the immediate area. Mandalay is not like I expected, given it is a famous SE Asian city and the capital of Burma for many years. We were in a fairly central area and the city is quite run down, even in comparison to Yangon, it is very dusty and the pollution from the cars is eye watering. Unlike Yangon motorcycles are allowed in town, and like everywhere else in Asia, road rules just do not apply to motorcycles.

We stopped at the Rainbow restaurant for lunch, which was pretty good, washed down with a couple of Myanmar beers, which was even better. There was a lot of locals drinking beer and whisky for lunch.

Myanmar is famous for its  red splattered streets, betel nut chewing is very common here and not something I have seen anywhere else is SE Asia, reminds me of Papua New Guinea. The local people in the bar, both men and women had red stained lips and teeth. Given the lack of dental care and hygiene in Myanmar, the staining really made the mouths of some of the people we met quite unpleasant looking.

We had a bit  of a rest after lunch and mid afternoon started on a walk to and around the royal palace walls and on to Mandalay Hill. The hill houses a few stupas and is the single high point in Mandalay and supposedly offers great views.

We planned on walking around the Royal Palace walls, which are approximately 2kms each side.

The walk was long and hot and after a couple of km’s a trishaw ( bicycle with a small side car) rider came past and offered us a ride, it was on my list of things to do so we took it to Mandalay Hill. I am glad we did, the walk was a lot further than I expected !

The trishaw was a bit more expensive than I would have liked, and this really proved to be the case throughout Mandalay – I suspect there was some price fixing between the providers as there was no bargaining and taxi’s were twice the price of Yangon – and five times the price of elsewhere in SE Asia. By the time we left the city we were pretty unhappy with the gouging as were most other backpackers we spoke to.

The Hill was pretty good though there was no view at all due to, according to a local man we spoke to “fog”,  it tasted like smog to me, but he said there was no smog in Mandalay as the was no industry… There were numerous Pagoda up the hill and I had enjoyable walk snapping photos on the way.

Apparently Buddha stood here and pointed down from the hill and prophesied a great city would be built here in 1857, which was when the king Mindon Min moved the capital to Mandalay and built the palace.

A number of people live on the hill, selling souvenirs and drinks to tourists, Mike and I bought a couple of sketches of Myanmar scenes from on vendor. Myanmar is a lot like Cambodia and Borneo, the lack of good infrastructure and a rather lax attitude to rubbish disposal means there is rubbish everywhere.  Mandalay Hill, which is the prime tourist attraction in Mandalay is covered in trash, everywhere you look off the path to the summit is covered in rubbish.

After the disappointment of a lack of view from the top of the hill and there being no chance of a good sunset we walked back down again and I took a few photos of the setting sun, through the “fog” over the moat of the grand palace. On the way down we stopped to chat to an Burmese English teacher who said he had been a political activist and had fled Myanmar to Thailand a few years ago and had just come back now things were changing. We had an interesting and slightly cagey chat about politics and life in Mandalay for a while. We all hoped for some good news on the by-elections on April 1.

We then took a motorcycle each back to the hotel and went out to the  Lashiolay restaurant, a Lonely Planet recommendation for a fairly good Shan meal and a couple of beers. The local food is heavily influenced by India so is quite spicy. We had a couple of chicken dishes, a spicy potato and a vege dish with rice. The food was OK, the quality of the vegetables here is considerably lower than elsewhere I have been,  so though the food is well prepared and cooked and tasty enough the meals are not great – not anyone’s fault of course. I am also very cautious of the chicken as nothing seems to get wasted here….

After dinner I was pretty whacked so back to the hotel, for what was the best shower in SE Asia, as the internet was down it was an early night.

Stupored after the stupa

Day 69, Tuesday 13 March 2012, Yangon.

very slow internet, so not many photos… but Myanmar is a big yay so far 🙂

I had a pretty average sleep, while the room is quite nice it only has internal facing windows and these are on to a lit hallway, while the curtains and frosting provide privacy they do not block the light – and my bed was right next to them. The hotel is also quite noisy so going to have to take a pill tonight. I am not sure of the status of my stomach, it is quite tender this morning, could be due to emptiness, could be due to one of these last night but who knows – will test and see.

The hotel provides a simple free breakfast, i had scrambled eggs and toast and soon after that we went out for the days mission. Go to Air Mandalay and get seats to Mandalay, change money and visit the Shwedagon Paya.

Through good fortune rather than good planning Air Mandalay’s offices are situated almost between the hotel and the paya and a 15 minute walk from the hotel. After setting off, at my instance, in the wrong direction, we soon realised our mistake and turned round and headed back the way we had come. It was an interesting walk to the office, the guide book says the footpaths are a mess in Yangon, but in this section of town the footpath had been recently replaced and was smooth as silk. As i mentioned last night, the roads are wide and clean, the buildings around are mostly ‘western’ in design and I could easily be walking down a street in Auckland.

The first sign that things are behind the times here was at the air Mandalay office, Air Mandalay is one of a few small local airlines plying the local Myanmar routes, apparently it is not owned by the government so by buying tickets we are not directly supporting the regime – I will post on this separately.  Anyway, the tickets were hand written, there is no ticket machine, the confirmation that seats were available was done by phone and we had to pay cash, I think I mentioned yesterday, no credit cards in Myanmar…

On the subject of cash….

I had read a lot about changing money in Myanmar, in guide books, forums and blogs and all have the same story, yet there is always that doubting she will be right attitude that you take when you go.

A few places will change money, apparently the legitimate places, such as banks and the airport (it was closed when we were there) now offer a rate close to the official rate, before you had to use street money changes to get a good deal – with the associated risk of being ripped off. And there are a LOT of stories of people being ripped off, no matter how closely the exchange was followed.

You can only change US Dollars, I read a couple of posts about people managing to change a few Euros, though they got really really bad rates, and it took them a while to find someone to change it.

The USD have to be immaculate, – no folds, no tears, no marks, they must be near new, old bills are no good (even if they are immaculate !).

Big bills get better rates ! you will get more kyat for 1 $100 bill than 10 $10’s….

So those are the rules…

We handed the Air Mandalay clerk are money $105 each (a massively expensive trip but will save us a day). As we were paying in USD rather than use a precious $100 we used a mix of $20’s and $10’s. The clerk went through all the bills and rejected 3 $20s and a $10 saying the bank would not accept them, we couldn’t see what the difference was with some of the others, but changed them for other bills from our wallets and these seemed to work. We also had to pay a further $3 fee for the airport and again 2 of $1 bills were no good… I used 10 and got us some Kyat (local currency ) in change as we needed some anyway.  First mission completed.

Second was to visit Shwedagon Paya.  The main Zedi (stupa) is 98 metres tall and is layered in a rumoured 55 tonnes of gold leaf and is incrusted with 5000 diamonds and 2000 other precious stones. The paya can be seen from just about everywhere in Yangon and is central to Burmese Buddhists faith.

The paya is certainly impressive ! started 2500 years ago it has been added to over the years and is quite large. Unfortunately it was late morning when we arrived and sun was blasting down on the reflective tiled ground so it was quite warm.   I took a lot of photos but will only upload a couple here due to bandwith, I may do a bulk Myanmar upload to Flickr later on.

After the Paya we set off to walk into down town, it was a couple of kilometres away down a hot wide road, but it gave us an opportunity to see some more of the place. We were looking for a bank to change our money and after an hour or so of walking around in the heat I was pretty gone, my back was aching badly and I had tanked energy wise, so we ended up getting a taxi back to the hotel with the aim to get a cab directly to a bank in the morning. Another sign we are not in the real SE Asia, no scooters in Yangon – and now this – how will they drive !!!

I spent most of the afternoon lying down and pouring water in to my mouth, I was feeling very average and think I got a touch of sun stroke, was hot and achy and very tired.

We watched a few bad movies on TV, ate some food, I had a chicken cashew, my first non-western food in a few days. Now my stomach appears to have settled i can back to trying local foods again : )

I popped painkillers, Imodium and half a sleeping pill and hit the pillow at 10.30, hoping for a good sleep..