Krabi Cliffs

Friday Photo Diary – 18th March

Every Friday I’ll be writing a post with where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to that week, and include my favourite five photos.

 

Last Saturday I started the tedious two day journey back to Yangon from Hsipaw in the eastern Shan state. Starting early, I boarded the once daily train back over the Goteik Viaduct, arriving in Pyin Oo Lwin by late afternoon. From here I was advised to take a bus back to Mandalay, which would shave three or four hours off my travel time. Finding a tuk tuk to take me to the local bus station proved difficult, but after some heavy negotiations we agreed a price of just less than $1. Assuming that the drive would be just a short distance (Pyin Oo Lwin is a relatively small town) I was surprised to realise twenty minutes later, and having checked Google Maps, that I was several miles out of the town and on my way towards Mandalay. Could it be that I’d negotiated a $1 ride all the way to the city? Two and a half, rather bumpy, hours later and the answer was apparently, yes.

 

After a very brief nights sleep in Mandalay, I boarded another train south to Yangon, departing at 6am. This is one journey where travelling first class does not give any more comfort above lower, and I spent the entire ride wishing I’d paid for an $80 flight instead. Fifteen hours in a carriage which I doubted the temperature dropped below 40 degrees, and I eventually found myself in a luxury airport hotel in Yangon, for the short six hours before my flight out of Burma.

 

After an emotional goodbye to a country that I couldn’t help but fall in love with, and I was back in Bangkok once again – my eighth time in the capital. Reunited with Jeni, we spent the next two days shopping, eating and drinking gin (almost impossible to source in Burma).

 

On Wednesday the two of us took a far more comfortable Thai train from Bangkok down to Surat Thani, travelling overnight in an air-conditioned sleeper carriage, and from there a short bus ride to Krabi town; the starting point of our Thai island hopping.

 

Today we left the comforts of our hotel swimming pool, and explored the number one local attraction – Tiger Cave Temple, or Wat Tham Seua. After a very sweaty climb up 1,237 uneven steps, we made it to the top and were rewarded with incredible views over Krabi’s landscapes; karst cliffs, crystal-blue rivers and green plantations.

 

I also got to try out my new camera, an Asian version of GoPro I purchased in Bangkok – see if you can guess which photo was taken using it!
Here are my favourite five for the week:

Goteik Viaduct

Goteik Viaduct

Krabi

Krabi

Temple details

Temple details

View from Tiger Cave Temple

View from Tiger Cave Temple

Pyin Oo Lwin

Friday Photo Diary – 11th March

Every Friday I’ll be writing a post with where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to that week, and include my favourite five photos.

 

Apologies for my absence the past two or three weeks; wifi connection in Burma has been an issue, along with other excuses I won’t bore you with.

 

Last Friday I departed Inle Lake, where I’d just finished a beautiful two day trek around the Shan state from Kalaw. Arriving into Mandalay by minibus, the last royal capital of Burma, I had nothing planned other than a few days of R&R.

 

On Monday, my final day in Mandalay, I took a taxi to the nearby town of Amarapura to watch the sun set over U Bein bridge. Believed to be the longest and oldest teakwood bridge in the world, U Bein bridge is busiest at sunset, when locals and tourists gather to admire the scenery around Taungthaman Lake. Whilst there I was joined by three monks who wanted their photo taken with me – much to my delight, as monks generally don’t talk to foreign women.

 

Early the following morning (4am) I boarded a train northeast to Pyin Oo Lwin, a hill station and the former summer capital under British rule. I travelled ‘ ordinary’ class, or lower class, and was seated on a hard wooden bench in a mosquito-filled carriage for the four hour journey.

 

Pyin Oo Lwin was a literal breath of fresh air, in comparison to other towns and cities I’ve visited in Burma so far. Immensely clean (no litter), green and full of brick, colonial buildings, it appeared to have been dropped there straight out of 1900s England. A horse and carriage was waiting for me on arrival to take me to my British-built guesthouse.

 

Later that day my driver turned up to show me around town in the same carriage, an 1885 Indian-built wooden wagon. He took me to see various British colonial buildings, including Candacraig Hotel and a school, and to the Botanical Gardens, which were full of roses and pansies, and a lake of swans!

 

On Wednesday I boarded the train once again, this time ensuring I secured an upper class seat. The seven hour train ride between Pyin Oo Lwin and Hsipaw, my next destination, is named as one of Burma’s highlights and is also written about in Paul Theroux’ book ‘The Great Railway Bazaar’. The reason for this, other than the gorgeous Shan countryside it travels through, is that the train crosses the Goteik Viaduct, which when built in 1900, was the longest railway trestle in the world.

 

After a couple of days relaxing in Hsipaw, I have a two days of non-stop train and bus travel to get back to Yangon in time to fly to Bangkok on Monday. Here I will reunite with Jeni and continue our travels south through Thailand and into Malaysia.
Here are my favourite five for the week:

 

onks at U Bein bridge

Monks at U Bein bridge

Pyin Oo Lwin Botanical Gardens

Pyin Oo Lwin Botanical Gardens

Pyin Oo Lwin taxi

Pyin Oo Lwin taxi

Goteik Viaduct

Goteik Viaduct

Sunset at U Bein bridge

Sunset at U Bein bridge

Burma weaving

Friday Photo Diary – 19th February

Every Friday I’ll be writing a post with where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to that week, and include my favourite five photos.

 

This week I finally made it into Burma! Burma (or Myanmar, as it is officially known) has long been at the top of my Asia travel list, and I’m incredibly excited to be at the beginning of a four week journey here.

 

After leaving Jeni in Luang Prabang, Laos, last week, I made my way to the bus station to board my 20+ hour bus over to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. Unfortunately I realised upon checking in that the agency I’d used to purchase my bus ticket had not booked my seat and so, after a frustrated phone call and some persuasion on my part, I ended up on a wooden stool next to the driver. This was obviously not ideal for an overnight journey. Thankfully not long after departure a local gentleman offered to exchange seats with me so that I could get some rest; I’m not sure I’ve ever been so grateful as I settled in for the night without too many further interruptions.

 

Arriving in Chiang Mai some 23 hours later, I’d set aside a day or two to catch up with a friend from home, and as he works with one of the minority tribes in Burma I also gained valuable information for my upcoming trip.

 

On Tuesday morning I made the final part of my journey into Burma by taking a six hour bus south to Mae Sot, where luck would have it, I met up with our Swedish trekking companions, Martin and Oliver, who were crossing the border that afternoon also. The crossing itself was far quicker and easier than I’d anticipated; after getting stamped out of Thailand it was a five or so minute walk over the friendship bridge to the Burmese border control in Myawaddy. Here we were ushered past a queue of locals into the ‘foreigners office’ where forms were completed and photos taken and we were back outside ten minutes later.

 

It was during the entry process that we met a chatty and near-fluent (in English) Burmese man who afterwards took us to a money changing counter and then helped locate our guesthouse. The cheapest rooms available in town were $18 each – a huge increase from the prices I’d paid in other countries, and definitely not a step up in quality – this provided a tile-covered room of 3m x 3m, with no window, a small bed and fan, and shared squat toilet and cold water shower facilities. This didn’t deter me much; I’d set my accommodation expectations fairly low and after all, it was only one night.

 

Early the following morning I was awoken by my self-appointed guide from the previous day. I’d mentioned to him that I’d be taking a bus to Mawlaymine that day – and at 8am he was waiting for me with a car to take me there along with two other travellers who’d crossed the border that morning. After a rushed pack and no time to shower or breakfast, we were on our way!

 

We travelled ‘family’ style; the car seats taken out and four of us led out in the back for the bumpy five hour drive, stopping regularly (every ten or so minutes) for bribe money to be given to various characters – some military, some villagers. Breakfast was, to my delight, dhal curry and roti.

 

In Mawlaymine I checked into Breeze Guesthouse, a busy and friendly-run place with cell-like rooms, free breakfast and hot showers. To my amazement I found a cafe across the street which not only had great wifi (something I wasn’t sure I’d find until Yangon), but also served coke floats and potato smileys; triggering wonderful memories of childhood treats.

 

Yesterday I booked onto a group trip to Ogre Island (Bilu Kyun), just across the river from Mawlaymine. Ogre Island got its name from a local legend that the villagers there ate young men and consequently became ugly! The trip was a perfect introduction to Burmese village life, starting with an invite to a rare celebration, visits to a variety of family craftsmen and ending with a swim in a local bathing pool.

 

Burma so far has been incredible; the food is delicious, the scenery beautiful and the people are the warmest and friendliest I’ve come across. Just now as I’m writing this a truck of school children has pulled up and they’re all waving and vying for my attention – teacher included.

 

Here are my favourite five:

 

Mon household, Ogre Island

Mon household, Ogre Island

Sleeping cat on Ogre Island

Sleeping cat on Ogre Island

Bilu Kyun countryside

Bilu Kyun countryside

Weaving, Ogre Island

Weaving, Ogre Island

Rubber Factory, Ogre Island

Rubber Factory, Ogre Island