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The time stopped in Burma / V Barme sa zastavil cas

We followed the steps of Rudyard Kiplings' poem from the 1890s and made our way on the road to Mandalay. / Ako Rudyard Kipling napisal pred 120 rokmi, aj my sme sa vydali na cestu do Mandalay.

rain 28 °C
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by ZZ

Burma, officially The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, was one of our top destinations. 50 years of military dictatorship and international embargo isolated the country from western influence. The result is authenticity rare to find even in Asia. Maybe our expectations were too romantic and we forgot that the junta also caused famine and poverty, and that Burma is still one of the poorest countries in the world. Surprisingly our bank cards worked well and we were able to withdraw money in Bagan as well as in Mandalay.

There aren't many countries where one sees at the airport already that something's different. When landing, we didn't see any lights. Just trees, rice fields, swamps. "Is this really Yangon, the commercial heart of the country with 4 million inhabitants?" In the arrivals, we only see men in long skirts called "longhi" with bloody red mouths. One of them smooches at us, he's got a piece of paper with my name on it. We get on his car. It has the steering wheel on the right side but also drives on the right side of the road. A look around reveals that this is a standard here. Alright, this is going to be a lot of fun...

It's raining in Yangon. Our hostel room is stylishly decorated with tiles and we feel like in a bathroom. The roof glitters like a disco ball. It doesn't matter, we tell ourselves, we'll be out all day anyway. It's raining the next day again. As soon as it stops, we set off for a walking tour around the colonial area. Little changed since the British left the city, indeed. The buildings are worn off, there's no one to repair them. Some side lanes are covered with rubbish and we try not to upset any of the street dogs. After a while we find shelter in the legendary Strand hotel, that once hosted names like George Orwell or Rudyard Kipling. It starts raining again and we run to our hostel. When it stops, we take a taxi to the most important religious site of the country, Shwedagon paya. And THAT takes our breath away. The golden 'zedi', almost 100 meters high and surrounded by countless smaller shrines, transmits an otherworldly atmosphere. We sit down to soak in the spirituality of the place and to observe the golden glamour at sunset. It starts raining again and doesn't stop until noon the next day. We are happy that we're leaving for Kalaw that night. For lunch we order simple fried noodles with chicken. We're sick all night long on the bus. At 3 am, the bus doesn't stop in Kalaw and continues driving. After a sign language explanation the driver turns around and drives us back to Kalaw. Hooray!

The cultural shock faded away and we got used to the Burmese way of things. After two relaxing days in the British hill station we recovered our strength and started a 3-day, 64 km-long trek to Inle lake. Momo, our 24-year old guide, was a cool guy and like he said, "enjoying single life". We were happy to have some company, the group counted 7 members: Paul from the UK, Dutch friends Steijn & Steijn and American-Canadian couple Denis and Maxime. From Kalaw we first climbed to 1500 meters above sea level, where we admired spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The path continued through orange plantations and rice paddies, on train tracks and around water buffaloes. We spent the 2 nights in small villages with local families, we slept on the hard floor, 7 of us next to each other. Nobody complained, we were so tired that we didn't even mind the 10 pm curfew. But no sleeping with your feet pointing at Buddha and please do not get undressed in front of him either. At noon of day 3 we were done walking and embarked on a boat that brought us to the other side of Inle lake.

The days go by slowly at the lake and we're not in a hurry either. We spend our time just wandering around, relaxing, reading books. One day we go for a boat trip with Denis & Maxime, our friends from the trek. It's amazing to see the breathtaking scenery again: lake surrounded by mountains, fishermen rowing with their legs (!), floating villages. We enjoy the 5-day rotating market where the people come to swap their produce for clothes, medicine, newspapers and other necessities. To our disappointment, at the "jumping cats monastery" the cats don't jump anymore...but there are still loads of them! We did a nice bike tour the other day and enjoyed yet another boat ride. We saw a luxury spa they built at the natural hot springs but didn't enter for a 10 $ entrance fee. However, we tried the local wine (probably the only one in Burma) at the Red Mountain vineyard, beautifully located above the lake. It was better than we expected! The journey back was quite funny, though :) We finished off with round 2 of food poisoning and some bedbugs in our room. By this time it cannot bother us any more. The standard for a "good accommodation" in Burma is a few levels lower than in other countries we visited so far, and of course for a higher price.

This country is so overwhelming we decided to split it into two articles. Stay tuned for part 2 :)


Barma, dnes oficialne Mjanmarska zvazova republika, bola od zaciatku jedna z nasich top destinacii. Tesili sme sa na krajinu nedotknutu zapadom, kde 50 rokov vojenskej diktatury a izolacie zapricinilo autenticitu aku v Azii nenajdete. Mozno boli nase predstavy az prilis romanticke a zabudli sme na fakt, ze junta ludom nedala prilis priestoru na rozvoj. Vedeli sme, ze kvoli embargu bude nas roaming nefunkcny. Na nase prekvapenie ale fungovali bankove karty a peniaze sme bez problemov vybrali v Bagane aj v Mandalay.

Je malo krajin, kde uz na letisku clovek zbystri, ze tu je nieco inak. Pri pristavani sme nevideli ziadne svetla, cesty. Sama zelen, ryzove polia, mociare. Toto ma byt stvormilionova metropola Yangon (po starom Rangun), obchodne srdce Barmy? V priletovej hale cakaju muzi v dlhych sukniach "longhi", usta maju krvavo cervene ako po bitke. Cmuka na nas chlap s cedulkou s mojim menom, nasadame do auta. Volant ma vpravo a ide po pravej strane cesty. Hodim pohlad na ostatne auta a ano, vsetci takto jazdia. Od tazkeho smogu v uliciach kasleme. Toto bude sranda...

V Yangone prsi. Ubytujeme sa v Cherry guesthouse, izba za 30 $ (takto draho sme snad este nespali), velmi stylovo vykachlickovana, pachnuca vlhkostou a plesnou. Citime sa ako v sprchovom kute. Strop sa leskne ako diskogula. Nevadi, ved aj tak budeme cely den chodit po meste a tu len prespime. 2 noci prezijeme. Na druhy den prsi. Ked o 11:30 prestane, vyrazame na prechadzku po kolonialnej stvrti. Vskutku sa tu od cias Britskej okupacie prilis nezmenilo, budovy su osarpane, nikto sa o nic nestara. Brodime sa odpadkami v uliciach a vyhybame sa tulavym psom. Utocisko najdeme v legendarnom hoteli Strand, kde byvali osobnosti ako Rudyard Kipling ci George Orwell. Zase prsi, v dazdi utekame do hostelu. Navecer vyrazame k najposvatnejsiemu miestu v krajine, Shwedagon paya. A ta nam vyrazi dych. Takmer 100 metrov vysoky zlaty kolos je obklopeny nespocetnymi dalsimi mensimi svatynami a cely areal vyzaruje kludnu, spiritualnu atmosferu. Pozorujeme zapad slnka a zlate odlesky pagody. Zase prsi... Dazd neprestava ani na dalsi den a my sme radi, ze poobede odchadzame nocnym autobusom do Kalaw. Dame si obed, obycajne ryzove cestoviny s kuracim masom. Je nam z nich zle celu noc v autobuse. O 3 rano nam autobus v Kalaw nezastavi, pokracuje dalej cez mesto. Rukami nohami mu vysvetlujeme, ze sa musi otocit a vysadit nas na zastavke. Uspesne.

Po tomto nie uplne dobrom starte ale nasledovalo vyrazne zlepsenie. V Kalaw sme sa za 2 dni zotavili a vyrazili na trojdnovu turu k jazeru Inle. Nas vodca Momo bol sympatak na prvy pohlad, 24-rocny a ako on hovoril "enjoying single life". Nasa skupinka mala 7 clenov, okrem nas este Anglican Paul, dvaja Holandania Steijn & Steijn a americko-kanadsky par Denis a Maxime. Z Kalaw vo vyske 1300 m.n.m. sme najskor cez dzunglu vystupali do 1500 m.n.m., odkial sme mali nadherny vyhlad na okolite vrchy. Pokracovali sme cez sady pomarancov, ryzove a cajove polia, po kolajniciach a okolo vodnych buvolov. S kazdym sme pokecali o cestovani, Barme, dalsich planoch. Vecer sme zniceni sadli k veceri a pivu, zahrali karty a o 10 boli mrtvi v posteli. Spali sme 2 noci v malych dedinach u rodin v hostovskej izbe. 7 ludi vedla seba na zemi a oltarik s Buddhom nad nami. Ale pozor, nespat nohami k Buddhovi a pred Buddhom sa neprezliekat! Malebne 3 dni sme zakoncili plavbou cez jazero Inle obklopene vrchmi, z ktorych sme prave zisli.

Pri jazere Inle sme si dalsich par dni oddychli a popozerali zaujimave miesta. Dohodli sme sa s Denisom a Maxime, kamaratmi z tury na spolocnom vylete lodkou po jazere. Tie pohlady na prekrasnu sceneriu neomrzeli ani po celom dni. Na jazere sa kazdy den kona trh v inej dedine, a aj napriek tomu, ze tam vyrazaju vsetky skupiny turistov, da sa tam najst to autenticke. Stanky s tofu, tabakom, kokosom, rybami, korenim, krajcir co zasije vsetko na pockanie, ci dokonca drogeria s indickym Garnierom :) Domaci pridu nieco predat i kupit, a ked zacne prsat, schovavame sa vsetci spolu pod male drevene pristresky. Na dalsi den poziciavame bicykle a ideme k horucim pramenom, pri ktorych medzicasom vybudovali na barmske pomery luxusne kupele. Za 10 $ vstupne podakujeme, otocime sa a slapeme dalej :) Ked dorazime k vinohradu Red Mountain, hikame nadsenim - krasne vyhlady na jazero a dokonca ani to vino nie je az take zle! Medzitym sa vonku spusti ukrutny lejak a tak sme radi, ze sme dorazili prave vcas. Pri jazere plynu dni pomaly a my sa tiez nikam neponahlame, bezcielne sa prechadzame, vecer zajdeme na tradicne babkove divadlo, na dobru veceru. Cele to zakoncime este jednym kolom zaludocnych problemom a blchami v posteli, ale to uz nas nemoze rozhodit. Ubytovaci standard uz sme o par stupnom znizili, uvidime, ako to pojde dalej.


Posted by zuzana.zav 07:49 Archived in Myanmar

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A really interesting blog, guys! That's some real hardcore travelling! Glad to hear you like Indonesia so far. Selemat Jalan! (Stastnu cestu!)

by AllyB

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