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Straight ahead at Mae Sot not left.


2 days ago we woke at the town servicing the Golden Rock Pagoda ready for the truck ride to the top of the hill to visit the rock.

As I said in previous post this is a very significant site for Myanmar Buddhist. You get to the site in the back of a constant stream of trucks packed with 50 pilgrims with seating design to maximise the load of small Asians. The seating is very tight so due to my height I had to sit sideways and pay for 2 seats on the way up. After making sure the income had been maximised on the truck we headed off the 11k climb up the 1000meteres to the rock, with a brief early stop for air in a tire. Three more times we stopped on the trip up, each time beside a stand so the people could shake the silver collection bowls around the truck and state the case for there cause.

Upon reaching the top we were bundled off the truck for the last kilometre walk to the rock through the array of stalls that seem to be everywhere people might spend money. Once at the top foreigners have to pay an entrance fee, I guess you call that a “compulsory donation”.

Entering any Buddhist temple or site requires the removal of your shoes and socks. This introduces you to the whole new experience of walking across marble and tile floors and getting the wet slippery feeling under you foot, you know can only be someone’s spit, so smile and rub it off on the next couple of steps.

A very strange thing about the Buddhist in Myanmar is that is very different to any other Buddhist culture in that woman are not allowed approach any thing deemed scared like the Golden Rock, Worship Platforms or the Main Alters in any temple. All in all we were glad to have had the experience.

While having breakfast before the rock I said to Julie, “I’m ready for Home”, she agreed and we decide to think about our options while visiting the rock.

While visiting the Rock Julie and I discussed our options for when we left Myanmar into Thailand the next day. We had all decide a few days prior that we didn’t have time to include Laos after going to Chiang Mia if we wanted to be home for Christmas.

We had both been travelling for 12 weeks out of the last 15 weeks and we decide to head home early from Mae Sot and go straight on to Bangkok and not turn left up to Chiang Mai.

Walking around up at the rock we both realized that all the travelling and sitting in cars had taken a big toll on our fitness so the extra 10 days at home will give us more time to prepare for next year as I have a 5 week skiing trip planed with Lawrence and James in late January while Julie is off to the Antarctica and Chile to climb a volcano called Osorno which is crampons and ice axe for the last couple of hours

After the Rock we headed to the town of Hpa An for lunch beside the river and our last nights stay in Myanmar. We told Ross and Frank about our plan changes and going straight to Bangkok the next day at lunch. That night we all took our guide Tin, his 2 drivers and the Minister of Tourism escort out to dinner thanking them for a great trip across Myanmar.

The morning drive to the border stated out with some of the worst roads in Myanmar. The roads where bad however the scenery was stunning with great limestone towers coming out of lime green rice paddies. When the rice paddies stopped the road was lined with rubber trees and the collected rubber drive on racks like washing. The road all changed 45k from the border with the best and nicest road in the country to carry us to Myawaddy. We completed our exit process with Tin’s help then it was good-bye to our friends from the last 10 days.

Crossing the bridge into Thailand has a man directing traffic, as at some time while crossing the bridge you need to change sides of the road. Myanmar is between India and Thailand, which both drive on the left and the sensible thing would be for Myanmar to do the same, since nearly every car is right hand drive from Thailand and Japan. Until 1970 Myanmar drove on the left, the then Ruler had a meeting with his wizard and the wizard advised to change sides of the road and that’s what happened the change was ordered the next day.

The entry process in to Thailand with our cars was fairly effortless due to great help and guidance from the Thai Customs and Immigration staff pointing us to all the correct windows and forms.

Once in Thailand we bid farewell to Frank and Ross and headed to Bangkok after lunch and some last minute shopping at the weaving shop supporting local women.

For about an hour last night on the drive in to Bangkok we could see fireworks celebrating the King’s Birthday all around.

We are now in Bangkok with Julie flying home tonight and I’ll follow once I complete the arrangements for Penny’s storage ready to be shipped home with Frank’s car in a couple of weeks.

The next time you receive a post from me will be in preparation for our next trip when Penny, Julie and I participate in the Peking to Paris event in June 2016.

Julie has some photo galleries for those who want to see some more photographs – and they can be viewed by going to her website –    ; then under the tab ADVENTURES there is a drop down – INDIA and BHUTAN PENNY 2015 – and dropdown menu items with each of the gallery pages you can click on there.

Invention from necessity.

We left Toungoo for the Golden Rock temple with 250 k to drive. We elected to take the old road instead of the motorway as we had ample time to make the distance with the towns and rural atmosphere being better then the sterilely of the motorway.

As we travelled through towns in the past few days we’ve heard parties with lots of music and decorations and today was discovery day. Tin pulled up at this party and in no time we had all been invited to the wedding of this couple and a meal. So after a feed and photo shoot beside Penny we head on down the track wondering how it would go at home if we just rocked into some strangers wedding? Not good is my guess!

From the title of the post we saw some great inventions today with the first being the art of carrying about 50 chooks (chickens) on a motorbike. If you’ve ever been a kid on a farm you know that when you hold a chook up upside down by its legs it will go to sleep so you hang all your chooks upside down over sticks across your bike and off to market you go.

This area the rice harvest was nearly over but the mammoth job of getting it all dry enough to store was a busy time, with every available space that was clean enough and not clean enough tarps were used to spread rice out drying and then turned while maximising the heat of the day.

That brings another thing to mind, as we are heading further south it is getting hotter with today being 34C, so it always good to find shade when we stoped. A couple of stops were unplanned with no shade due to fuel filter problems. The filter was change at the end of today so those problems will be behind us tomorrow.

The last invention we witnessed was very ingenious but not the best ethically. When we stopped for lunch, a boy about 10 carrying a cage with about 12 Minor birds approached us. If we paid him the equivalent to $1.00 he would let one go, and for $8.00 he let them all go. Not the most ethical business model but it was making him money.

At the lunch stop Julie tried out the local’s bamboo bridge across the flood canal and as rickety as it looked it turned out to be very sturdy.

The last crazy thing was a truck pulled up beside us at the toll both and the works travelling in the back had hammocks set up between the side and travel in them, I guess a bit like fully reclining Business class seats. See the photo

The afternoon finished travelling through very large and new Rubber Tree plantation on the way to visit the Golden Rock; this is reputed to be the 3rd most significant Buddhist site in Myanmar.

Our days in Myanmar are running out very fast with our exit into Thailand on the 5th of December

A Real Motorway of Sorts.

We left Inle Lake behind this morning to trace our route back over the hills through all the good farming land. We stoped at the town of Heho for market day, each village has a market day every 5 days. At this market everyone brings his or her produce or whatever it is that is they sell. We spent a nice half hour around the market with our guide finding out what all the different food items were that we didn’t recognise.

Then it was over the hills and far away! Maybe I got a bit carried away with that line, it was over the hills and on to the plains to join the motorway the runs from Yangon to Madalay.

Using the word “Motorway” is a fairly loose term for the road, it was dual carriage way and it was a toll road. Actually nearly every road in Myanmar has a toll on it as we are forever stopping at toll station paying tolls from 10c to $1.50. Back to the motorway, it’s the best bit of road we have had for the trip to date and we did travel at 100+kph for the time we used it. It sure beat the old road we’d used for a while with and average speed of about 45. The intersections are basic junctions but work very well for the low volume of traffic.

No truck seem to use the motorway which I guess is to do with the higher toll, however we did have one experience with a local motor bike coming towards us and not on the shoulder but in the lane as if was a standard 2 lane road.

As we headed south the farms are getting bigger and we have seen the first Combines for rice harvesting, not big one like we see in Australia but little one’s with a 8 foot cut. The rice is just left in piles on tarps in the middle of the field ready to be bagged by hand to carry out to the store, instead of being put into trucks.

We arrived in Taungoo for the night with plenty of light so I fuelled Penny ready for tomorrow as we head further south to the Golden Rock.

Sunrise over the Temples to Inle Lake.

Our departure day from Bagan was a 0445hr alarm ready for the 0525 pickup for our Balloons over Bagan flight. We arrived at the launch field to a hive of activity with 20 balloons being readied for flight. We here treated to tea and coffee while the final preparation where being made. After a safety briefing and boarding our balloon and it was time to rise silently into the still morning air. The burner only punctuated the silent from time to time while we drifted over the fields below with the many Temples and Pagodas spread throughout them.

Our rally friends from Bhutan had been here the previous year recommended the balloon flight to us, and what a recommendation it was. It put a whole temple thing of Bagan into perspective and the magnitude of what it would have been like with 10,000 temples 800 years ago.

After returning to the Hotel for a late breakfast we headed off on the 380k drive to Inle Lake our next 2 night stop.

Our original plan for the trip didn’t include Inle Lake in the trip, but Frank suggested we should visit, as he been here about 10 years ago. We changed our plans and extended our stay in Myanmar to fit this in.

The drive over was through some of the driest parts of Myanmar we have driven. This region bought back memories of home with the smell of Eucalyptus trees everywhere.

We left the flat dry plain to climb the hills up to the Lake area and it was so visible what an effect terrain has on rainfall. As soon as we reached the range the vegetation turned greener and by the time we had gone a couple of miles we were back in rainforest.

Climbing the range we new we would be entering a market garden area as we meet so many trucks loaded with Cabbages and Cauliflowers. We levelled out on the rolling Plateau at 1300 metres elevation and it was miles and miles of the nicest farming soil on this trip so far. There was so many different and varied crops grow up there the farmer in me just couldn’t take it all in.

We left the rich plateau to look down into the valley with Inle Lake spread across the valley floor. We arrived in town for our 2-night stop just on dark.

This morning Tin arranged for us to take a day boat ride on the lake.

The day on the boat was so fantastic I don’t know how to start. We head south across the lake past fisherman with the most incredible balance as they stand on the bow of the boat on one leg while paddling an oar tucked under the arm with the other leg and pulling in and cleaning the net with both hands. Just standing on the bow of the boat would be enough trouble for me with out doing it on one leg and all the other jobs. The photos say it all.

As we headed down the lake we meet boats loaded with local produce heading up to town. We soon found that this produce was being grown on floating farms. The weed platforms are literally pushed together then stacked to the bottom then Tomatoes and Cucumbers and all sorts of things are grown on the floating bed with all the work being done from the small boats.

It was then on to visit a weaving place, which showed us how to die the weft thread so that the colours work into a pattern. The rest of the morning before lunch was visiting the blacksmith, a cigar making shop and a Temple that was built on some of the only solid ground in the lake. Everyone living on the lake lives in houses on stilts with a platform at the water level for entry, bathing and washing the clothes and dishes.

After another local lunch it was a visit to the silversmith before one last Temple and the trip back up the lake to our Hotel.

With a couple spare hours in the afternoon I decided to get a haircut, which I was badly in need of. After the haircut I realised I should have waited a bit longer as Julie now has a job turning it into something respectable that wont take 3 weeks to grow out.