Friday, August 26, 2016

Visiting an English Class in Kyauk-me

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Seems like kids in the town of Kyauk-me are on the look out for foreigners to invite to their evening English class. One kid was waiting for us patiently at our hotel to take us to his class in his motorcycle. We did and we had fun!


Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
It was mostly conversation english. The teacher asked us to tell the class where we come from and what countries we've been to, a background of our family and what our jobs are.

The kids were so curious about us. No one has heard of Czech Republic while everyone was calling Phili-pins as Phili-pines!

I had some mango chips so I shared it with the class. They loved it!

Hiking in Go Teik Viaduct, Nawngkio, Shan State, Burma


Check out some photos of the views at Go Teik Viaduct! It is worth hiking to this area! Just follow the railway tracks and you won't get lost!

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Saturday, August 20, 2016

What to Expect When Trekking in Kyaukme, Myanmar with Thura

Check out the sign! It's my favorite. It says GOODBYE FOR ALL HUMAN!Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
Mingalaba!

If you are coming from Mandalay, I suggest you go to the bus station really early like 7am or earlier. Once you miss the bus your next choice is to get a shared taxi. We paid 6,000 kyat each (1000kyat cheaper than the locals) for our six hours shared taxi ride. You can also get to Kyaukme by train.

We stayed at the Northern Rock on a fan twin room for 7,500 kyat a day. The owner who is a doctor and his wife speaks good English and arranged our tour with Thura.

We originally planned a 3 day and 2 night trek in Kyaukme heading to Hsipaw but when we were in the area in May there was an insurgency. The people from upland were running from the rebels and evacuating to the town on the very day we were supposed to head up the mountain tribes! A week before we arrived a tourist even got hurt in a crossfire.

We did not book anything in advance for the entire trip. Yes it does sound irresponsible but the spontaneity allowed us to be flexible and also saved us a couple of buckaroos! It was not peak season after all.

So plans changed...

Here is what to expect in a typical trek with Thura in Kyaukme:

1. The more the merrier.


The more people are on the trek, the better because prices will go down. We were lucky that a couple of girls from Malta who booked in advance were going on a trek the same day we were going. We just joined them.

2. Learn how to drive a motorbike on the spot.


And if you are lucky enough, you might also get the infamous Southeast Asian tattoo...which is a scar memorabilia from a motorbike crash!


3. Bike through beautiful scenery.

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

You will be biking through rice fields, rough roads and mountains.
Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

You will see the daily lives of the local and you can even stop by to participate in an event. Us? We crashed a wedding!


4. Tea plantations everywhere.

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Most of the locals here are tea planters and they have been doing it for generations!
5. Pickled tea leaf salad.

Image via the hungarybuddha
Known locally as laphet thoke, this Burmese tea leaf salad has a subtle bitter taste but otherwise it is delicious. The fermented tea leaves are mixed with nuts so expect it to be a bit crunchy.

6. Taking breaks in roadside cafes.

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

These cafes dot the road and locals make a frequent stop here. The best part is these are located on the edges of the cliff so you can see the mountains beyond and the valleys below while drinking free tea and taking a snack.

7. Meet, greet and sleep with the Palaung Tribe.

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

This was not the tribe we were supposed to visit but they are so hospitable that they accommodated us for the night. The old woman is so much fun. She speaks no English so we just bonded through sign language. We can hear gun fires from the fighting in the nearby villages from here.

8. Maybe meet another minority like the Nepalese.

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

The Nepalese in Burma are another minority that just intermarries among themselves. They came with the British hundreds of years ago and live in houses made of cow dung. They also work in the tea fields.

9. Meet some animals

Horses that you have to shoo off the road. Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
Burmese cat in Myanmar. Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
Holy cow! Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
Carabao. Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

10. Dress in the local costume.

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

If you ask the locals kindly, they will gladly dress you up in their local garb! It is one of the best cultural experience for me as I see how the women pays to tiny details and what they consider beautiful in their culture. The clothes also has a lot of symbolism and meaning tied to it. The Palaung's costume is meant to mimic a dragon.

So that is how a typical trek in Kyaukme with Thura looks like. And since ours was atypical due to security reasons, we took a different route and visited the following places:
Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík


1. Go Teik Viaduct
2. The Silk Farm

Coming at you in my next post!!!

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Photoessay: Exploring Mandalay Hill


Mandalay Hill is a 240 metres tall land formation that overlooks the city of Mandalay. At the top of the hill is the Sutaungpyei (wish-fulfilling) Pagoda but before you reach there you would need to walk barefoot through a labyrinthine pathway filled with shrines and tacky gift shops.

The entire excursion may take up to an hour depending on how fast you walk and how many stops you make along the way to take in the breathtaking view of the city.

If you do not want to break a sweat, there are motorcycles who are willing to take you halfway to the top but I tell you, the walk is an experience to remember.

At the foot of the Mandalay Hill. Image via freme
Once you reach the foot of Mandalay Hill, you will notice that there are paid parking areas for bikes. This will cost you 200 kyat. 

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Upon entering you will be charged another 200 kyat for leaving your footwear. We just put our footwear inside our bag and carried on.

When entering, look up and see an old painting of the place.

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík


There are four stairways leading to the top with concrete seats lining the sides for when you like to take a break. The winding pathways are covered and there are so many things to see and experience along the way. You will encounter monks who are eager to practice their English or locals who are excited to take a photo with a white man.

Families are also living here so it is normal to see them do their activities of daily living like cooking, watching tv, taking a nap or chatting with neighbors. There are also squirrels roaming around.

If you do not like to walk, you can take a motorcycle up then take an escalator to the summit.



There are photo booths along the way for lovers.

For someone, like me, who is always tired, every shrine felt it was already the summit! You will be fooled a lot of times along the way. For when you think it is the top, there is still another corner to turn and a flight of stairs to climb! Good thing it was not as steep as Mt. Zwegabin!

Soem free water along the way in earthen jars. Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík


 Shweyattaw (literally standing) orByadeippay (prophesying) Buddha. Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

28 Buddhas of the past and present worlds. Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
 There is one area where you can find a lot of fortune tellers who do palm reading and tarot cards.

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
Once you reach the top, you will be charged 1USD as camera fee.

The view is breathtaking from the top. It is nice to catch a sunset here and see the entire city of Mandalay bathe in the golden sunlight.

Where is your favorite spot to watch the sunset in Mandalay?
Image via myanmartourismmarket

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U Bein's Teak Bridge, Amarapura near Mandalay

What to Expect When Trekking in Kyaukme, Myanmar with Thura

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U Bein's Teak Bridge, Amarapura near Mandalay

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

U Bein's Bridge in Amarapura is famed to be the world's longest teak bridge. It connects Kyauktagyi Paya and Taungthaman. Teeming with activity, this is the perfect place to view a beautiful Burmese sunset! ( Just don't mind the heaps of garbage and nasty smell.)
200 years old 1086 teak wood posts. Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
Women picking lotus bulbs. Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
Boats loaded with tourists and their cameras. It would have been a great ride during high tide. Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
There are shacks along the bridge with vendors selling food, water and beer. Midway there is a ladder leading to dry land. There is a restaurant a stones throw away from heaps of garbage selling food, coconuts, and beer to tourists.
Zoom in to see the garbage. Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

How to get here? 

You can cycle here from Mandalay in about 45 minutes or rent a motorcyle. Our motorcycle charged us 9,000 kyat to take us here and back from Mandalay.

Is there an entrance fee? 

No charge at all to cross the bridge.

Suggested activities:

  • Go down the ladder and explore the dry land.
  • Rent a boat and see the day to day activities of the locals. 
  • Walk the entire span of the bridge and explore the other side.

Was this article helpful? Do you have other tips to share or questions to ask? I would love to help you with your trip. Please leave a message below.

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Top Fun Things to Do in Mandalay in One Day!

Mandalay is Myanmar's second largest biggest city. It is the jump off point to adventures in the north of Myanmar where treks through the gorgeous countrysides and visits to tribes has become increasingly popular.

If you are in Mandalay for just a day, here are some fun things for you to do! BTW, we got our fan twin room at 8,500 kyat per day.

1. Rent a bike and explore!


 Bikes are for rent at 1,500kyat per day. You can use this to explore the nook and crannies of the city. Beware as the map of the city is kindda confusing because all the streets are named after numbers.

2. Eat at the public market for free.

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Yes for free! Just put on your friendliest smile and ask the vendor if you could sample some of the items they sell for free!
Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

Going to the market is a culinary adventure. There is so much food to choose from!!
Coconut meat and caramel drink. Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
Crickets. Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík

 

3. Check out the Mandalay Palace


We haven't really been inside because we went to the wrong gate. We had to circumnavigate and it's huge! So we just appreciated the moat. If you want to see the palace, the ticket is at 10,000kyat. It's a combo ticket that you could use for the Mandalay Palace, Shwenandaw Kyaung, two sites in Inwa and a minor site in Amarapura.


4. Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda

Also called the Great Marble Pagoda, it also houses a huge Buddha statue carved out of a single slab of jade. and that is all. Thank you!


5. Mandalay Hill


Image via chrismarshamphotography

Now this place is a climb! The view from the top is exhilarating especially at sunset. You can see the entire city spread out. It offers you an eagles eye view of the Royal Palace.

6. Sunset trip to U Bein Bridge

Said to be the longest teak bridge in the world, this place is best visited at sunset. Walk across the bridge, down the ladder and order something to drink from the restaurant then watch as the day go by.

7. Sample Kaung Ye or local alcoholic brew

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
 We went out to sample the local drink. Our driver was fearful because he says the drink is not for foreigners but we still had a taste of it anyways. It is called kaung ye and it comes in white, pink and clear color with different flavors. It is delicious actually like a ladies drink.

8. See the Mandalay Marionettes

Photo credit: Dominik M. Ramík
The Mandalay Marionnette is located at 66th St at 27th St. Show starts at 8:30 pm and the admission fee is 10,000kyat. It is a small space with a tiny stage where marionettes are manipulated by artists to relay traditional tales.

Do you think you got the energy to pack all these in one day? Tell me about your adventures in Mandalay!



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