While Bagan certainly had a few more things to offer, we had had our share of pagodas for this visit after one day of cycling through a large part of them. We decided to spend our last days in Myanmar in the cities of Monywa and Mandalay. Following another bumpy bus ride of around 4 hours, we first got lost in the dusty streets of the town. The next day we planned to explore the surroundings of this not so well visited city.
After 3 days of hiking our first long-distance bus ride in Myanmar was scheduled. Well shaken we eventually reached one of the most celebrated tourist attractions of Myanmar: the ancient city of Bagan, the city of thousands of pagodas. We were getting really anxious to finally see the pagodas, however we had to go through one thing first, before we were allowed to see that constructions originally from the 11th through 13th centuries: pay 15 US$ entrance fee to the archeological site. Following a lengthy search for accommodation, we could enjoy the beautiful sites from close up the next day. Once again it was interesting to observe how differently visitors approach such site: while we chose to explore by bicycle, others opted for the more convenient e-bike or horse cart and yet others let themselves drive in large air-conditioned tour buses to the biggest pagodas and miss all the rest.
Even though we had only 2 weeks in Myanmar, we chose to go on the 3 day trek from Inle Lake to Kalaw. We were a little bit concerned that the experience would be made to artificial for tourists. The trek led from near Inthein on Inle Lake across the rolling hills, across fields ranging from rice to chilli, through small villages to the county prefecture of Kalaw. Being famous for trekking, the town attracts many tourists and sports an excellent selection of hotels. But first we had to get there and even though it was winter, the sun was burning hot from the sky…
From Yangon we dared to book a flight on KBZ Air, a domestic airline in Myanmar, promising to Fly Beyond Expectations! Reading their slogan on a barf bag seemed kind of comical… While the flight went without a hitch, experiencing Inle Lake and its surroundings was one of the absolute highlights of our trip. While already quite touristy, the region has still a lot of authenticity and going on a three-day trek through the villages gave some very interesting insights into daily Myanmar life in the countryside.
It was going to be my first trip to South East Asia… Lenka and I had made the decision late last year, after reading a series of news paper articles about the country in a Swiss newspaper, that we would spend the Spring Festival Break in Myanmar. Another country of which only bad things appear in the news, but also a country that is changing rather quickly. Particularly when it comes to tourism. From the numbers we heard, visitors have multiplied by 5 in the last two years. Apparently prices for accommodation had doubled or even tripled. However many parts of the country remained untouched or where changing only slowly. So there still was some original Myanmar to see.