Ok so our plans changed slightly from visiting the north of Thailand to going for something a bit more challenging and deciding on Myanmar.
After the usual hassle finding the cheapest flights possible we succeeded and arrived in yangon (rangoon) an hour and a half after leaving Thailand.
Once installed in our hotel with a window and hot water we tried to figure our plan of attack on Myanmar and it turned out lots of the places we wanted to visit were not allowed to tourists, well unless you wanted to pay government permits, package trips etc. We did not, our aim in coming to Myanmar was to give as little money to government owned business as possible and spend our money where it would go straight to the pockets of the locals.
First stop was the Shwedagon Paya we got here by taking a local bus. This was an experience in itself never have I been so close to another person than on this bus in fact it was indecent but highly amusing having several locals stuck under your armpits all the way. The temple is huge and expensive to get into. (These are are the government costs that you have to pay).
The temple was described by Kipling as 'a golden mystery....a beautiful winking wonder' which it certainly is, it is the most sacred of all Buddhist sites.
We also visited one of the many teashops where all the men hangout drinking tea and nibbling on deep-fried cakes mmmm we liked the deep fried jam puff pastries best.
In the evening we went back to the temple to see it lit up like a disneyworld attraction and were shown by a very sweet monk that if you stand on a particular spot in the site you can see the red,green and white diamonds blinking from the very top of the stupa.
We booked the night bus to Mandalay which is 645 km away and took 15 hours to get there on a good bus. The roads are appalling.
We were exhausted by the time we got there and went to check out rooms. For the first and last time joris entrusted this task to me...big mistake and to be honest it was a truly horrendous room and the toilets were foul, needless to say joris quickly took back his role as room chooser.
Before I go on any further I have to tell you about the dust, I don't know exactly when it rained last but i have the feeling it was 1942, joris has literally spent the whole time sneezing from the minute he woke up till 8.30pm when he flopped into bed and often in the middle of the night.
Our clothes were constantly filthy and i had a sore throat as it was 30 degrees in the day and 4 degrees at night.
The people are the most honest (as honest as possible when surrounded by rich tourists) and genuine of all asia because possibly they haven't been subjected to too many tourists yet, the children don't beg for sweets etc (not all the time anyway only occasionally) and when you say no they are still sweet and nice not like in the rest of asia where we've sometimes heard them say fuck you
We saw lots of kids working because their parents can't afford to send them to school and when I say work I mean mending roads with sledgehammers in 30 degree heat at 12 years old and working in restaurants till well past midnight at 8 years old. We've asked ourselves the question if the parents can't send them to school what should they do.
In mandalay we visited more temples, climbed hills to look at views and met some of the locals.
After visiting an old monastery we were walking down the street and saw a game being played on the side of the street. It involved flicking chips across a board and trying to get them in holes a bit like snooker but flicking with your fingers. We or should I say Joris (being the man)got invited to play against the champion...of course he lost but we got a great crowd.We were then adopted by a monk which is quite common and taken to his monastery just up the road. It had 2100 monks and I was feeling a bit like the odd one out as he was giving us the tour. The monks have free education especially in languages and study huge amounts. Joris managed to slip into the conversation that he wanted his head shaved. The monk was thrilled and promptly took us round to the bathing area. I didn't know where to look and although they all wash with sarongs around them it was a bit wet t shirt competition if you know what i mean but they were all happy for me to be there so I thought i'd just enjoy the view while i had the chance.
Joris got his head shaved and again brought in a crowd, a very funny experience. We swapped address with our friend the monk and promised to keep in touch.
From Mandalay we took the dreaded bus to Bagan.
Bagan is 183 km from mandalay and it was supposed to take 7 hours.