Category Archives: MYANMAR

FINAL THOUGHTS ON MYANMAR

First, the people of Myanmar are super friendly, hardworking and very honest (lowest (reported) crime rate in SE Asia). The Burmese are somewhat shy, but I found if I smiled, they ALWAYS SMILED back.
The country is run by a military dictatorship, with promises of “ELECTIONS” in 2015. The history of Myanmar politics is too much for me to cover here. But to put the situation in perspective, Myanmar is ranked 171 out of 176 countries as most corrupt.

20140308-160606.jpg DEFORESTATION CAN BE DIRECTLY LINKED TO DECISIONS FROM WITHIN THE MILITARY
Most of the young backpackers I met said they loved Myanmar. So I asked them which parts they liked?: the deforested jungles? the open sewers? the sub-par highways? the rickety train? the constant smokey haze caused by cooking with wood? the garbage strewn everywhere? buses that arrrived at 4am to unknown towns? The fees you paid just to enter a town? The lack of accommodation? The continuous piles of burning trash, including plastics? Boy did I get a confused look.
I said in 20 years it will look the same, except maybe a few more 5 star hotels and louder vehicle horns.
With one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, the SOIL EROSION problem is critical. You could see the brown silt in the rivers. At current rates of erosion, they may not be able to grow enough food to feed themselves, within 10 years.
The young backpackers were on a more limited budget than me. So, I guess $2 food and $10 hotels were good. I view the world environmentally and Myanmar gets a big “F”.
I sat at the hotel one day and read 15 English versions of the MYANMAR TIMES. There was one story how top military and cabinet officials were taking classes on how to run a country, that’s how clueless they are. They REPORTED that only 1/3 of government initiatives were accomplished. Next time your un-happy with American politics (I am), just remember, it could be worse.
Due to the Food Insecurity and Poverty levels most Burmese experience, Opium production is up 13% in just the past year. When the British were here, Myanmar was the wealthiest SE Asian country, when the military took over it became the poorest country.
I still feel somewhat compelled to return and explore northern Myanmar and far south Myanmar. The Lonely Planet Guide book recommends avoiding places (hotels & tours) operated by the government. I feel the same way, until there are free and verifiable elections I’m recommending avoiding Myanmar. Yep, boycott Myanmar until the situation changes for the good of the common Burmese citizen and not just the rich. I’m only one person, but when people stop visiting and filling the coffers of the military, maybe they’ll get the message? Hopefully.
I didn’t gloss over the real problems of Myanmar, I felt compelled to tell the truth , from what I saw. There are many countries you can visit, that offer many activities, in an environment that still includes trees and wildlife!
Let’s end on a happy note
While visiting a Pagoda in Bago, I noticed these fires with something cooking above them and lots of activity. Upon further investigation I discover the making of a rice/coconut and peanut treats. It’s a full moon treat made at the monk monastery. I video taped it, WATCH IT HERE
Hey, HAVE A GREAT DAY!
JEFF
NEXT? FIRST EVER VISIT TO CAMBODIA

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GOLDEN ROCK AND MAWLAMYINE, MYANMAR

I’v seen all the Pagodas I need to see, that being said. I’m headed to the GOLDEN ROCK PAGODA, the third most important Pagoda in Myanmar. It’s like Castles and Churches in Europe, Monasteries in Greece or Mosques in Turkey, I’ve seen enough Pagodas, but it’s in the same direction I’m headed, so here I go.
I bought my bus ticket an hour before it came.

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SO I GET THE FOLDING SEAT BETWEEN THE “REGULAR” SEATS, I SKIP ONE SEAT AND IT MAKES A GREAT LOUNGE CHAIR FOR MY LONG LEGS
I’m always worried about the bathroom “opportunities” on the bus, on a bicycle it’s never a problem. The bus stops always show me something I haven’t seen before.

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YOU CAN BUY A “GOOD LUCK” BIRD FOR $1 AND SET IT FREE
This stop was quite helpful and interesting

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SHE RE-FIXED MY WATCH BAND (for free!)
I did hard physical work in America, digging ditches, trimming trees, hauling dirt in garbage cans, but nothing like you see here.

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PUSHING THE CART UN-LOADED WOULD BE HARD WORK. TO PUSH IT LOADED? IMPOSSIBLE FOR MOST OF US
I finally get to town and secure a hotel room. Find the WiFi hotel and plan to visit the “GOLDEN ROCK” today.

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THEY’RE TAKING PEOPLE UP THE MOUNTAIN, BY THE TRUCK LOADS
I have to take my shoes off, a long way from the rock. But,

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I’M NOT CARRYING 90LBS SACKS OF CONCRETE, BAREFOOT! (so quit bitching)

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THE STORY IS THAT BUDDHAS HAIR IS UNDER THE ROCK TO HELP KEEP IT BALANCED

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Sometimes it’s easier to look at google images, than look at my I-phone photos. Most people have better cameras and take photos at every angle, I’m not a photo reporter, so view more GOLDEN ROCK PICTURES HERE
I did consider this option

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IF FOR NOTHING ELSE, IT WOULD HAVE MADE A GREAT PICTURE
The road up to the golden rock is super steep and the driver drove like a Gran Prix racer. I was actually a little apprehensive about the ride back. The driver was more cautious on the way back, thank Buddha (god),

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I GOT A FEW GOOD PICTURES RIDING THE TRUCK DOWN
I picked my hotel because it was a quiet area, I thought. There’s a wedding near my hotel. Tradition is when you get married here, they start the celebration at 4:30 in the morning, by playing music “loud.” I heard Neil Young’s “HEART OF GOLD” 3 times, sung in Burmese.
I’ve seen the rock, now I got to go. The “free” breakfast isn’t much.

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I GET SOME FRESH CUT WATERMELON FOR THE BUS RIDE
As crazy as they drive, I haven’t seen any accidents or many wrecked vehicles? I did spot this crashed vehicle from the bus.

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THEY’RE USUALLY FULL OF PEOPLE, NOT WEARING SAFETY BELTS
I make it to MAWLAMYINE
I’m still feeling a little sick, but decide to go on the Hpa-An island tour.

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IT’S AN HOUR BOAT RIDE AND IT’S A FULL BOAT
We stop at these little cottage industries, with our Tuk Tuk, while circling the island. The “road” (if you can call it that) is so rough, I think I’m going to throw up. I’ve had enough of Myanmar. I struggle through the various workshops: chalk boards, hats, walking canes, pens and rubber bands. The rubber band “factory” was very interesting. There are rubber trees everywhere, so they are true “rubber” bands.

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FIRST HE DIPS THE 6 METAL RODS IN THE LATEX MIX, 5 OR 6 TIMES

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THEY THEN DRY THEM IN THE SUN, WHEN DRY, THEY ROLL THEM OFF THE RODS. THE TOUR GUIDE SAID THEY WERE ELEPHANT CONDOMS

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THIS IS THE MACHINE USED TO CUT THE RUBBER TUBES INTO RUBBER BANDS. YOU CAN BUY A 1000 FOR $1. I USED A COUPLE TO FIX MY SUN GLASSES!
It was interesting circling the island, so many photo opportunities.

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YOU LOOK AT THIS AND THINK, WOW THAT’S HARD WORK
But the alternative has a price too

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USING OIL HAS AN OBVIOUS PRICE TOO
One gallon of gasoline provides approximately 225 man hours of labor. That’s one of the reasons America’s economy has been able to grow so fast. But it too came at a high price, Climate Change. The Chinese economic miracle was exploited on the back of the environment. I’ve been watching the news here in Cambodia. I hope America and the rest of the world is enjoying those “cheap” Chinese imports! because right behind them is a cloud of toxic dust that helped make that cheap stuff.

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THERE WAS LOTS OF NICE SCENERY
Our Tuk Tuk driver ran out of gas on the tour. So we sat by the road till he could get us back to the boat dock.

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THE “STOP” MADE FOR A GREAT PHOTO OF SOME TRADITIONAL HOUSING
Were back and I want to go to the French Bakery and buy some coffee beans.

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SO I PEDAL THE BICYCLE TAXI A COUPLE KILOMETERS, PEOPLE WERE WAVING AND TAKING OUR PICTURE, IT WAS A GREAT WAY TO END MY MYANMAR JOURNEY
I wanted to leave the next day. Butt, no, I got up at 4:30 am and was shitting like crazy again. I wanted to take the every other day taxi to Thailand, But I was at the bathroom every 10-15 minutes. I started taking the medicine right away. By 9:30 I felt I could ride in the car, without stopping. I am so done with being sick, Myanmar and travel in general.
So I take a motorcycle taxi to the Thailand taxi stop. It’s a place where they fill a car with people and go. $10, 5-6 hours.
He stops at a regular gas station and doesn’t want to pay their price.

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SO WE STOP AT THE 5 GAL. JUG GAS STATION. ONE GUY POURS AND ONE GUY HOLDS THE SCREEN
There is 7 of us in the car. We pass a couple cute girls, waiting by the road, pack em in. Now there’s 9 of us in this little car.
Taking pictures from the road can be rewarding and insightful, to peoples daily struggles.

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THERE’S AT LEAST ONE MORE TRIP LEFT IN THIS TRUCK
The “highway” is crazy: pavement, gravel, dirt, holes

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NO GUARD RAILS AND THE ROAD DROPS OFF, IT’S A LITTLE SCARY
This is one of the main trade routes with between Thailand and Myanmar.

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I SAW THIS SEVERAL TIMES, GOODS LEFT BY THE SIDE OF THE ROAD, UNDELIVERED.

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WHEN THE ROAD WAS PAVED, IT HAD TO BE SHARED

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WE PASSED 5 OR 6 AREAS WHERE THEY WERE WORKING ON THE ROAD, BY HAND!

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WE PASSED JUST AS MANY “CHECK” STATIONS ASKING FOR DONATIONS (I gave once)
OK one more road photo

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THE ROAD WAS ROUGH, DUSTY AND WINDY
One of the girls we picked up thought so too.

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THAT’S HER PUKING IN THE PLASTIC BAG FOR THE SECOND TIME (I know, nice photo Jeff)
Were almost down off the mountain, and all the sudden everyone is washing their cars and trucks on the side of the road.

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SO WE STOP AT ONE OF THE MANY WASH STATIONS AND THEY POWER-WASH AND SCRUB OUR CAR
We finally make it to the border, I’m the last to be dropped off. What a fucking adventure, 3 passport checks, harrowing mountain road and only 1 guy who spoke english in the car.

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THE REPUBLIC OF THE UNION OF MYANMAR
NOW, MY FAVORITE PHOTO OF MYAMAR

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THANKS FOR READING AND I HOPE YOU’VE ENJOYED MY BLOG. AGAIN COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!
JEFF
NEXT? FINAL THOUGHTS ON MYANMAR
MYANMAR PHOTOS HERE

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NGWE SAUNG BEACH (poolside/bedside) and BEGO, MYANMAR

Another 10 hour “rough” bus ride and I’m finally at NGWE SAUNG BEACH. The beach is beautiful, wide and fairly clean (considering most of Myanmar is an open garbage dump).

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INTERESTING MINI-PAGODAS EMBEDDED IN BEACH ROCKS

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IT IS POSTCARD BEAUTIFUL HERE
Third world travel is work and sometimes you need a break, no trekking, snorkeling or pagodas. The guy from the Internet cafe recommends I visit the BAY OF BENGAL RESORT. WOW!, for $5, free WiFi, super pool and privacy.

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I’M THE ONLY ONE ENJOYING THE POOL
I have an awesome buffet breakfast with an employee I met on the bus and the local doctor. I ask the doctor what he mostly sees people for? FOOD POISONING. I tell him I’m having breakfast with him for good luck.
I’m staying at a hotel called the Pearl, it’s a dump, I want to move.
The book recommends SHWE HIN THA HOTEL. I can only get a room for 2 nights, I’ll take it. They are usually booked for a month ahead, I feel lucky, so I move.

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LOCAL GREETING GEESE AT MY NEW COTTAGE
I eat at the onsite restaurant, mistake. Within a 1/2 hour my stomach is churning. I wake up at 4 am, Yep, spewing out my ass. I spend the whole day in bed, can’t get too far from the bathroom. Next day I have to check out, the restaurant runs over and wants to get paid, no. I say “you pay my doctor bill I’ll pay for the meal.” Then they offer to take 1/2, no again.
The good doctor sees me for free and writes a prescription ($1.20), I’m feeling better within 1/2 a day.
I walk around town and see something I can’t believe,

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HAND DIGGING A SWIMMING POOL FOR WHAT AMOUNTS TO $1-$2 A DAY IN WAGES, USING 5 GALLON BUCKETS
A guest at this hotel was having a birthday, so the manager was teaching the employees to sing Happy Birthday, Watch the video HERE
Not all the food is “poison”

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LOTS OF GREAT VEGGIES AND PRAWNS
I’m feeling better and thought I should try to go snorkeling. I get to the island and pass Max (frenchman), I ask if I can use his snorkel gear and I’ll drop if off at his hotel, no problem.

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THE SHELLS EMBEDDED IN THE ROCKS ARE A LITTLE SHARP
The island has a Buddha (surprised?), but it also has

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A LIFE SIZE MERMAID (just waiting to have her picture taken, with me)
I’m feeling better, like I could ride a bus that doesn’t have a bathroom. So I catch a 6:30 am bus and see more of the deforestation thats taking place.

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LIKE THE NEWLY PLANTED RUBBER TREES WHERE A JUNGLE ONCE STOOD
Riding the bus during the day is very interesting. Everyday life can be a struggle here.

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LIKE HAVING TO CROSS THE 2 STICK BAMBOO BRIDGE TO GET “HOME”
I said I felt a little elitist using the “tourist only” bathroom, during the last bus ride. But I kind of miss it now.

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WHICH SINK DO I USE? THE PLUGGED ONE OR THE GARBAGE FILLED ONE? WHERE’S MY TOURIST ONLY BATHROOM!
I rarely give money to street beggars, I’m from Portland, you’d be broke by the end of the day. But, here? Being an able bodied worker is a struggle. I passed a crippled beggar as I boarded the bus. After sitting down, I got back up and went to gIve him some money.

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HIS LEGS WERE 1/2 THE SIZE OF MY ARMS AND HE “WALKED” WITH FLIP-FLOPS ON HIS HANDS
The motorcycle phenomena is taking over Myanmar, like it did in Vietnam years ago.

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WITH THE SAME CARELESS DISREGARD FOR PRECIOUS LIFE
I had to change buses but not before a 45 minute taxi ride to the other bus station. You never have to worry about your needs while traveling. You can buy a ray gun that shoots bubbles, a toy horse that jumps, dresses but again the bike wins out.

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CHINESE CHICKEN DUMPLINGS OFFERED BY A BIKE
It’s nice to see the military doing something good for the people. Better than spending their days than just maintaining their control over the people.

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LIKE USING MILITARY PERSONNEL AND VEHICLES AS SCHOOL BUSES
I arrive at BAGO, just as the book described, noisy with lots of traffic that love to honk their horns.
The book stated that renting a bike is a good way to see the sights, OK? Bike Rental $2, Motorcycle Rental with driver and tour guide $4. Motorcycle.
I video tape our motorcycle ride (this is why I travel with my bike helmet). Watch the video HERE

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AND THE GUIDE CAN TAKE PHOTOS FOR YOU
Natasa’s brother warned me that the Burmese eat lots of fried food. I hadn’t really seen that much, but that changed here. I told him I needed some breakfast:

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THIS IS WHAT HE BROUGHT ME: FRIED BREAD: PLAIN, STUFFED WITH VEGGIES, STUFFED WITH MARMALADE, STUFFED WITH MEAT (I ate one piece of plain fried bread)
Speaking of food, how about the coffee? I bought some Myanmar coffee in Yangon, but can’t find any real coffee, anywhere else?

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THEY SELL THIS 3 IN 1 COFFEE EVERYWHERE, IT’S A LITTLE INSTANT COFFEE WITH NON-DAIRY CREAMER AND A TON OF SUGAR (I love my travel french press mug!)
It was pretty easy finding hot water for my french press coffee cup.

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TYPICAL WOOD-FIRED POT OF BOILING WATER
THANKS FOR READING AND YOUR COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME.
JEFF
MYANMAR PHOTOS HERE
NEXT? THE GOLDEN ROCK, HOW TO MAKE RUBBER BANDS AND THE BEST PHOTO FROM MYANMAR

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BAGAN, MYANMAR AND VIEWS FROM THE BUS

Most buses here seem to go at night and drop you in town at 4 in the morning. I finally got a day bus from Kalaw to BAGAN. Some backpackers prefer the night bus, they think it’s a free nights accommodation. I prefer to go during the day so I can see the landscape and see how people live.
I mentioned in the last blog about the signs of DEFORESTATION that you see everywhere. Myanmar has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world. Most illegally logged trees are exported to China. Joe told me during the bike tour that a general was behind the pine tree cutting around Kalaw.
The daylight bus ride reminds how much better bike touring is versus riding a bus. That being said, we traveled for nearly 2 miles past a teak log stockpile.

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THIS IS JUST ONE OF THE MANY PICTURES I TOOK WHILE RIDING THE BUS.
I had a hotel in Bago, on a very busy street, I was out late one night and while walking home, quite a few log trucks passed by, I never saw one during the day.
The bus stopped for lunch and a bathroom break,

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THIS MAKES ME FEEL A LITTLE ELITIST
It’s hard to take the “perfect” photo from a moving bus,

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SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION OF THE FUTURE?
The infrastructure here is a mess, a section of this road was missing.

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THERE WERE 6 WOMEN WITH RAKES ACTIVELY KEEPING THE ROAD SMOOTH, UNTIL IT’S REPAVED
The bus finally arrives in Bagan, into the waiting arms of the tourist police, another $15 to enter the town.
I sent my nice watch home with Natasa and bought one for $3.50. You get what you pay for, the band broke within 4 days.

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I GOT THIS GUY AT THE MARKET TO SEW THE BAND (notice his 6th little thumb?)
They rent bicycles and electric scooters here. I love to bike, but trying to visit the 2200 PAGODAS by bike through the sand is difficult.

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THE ELECTRIC SCOOTER WAS REALLY FUN AND ONLY $7 A DAY
I kept seeing this advertisment,

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WHITE BEAUTY?!
The photo images here are numerous, (things you don’t see at home)

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I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE “CELEBRATION” WAS ABOUT?
At one of the Pagodas there was this bus load of students

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I DON’T THINK THIS TRANSPORTATION “OPTION” ON A SCHOOL FIELD TRIP WOULD WORK IN AMERICA
Bagan is home to Myanmar’s LACQUERWARE
The problem with extended travel is the ability to buy souvenirs, how to carry them? I use to own a craft business, so I always appreciate handmade products.

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I WAS AMAZED AT HOW MUCH WORK WENT INTO JUST ONE LITTLE BOWL
I love women

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ESPECIALLY A TRUCK LOAD OF POLICE-WOMEN!
I have to take night bus to the beach (no day bus), 10 hours. The late night restaurant stop offers more than rice,

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FRESHLY ROASTED PEANUTS FROM A BICYCLE
The bus stop restaurants offer buffet style food, that’s already cooked and ready to go.

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I JUST HAPPEN TO WALK OUT BACK AND SEE THE “KITCHEN” A BLAZE WITH WOOD STOVES
MYANMAR PHOTOS

THANKS FOR READING
JEFF

NEXT? POOLSIDE AND BEDSIDE AT NGWE SAUNG BEACH

KALAW, MYANMAR, MT. BIKE VILLAGE TOUR

There is a trekking route from Kalaw to Inle Lake, 2 & 3 day trips where you stay overnight in different villages. I overheard some travelers talking about Kalaw and how nice it was. I thought I would go to Kalaw and do a 1 day trek around the villages that are in the mountain pine forest. I was talking with Alex of GREEN DISCOVERY TREKKING.. As we discussed a 1 day trek, the map had bicycle ride written all over it. Alex called Joe and we agreed to a one day tour of local villages. He agreed to let me ride his brand new Bianchi Mt. bike with hydrolic brakes!
But before we head out the “BIG” weekly market is today, too. I’ve seen many farmers markets, but I’m here, so I go.

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THE MARKET WAS BEAUTIFUL

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THE FISH WAS VERY FRESH
I tried to get a photo of the Chili Lady

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AFTER 3 ATTEMPTS, SHE WASN’T GOING TO LET ME TAKE HER PHOTO
The avocados were in season and they were the biggest avocados I’d ever seen. I tried to get this vendor to finally look up

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SHE’S WEARING TRADITIONAL SUNSCREEN CALLED THANAKA
Just one more photo of the maket

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I CAN’T BELIEVE HOW LUCKY I AM TO EXPERIENCE THIS WEEKLY MARKET
I head to our starting location

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AND THERE’S JOE, “READY TO GO”
He decides to take us on the longer loop first. He reminds me several times I’m the oldest person he’s ever taken on a bike tour. Joe spoke great English and knew a lot of local history. We passed a military base that was created after the village was “resettled” across the valley.”Military” priorities come first, like the private golf course for the generals. Joe’s dad was a military pilot and has nothing but disdain for the current situation.
We finally leave the “city” and

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START CLIMBING THE DIRT ROAD
As we climb he views are somewhat worrisome

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THE DE-FORESTATION IS HEARTBREAKING (more on this later)
We reach the “view point” only to find

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PEPSI OR COKE? (there’s no escape)
I have the Myanmar “POP SODA” which is plain carbonated water. It is a Nepalese couple that operates the view rest area.

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I HAVE A POTATO & SQUASH MIX WITH FLAT BREAD

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IT’S A SPECIAL PLACE HERE WHERE YOU ARE ABLE TO RENT A ROOM
We arrive at our first village, the HIN KHAR GONE tribe.

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JUST YOUR AVERAGE MOUNTAIN TOP VILLAGE
It’s the dry season, so there isn’t much agricultural work going on.

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SO SEVERAL DIFFERENT GROUPS OF WOMEN ARE MAKING BROOMS, TO FILL THE DAY
My tour guide, Joe, visits these villages, by bike about once a week. So when the local kids see him, they come running.

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THE LOCAL KIDS LOVE TO GET A “FREE” RIDE THROUGH TOWN
We keep riding and I spot some firewood gathering women (and girls). I tell Joe I want a photo. He asks and the older women, she claims “I’m not pretty.” We convince her the photo would be awesome and fun.

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I SMACK A COUPLE BIG KISSES ON HER AND TELL HER HOW BEAUTIFUL SHE IS
The other girls took notice and finally agreed to have their pictures taken too.

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THERE WAS A 3RD GIRL (maybe 8 or 9 years old?) WHO STILL REFUSED TO HAVE HER PICTURE TAKEN

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I DID GET A PHOTO OF THEM, ALL WALKING AWAY
We are way out here, but never to far from opportunity

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THERE’S A SMALL “SNACK STORE” IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE ( I bought a Lychee drink)
When ever we stopped at a village, the locals would gather around the bikes.

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THEY WOUULD TOUCH THE DERAILER AND OTHER PARTS, THEY WERE INFATUATED WITH THE BIKES.
Joe is only able to do the bike tours during the dry season. The dirt road is a fine dust, which must make for some pretty thick mud, when it rains.

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THEY’RE GETTING READY TO “PAVE” THE ROAD, WITH ROCK. It makes for the world bumpiest roads

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DRY SEASON AGRICULTURE
We come into town to rest a little and eat something. Were sitting in front of the train station. These 2 people load this cart up

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IT’S AMAZING WHAT YOU CAN DO, WHEN YOU HAVE TO.
We pass through the market to do the second half of the tour. I’ve seen these “tree” branches at different markets and couldn’t figure out what it was for? Joe was full of great information, he explains,

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THIS IS WHAT THE NATURAL SUNSCREEN, THANAKA IS MADE FROM
We have to ride the main road for 4km to get to our tour loop road. The diesel fumes from the cars and trucks is over whelming.

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WE FINALLY GET TO THE TURN-OFF, WHEW!
It’s the dry season and this years rice crop is done and harvested. I usually see the water buffalo eating the left over rice stems.

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BUT HERE THEY HAVE PLANTED CABBAGE, (they’re hard to see but all the fields have small cabbage plants in them)

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THE “ROAD” IS A PRETTY AWESOME MT. BIKE TRAIL
I really respect cultures that grow their food in a “sustainable” way (using as little oil as possible).

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I’VE SEEN ALL THE ORANGES AT THE MARKETS AND NOW I’VE SEEN WHERE THEIR GROWN!
We have to climb using the highway, back to town.

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5 OF THESE TRUCKS PASSED US, SPEWING BLACK SMOKE
We’re back in town and I’m whipped (remember oldest guy?).

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JOE WAS AN AWESOME GUIDE, THIS IS PROBABLY THE BEST ADVENTURE I HAD IN MYANMAR
Joe’s wife came and picked him up, he was whipped too!

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CUTE BIKE HAULING TRUCK
We rode 45 kms. I moved hotel rooms so I could take a hot (warm) shower

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I WAS COVERED IN DIRT AND SO WAS THE BIKE (it’s going to take awhile to clean the bike too)
THANKS FOR READING AND “COMMENTING”
JEFF
MYANMAR PHOTOS
“THEY CLAIM THE U.S. AND CHINA ARE THE WORLD’S LEADING SOURCE OF CO2 POLLUTION (CLIMATE CHANGE GASES). LET ME JUST SAY, THE DEFORESTATION AND BURNING OF GARBAGE IN 3RD WORLD COUNTRIES SHOULDN’T BE IGNORED, IT’S HUGE HERE.

NEXT? BAGAN AND VIEWS FROM THE BUS

I’M IN A BUDDHIST COUNTRY, SO I THOUGHT THIS WAS APPROPRIATE

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INLE LAKE, MYANMAR

I spent 5 days in Yangon to planning my Myanmar “adventure.” My plan,

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A 10 HOUR NIGHT BUS RIDE TO INLE LAKE
I had to piss so bad, I got an empty water bottle, dropped my pants in the back corner of the bus., But the road is so rough I’m afraid I won’t get it in the bottle. I zip up my pants, I still got to go? I drop my pants again, still too rough a road. I finally tell the driver “TOILET”, he pulls right over, I’m the first off (and many followed) I’m the last back on, it was a flood out there.

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SIGN AT ROADSIDE RESTAURANT BATHROM
We arrive in town at 4am, only 3 of us are getting off here. But wait, the Myanmar government officials are waiting for us, $10 to enter the town. WTF? There’s actually a motorcycle taxi waiting (4am?) OK. He takes us to a hotel that has a “waiting” sleep room. The tourist are filling the hotels, you have to be very organized or your out of luck.

I walk around town to get my bearings and take a few photos.

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THE SIGN IS IN ENGLISH, BUT SHOULDN’T IT BE IN BURMESE?
I visit the local market and see these really cool crowns

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QUEEN CROWN ON THE LEFT & KING CROWN ON THE RIGHT, (made with 300 water buffalo teeth)
I’ve been eating A LOT of rice, which is fine really.

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BUT I COULDN’T RESIST THIS SIGN (at the Pancake Kingdom)
I always brag about the $5 massages in Laos, but here? $4. She fed me oranges, rice cakes and tea plus the great pressure point massage

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I FOUND THIS GREAT MASSAGE PLACE “MY PARENTS” MASSAGE
The canals from the Lake are used by the long boats

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TO UNLOAD, VEGETABLES, SEED CORN, BAMBOO “LINOLEUM” & PEOPLE FROM ACROSS THE LAKE
There are so many photographic images here. The day to day challenges for the average Burmese would be inconprehensable for anyone from the west.

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HE’S SELLING CORN DOOR TO DOOR (they bought 2 ears)
There are markets around the lake nearly everyday hosted by different villages. So I join a fellow tourist, Puneet (from India) for an all day adventure on a boat.

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THERE’S AN AMAZING AMOUNT OF BOAT COMMERCE (and lots of tourist)
The Inle Lake Fisherman have this interesting way of rowing with one leg and one arm. This VIDEO shows how they row.
That aside, it seems the fisherman have discovered that

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FISHING FOR TOURIST PAYS BETTER THAN ACTUALLY FISHING FOR FISH
They are working at every opportunity they can, including

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SELLING FLOWERS TO PASSING TOURIST
Tourism is being used as a way to improve lives here. It’s hard to tell where all my government tourist “fees” have been going?

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YOU CAN BUY ANYTHING FROM PASSING PADDLE BOATS: STRAW HATS & COCONUT JUICE TO JEWELRY IN THE BACK BOAT
Were on a tourist circuit around the lake, which is better than being home mowing lawns. We visit the KAYAN WEAVERS who wear these brass coils starting at age 5.

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THERE ARE MANY THEORIZED REASONS FOR THE RINGS, BUT THE WOMEN CLAIM IT MAKES THEM MORE BEAUTIFUL
We visit a weaving village too, it was quite interesting. There is a thread inside the Lotus Flower, it was softer than silk. There was a scarf, I now wish I had bought.

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SHE IS PULLING OUT A SINGLE LOTUS THREAD FROM EACH FLOWER STEM
Then we head over to the cigarette “factory.” I wasn’t that interested till I smoked one.

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MYANMAR SWEET TOBACCO: BANANA, ANISE, HONEY, BROWN SUGAR, TAMARIND, SALT & ALCOHOL (yes, that’s the reason I took the photo)
When I sat and watched them unload the boats from across the lake, I noticed all the HUGE baskets of tomatoes and cauliflower. I figured it was from “normal” farming practices, no.

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THEY DIG THE MUCK AND MAKE THESE RAISED BEDS IN THE WATER!

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GROWING FOOD “MANUALLY” IS HARD AND LABOR INTENSIVE WORK
We finally start heading back, it takes nearly an hour to cross the lake

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I GOT TO DRIVE THE BOAT ALMOST ALL THE WAY BACK
Back at the hotel, the breakfast is a little skimpy (unfiling). So I buy some Laughing Cow Cheese (?) and proceed to show them how to make a cheese and tomato omelet (with 3 eggs!). It’s a hit.

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TOASTING BREAD ON THE CHARCOAL “STOVE”
I’ve got one more day to play, so I rent a bike (jeffsbiketour). I decide to ride to the mineral hot springs.

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WITH A BIKE YOUR ABLE TO STOP WHEN AND WHERE-EVER TO TAKE A PICTURE
I’m so glad I rode out to here.

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I COULD HAVE STAYED ALL DAY, BUT I GOT A BUS TO CATCH
The ride home proves just as interesting. I wanted the photo of them working this machine, when I passed them on the way there, but it was too crazy, noisy-dusty.

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THEIR TAKING BIG ROCKS AND MAKING SAND, GRAVEL AND SMALLER ROCK, (holy shit)
The next path I cross is this

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BICYCLING BOTTLE RECYCLER, THERE’S BOTTLES IN AND ON EVERYWHERE
I love my hotel, the room needs help (I had to use a bucket of water to flush the toilet), but the owner and staff are awesome.

20140212-220857.jpg THANKS SO MUCH: KHINE ZAR PHU, THU ZAR AUNG, KYAW YE NAING, ZIN KO AUNG, NAW KHAM
Before leaving I had to get a photo of the daily procession of young Buddhist Monks

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THEY WALK BY DAILY COLLECTING RICE FROM HOUSE’S AND BUSINESS’S
The bus is too far to walk to, so

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SO I DO WHAT EVERY CYCLIST DOES THAT HATES TO WALK, HIRE A BICYCLE TAXI
THANKS FOR READING, HOPE YOU ENJOYED. REMEMBER TO RIDE YOUR BIKE OR AT LEAST HIRE A BICYCLE TAXI AND HELP KEEP THEM PEDALING TOWARDS THE FUTURE!
JEFF

MYANMAR PHOTOS

NEXT? KALAW 8 HOUR MT. BIKE TOUR (AWESOME!), PHOTOS, PHOTOS, PHOTOS

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YANGON, MYANMAR

I say goodbye to Natasa, at her Bangkok airport then take a bus to my Bangkok budget airport,

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FOR MY FREE NIGHTS ACCOMADATION
I applied online for my visa “on arrival” ($90), then they requested another $30(U.S.),, cash, at the airport. I hand him a $10 and $20, he rejects the $20. WTF? There was a slight crease in the $20. No tears, creases, dirt, old notes, only fresh off the press money is accepted. I get through the border check and

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THERE’S THIS GUY WAITING FOR ME
At first I thought it was my free hotel ride, wrong! He’s there to see that I exchange my dollars to Kyat, at the government exchange office at the airport. We get outside and I realize, he’s not my ride, but he’s taking me for a ride, WELCOME TO MYANMAR!
At the hotel they asked to be paid in dollars, small problem, I left them at the airport.
I cycled through Vietnam in 1994. When I got off the plane from Bangkok, I felt like I was in a slow motion movie, everyone was riding bicycles. When I returned in 2000, it was motorcycle city. It is some what similar time here: small businesses, bicycle taxis, bicycle transportation, dirt roads, but no motorcycles? There is no safety equipment for workers.

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SLEDGE HAMMERING, DIGGING and PICKING, IN FLIP FLOPS (no work boots, anywhere) nice American Flag shorts.
I haven’t had much time to unwind from Thailand’s whirlwind tour with Natasa. I sat around the hotel the first day, then I discover there’s a train that circles the whole city, 3 hours. Just sitting sounds pretty good to me. The train station was an interesting wait (the train was an hour late).

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THAT’S A RED RUBY ON HER FOREHEAD, THEY ALSO WEAR VISIBLE MAKE-UP FOR SUN PROTECTION
Within the first few minutes of the train there was this

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GARBAGE FILLED OPEN SEWER, WELCOME TO THE THIRD WORLD
Myanmar is one of the last countries to “open” up, only North Korea remains closed. As the train got further from town

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MANY FARM FIELDS BECAME COMMON
Then the train passed a farmers market that was right at the train station

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LOTS OF CAULIFLOWER AND TOMATOES

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THE “HOUSING” WAS VERY BASIC
Everyone rides the rickety train, including

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THE GUNLESS POLICEMEN
The $1 train ride was 3 hours,2 would have been enough. I decide to visit the SHWEDAGON PAGODA.

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I TAKE A TAXI, WHAT A MISTAKE
No motorcycles are allowed downtown Yangon. The rumor is that a generals car was hit or his foot was run over?, by a motorcycle. Whatever the story, he decreed no motorcycles are allowed downtown!
They seem to want to model their economy after the U.S. and China, good luck with that.

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I’M STARTING TO GET THE FEELING THAT PAGODAS ARE MYANMAR’S EQUIVALENT TO EUROPE’S CASTLES AND CHURCH’S

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I LEARN LATER THAT IT’S A NO NO TO HAVE YOUR BACK TO THE BUDDA
I have 5 days in Yangon, so it’s still Jeff’s Bike Tour, so I rent a bike. Why was I waiting? This was the best decision, so far. The first road I venture down is a military compound, I’m turned back. I ride into town, bicycles aren’t welcomed everywhere.

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THEY’VE BANNED BICYCLES ON SOME ROADS,
It was awesome to cut through the traffic, the bike is “ALWAYS” the best transportation option, when trraveling. I’ve gotten good with the google maps,

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I RE-VISIT THE PAGODA,(from the outside)
I never go to zoos, but my curiosity got me, so I went.

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THE MONKEY IS PICKING BUGS OFF
They sold food at every exhibit, for feeding the animals. That helps cut the costs and the animals still eat.

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IV’E NEVER BEEN THIS CLOSE TO A HIPPO
The people seem friendly, I think the bicycle allows you to connect with people versus a taxi, that is stuck in traffic. I plan to take a bus to Inle Lake (10 hours). Most of the buses are night buses, so you arrive at 3, 4, 5? in the morning in a unfamiliar city. Another government decreed idea?
Thanks for reading
Jeff
NEXT? INLE LAKE: boating, biking, shopping, massage ($4)
Wordpress made a new program and the linkage doesn’t work, so when it’s fixed I’ll let you know.