In an effort to be attached to a project
dealing with Asian trees, I go for an expedition through the three
countries involved. My first stop is Myanmar, and already in the
planning period, it turned to be challenging. I can only obtain a
visa for 28 days, I can not rent and drive a car alone, some areas
are still closed to foreigners, and due to the state of the roads,
it is not only a rather large country, but also slow to travel
through, I am having an unexpected difficulty finding the right
areas for my exploration. The temples, stupas and other ancient and
religious sights, on the other hand, is scatted all over the place
and well documented. I will have to follow the main roads, looking
out for the nature and other wonders along the route.
Cambodia will be rather easy and
is a walk in the park.
Some facts about the country.
(Jump to diary)
The Republic of the Union of Myanmar, used to be named Burma,
square kilometres, neighbouring Bangladesh, India,
China, Laos, Thailand and the Bay of Bengal. The population is around
51,5 million of which
89% Buddhists, 4% Muslims, 4% Christians and the rest believe in
tribal religions. With only 63 humans per square kilometre, there
are room for a lot of nature. Most recently, it was a British
colony, but gained its independents in 1948.
Humans (Homo erectus) have lived here at least 400.000 years ago,
Homo sapiens is dated to at least 13.000 years ago.
MONEY: The currency is Kyat (K). 1 Kyat = 0.0053 DKK = €
0.0007. 1 DKK = 187 Kyat. 1€ = 1393 Kyat
It ought to be the dry time of year, and temperatures will be above
20C, except from the highlands in the east. It is considered the
high tourist season in December and January. See
more on the lover part of the Map-page.
My backpack; 25 L, 4,0 Kg
ANIMALS and PLANTS: Due to the diverse
climate and the slow economic growth, the
biodiversity is large.
Half the country is actually covered in forest. Teak, Acacia,
Bamboo, Ironwood and Magnolia to name a few.
Here are a few tigers and leopards. In upper Myanmar, there are
rhinoceros, wild buffalo, wild boars, deer, antelope and elephants.
Smaller mammals are also numerous, ranging from gibbons and monkeys
to flying foxes and tapirs. The abundance of birds is notable with
over 800 species, including parrots, peafowl, pheasants, crows,
herons, and paddybirds. Among reptile species there are crocodiles,
geckos, cobras, Burmese pythons, and turtles.
A quarter of the weight could have been saved,
as the hotels had a great standard the entire tour.
Despite the temperature only drop below zero during the
nights, I don't feel bad about leaving Denmark: The five
degrees during the days fail to amuse me. I have spend
quite some time planning the entire tour, and all eight
flights are starting and ending during the day hours.
The longer ones span the night; perfect!
A bit of excitement occurs a day before I leave: There
seems to be a a genocide going on in Myanmar's Rakhine
region, causing 30.000 people to flee. Hours later, the
story have gone from the media? Apparently, 28 rebels
have been killed the recent days. I think, I save this
part of the country for last.
I leave home at noon by train and reach
on the 2. - by flight.
2/12 We had a good tail-wind,
and gained one hour. Normally, that is a bit useless
when you are in transit, but in Bangkok, it is vital! It
turns out I have to go through immigration to obtain my
boarding-card for Yangon. And back through custom,
immigration, security and pass controls as well. Slightly
annoying, considering they could have an office in the
international area, like so many other companies.
Anyway, the extra hour previously obtained, is spend in what appears
as endless lines, but eventually, I even get time to
catch two sandwiches on the run.
Another flight at ten
leads me to Yangon in a hour, and just before noon,
I start exploring Myanmar. I am not aloud to drive a car
myself, and don't like having a private driver. For the
first time in many years, I rely on public transport -
and taxis, mopeds and alike. To reach my pre-booked hotel,
I have to find a bus for Bago. The station for that bus
is real close by - as the crow flies. Unfortunately,
there is a severe shortage of bridges in the area, and
the Pazundaung Creek is a 30 meter vide river - and I'm
not a crow. Time to
be hustled by the local taxi drivers.
They are not that bad, but the first bus-operator is.
They not only charge me 15.000 Kyat (app €10), but also
claim their is the first one bus, leaving in six hours.
I explore the bus station - or a
fraction of it. I think it is several square kilometres.
I end up at another operator who can drive me towards Bago within half a hour, and for 3.000 K. I give the
other ticket to a kid for him to sell, and jump aboard.
I even get the front rove-window. Despite it is a
beautiful drive through green villages, I dozes off. I
might consider to take up the driver on his offer on betel nuts (Areca catechu), which he and the two
small helpers chew constantly.
traffic is pretty easy going, but is seems so strange:
They have the steering wheel in the right side, but they
also drive in the right side. And two "rights" do make a
"wrong"! Especially when you leave the bus into a busy
street. Here are rice tractors, new trucks, old lorries
and numerous mopeds. A few cows are mixing-in, but is
I know my pre-booked hotel is located
five kilometres before the busstation in Bago, and I
just spot it by incidence.
It is a bit awkward; despite I paid Cityhotels.com for
two nights at Amara Bago Gold Hotel in October, the
hotel have never heard of me, nor Cityhotels. At least,
they have a spare room. I treat myself with a quick shower, before I head into the
city of Bago.
The first target is 82 meter long Reclining Buddha of Naung Daw Gyi Mya Tha Luaung. It replaced an ancient
statue in 2002, and it actually real well made.
The details and proportions fare from as bad as they are
Again, I try to find some tea, tjai,
or alike, but the lack of common languish make it quite
challenging. One time, I think I got the road directions
for Yangong, a kinky offer, and a dish of hot food for
sure. Then again, despite I am in, what I though was the
hotspot for tourists, and it ought to be the
high-season, I have not seen a white face since the
airport, and only two on the rather empty plane.
The sun is sinking quickly,
despite is just have passed four, and I head further
out through the fields in the edge of town. Out here,
the huge Mahazedi Paya stupa is found. It have stairs
almost to the top, and is a great sight. It was
originally constructed in 1560 by King Bayinnaung, but destroyed during the 1757 sacking of Bago. An 1860
attempt to rebuild it was unsuccessful and the great
earthquake of 1930 levelled it, after which it remained
a ruin. This current reconstruction was completed in
1982, and is perfectly maintained.
Along its sides are more, small temples found, but
despite it is only five in the afternoon, the sun have
vanished in a low mist., and my photos suffers
In the pond surrounding one of the
temples; I spot some soft shelled turtle, and earlier I
spotted some geckos. Just when
I jump of the moped-taxi, I spot a single frog. Besides
from that, I have only seen a few birds - and loads of
The moped brought me part of the way home to the hotel,
but I get him to stop in front of a Chinese restaurant.
At first, I have to realise the printed "I am a
vegetarian" translated into Burmese, with their funny
circle-letters, does not work. When I think I finally
get them to understand I don't want meat, it just means
I don't get anything! Finally, I end up with a delicious
Nasi goreng - fried rice without meat. I might look at four weeks
with Mie and Nasi goreng!
As I sit and work around nine, I
feel the urge for a nice cup of tea. I walk several
kilometres along the main road, but only manages to find
tiny stands with noodles and larger bars with beer. It
seems like tea is a unknown concept around here! Well,
it has been a long day anyway. I fiddles with the photos
and alike, until I call it a day at ten.
3/12 I open one eye at six,
and it seems like the sun is already up. Next time I
open both eyes, it is half pass eight, and I hurry out
to enjoy the hotel's breakfast before exploring the
I catch two tuck-tucks, offering public transport for
short distances. A short walk through the interesting
outskirts of Bago, and I find the Shwethalyaung
quite close to the huge Naung Daw Gyi Mya Tha Luaung I
This one is only 60 metres long, but just as well made.
It does date back a thousand years, but have been
restores (from scratch) several times.
My main reason for returning, is the souvenir shops I
spotted from outside yesterday. The flank the huge
stairs towards the temple. Despite I still fail to find
any pale faces (not that I'm trying), it seems like the locals are eager to by
stuff as well. I find a small mahogany pagoda, which
could become my Myanmar souvenir. Here are quite some
nice wood carvings, other handicraft and a lot of
Here, like everywhere else I have been in Myanmar, most
kids and women have their cheeks covered in a white or
yellowish substance. I have not figured what it is, but
I have seen something like it somewhere else, and it was
cooling yoghurt. The kids sometimes have quite some
painting all over their faces. Making a photo of it have
so far failed. Later, I later learn; it is fine grinded wood,
and the branches are sold everywhere.
Right outside the area is a rather
large market with fish, vegetables and
... stuff. I walk slowly through it, and manages to be
aloud to make some photos of the stands and people. Then
I head back and into the central Bago. Another marked,
this time more with manufactured products, but just as
interesting. Everything from handmade iron to plastic.
And everywhere, prepared food and freshly rolled betel
nut packets with leaf and limestone.
I find a large restaurant serving tea - and get a cup of
coffee.. I'm desperate enough to drink it.
The Shwe Maw Daw Pagoda can be seen from fare way; this
130 meter golden stupa towers all other buildings. It is
really impressing, and the many temples around it are as
well. I do the loop around it, and sit and suck-in the
atmosphere in the shadows.
A moped brings me out to the Snake
Temple. A five meter, real fat Python have its place in
the corner, and seems to enjoy the calm life. The driver
insist on showing me a few other sights on the way back to
the bus station, and we passes the Royal Audience Hall;
The Golden Palace. Quite impressive, but not really in
my interest. It have been restored several times since
1553, and some of the massive teak stoles are still
here. Next to it is the Bumble Bee Throne Hall, less
impressive, although the restoring of the wooden
carvings are interesting.
spend the next hour or so, fumbling
around for the bus station - or at least a bus heading
down by the southern main-road. I recon I have gotten sun
enough for one day, but the bus-stop seems to be
illusive. Finally, he find one lady who call another.
Then we drive back through town once again, and I get a
ticket for The Golden Rock. "The bus leaves within 5-7
minutes". That will give around two hours to see that
stone: Perfect! I see no reason to spend another half
day in Bago, and especially not yet one night.
The woman who sold me the ticket follow me to the other
side of the road, and wait with me. Many busses passes
bye, and when she, after 45 minutes time, flag one down,
I'm bounced. "Next bus will be here soon".
Not soon enough, I think, and when it finally stops, it
is just long enough to tell her, I must follow. Up on a
moped, and back through town. We end at the lady who
phoned the other one! At two, I get a seat in the
middle row, and we head south. Folding seats are mounted
to provide additional 25% seating. Quite clever, except
when people want to get off.
We crosses a huge, completely flat
plain with rice patches. They are just in the middle of
the harvest season. Some with hand, some with machines.
Here are many huge, white Indian oxen and quite some
water buffalos. Small rural villages and huge rivers
divides the land.
Later, small hills raises, and the vegetation turns into
bushes and trees. Here are a few fruit plantations, but
it is mainly rubber trees. As the time passes, I realises
I won't make it to The Golden Rock today. The bus
terminates 25 kilometres from it, and I reach the bigger town of
Kyaikhtioe at five, in the dusk. A bright young man
spots my pale face, and offers me a 10.000 K room. I
have a look at the steamy box, and agree - mainly
because I haven't seen any other accommodations around
town, and it is getting darker.
I drop the bag and head out in the trading-street. It is
to dark to make good photos, but interesting. Some shops
have orchids, mainly the usual Phalaenopsis, but also a
few others. I find the river, which are crossed by
numerous bridges. Each lead to a narrow house with a
restaurant in the front, then a sleeping area for local
guests along the path, the owners home and
showers and a kitchen in the back. Five metres wide, 60
deep. This town does not thrive on foreigner tourists,
but local Buddhist pilgrims, and the Golden Rock is a
big thing! Men are aloud to walk out to it, and add
their gold leaf.
On the way back, I get a small dish of Mie Goreng -
fried noodles. Back at the hotel, I borrow the managers
office and start working. While I sit here, several pale
people passes bye. I must have found the hot-spot for
these odd creatures...
In an effort to postpone the cold shower, I head down
the street to find a nice cup of tea. After quite some
walking, one restaurant/bar claim they actually have it.
It turns out to be an instant-bag with milk and sugar
and a hint of something that at least is not coffee or
cacao. Exactly what it is, can only be determined by the
text on the bag: Royal Myanmar Teamix. I wouldn't have
guessed. I see no other pales ones on my evening stroll.
Personally, I'm turning quite red on the forehead and
That is what moped-driving does to you!
Forces myself into the icy water at ten, and call it a
day. They must store this water, real deep in the ground,
to keep it that crispy!
4/12 The room is the perfect
temperature, pitch dark and silence, and the bed good.
Unfortunately, a bad combination of no lunch, a real
small dinner and perhaps a hint of jet-lag keep me
bright awake until after three. Never the less, I get
up at half pas six in an effort to accomplish the task of
the day: See the Golden Rock and get to Mawlamyaing before dark.
That take, I reach the 10.00 or 12.10 bus - they say.
I get lucky, and the hotel serve breakfast before seven.
Just some toasts and jam, a fried egg and a banana. The
latter give me the fist botanical experience this day;
it contain three black seeds, around five millimetres
each. Rare to see, as most bananas are treploide and
thereby sterile. The Morning Chinese Tea is a hot liquid
with some undefined taste.
I find the right bus-station and on
the dot of 7.00, I role out on the last seat on a lorry
with around 50 pilgrims onboard, towards the Golden Rock. The
25 kilometre road leads into and not least; up through the
mountains. The total assent is from twelve meters to
1025, and the driver have missed a carrier as a
The serpentinening road leads through a few rubber
plantations, some teak and mahogany trees. Different
bananas are seen on the slopes, and I even spot a few
staghorn-ferns and orchids. I would love to walk a part
of this road, but the amount of racing-lorries prevent
me - and I can't hitch-hike along the road.
I can only make a few desperate shoots along the road as
As we reach the summit with The
Golden Rock, the area
turned out to be huge, but still very crowded. I thought I was
here early, but around 25.000 have made it before me-
or more likely; spend the night here. A special fee for
foreigners, and as I sign in, I see am the third today.
The walk through the masses and the food stands and
souvenir shops are intense, but at least I'm a head
higher, than every one else. I am surprised to see the
amount of fried doves in a holy place like this! And
other meat courses for that matter. I know Buddhists are
not supposed to kill any thing, but they relaying on
Christians and Muslims to do their dirty job, like that
can be right? Then again, some of the monks make selfies of them and their family while others smoke.
That said, most of them are begging.
I reach a shelf from which I get a great view of the
rather huge boulder with a stupa on the top. It is truly
golden, and the sun is perfect. Men line up to add their
small leaf-gold on the boulder, while the women watch from a distance.
Despite the amount of monks and a few praying areas, it
is more the atmosphere of a theme-park on a Sunday. And
I guess the crowds is a result of the Sunday after all.
Some make a living, carrying suitcases and food up the
mountain, some even people in chairs.
After a hour, I have seen it all, and
I guess every one have a photo of me. Selfies, families
or portrait. Some do it discrete, some ask with a goofy
laugh or smile. I can't tell if it is my moustache or
height - or general odd appearance? Anyway, I do
get a lot of feedback on my 35 centimetre moustache.
I start fighting my way back to the lorry stands. I start standing
in line to one of the many ramps, and even find one with shadow,
which I think my neck will appreciate. But the
scares lorries are already full, when they finish
backing-up to the ramp. The next one, I catch in the
run. They turn out to have different destinations, and
by pure luck, I get the right one.
As no surprise, I misses the ten o'clock bus. Despite I
ask a lot of times for another bus, I am being ping-ponged
from one end of the town, to the other. Finally a guy
with a walkie-talkie show me to a stand, and find me a
connection to Mawlamyaing.
Despite it is half an hour to
take-off, I'm asked to sit in the bus. I grab a bottle
of water and some local caramel with nuts, before
entering. Then I start working on the diary, and then a
chat with two Irish fellow-travellers. Strangely enough,
they are going the other way? The bus leave at
twelve, but after a short ride, I'm kicked off at a
bus-stand in another small town. Five minutes later, I'm shown
to a bus going the other way, and get a seat in the
front of a real cold bus.
We drive through bushland with rubber plantations,
small villages and over huge rivers. I spot a few orchids,
and a lot of pagodas on the hill-tops. I fight the urge
to power-nap - but not real successfully.
At three, we reach the bus station of Mawlamyaing, and
ten minutes later, I have found a moped to bring me over
the mountain range down to to the river and booked in to a nice hotel. It is
located at the river side, right between the old town
and the colonial quarter. It is called the Breeze, and
due to it have been painted with oil-paint real
recently, you can smell in in the entire area!
I sign in under two Danes, ditch the
bag, and head out into the town. Mawlamyaing is an old
town, and besides from it buildings, I am looking
forward to explore the river's side. That excitement
disappears fast. It is a knee deep mangrove clay,
covered in the city's trash. Here are some interesting
plants, but I don't dare to jump down to them.
The colonial town is not as interesting as I thought,
although here are some good motives. A big loop along
the river, the shopping street and some of the
back-streets. As it is Sunday, most shops are closed.
The fifth restaurant claim they serve tea. It taste like
the hippo-house smells, but both are fermented, so it
make sense, and with the pre-added milk and sugar, it
make some sort of substitute.
After the colonial part, the old town
seems like the Arabic quarter. Here are several big
Mosques and men dresses accordantly. Where the river
meets another huge river, I find tea which almost taste
like tea, in a Arabic coffeehouse. As the sun descents
behind the river front, I try to capture some of the old
houses in the main street.
The huge new market as well at the old one is closed,
but they will most likely be open in the morning.
Besides from that, it seems like Mawlamyaing only offers
some traditional sights - and the Island of Hair
Washing. I guess this is just a one-night-town after
On the way back, a textile shop lures me in. I need some
light cloth to form a sort of bandana to protect my
forehead and neck. The nice people end up giving it to me for free!
Here are, as every where in Myanmar I have seen so far,
quite some dogs. A bit scrappy, but not that bad, and
all friendly. I had expected cats; Birmans, but I
don't seen a single.
Back at the hotel, I sketch down some of the day's
impressions before I head out to get a dissent supper. Besides
from the nearby fancy restaurants, it looked like they
were starting up a huge food night market along the
Next to a massive TV screen with football; Myanmar -
Thailand, numerous stands offers food. Mainly based on
meat, but I find some delicious vegetarian as well.
Back at the hotel, I check emails,
and to my deep grief, I learn my real good friend and boss have
died suddenly. I can't really grasp it at present!
This will un-doubtfully turn into another sleepless
I then realises, I most likely have lost my work as
well. The knowledge he had was unique in the world, and
the only one who could replace him, has retired. Should I
head back home right away, or can I continue travelling,
till I run out of places? That didn't help me
sleeping... Neither do the usual, way too thick pillow,
nor the lack of madras and short bed in general.
5/12 Despite I only sleep for
3-4 hours, I head out to see the new as well as the old markets
just as they opens. They are both real big, and given the time, I
guess one can find most here - except for a cup of tea. Well, at least I got a cup of warm water with
some sort of taste at my breakfast, enjoyed at the
I spend a hour and a half at the markets, before I
collect my bag from the hotel. A moped bring me up to
the busstation, and as no surprise, I missed the seven
o'clock bus, and the seven in the evening does not sound
that appealing. Further more, it seems like it is
impossible to do the direct line up north. I have to go
almost back to Yangon and then head north.
The country does continue further south in a narrow
stretch of land, but I skip that part. I failed to find
anything of interest, and it takes a special permit.
Actually, from five offices and each of the local communities.
Within ten minutes, I am seated in a bus heading back towards
even to Pegu, I learn on the way that Pegu is also spelled
Bago and pronounced with an A in the end. How hard can
it be? Oh-yes, all signs are only with their special
It is a 350 kilometre drive in an air-condition
bus (windows can't be opened), but without the air-condition. I get the usual front seat, which is in
the sun. But I refuses to pull the blanks for: I want to
see Myanmar, even if it is from a speeding bus.
A 20 minutes break in a unknown town last a hour, but it
gives me time to explore it, and calling an apple; lunch. Well, not that much is new,
but a small child and a young
goat make a great motive.
I'm glad I easily can bring my little bag, just to be
sure it won't leave with the bus and not me.
As I reach Bago outside a ticket office, located in a
restaurant, I try to get further north. The first bigger town haven
no hotels, I told, and the entire way is a ten hour
drive from seven in the evening. I'm not that desperate,
and if I'm asked to return to Denmark, I rather stay
close to Yangon anyway.
Then there is one morning bus at 9;30, but so be it.
Even at 25.000 K! I get a lift by moped to the
recommended hotel, drop the bag and head out. The hotel
is still $8, but in local money, the price keep rising?
But I get my own toilet with seat and paper and even a
geyser water heater - time will show if it works.
Just around the corner, I find a
small market with local products. As everywhere
else, the people are so friendly and smiling, but they
are not that keen on having their photos taken. I do get
permission, but they do look away, most of the times.
Fish, meat, vegetables, flowers, fish-waste, fruits and
everything in-between. I even find a cup of tea-ish
substance, but with that amount of condensed milk, it
I crosses the big river several times, and it seems like
it is the city's dump-site. Despite that, people are
washing and fishing in it just the same places.
A local sewing-shop fixes my newly invented sun
protection. The piece of cloth I got yesterday get the
edges folded, and a short elastic added. I look a bit
like a Farrow, but it protect the forehead and the neck,
and fit into a matchbox.
I try to get a cup of tea in another place, but despite
four people actually say "tea", I end up with a cup of
coffee. I bounces it, and get a cut of the
"hippo-water". Not that bad, with enough condensed milk
On the other side of the river and
railroad, I find another marked. Quite bigger, but at
the same time starting to close down. The sun vanish
behind the buildings before five, and at six, it is
pitch black. I head back to the only tempting restaurant
I have seen, and get a great dinner and even tea along,
All served from the sidewalk counter.
Back at the hotel, I start writing emails to sort out
the gab my former friend and boss left in the world, and
my life in general. Luckily, it seems like I can
continue my travelling, and only contributing by emails.
It make it so much easier to make others do the actually
I work till late, realizing I won't be able to fall a
sleep anyway. The room is located on the side of the
hotel, but the mainroad is still only fifteen metres
away, and they sure love their horns! A short walk in
the premises reveals the lack of cooperation from an
ATM. It does count the money three times, but it seems
like I have been too greedy: It is out of sufficient
founding. Considering how much both
they and my own bank charge for each withdraw, I like to
get the full packet.
The evening is spend sorting out my future, the photos
of the day, writing the diary and making
a slideshow from the
south-eastern part of Myanmar.
It passes midnight before I head to bed, but I can't
This was the end of the southern
part for me. Now, the journey continues up the eastern
border towards north - in Diary 2