I was startled awake early in the morning on our second day of trekking, it seemed Paulien was true to her world of wanting a morning yoga session. Although I was momentarily annoyed, I’m glad she woke me and Martin was not far behind. Despite the rough surface and abundance of stones on the porch, it was a good start to the day, and we did get some pretty cool pictures, and video, thanks to Tam Pe. We enjoyed breakfast together, fluffy crepes, instant coffee and loads of fruit, before packing up and continuing for our second day of adventuring. The route was a bit different than our first day, involving many hills and unfortunately also lots of mud. I didn’t mind the exertion of the hike, although my knees aren’t a fan of the downs, but when we stopped for lunch I decided I’d had enough of the mud - little did I know what was waiting for me.
Another 3 day adventure that I didn’t bother to think through. 60+ Kilometers of hiking, sure no problem! It’s probably better that I didn’t think about it though, I may have talked myself out of doing it. I probably should have compared tour groups or looked into what each one offered a bit more, but in the end I was happy with the group I had and our guide. Tam Pe was kind and helpful, and although our group was larger than I would have liked, a small group also could have led to problems. At least this way I had a spread of people to meet and talk to. Overall the hike was totally worth it, met some interesting people, saw beautiful sights and villages and free exercise!
At the end of my first day of exploration, instead of returning my electric bike, I arranged for a second day rental which would enable me to wake up early and ride out for the sunrise. Thankfully my stomach problems were behind me, so I had no problem rising early at 4 am and venturing out, I'm a surprisingly affable morning person when sunrises are involved. There are multiple viewpoints in Bagan, but I chose Bulethi, both because it wasn't far from where I was staying and Jojor had recommended it.
If you've even briefly considered a trip to Myanmar it's highly likely that you've seen a photo of the historical city of Bagan. It's a city of rich history, visible in the temples that are dotted across it's landscape and although it's sometimes compared to Angkor Wat there is a much different atmosphere here. Although it's quickly gaining popularity on travelers lists, Bagan hasn't reached the fame of it's 'Big Brother' Angkor and thus you're able to still find some temples to call your own. I decided to give myself significant time to explore and hang out, so when I found an amazing dorm at The Royal Bagan I booked myself 3 nights. This really paid off because my first day and a half was spent between bed and the bathroom, clearly something I had eaten in Mandalay didn't agree with me.
Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh, Vientiane and Mandalay - what do these cities all have in common? People don't stay. Tourists generally land at the airport of one of these bustling hubs, maybe stay long enough to see a temple, museum or market and then quickly jet off to their next destination. Three years ago I was told to give Bangkok a chance, and now I have a sense of returning and comfort whenever I arrive at Suvarnabhumi. It was because of this and similar experiences that I decided to give Mandalay a try, staying for more than a day.
Opening its doors to tourism in 2012, Myanmar is like a toddler just learning how to walk, but oh is it learning quickly. Where WiFi and ATM's were once non-existent they're now common place. As the country quickly adapts my only hope is that the people do not, maintaining their fresh, friendly demeanor.