Without a doubt, Bagan was our favourite destination during this 2-weeks adventure. Scampering up temple ruins (sometimes through tiny openings and corridors that makes one wonder about the size of the past-humans. Have we evolved that much?!) and witnessing the awakening of the Bagan plain during each sunrise are some highlights of this segment. At Bagan, it was also obvious that Myanmar is on its way to internationalisation – besides the throngs of tourists, we also came across a number of restaurants and cafes operated by foreigners.
From Mandalay to Bagan (Slow boat ride along the Ayeyarwaddy River)
We had planned to try the various modes of transportation as we travelled across Myanmar. It thus seemed logical to travel downstream the Ayeyarwaddy River, from Mandalay to Bagan. We were looking forward to a slow and exotic ride with the locals, produce, and whatever else that comes along. The slow boat operates from Mandalay every Wednesday and Sunday at 5 am, and costs US$15 per person. However, with YM’s food poisoning situation, we had to forgo the initial plan of hopping onto the junk boat.
Back at Kaung Wai Hotel in Mandalay, we had requested for the hotel receptionist to purchase the tourist boat tickets for us. We also arranged for a taxi to pick us up from the hotel at 4.30 am. We reached the RV Shwe Keinnery Jetty at 4.45 am, and were in time to see the loading of the local boat. With the aim of profiting as much as possible with each boat trip, there were no rules on maximum loading. Everyone and everything were pushed on board. It definitely would have made for an interesting adventure! Continue reading Bagan 5-days itinerary→
On hindsight, it was wise to have chosen the tourist boat, albeit the higher cost. The toilets came in very handy for YM who continued to suffer through bouts of diarrhoea and vomits. The cushioned indoor seats also meant that one can comfortably catch some winks during the journey.
The complimentary breakfast was a simple affair, consisting of bread and eggs. From the ala carte menu, one can find a comprehensive list of local fares, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, and a variety of fruits.
The journey itself was smooth. As the boat drifted downstream, the two banks remained in view and we passed by several sand banks and local villages. Bagan emerged through the dust across the horizon, and the sun was beginning to set and glistened against the water. Disembarking from the boat, we stepped foot on the sands of the Bagan plains and were immediately greeted with overly enthusiastic horse carts owners hoping to clinch a deal.
Mandalay, Bagan and Inle are three destinations that frequently appear on tourists’ itinerary. There isn’t really a most time-saving way to travel among these three destinations since they are positioned in a triangle. Some tourists will choose to visit in this order: Bagan – Mandalay – Inle. In our case, we wanted to take the boat between Bagan and Mandalay, and it made sense to take the boat downstream instead of upstream, so Inle – Mandalay – Bagan it was for us.
From Inle Lake/Nyauang Shwe to Mandalay
There are buses running between Nyaung Shwe and Mandalay. The bus journeys are relatively shorter than the train ride, but reviews had mentioned about boring routes and very bumpy journeys. It was also part of our plan to experience the various modes of transportation in Myanmar as much as possible. In summary, we spent a day travelling from Nyaung Shwe to Mandalay:
Hopping onto the tuk-tuk at Nyaung Shwe (tuk-tuk in Myanmar is different from those in Thailand. They resembled more like a pick-up truck in Myanmar), we had a chilly and bumpy ride to the nearest train station, Shwe Nyaung (yep, Nyuang Shwe vs Shwe Nyaung. Same same but different!). We requested for a stop over at a convenience store to stock up on water and chips for our long journey. Tuk-tuk from Nyaung Shwe to Shwe Nyaung – US$8 for two.
Shwe Nyaung – Thazi
Train tickets cannot be reserved or bought online. Simply purchase in person on the day of travelling. Knowing that the journey would be long, we purchased the Upper Class seats – fixed bench, non-reclining, padded leatherette. We were invited into the office while our hand written tickets were being issued, and were also personally escorted onto the train. Train tickets from Shwe Nyaung to Thazi – US$7/pax.
It had been a rainy morning the previous 2 days, making it almost impossible to organise any trips out to the lake. Our third day at Inle Lake was, as proclaimed by our boatman, ‘LUCKY DAY!’ =)
With various settlements and villages scattered around the lake, one may research more on the highlights of each village, and request for the boatman to include specific villages in the trip. Our boatman Ko Zaw Lwin had suggested a few places to bring us, visiting in an anti-clockwise manner thus making a full round of the lake. Alas, we had to cut short our trip since CL was feeling quite down from the food-poisoning the night before.
The places we covered in our trip included
Khaungdine village and market
Taung To village and pagoda
We will let the photos do the talking for the beauty of Inle Lake.