Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fun in Nyaungschwe

After fighting the heat in the south, we were happy to take an easy 45 minute flight to the cool temperatures of Nyaungschwe. It's in the north of Burma, and the trees and low mountains make it much cooler this time of year. This is almost the rainy season, so there are few guests, and we almost had our run of the town. We loved how easy it was to get around in this small village, which has almost no personal cars, only pedestrians, motorcycles, taxis, and horse carts.

This area is set up for active folks like us on a budget. We spent the first day cruising around Inle Lake in a (loud!) motorized boat with a friendly guide. He showed us local fishermen catching fish with nets and spears, women weaving textiles from lotus flower stems, and traditional silversmiths. We felt like royalty riding in this long boat sitting in adirondack chairs with our umbrellas to shade the sun. I could have ridden all day, and in fact we did!

The next day, we took a 2 day trek into the local Pa-O hill tribe with a wonderful guide who spoke great English. He used to be a forester, so he could answer all our questions about the trees and rocks and animals. He also showed us how the local men concrete out of the local limestone rocks. We trekked 23 km the first day, and got to take in a hill festival of 7 villages complete with drumming, dancing, and drinking rum in the middle of the day. We ate our meals (made by the guide) in local village houses. We spent the night on mats in a village house under mosquito nets. Adrian played with the kids' animals (baby kittens, dogs, goats). The next day we only had to hike 12 km down to get back down to the village.

Our final day there we had our guide organize a motorcylce ride (each of us riding on the back of 3 motorcylces) to a local hot spring for bathing with other villages. We then got a private tour at the only winery in Burma. The vintner spoke good English and enjoyed opening up about 9 of his wines to us to try. He's trying to promote wine drinking in Burma, but really it's a beer or rum culture. For the afternoon, we did a horse trek up to some caves. Adrian really like horse riding, except when the horse nipped at his toes, or leaned too far forward coming down the mountain.

Every night we ate dinner at a different restraurant, and each night, we were the only ones there. Too bad, because we had beautiful weather and really liked the villagers. They say tourism was just taking off 3 years ago when the the protests began, and then last year they had Cyclone Nargis, so tourism is really slow.

If anyone reading this is interested in a unique holiday, maybe something similar to what they used to think Thailand was, Burma is the place to visit. We love it!!!

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