Saturday, February 23, 2013

Pin Oo Lwin

Back in the day when the Brits got too hot they made for higher
ground, beating tracks to "hill station" Pin Oo Lwin, where I am now.
It's pretty, it has cool old architecture, and it's blessedly cooler
than the south.

This past week has been the best of my trip so far. I took a boat out
of Mawlamyine and on it met up with a Czech guy who lives in Beijing
and an Israeli guy who lives in Baltimore. The three of us spent the
next two days tooling through the countryside around Hpa-An, which was
all bright green rice fields, villages and big, cool Buddhist caves.
Riding on the back of my friend's scooter, I probably waved to
hundreds of people on both days.

After Hpa-An, we went further north to see the Golden Rock, a
religious pilgrimage site of sorts. And the following day our Czech
friend headed back to Bangkok and the two of us remaining went to Bago
for another big scootering day. We checked out a forest monastery and
went to the Snake Pagoda, which had a really really big snake in it. I
was unable to ascertain how this snake scored its own pagoda. We tried
to ask the caretaker how much it ate and she seemed to say "7
chickens, 1 day" but that really sounds excessive.

Before my Israeli friend and I parted ways, I snagged a scooter
lesson. And today I had my first solo journey. This was a good town to
do it in, it's rural and so the traffic is light but the roads are
also pretty good.

I rode to a neighboring village and hiked into a waterfall. I was
guided to the falls by a 6-year-old. At first she told me she was 11
and I was all, "well I'm not sure how you're counting those years..."
So I asked some adults and they told me she was 6. Myanmar has a lot
of working children. And not only did this one guide me on a moderate
hike, she also hauled a mini cooler with her so I would buy her
refreshments as opposed to the ones offered at the concession near the
falls. Tough kid.

The people running the concession at the falls gave me a longyi to
borrow and I was able to go swimming at the bottom of the falls. The
water was really cold and clear, it was excellent. And my guide
stripped down to nothing and got in too.

This is all not terribly exciting to read about I reckon, but I'll
have to wait to get pictures up - the Internet is just way too slow in
this country to even contemplate doing it here.

I got really lucky meeting up with the guys. The Israeli was on the
tail end of his Burma trip, so he gave me a lot of pointers for what
else to do in-country. Plus, he's been traveling for several months
and just watching and observing his modus operandi was instructive.

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