May 6 2016

MY BURMESE ADVENTURE

I don't even know how to start writing about this country. I have experienced there so much, seen and done amazing things but also learnt a lot about myself. This is for me very common while travelling - when I experience a country or some place I always leave it a bit changed. Usually a part of me stays in my heart, and Burma has earnt a big spot in it!

 

First let me explain why I use the word Burma although the official name is Myanmar, and also the beer is called that. Well it is not because I didn't really like the Myanmar beer - usually I love the local beers but this one was really like it was mixed with water, so too blunt for my taste. One of the reasons I prefer the name Burma is that the land was called like that for a long time, until the military junta took over and renamed it to Myanmar in 1989. The nondemocratic government wasn't the best choice for the locals and now that some of the power will finally go to Aung San Suu Kyi and her party a lot of things are changing, so I feel that calling it Burma is a better option.

 

Well enough with the politics, there is a lot of information about the difficult past and also present problems in this area and anybody who is interested in it can easily find the informations. Just by watching the film The lady you can get an approximate idea about the hard life there.  I will try to give you an idea what my experience was like, how I felt about the people and their life. I can't emphasise enough that this is just my perspective and everybody experiences each place in a different way, through different glasses and with different things he encounters. I really like the saying that everything is relative, which can be applied in every situation and surely it should be used for travelling and experiencing new places. So I invite you to experience Burma through my glasses.

 

THE BEGINNING - TRAVELLING WITH CAMILLE

                                        Yangon

I arrived in Yangon ( previously known as Rangoon) on the 22nd of February. Having an early flight meant that I got to spent one night in the airport of Kuala Lumpur and actually it wasn't that bad. It is a rare airport where you can buy things for normal prices. That is probably because this terminal is being used by low budget airlines, mostly Airasia. It was nice that for a change for little money I was left with I could actually buy something. I remember in Macau, all I could buy was an apple, and the rest of the coins I had I just threw randomly on the floor, hoping to make somebody that finds it, smile :).  I spent the last of Malaysian ringgets on indian roti and sweets and found a chair that wasn't really comfortable but anyway I got some sleep. And this description could be used for most of my Burmese nights :).

 

After arriving I waited for quite some time to get through immigration. Some people had visa on arrivals, some arranged it at their home country and I got it at the consulate in Chiang Mai and as it turned out it was the cheapest option (just 20 €), and really fast!! When I got there and was passing the usual crowd where local people were waiting for a few lucky ones that arranged airport pick-up, it felt pretty good that this time my name was written there as it meant I didn't have to think much more until I got to the Motherland Inn. It was quite expensive, 35$ for an ok room, but they offered free-pick up from the airport and had good reviews. Anyway in Burma there are quite high prices especially if you use those on the internet. But as I have learnt especially here it is good to find something on the spot, just arrive somewhere and check some places, usually the taxi drivers know the cheap places and I was mostly satisfied with the places they took me to. I have learnt that a lot of places are overpriced and I guess that now more places are opening up for tourists, there is more competition and better prices. In Burma you can't stay just anywhere, a lot of places don't take foreigners, but it is getting better and easier to find an ok place to stay for a decent price.

 

In Yangon I was meeting Camille, a girl I had met in China in our Kung-fu school. We had similar plans, so we decided to travel together through Burma and try to do a meditation there. So 35$ for two with breakfast and airport pick-up wasn't that bad. Camille was coming from Mandalay in the evening, so I had time to get the first impressions of Burma on my own. First I had a little problem with my bank card that was taken by an ATM machine because I left it inside for too long, but it got sorted out really fast and I was so happy when I finally got my money. Some ATMs just don't work for my cards, so sometimes (not just in this country) I have troubles getting the money, but at the end it all works out good. I had enough dollars with me that can be used in Burma - in some places the prices are in dollars and it is even better if you pay in dollars. You just need to be very careful that the notes are new and in perfect condition (not even a little bent), otherwise they won't take them. And be careful when they return the change in dollars that they give you those in perfect condition. Yeah, luckily most of my dollars were in good condition, but some weren't excepted as they were too old or bent a little :).

I really liked Yangon, maybe because it was the first place I visited, but I loved seeing how the locals live, going to the markets and just wondering around the city. I had my first interactions with the locals, just buying some food or just getting a betel nut chewing as a gift, which I actually liked - chewing and spitting brownish content, like the locals, some find it gross but not me:). Although the town and the living conditions are mostly simple it was fascinating to see how almost everybody is wearing a long skirt, a longyi. Even the man :)! And this was really nice, the girls wearing beautiful colourful longyis with matching blouses, and the man a bit different longyi, but also a lot of times in combination with a shirt or just a T-shirt. I loved how they still respect their tradition and this way people seem really neat :).

 

In the evening Camille came and it was so nice to see her again. I have wanted to visit Burma but didn't want to do it alone, although later I realised it is very easy, safe and cheap to travel alone there. So when we both realised we want to do a Vipassana meditation, but the courses in Thailand get full for almost half a year in advance, we decided to go to Burma and do it there. Even before we came we realised that finding a course for our time in Burma wouldn't be so easy. There are a lot of centres but only few had courses scheduled. I almost applied for one and then the next day I just couldn't find the same course, it just disappeared. So before we came, we talked and agreed to do some travelling and try to find a meditation course there. And we both said we want to do it but it is not necessary to do it now, as we weren't so sure if it will be possible for us to do it.

Our travelling together started with meeting one older Burmese guy who lives in Australia. We talked a lot but the thing I remembered was his precious, simple advice: Don't take everything you want, take just what you need ;)!!!

 

 

The next day we walked around Yangon, we saw the market and the pagodas, got some lunch and enjoyed relaxing and chatting at Kandawgyi lake. I found a good balance in Camille as I am usually hurrying and making plans, she takes it easy and walks really slowly, so it was nice to take it a bit slowlier:). We arranged a night bus to go to Bagan. When we were still searching for the ticket we had one of a rare unpleasant experience with one guy that found us on the street and wanted to sell us the bus ticket. First he said that we can't get a ticket for the night train anymore, which later turned out to be untrue. Than we walked quite some time to get to his agency, before he didn't want to tell us the price of the tickets. There he told us that most of the tickets had been already sold, but he can still get us the tickets, but they were much more expensive than at our guesthouse. So we left and on the way we met some others that were picked on the street (and by this i mean quite pushing us to go with him and persuading us that it is the best option) and they asked us about the tickets. So Camille just answered the question and told them that we can get better price at our guesthouse, so they also left the agency. And then the guy followed us and was very unpleasant us he was explaining to us that we are bad tourist and that it doesn't matter if somewhere we can get tickets for 5$ less. Yeah, like that is not an important difference. Actually he was being a bad tourist agent and you could see that the tourism industry is already effecting people to lie (tell you there are no night trains or other busses) and aggressively try to pick up tourists. I really don't like when people aggressively and unpleasantly  try to sell me a service, I always go for the one that is less pushy, more calm and  friendly. But this unpleasant service providers are very rare in Burma, for now, unitl the tourism industry changes that. Yeah the taxi drivers can be a bit annoying and loud trying to get a job, but usually if you ask them about the local transport they explain how to get a bus instead of a taxi and not try to lie that there are no public transports, like it is very common in Thailand in touristic places. The other really bad experience in Burma was the next day. The bus ride to Bagan at first seemed realy nice, it was a nice company, it was cheap (I think 14.000 Kyatts, which is just a little more than 10 EUR) and the company arranged shared taxies to get to the bus station. There I walked around and was just looking to get something to eat and really wished for some sweet potatoes. Usually before the long ride I don't want to eat too much or some unknown stuff and sweet potatoes are a perfect food before the road. Sometimes I order just rice and eat it plain, so that I am not hungry, but at the same time playing it safe. So there I was, searching for a thing that wasn't easy to be found in Burma, when I said to myself: Katja, I know the sweet potato is somewhere here, just find it :). Well, it sounds crazy, and I guess I am a little, but then I saw the sweet potatoes and was just so happy about it :). Not just because of the lovely food I got but because I could see again how our thoughts make our reality :)! At the bus station I even did some Tai Chi and was very happy with the clean toilets, which is a privilege in Burma, of our bus company, the Elite. On the bus we were so happy as it wasn't full so we each had two sits for ourselves and our own TV to watch some movies or listen to music. We were smiling like kids when they gave us neat paper boxes with candies inside and we got fresh wet towels and a toothbrush with a toothpaste :). Ok, let's get back to my unpleasant experience, because finding sweet potatoe is obviously a sweet experience :).  

                                                       Bagan

I slept really bad on the bus, it was cold because of the air-con and when in Bagan we were met by very aggressive taxi drivers we really weren't up for it. We met two girls on the bus with whom we wanted to share the taxi and we were really unpleasantly surprised when they had written the price of the taxi on the board but wanted a lot more money to drive us to the guesthouses. They were really aggressive in trying to persuade us about the price but we just wouldn't go and we needed some time-off. At the end they overcharged us but just a little, but the whole experience was very unpleasant, especially if you deal with it at about 5 o'clock in the morning. Before we got to the city\village we had to pay 25.000 Kyatts for the entrance fee for the temples. We found an ok guesthouse for 15$ for two with breakfast, there are quite a lot of guesthouses and you can find something for every budget. Just the landlady was a bit annoying, she was trying to be helpful but the effect was the opposite.

 

We rented bicycles and found a nice spot by the river where we just relaxed for a while as we were quite tired from the night bus. The night busses usually come at weird times in the morning, usually quite some time before the dawn. Camille stayed at the river and I went around discovering some temples. I saw just a few, did Tai Chi at one and later we joined two girls from the bus to get a boat ride for the sunset. As it was cloudy it wasn't the best sunset, but when Camille found our boat (as we misuderstood where we are meeting), she came running with a big smile on her face as she finally found us :), we enjoyed the ride, just chatting and drinking some tea on the river. In the evening I ate lovely ginger salad and as Camille also didn't like the Myanmar beer we found a good local one, called Dagon, with 8% volume, very nice :). Ok, I want to explain that although I write a lot about beer I don't think I have problems with alcoholism, but I really do enjoy a nice, cold local beer, especially when it is warm outside :). Usually one is enough, or if it's a small one, maybe two. And usually doesn't mean every day, don't worry :):)!! The next day we woke up very early, rented electronic bikes and saw the sunrise at the temples. There were quite some people there, but it is not nearly as crazy as in Siem Riep (Cambodia). I did some Tai Chi there and we enjoyed the lovely view of the surrounding temples. Later I went to the local market (of course :)), Camille had her first coconut and we bought Thanaka -  a bark that is used for the sun protection if mixed with water and ground on a special stone. This is distinctive for Burma and you can see people all around the country using it, it is very colourful. We explored some temples with Camille and I was quite fascinated by some, especially those who had a secretive passage to the balcony with the amazing view. Camille wasn't so interested in the temples but I wanted to see some of them as we had already made the effort to come there. And to me it was so special to practise Tai Chi in that surrounding, very peaceful. Well, sometimes not so peaceful as one day while I was enjoying my meditation in movement all of a sudden there were a few dosen of local tourist in front of me. I thought I had found a remote place, so that disturbed me, especially as they were looking at me weirdly and also taking pictures, only few were listening to their tourist guide explaining some things. But I had I choice,  try to find another place or just keep on moving, doing my thing like I am the only one there. Usually I would choose to move, but this time I decided that they don't bother me, it doesn't matter what they think or that they are loud, I don't mind. And it was a nice experience, to try not to be bothered with the outside world :).  I found the temples really interesting, but two days of exploring was enough, so in the evening we took a night bus again.

 

 

                                           Inle lake

This time the bus was a regular and not a VIP one, but we were quite lucky again as the back sits were empty, so Camille lay there and I had two sits for myself. As the road was bumpy and winding, at one point Camille found herself on the floor because the back sits were not attached properly, so they fell on the floor with Camille on top :). As usual the night bus brought us very early to our destination, Nyaung Shwe village close to Inle lake, at about 3 o'clock in the morning. We were really lucky to find a great place at that time, 3 Season Inn & Spa. The room for two including breakfast was $25 and for $5 we could check in in the middle of the night and get the breakfast the next day. The place is really nice, a lot of wood and stones are used for decoration and practical things, I loved the wooden tables and chairs, and the details were so nicely chosen that is was so cosy to stay there, and very clean. The good atmosphere was complete by the very friendly and well English spoken guy, mr. Aye. He was very helpful in getting us any information we needed or providing us with the stuff we needed. We spent 5 days there as we felt really good, comfortable and also creative there. Sadly we had some stomach problems and were a bit tired from two night busses and a lot of travelling, so we both really needed a place to rest for a while and just relax, see some nice places, but not do too much. We got an interesting massage, but since I got the best massage ever in Thailand rarely a massages excites me anymore :). This was a perfect place to take it easy  as the room was comfortable, clean, and the view from the roof where we had our breakfast was very nice. We could even use the kitchen to cook our food, and  I actually did it twice as I found some delicious stuff at the local market - asparagus and other fresh vegetables and I loved the local avocados, the best I have ever tasted, needless to say they were really fresh, ripe and cheap, perfect combination. In Bagan I bought a huuuuge papaya that was pretty delicious, although on the inside it was mostly hollow :). But I found also some nice fruits at Nyaung Shwe market, strawberries, great reddish bananas and melons. And the village offers a lot of place to eat different kind of food, from Burmese, Japanese, of course Western's (which like usual I avoid) and Indian. The latter we were both craving for one day and were looking for it quite some time although we saw more signs of different indian restaurants. I was already thinking that maybe as we can't find it we should eat somewhere else, but then we found one. Well the taste was ok, nothing special, but the Dagon with it was nice. Later we realised that maybe it would have been better not to have found the restaurant as I spent the night going to the toilet very frequently and Camille felt bad also. So we were resting again and we postponed our trip with the boat to the Inle lake we arranged with a girl from China we met there, Yin. It was interesting that we met her as she had just done Vipassana meditation in Burma, like we wanted to. But she didn't plan it, on the way from the airport in Yangon she shared a taxi with a girl who was doing it so she just joined and had an amazing experience. By that time Camille and I decided to do the meditation separately as we had a bit different plans and time limitation, and also because this way we would be more focused on ourselves and not be distracted by thinking about how the other is doing. We found some places that had the meditation and tried arranging it. But mostly they were not responsive. I found two places on the site https://www.dhamma.org/en/index and applied for one. Although the page was in English and they said that the courses are in English they wrote to me that they recommend doing it in Yangon as they can't provide English teacher. So I applied for another one in Hsipaw and was waiting for the response. Camille decided to do it in Taunggyi where she found one centre, as it was very close to Inle lake. So that was her next destination and mine was Mandalay. Our travelling together was coming to an end but before we explored some more the surrounding area. One day I rented a bike and she got a horse to ride around to the countryside. I was still a bit weak and tired from the night toilet visits, so I took it easy, went to the winery but because of my sensitive stomach didn't try the local wines :(. I drove around some more and Camille really enjoyed her ride, she was accompanied by a guy on a bike and he took her to some nice places. It was funny as the horse picked her up in front of our hotel :). The next day we finally got to go to the Inle lake. We rented a boat, for 18.000 Kyatt for the whole day with English guide. Well when we got there there was just the driver who spoke a few English words. I already felt a bit cranky and really didn't want to settle for this, as we chose this boat just because of the English speaking guide and it was more expensive than the others. I don't like when you arrange something and you get something different, so I asked them about the English guide and later they sent us a student who spoke English good and explained us a lot of things, he was really nice. Without him it wouldn't we so interesting. As Burma is new to tourists you can see that the locals sometimes don't know how to deal with us and think that everything is the same. I think that it is also up to us to show them what is important to us, and this way they learn how to deal with tourists in the future. The trip was amazing, just sitting in the boat and observing was very nice, we saw a lot of fishermen doing their traditional fish catching. We stopped in some villages where they have great handicraft skills and we saw how they make hand made paper, jewelry, wooden products, umbrellas for the sun shade and my favourite was seeing how they make scarves from lotus fibre. It was amazing, the product is more precious than silk and I really loved the natural scarf but wasn't ready to pay $100 for it. They make beautiful stuff from silk and cotton also, I wanted to buy some things - they were more expensive than buying at the market, but you can see they are hand made and of good quality.  But as my travels weren't finished yet and my backpack was already filled with too many things I had to let it stay there. But Camille was soon going home so she bought some beautiful things. The sunset at the lake was amazing, I did slowly some Chi gong on the boat while waiting for the sun to set over the mountains, and in front of it there were some boats, so the view was really nice. Except I didn't like one fisherman that did some "performance" for us on his boat, it was a bit too much and later he wanted to ask us for some money, but the guide moved the boat. Well Bagan and Inle lake were one of the most touristic places in Burma, but still they were ok. The tourists here are mostly nice, they respect local traditions, wear appropriately and don't come there just to drink the beer as in some places in Thailand. I also drink beer, but just to cool down from the unbearable heat :):). But to me it seemed that this places weren't the real Burma and the people seemed so distant to me. Like there was this gap between "them and us". We slept in nice guesthouses as their living conditions were pretty simple. We ate in restaurants and they eat a lot in the street and on the markets. Some transports could be used just by the locals and we couldn't use them. Usually when I travel I don't want to be treated differently, although sometimes it is better this way. But here the difference I felt between us was too much.

 

Before I left I went to the local market and bought a lovely silver mixed with copper ring and a bracelet, shaped like gong. Leaving Nyaung Shwe village was for me finally getting some time with the locals - we both went to Taunggyi with the pick-up, and it was pretty nice to ride on the opened truck, with a lot of people with whom we spoke a little although we couldn't understand each other's language. In Taunggyi it was time to say " See you soon" to Camille, do some Tai Chi in the local park and  get on the night bus to Mandalay. As it turned out the meditation centre Camille wanted to go to didn't except her because of the language, so she had enough of it and just went home a bit early. I was happy to travel with her, we talked a lot about all sorts of things and were quite good in balancing each other and finding the middle way. But it was also nice to travel some more on my own as this way I could experience the real Burma much more!

 

 

DISCOVERING BURMA ON MY OWN

                                         Mandalay

Every night bus I took was worse than the previous, on this I got the first sit and later realised that this is actually very bad as it didn't have any room for my long legs, there was a fridge that took all the space. But yet anyhow every night bus ride was easier than previous, I guess I got used to just about anything :)!

 

In Mandalay I arrived of course very early in the morning and spent some time at the bus station until dawn. I wanted to take a local bus to the city centre but one taxi driver was really nice and gave me a good price to take me to a "cheap but good  guesthouse" as I asked him. Well actually he took me to a really good place, Royal guest house (http://www.travelfish.org/accommodation_profile/burma_myanmar/central_burma_myanmar/mandalay_region/mandalay/all/6173), with $7 a night for a single good bed with shared toilet. The place has a nice roof top. I liked that in Burma a lot of places have single rooms and they usually cost per person just a dollar  more than if two persons share double room. This makes travelling alone very pleasant  and budget friendly. A lot of people find Burma expensive, but to me it was one of the cheapest places. I think the reason is very cheap food and also the price for accommodation was very good for me, especially because of lots of single rooms. And services are very cheap there, I experienced a three day trekking and had more boat rides, but still spent less per day than usual. Yeah it helped that I took 4 night busses as I saved money for a room, but still I was very happy with what I got for the money I spent.

 

In Mandalay I found the lovely colourful morning market as I arrived early, found a monk who when I explained him where I was coming from said to me "Tito". Apparently Tito visited Burma and they had good relations so some people know about him and Yugoslavia, which is nice as it is not so rare that people from Europe don't know where Slovenia is :). I was very tired, so I decided just to slowly ride a bike to Mandalay hill and climb it for the sunset. The view was nice but at the top there were too many people so I enjoyed it a little more downhill. I met a local law student (actually I met one also at the 3 seasons inn) and talked a little with him, he asked me some things about law and he explained me where I can do the meditation. Well later I tried to find that place, but in vain :). The next day I rented a motorbike and drove to the Ubein bridge. The ride was nice, now that I already knew how to drive a semiautomatic motorbike. First I went to one temple where you could see the monks receiving alms giving and having their breakfast. I didn't know what to expect, someone just told me to go there and I was unpleasantly surprised how impolite and rude we tourist can be. When I got there I saw a lot of people, looking at the monks having their breakfast and taking lots of pictures from upclose. Some weren't even dressed appropriately. I left soon and met a local guy that was really nice and spoke English a bit. He really wanted to talk to me and soon he was accompanying me to the bridge. First I wasn't so comfortable  having him around as I wanted to explore the place with my pace and was wondering if he has some alternative motives. I am used to the fact that in a lot of touristic places some people act friendly but later  want money in return. But he was just a genuine friendly guy, who just wanted to talk to me and keep me company. The largest teak bridge in the world is very nice and the surrounding is beautiful, although is can get really busy there. They say it is beautiful to see the sunset there, but my plans for the night was different. A friend of my new friend was drawing pictures there with ink using a blade and when I saw him doing that I bought two lovely pictures to remind me of this nice experience. While waiting for the pictures to dry I drove to one pagoda and my new Burmese friend just jumped on a motorbike and joined me and there he explained some things about the pagoda and also about himself. He was really sweet, at the end he almost hugged me, that's how opened he was. I would never give him 75 years, he was so vital and seemed much younger. After I drove to the near city Sagaing, which seemed a nice place with a lot of pagodas on the hill. But I had to return soon as I was going to Pyin U Lwin in the afternoon. I just ate the amazing pancakes with cheakpeas on the street and enjoyed the lovely company of the cook and his wife. This was the best street food in Burma I ate and very cheap. I felt good after it as it wasn't soaked in oil like most of Burmese food.


Actually after the food there I had more problems than anywhere else and I was used to a lot of things. I think it is because they use really huge amounts of bad, reused oil and the hygiene isn't their best quality. But I also wasn't so careful what I ate, of course I didn't eat just anywhere but I wasn't too cautious and also ate a lot of fruit that couldn't be washed enough.

 

 

                                  Heading North East of Mandalay

I took the local pick-up to Pyin U Lwin as I wanted to hang with the locals. Actually it wouldn't be much more expensive to get a shared taxi as it was already almost full but I didn't want to. Well later there were moments I regretted this but actually the ride was pretty great. Yeah I had to wait one hour for them to load the vehicle with tons of cargo, they put it on the roof, amongst the people and wherever it was possible. The monk opposite me and myself were quite lucky as we didn't get the sits inside where there was really little space for people. We were sitting on the outside which meant we had to hold on to some thing on the vehicle all the way during the drive in order not to fall off the vehicle. Well most of the time one guy was standing even more outside so he was actually like a fence for me:). But sometimes, yeah of course during the drive, he climbed to the roof of the vehicle or to the side, to get to the driver. Really crazy, but there everything seems normal, even a tone of rice falling from the roof wile driving. We had to stop to tie it back on. But actually all this was pretty nice for me, having the wind in my hair and sharing special moments and some food with the locals. I loved the coconuts I got there, the old ones which have thick white delicious meat. At one time we stopped to unload some cargo and it was just in front of a meditation centre, very funny. Meditation signs were all around me, but actually so far. I was still waiting for the centre in Hsipaw to reply so I wanted to be near it that I could come there if they wanted me :).

 

In Pyin U Lwin I just spent the night in some cheap place and in the morning took the train to the northeast. The train drive there is beautiful and I wanted to drive through the Gokteik Viaduct. But I wasn't alone, the train was full as there were some problems on the road and there was also this indian festival a lot of people were going to. So the only option was to take a standing ticket, again :). So I took it and planned to go to Nawngpeng where I would take the train back to Pyin U Lyin the same day, and for this train the conductor assured us would be no problems getting the sits. The drive is supposed to last about 4 hours but you never know there, time runs differentlly in Burma :). I was first taken with the train to the wrong direction where we waited a while to drive us back for the rest of the passengers to board. I was very lucky as one local lady helped me and arranged an improvised sit for me so I didn't have to sit on the floor. The drive was nice although at some points quite uncomfortable. But this is what I actually wanted, spending more time with the locals and travelling like them, so I got it. And I was very happy about it. The drive was slow and the train was shaking a lot. When we came to the viaduct it was a bit scary knowing we will pass it with this machine that didn't seem the safest, but they do it every day so I just trusted it to work :). Just before the viaduct some locals opened the doors and two ladies were sitting at the edge, which seemed pretty scary to me, and I like crazy stuff :)! Some people were throwing some papers from the train, one guy was praying and I was enjoying the lovey view. In Nawngpeng I went off the train with two girls that wanted to do the same thing, to go back. The only thing I thought preventing me from going back would be a message from the meditation centre that I can do the meditation in Hsipaw, but I was doubting it would come. But there was one other reason I couldn't go back. They wouldn't let us on the train because it was too full, they didn't even want to give us the standing tickets. For me it wasn't that bad as I didn't have specific plans but one girl had to catch a flight the next day. I hope she did it, because the roads were blocked and it was kind of hard to travel anywhere. When I realised this, I asked when does the same train I came on, leave the station, and they said "Now". The train alredy started to move so I just jumped on a moving train with my backpack and some help from the locals :)! Now I had a really bad place next to the toilet, where there was also a smoking zone, so just perfect for me. But there I met two guys from Belgium that were heading to Kyaukme, the next stop, for a trekking. After they already went off the train I realised I had no plans and was actually fed up with having no sit on the train, so I just  followed the guys to their guesthouse. And as it turned out they couldn't get rid of me for the next 4 days :)!!

Our guesthouse in Kyaume had very friendly and funny stuff. When the tour guide, came he asked me if I wanted to join the group the next day. As I didn't have specific plans and was very interested in trekking I decided to join them. The only thing that was stopping me would be a message from the meditation centre in Hsipaw that would say: "Come and meditate with us :)". But it didn't come so in the morning we jumped on our motorbikes and started our journey. I knew that a part of it would involve driving a motorbike, but I didn't know that I would be driving another person on it. Luckily by that time I already had a lot of practice with the motorbike and  Anne, a French lady that was riding in the back, was great - so light that usually I didn't even feel she was there and she also told me that she wasn't afraid and that she trusts me so I felt comfortable. Yet soon I realised that the motorbike rides I have had were very easy compared to this one. First of all the motorbike wasn't the best, it made strange sounds and it kept on turning off very often. If we wouldn't be driving in a group I wouldn't feel good driving it. We didn't know much about what our next two days would be like and actually that was a good thing. If I had known I would have to drive about 3 hours with a motorbike that day and a big part of it on dirt road, I probably wouldn't have gone, but I would miss a lot! I had to be really careful driving and use a lot of power to control the motorbike on bad, dirt roads, sometimes going quite up or down hill. But I managed to do it and I have leaned even more about driving an old, semiautomatic motorbike, I would like to have one at home now, I love it :)!! On our way we saw a big place where they were preparing for a party and we found out that this was all in memorial of an important monk that had passed away. They made a big party with live music and lots of stalls with different things, I think the whole thing lasted 3 days. At the end they cremated the deceased one in front of everybody. I loved the part when they celebrate somebody's life with joy and not just mourn and be sad. I want I party also when I die :). Continuing our trip we stopped for lunch and had a salad made with fermented tea leaves and fried peanuts and peas, a traditional tea leaf salad. It has a specific taste because of the fermentation, after I got used to it I loved it. All around the area there are tea plantations and they use it for drinking and eating. For eating they boil it quickly and leave it to fermentate, they put it in the holes in the ground and leave it for more months and then use it for the salad. We walked around a little, I liked because it wasn't too much walking and just taking it easy. We were a nice group: two Belgian guys, 3 French, one American and one French family. It was a young family, travelling with two children, aged 2 and 5. I was pleasantly surprised when they told me that they have been travelling for a while, first they started it Europe where they travelled by bicycles and now they were travelling through Asia for more months (their facebook page is called: En Roues Libres, par 4 chemins, check it out!!). It is so nice to see that the parents don't limit themselves but just do what feel right for the whole family. I admire them because I know sometimes can be really exhausting to travel long time and they still need to take care of two very young girls, which  smile a lot, so I guess they're it right :). It takes a lot of patience and power to do that but the girls will have an amazing experience this way. They joined us just for one day as their trekking lasted only two days. The walk was really nice, we visited a house from a Nepali family that lived in the hill, saw how they live and we noticed that they put animals in sort of bungalows - little houses on stilts which enabled their waste to fall down on earth and this way their "home" was much nicer and cleaner, good solution. Tura was our tour guide and he gave us a lot of nice information about the places, people and local nature. He is a very interesting guy and in the evening he amused us with the stories of the local life. The first evening we arrived at one village in the hills where we were spending the night. Everything was screaming "Take it easy" there, even the locals. They cooked their food slowly and after having their supper started to cook for us. When the dinner finally came we were already starving but it was well worth the wait. This food wasn't like usual Burmese food in restaurants. It was simple but the most delicious food throughout Burma, which I could say about every course we ate during our trek. They served us rice with more dishes, pumpkins, tomatoes, beans, taro, potatoes and a lot of other delicious, fresh local food. They didn't use too much oil like the rest of Burma and the taste was amazing. Simple but delicious. They cook in the middle of the living room on fire which means that the whole room gets smoky, when it was too hard to breathe inside, we just went out on the porch. For me it was interesting to see how when they prepare the food they put the waste in a special hole in the floor, very practical :). They use this room for everything: cooking, eating, relaxing, hanging out and sleeping - in the nights they put out improvised beds on the floor, a bit hard but after some delicious rice wine I slept good. Except when I needed to go to the toilet which was a bit far from the house :).

It was interesting to see that the locals didn't really mind us being there, they started doing their thing very early in the morning at about 6 o'clock, yet  it was over 9 'clock when they made us breakfast. As I had enough time in between I walked around the village and did my Tai Chi, so I spent my time before breakfast useful rather than just wait nervously :). The second day we spent just on foot, we walked about 6 hours. It was very nice, parts were very steep but all in all it wasn't too hard. And the views there were magnificent! Walking among tea plantation in the middle of nowhere, crossing little rivers with improvised bridges (a rock or a piece of wood) and admiring the magnificent greenery all around us. The only people we encountered were just a few locals living there. We stopped at one local family to have some tea and Tura showed us some videos about the present situation in Burma. We were hoping to see some (hopefully) peaceful rebels, but I guess they were more afraid of us than we were of them :). At one local home we ate I noticed how neat they are - they didn't know we would be stopping there for lunch, so it wasn't because of us. They lived in the middle of nothing but their garden was well organized and the yard was made of dirt, but it was freshly swept and not messy at all. After delicious lunch and needless to say tasty tea we continued our walk. Tura showed us how to use papaya leaf stalk as a flute and all of a sudden he noticed an eagle far away, just resting on a tree branch. He gave us some local fruits, found during our trek, one was very weird - first when you eat it it is very bitter, but then at the end it is very sweet :). In the afternoon we arrived at another village where we were spending the night, this time it was a smaller one. I decided to take a shower, which meant putting on a sarong and going under cold water (in the evening it wasn't so warm anymore) in the middle of the village, like the locals do it. The sarong is used to cover yourself and you shower in it, interesting experience. For me the second house we slept in was cozier, the food was the best and also the rice wine mixed with passion fruit juice very nice. In the morning I bought some fresh local green tea, some of it I used during my later travels, some of it I gave as a gift while travelling and some of it I brought home, so I have a piece of Burma in my kitchen :). The local lady put Thanaka paste on my face and she did it with such patience and attention for detaiil to make my skin safe from the sun. We walked only two hours the last day and on the way we stopped at one place where they were building a house from bamboo. Some people from the group fired from an old riffle, I was more fascinated by the machines used for rolling the tea. But we were all amazed by two guys sewing a big tree trunk by handsaw. It looked impossible to do it, but they had a good system. They do a lot of things by hand, they do a lot of manual works and they have a good system to help them make it a bit easier. 

We finished our tour with motorbikes, we visited another village where we hang out with locals. They invited us for tea and made delicious tea leaf salad. They spoke a little English so we talked some. When we wanted to pay them, as this was all happening at a local shop, they refused and told us it was a present to us. At first I was a bit uncomfortable taking stuff from people who have less material things than I do. But by doing that I would be very unfair as I would take away from them their freedom to choose to give something to another being, without wanting anything in return, so sweet. I got a lot of gifts like this, some very small but to me they were great. Returning to Kyaume we passed some nice rice fields, stopped for delicious noodle soup and observed the locals, returning from the rice fields. It was time to plant the seeds now so a lot of people worked long hours enabling the rice to grow and later feed us. In the evening we were tired but very happy with the tour Tura had prepared for us. I would recommend it!

The next day we still didn't know if the road to Mandalay was unblocked, so we wanted to take a train, but it was completely full, they wouldn't even sell us standing tickets. So I hitchhiked with two Belgian guys and only after a few minutes our ride came. It was a local bus and it seemed full, but in Burma you can always find space for more people :). First we were very tight but happy that we were moving towards Mandalay. We didn't know how much they will charge us at our destination, but I think they gave us a local price. We were very lucky as very soon most of the people left the vehicle and we had enough space to relax and enjoy the ride. The road wasn't blocked anymore but we arrived in Mandalay too late for me to take the night train to the South. My next destination was Hpaan and I was really lucky because the last bus was leaving there in half an hour, so I jumped on the motorbike taxi and arrived at the station just 5 minutes before the bus was supposed to leave. I was so hungry as I didn't eat much during the day and I managed to eat rice with some veggies before the drive :). My last Burmese night bus was quite nice although it was the longest, 12 hours. I was lucky as I got the middle sit in the back, so I could stretch my long legs this time, which is a luxury. I put on my earphones and listened to some music and interesting philosophical talks and soon fell asleep. 

 

                    Discovering Hpa-an

In the morning I woke up in Hpaan, a small town South-East of Yangon, less than 200 kilometers from the border with Thailand, where I was leaving this beautiful country in a week. As I arrived early in the morning and was a bit tired from the drive, I decided to take it easy. I found an ok room at Parami hotel and walked around the city, but also spent some time in my new bed. The weather here was so hot and humid that it was a bit too much for me. I walked around the local market and ended up at Kan Thar Yar lake. Oh how I loved it there, it was so calm and relaxing, just what I needed. I found some young guys playing the guitar and I sat close to them and just enjoyed. I noticed a lot of young couples in love in this city, holding hands and kissing, in other parts of Burma I didn’t notice so much public affections of love, it was nice to see all the love in the air :). I found I nice place located directly at the lake, Royal Lake Inn for 10 EUR a night (for two persons), so I decided to stay there the next night. I saw a beautiful sunset over river. The next day I rented a motorbike, moved my luggage and drove around Hpaan. I wanted to climb Zwegabin Mountain. I thought I arrived early enough as I started my ascend at 9 AM. But actually at this time it was already very hot and with each step also a lot hotter. It took me about an hour and a half to reach the top, my clothes were all wet but I was happy. I like hiking in the mountains, so I enjoyed it, although the view wasn’t the best because of the haze. But it was nice to pass a lot of locals and hang out with them, I was a rare tourist there so they took more pictures of me than I did of them :). At the top I met a sweet family and although we couldn’t speak the same language, we had a lot of fun. I had my snack there - delicious sticky rice with coconut from the market, but I guess the smell was too good as it invited a monkey which took my food - well I haven't been attacked by the monkeys for food for about two months now :). I started descending around noon when it was already too hot and humid to walk around, but I needed to get down. I couldn’t really understand the fact that a lot of people were still ascending at this time, of course wearing long trousers or skirts and long sleeves. Crazy!! I loved driving around and I visited Sadan cave. It is not so close and the road wasn’t the best, but as I was used to driving in all sorts of places it wasn’t a problem. The hardest part was the unbearable heat and it felt good to spend some time in the cave. I walked through it and took a boat ride back, which meant I had to walk some more through wonderful rice fields, I loved it. I drove slowly back and enjoyed the lovely surroundings.  I heard about one meditation place that was about one and a half hour away from Hpa-an and wrote them if I can do Vipassana meditation there. They answered just yes, which was a bit odd as they didn’t give me more information. But as I was already in the neighborhood I decided to come there the next day. I felt ready, but I guess was quite nervous as I ate I think 7 ice creams that night – in my defense, one cornetto was very tiny :). Usually when I was a bit nervous or overwhelmed with emotions, like saying goodbye to another country, I had sugar cravings and ice cream was convenient as mostly everywhere (except China :)) was so hot. The next morning I enjoyed taking it easy at the lake, doing Tai Chi, but I didn’t feel the best as I woke up with a bad pain in my back. Maybe the previous day it wasn’t the best for me to drive around with a wet T-shirt. At noon I took the local bus to Mawlemyne, an hour away. At the bus station I bought some fruit, ate delicious papaya salad and noodles and took a local bus to Pa Auk Forest Monastery

                                        The meditation

I tried to come without expectations but still was totally surprised when I found out that the bed they gave me was wooden, without a mattress or anything else. Luckily the nun who was in charge of us yogis (meditation practitioners) was very kind and took me to the shops outside the Monastery where I could buy a blanket to sleep on. Anyway the meditation is free and the blanket would be one part of my donation. I met my teacher the day I came and it was interesting to see how the rest of the yogis and nuns worshiped him. I got my first instructions, which were: sit still, relax, breath through your nose and focus on the breath moving around the nostrils. Nothing else. After a very uncomfortable night, with my back already in pain and sleeping on a hard bed I began my first meditation in the morning. Meditation sessions lasted 1 hour and a half and we had 5 of them during the day. After the first one there was breakfast, another meditation and lunch at 10 o’clock. We were free until 1 PM and later we had 3 more meditation session, the last ended at 7 PM. The first 4 meditations (6 hours all together) were good for me, I didn’t have problems sitting, I just kept falling asleep during it. Every day we had a talk with one of the two teachers and we could ask him questions about the experience we had there. He said that it is normal to fall asleep, that I should be well rested and if I keep falling asleep I should stretch. I liked the explanation that you shouldn’t suffer. Of course, some situations are uncomfortable and it is ok, but if it gets too painful you should move. The point is not in suffering but in getting your mind to focus just on breathing so you stop thinking about everything else. Sometimes I was more, sometimes less successful, but I tried returning from wherever my mind escaped to back to my nostrils. Over and over. Usually 1 hour and a half passed quite quickly. Just at the last meditation my back started to hurt too much and then I discovered I can sit on a chair or sit on the floor but lean against the wall. So I made myself more comfortable. The food we got there was like alms giving – local people cooked for more than a hundred yogis and nuns and this was like a gift for us. It actually meant that they cooked all sorts of weird things and I chose only few things, it wasn’t the best. Besides the pain in my back, living in the unbearable heat, catching mosquitoes in the nights the first day I had some stomach problems so all in all I didn’t feel the best, but I liked the meditation. It made my head clearer and helped me more being in the present moment. There were only about 5 of white yogis, the rest were more religious meditators. 

As I didn’t come there for religious matters it was a bit too much for me, but it was interesting to be part of this experience – amongst hundreds of women, doing the same thing, just breathing and focusing on it. As my second night was very tough again, I wanted to leave the Monastery. But after my meditations I started feeling better, the pain in my back was smaller and I was tranquil. I was thinking about staying longer, but not wanting to sleep on the impossible bed again. During lunch I noticed that there were a lot of cupboards in the dining room, full with blankets, pillows and mattresses! Crazy! I asked the nun about this and she explained to me that I have to ask in the office to get it. It felt crazy to be sleeping on a hard bed when in the same building there were available things that could make my stay much more comfortable. I had to promise more times to return the mattress (thin but still in that situation it felt like a thick one) but I got also a pillow with it. I was so happy and the lunch was quite good this time, we even got delicious ice cream. After the lunch, at 10 AM, we didn’t eat anything else. Actually the first day I ate a piece of papaya I had left but I would manage well without. I still don’t know about the rules there, at the Vipassana retreats you get only fruit in the afternoon and you mustn’t speak or make eye contact with anybody except the teacher. But here I think the rules weren’t so strict, it was weird because I didn’t talk or look at anybody in the beginning but then realized that most of the rest talked toeach other, some even a lot. I was a bit confused so I made up my own rules, I started making eye contacts and giving and receiving smiles which made me more human than just ignore everything around me, especially as the rest didn’t do that. The second day I had one really good meditation, I managed to focus more on the breathing and as my mind had some “time off” from the usual thinking I felt rested and I had some nice visions. 

But anyway the whole experience wasn’t what I wanted – I wanted more guidance and here one teacher later went away so I could talk to the teacher only every second day, which wasn’t enough for a beginner like me. I was already thinking about staying here just a few more days, as it wasn’t a real Vipassana retreat it wasn’t necessary to stay there for 10 days. But after realizing in the night that my new bed was covered with the smell of gasoline or some kind of strong smell I decided on my 3rd day to leave the monastery. It was too much and I didn’t come there to suffer. It was hard to quit something I had planned and wanted to do, but it was the right choise.  I did my meditations through the day and jumped on a motorbike taxi to arrive in Mawlemyine just in time to have dinner at wonderful, friendly and cheap Grandmother and grandfather restaurant.

                                            Mawlemyine

I felt so good, like I just broke out of prison, and just admired my new home town for the next few days. The taxi driver took me to Breeze guesthouse – which happened to be my worst night. The rooms are actually just one big room, divided with thin walls into really small spaces. The bed was so hard and I thought it would brake under my weight, but luckily I had double bed so I put one mattress on top of the other and this way it was passable for one night. The air was bad and there was noise in the evening, you could hear everything from the outside, and at about 3 AM there was one guy outside our rooms, in the hall, shouting all sorts of crazy things. He was talking about death, asking who wants to die and who wants to kill him and all sorts of things like this. It lasted for about an hour and I felt really scared and upset as my room didn’t have any widow so I had no place to get away. Luckily later somehow the guy left and I got some sleep. In the morning I met one guy there, about 45 years old, who travels around mostly by walking. He takes a ride if somebody offers him – he doesn’t go with public transport but he says that there are a lot of people that stop and want to drive him. But in the morning he moves around just by walking, he made up a rule that he doesn’t accept the rides until noon. Wow, amazing crazy experience he must have travelling like this! And something really strange happened - the very next morning I left the meditation centre as I had realized it wasn’t what I wanted, they gave me a paper commercial for Vipassana meditation. It was so ironic as I had been looking for it all around Burma and at this point I already decided to postpone it to another time as it was clearly getting away from me. Luckily it didn’t upset me but really made me laugh. As I realized that I really don’t want to spend any more time in this guesthouse,  I looked around for another place and decided upon Pann Su Wai guest house with very friendly personnel. They gave me a good price (I think 9 EUR) for a nice, clean room with comfortable.

The next few days I spent mostly taking it easy, walking around the town, hanging with the locals and keeping up with my blog. I realized that all the travelling I had made in the past 4 months made me happy but also very tired. I felt that I need to take it more slowly and my pain in the back reminded me of this in case I forgot. And also I had some problems with my left foot, when I stepped on it it was painful. I guess that sometimes when I don’t take it easy enough I end up with an unplanned rest. And I realized that during my travels I usually “work” every day, there are no weekends or holidays, so I need to force myself to make more vacations on vacations. Yeah it sounds crazy, but in reality travelling is hard work, everyday making a lot of decisions, thinking where to go and what to do, organizing the budget, understanding the system in surroundings that change often. This is the cost of living freely and doing the things that makes me happy. I want to explain also the other side of this wonderful experience, but also emphasize that this is the cost I am definitely prepared to pay. And the solution is to take it easy, spend some days just lying around in the hammock, walking slowly and doing nothing, without feeling guilty. Sometimes I had troubles doing this as I was thinking about that I didn’t come so far to just lie around, but I realized that this is also part of the experience. Sometime it is enough just to sit and observe the traffic and people that pass you. Or observe the feelings inside myself, emmbracing them rather than fearing or judging them. I had nice talks with the guy who worked at the guesthouse until he accused me that I didn’t pay for the previous day. I knew I had paid and was sure that somewhere my money must be, but he insisted that I didn’t pay. I have learnt that sometimes it better to just let some time pass, not push it, and believe that things will sort out. The next day he apologized because he found the money. I wasn’t upset because I knew that he was working too much and he didn’t do this on purpose. Mawlemyine was a nice place to relax, I felt good at my guesthouse, there is a nice view over the river and I found a nice local family that was selling fruit and they were happy having me around. I love it when people laugh when I buy coconut and then I bring my own straw for drinking water and spoon for eating the meat. I am happy if I make somebody smile, even if they think I am crazy. And in Burma they had really nice coconuts with thick meat. One day I finally decided to get a haircut and just walked in a saloon. They didn’t really speak English so I was in a dilemma but I decided to just go for it. I tried to explain them in sign language that I want her to cut just a little bit, but didn’t know what the result will be like. Well actually when she washed my head I had the best head and neck massage ever, it was worth just to get this. I was lying (not sitting) during it and enjoying like crazy. But even better than this was that I was really satisfied with the haircut she did. Wow, I felt amazing, with freshly washed hair, not being all messy, I felt like a film star :). Well considering my usual messiness you can understand how beautiful I felt when my hair was freshly cut, I didn’t need anything more. It is hard to understand but while travelling I am often a bit messy, either it is the hair, some fruit stain on my clothes or just wearing some combination of the clothes that I wouldn’t wear at home. This is one part of travelling I love – being relaxed and not caring so much about the appearance. Ok, don’t think that I walk around looking awful, but just more lets use the word “relaxed”. I love that my clothes are loose, especially in cultures where not everything is connected with sex. This is also one thing that I love about this part of the world as it is less common for women to overemphasize their breasts, legs or buttock, just to impress the opposite sex. And in spite of this I saw so many beautiful women and men there, because beauty is not really connected with wearing the tightest or the most modern cloth.  I think that wearing a smile is the best possible cloth a person can wear. I felt so happy when in Vietnam two Chinese girls commented that I have a great smile. I realized it was totally because of the honestly good feeling behind it.  Well like I said that everything is relative; I usually felt a bit messy but I do remember one interesting experience that happened when I was walking in Mandalay in my regular outfit (I didn’t have many different clothes), loose brown pants with blue loose shirt, nothing special, but I felt good in it. I already told you how women in Burma are very neat, with longyies and shirts, they look so beautiful. But one beautiful girl checked me from the bottom to the top and said “Wow”, I could see that she was really impressed with the way I looked although it was my regular loose, relaxed look!

After having few days doing almost nothing I went to Bilu island. It is amazing to see how like at Inle lake at one small place people make such amazing handy crafts. I saw how they make rubber, bamboo hats, small chalkboards, textiles and my favourite was making all sorts of things from wood, from combs to little boxes, tea pots and lovely pens. It was amazing to see again how handy they are, how many skills they have. And they really have the feeling for esthetics. If this would be at the end of my travels I would buy more things but I settled with a beautiful comb and pens. To get to the island I took a local boat that takes about 10 minutes and is filled with people and their motorbikes. I didn’t take an organized tour, but to travel around the island I needed transport so I hired a motorbike driver at the “port” in the island, who drove me around for about 3 hours for 10.000 Kyatts. I think that the boat ride was just about  1.000 Kyatts, so this way I spent less that 10 EUR doing the tour instead of paying much more if I would use  travel agency. The next day I rented a motorbike (at the Breeze guesthouse) and went South. The drive was lovely, I was happy that I was finally moving a bit more than previous days with the wind in my hair. I passed the road by the monastery where I did my meditation and it was quite weird that just at this time I saw a nun that was sitting next to me during our meditations, I admired her for her stillness. When I saw her I was grateful for the experience in the monastery I had the fortune to get. I visited the biggest reclining Buddha statue, it is so interesting because inside of “his body” there is a whole building, a part was with statues, explaining the teachings of Buddha. It was so strange to see and walk inside this giant statue and next to it they are building a new one. I stopped at the local market in Muddon and got some lovely fruit and Thanaka for home and also had my face painted from the local lady to protect me from the sun again. In Thanbyzyat I visited the Death railway museum. It was an ok place but I was a bit disappointed as for 5.000 Kyatts there was just one small building with some pictures and little information about the horrors that happened during building the railway connecting Thailand and Burma during World War II. My final stop was Kyaikkami’s Yele Pagoda, which has amazing setting at the sea. I was finally at the sea again although it was a bit dirty. As I was returning I searched for a place where I could get freshly cooked food and relax a little after a lot of driving and after quite some time I found a great place – where I could communicate enough to explain them I don’t want to eat meat, the food was delicious and served with a small soup and salad, like it was a tradition in Burma, and of course with the lovely tea and friendly locals. Needless to say it was very cheap, I tried to leave a tip but they wouldn’t accept it. I loved that in Burma they served tea everywhere, usually it was free and very delicious! I arrived back in Mawlemyine exhausted as I travelled about 150 kilometers that day, but loving being more mobile. In my last Burmese evening I tried mixing the local beers – the more blunt Myanmar with more strong Black Shield and got a nice result. And as usual before leaving the country I loved I had some sugar cravings as I was a bit sad and emotional. In the morning I took the “lovely” taxi drive to the border – it was crazy, first  part of the road was dirt road and the driver drove like it was highway, overtaking everyone that got in a way, not slowing down but just honking a lot. I am used to a lot but didn’t feel the safe. And at one time he stops in the middle of a normal road. There were three people (yeah it is normal to drive at least three or four on one motorbike there) with a motorbike that broke down. We picked them up in our car and I tried to move my backpack away not to get dirty all over from the motorbike but the driver wouldn’t let me. At the end I was a bit furious as I realized that my backpack got really dirty from the mud of the motor bike. Not that it was perfectly clean before, but it was ok considering how much I had travelled. And just before the drive I thought: ok, here I don’t need to put rain cover on it like I do it on local transports that it doesn’t get dirty all over (I didn’t do it always but after at one time it got some bigger stains I was more careful). In this ride when we started we were just two people in a clean car, so I didn’t protect it and was later really mad. Yeah, I overreacted as it was just a thing and it wasn’t something that cannot be fixed. Yeah, I guess I was a bit upset leaving this country, but I knew it was time to leave it.  Walking over the bridge that connects the two countries made me realize this was one of the countries that will hold a special spot in my heart!!


At this point I want to thank you for taking the time and read this blog. I know sometimes it is a lot of words and you get lost a bit, but it means a lot to me for you to take the time to try to see the world through my glasses!! I have one advice if you think like this: “Oh, I am interested in what happens after Burma, but I don’t have the time to read all of this Katja’s monologue, because it takes too much time”. I understand it is a lot to read because this blog is meant for three groups of people - first of all it is my diary which reminds me of my great adventures, secondly it is telling the story to anybody who is interested in what my travels are like and thirdly I also want to leave some useful informations for people who can use it while travelling. So just read the parts that are interesting to you and skip the rest. And also think about how it was for me, writing about my adventures just using my phone, uploading pictures and trying to make it good. How many hours I spent writing it and in Burma’s blog I don’t know how I managed to loose my first notes about the last 10 days of it – so I had two choices: to be angry, sad and give up or just write it again and relive these special moments. I decided to spend about 10 more hours on it and am happy that I did it, because this is a wonderful reminder of my adventures!! And if you don't take the time to read about what happened after Burma, just take the time to do something you really love, you deserve it !!


See you soon :) !!