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Day Two Tungsan to Hsipaw trek

The night was warmer than we had anticipated. We'd brought toques, sweaters and scarves just in case, though the sweater was still necessary. Not many people woke up in time for the 7:30 breakfast so it was pushed to eight to Kham Lu's dismay. Breakfast was filling and again had no meat. We ate a thick veggie omelette, fried fern, lentil, beans and a potato daal dish.

We passed a few schools on our walk out of the village as well as some horses carrying wood up the hill.

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As promised, we only went uphill for a little while through some areas which saw less deforestation than yesterday. There wasn't an access road yet so it had some beautiful views. Tea plantations caused a lot of the tree clearing. Kham Lu saw the climate changing a bit as a result, like rain in dry season, and suspected that it would continue to change. One man was cutting logs by hand yesterday and would do so all day. He would only be paid by the builder once he was finished.

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We made it out of the nice forested area and down to the valley which almost felt like a desert. We had some tea, snacks and bought expensive water at a little shop. There were more personal photos at religious sites as well as photos of baby twins. The walk back without shade continued until a large truck passed us. It stopped and Kham Lu asked if we wanted to board. Since it was free, we did, clinging onto the metal bars around the sides of the box. It was fun at first to balance while standing and enjoy the passing scenery, but the constant fight to stay upright and oil fumes that were leaking in got to me. My headaches grew with every bump and shake. Ryan asked for me if we could get off and to my luck we had to stop anyway to let other trucks go by and hopped off.

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We walked the rest of the way back. Earlier we'd been talking about the Netherlands including its beauty and biodiversity. Three hours was a really long journey for them travelling to university North fomr the South. We also compared notes on tipping and taxes in both countries. Taxes were included in their prices and they didn't have the distinction on fresh or processed food taxes, although they may introduce it in the future to promote healthier living. We shared about Canada's size, diversity and how a three hour trip was almost a requirement to get anywhere from our part of the country. We also talked a bit about residential schools and out not so pretty past, also the differences between us and the states. They had noticed that most Americans took shorter trips and tended to volunteer. We attributed our long trips to winter escapism.

For lunch, we had Shan noodle soup. To the others' delight, there was finally a meat option with the veggie option for myself as well. It was quite tasty and the noodles had a slightly sticky characteristic that the ones at the tea shop had as well.

The tuktuk picked us up from there and we rode back to town. Kham Lu talked about these sticky rice and palm sugar treats that the Dutch women had tried a version of in Vietnam and loved. We said our goodbyes and went to relax in the room.

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Ryan and I rested until supper where our aching bodies made the journey to San for more barbequed okra, potato and Ryan's not so appetizing chicken stuffed with vegetable. We went to the corner that Kham Lu pointed out for a purple dessert patties. The woman steamed them with palm sugar and wrapped them in a bamboo leaf. We also got two green ones with nuts that the lady in front of us was buying. 3 pieces for 300 kyat or 30 cents.

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Back at Lily guesthouse, we asked what exactly we'd bought and the young lady laughed. It was a sticky rice dessert well known to the area. They may have been described in our guidebook as well.

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Posted by Sarah.M 06:18 Archived in Myanmar Tagged trek san school hike hot truck dessert hsipaw tungsan deforestation Comments (0)

Golden Rock

sunny 30 °C

We woke up bright and early for our 5:30 European breakfast. I put back a juice that I really shouldn't have considering we'd be on the bus so soon. Eggs and toast were good though. Our cab driver upped the price of our cab to 10, 000 kyat ($10) because there was a marathon that never even affected us traffic-wise. Considering the hotel had arranged the whole thing, we were less than impressed and out of other options. Thanks for that Motherland... We arrived more than an hour early and could have easily shared a cab with the others leaving in 15 minute intervals. They'd certainly perfected the art of fleecing tourists now.

Our bus left a little late, but not too bad. I thought they'd stop for a washroom break after three hours but when I checked Google Maps, we were quite closed to our final destination, the town of Kinpun. The bus even took us directly into the town, past the building that resembled the bus station, to Emerald Hotel. At least they had washrooms, albeit busy squatters. The trip only took us around three hours which was quite speedy when we expected five.

We walked down a road, through a field, then back alley to find many children's smiling faces and 'Mingalaba' welcomes. It was a nice change from Yangon's indifference. People seemed to be happy enough to see our sweaty foreign faces.

It was easy enough to find Pann Myo Thu Guesthouse and they offered us the cheapest rooms without even asking if we had a reservation (which we did). We gladly swapped for the cheapie which turned out to be like thin walled little shacks with a shared squatter toilet. But for $12 we couldn't really complain.

We walked out to a restaurant with the same name as the guesthouse (though apparently no association) and had some fried rice with egg, and chicken for Ryan. It was actually really tasty and exactly what I had been craving for weeks after all those less than satisfying meals in Northern Thailand.

Next, we walked to the truck station where seats had been installed in seven rows along the back of industrial-sized trucks. There was even a staircase to climb just to get inside. We squished into the truck holding 50-60 people (yes, I counted), picking up more when I didn't think it was possible, but that seemed to be the theme in Asia. They're much better at utilizing space than we are in the West. From there, we began the long seven mile motorized climb of Mount Kyaiktiyo. A Japanese guy was having a blast photo documenting the whole bumpy voyage up the mountain. Not a bad place for a GoPro.

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We stopped twice, once for food and the other time to give our 2500 kyat ($2.50) payment, a price paid by all, regardless of nationality for once. Our truck stopped every once in awhile to let other vehicles pass, but most of the ride was a bumpy roller coaster, gripping the back of the seat in front of us. No seat belts of course.

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From the drop-off, we walked past tons of vendors until we had to take off our shoes. The golden rock was still a blip atop a gray boulder from here. We stopped at various points to photograph it at a distance. People were also camped out in various sections with floral blankets and bamboo mats forming tent shelters from the sun. We figured it was all part of the pilgrimage to the top.

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From close up, we could see Golden Rock with a zedi built on top of it. Men, and only men as women were prohibited from entering this section, would stick gold leafs (thinly crushed gold to about the width of a tissue) to the rock as was often done to Buddha statues as well. We walked below that small walkway to glimpse the rock from a lower vantage point. It was incredible that it was standing based on how it had been balanced. People lined up small clay dishes up the stairs and chucked the broken pieces away.

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Toward the back there didn't seem to be much but shops and a hotel. We did catch part of a conversation from tourists who had climbed the ride we took in the truck. We had thought no one was crazy enough to attempt it in the midday heat. This planted an idea in my head.
Near one of the lookouts, a Burmese man was playing the guitar and singing very well. We let the breeze cool us as we looked out the surrounding mountains.

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On the way down, out a samosa vendor spoke my language 'no meat' and 'gift for you' also known as a free sample. After tasting one, how could I say no? So, we bought four tasty treats to share.

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We searched for the walking path, starting down the truck's road until Ryan really didn't think it was the right path. There had to be a better, less dangerous way. Sure enough, we found it when we back-tracked. It passed through little vendor shops where the people seemed to live as well. There were friendly children, especially as we passed. The views were gorgeous too, now that we weren't bouncing around too much to enjoy it. We ran into a British man from our guesthouse who had climbed all the way up. The ascent was supposed to bring good fortune with you in the next life. We'd certainly done it wrong and hopefully it wouldn't do the opposite for us. We got to give him the good news that he was nearly there.

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We stopped for sugar cane juice at a nice viewpoint. It seemed a shame not to drink in the view, and the juice. I'd been craving it since Yangon. Afterward, Ryan wondered if we should have been more leery. The sugar cane stalks were soaking in local water, the cloudy stuff that some people would bottle and try to resell to tourists even with the plastic seal on the bottle top. We'd find out if it was a good idea.

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Toward the end of our three hour descent, we passed a swimming hole. The water looked refreshing, but maybe not so clean. Another European man on the path was looking for the smaller Kinpun golden rock, but we unfortunately couldn't help him locate it. The sun set and we carefully did the rest of the trail in the dark, following the town and market lights once we left the bush and trying not to trip too many times.

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We had supper nearby and were soon joined by the British guy. He had taken the truck down. He told us that we had misinformed him on the time expectation, but we think the message got lost in passing. He'd spent a fair bit of time in Myanmar, loving Hpa An and Hsipaw, two towns on our list. We had fried noodle and veggie dishes along with sweet and sour pork.

Posted by Sarah.M 15:27 Archived in Myanmar Tagged golden_rock climb truck pilgrimage kinpun Comments (0)

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