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Trip Report Pandaw in Myanmar 2013

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Hello Fodor friends

I used this forum so much while researching our trip to Myanmar, that I now wish to give back.
We arrived in monsoonal Yangon the day before the start of our 14 night river cruise to Mandalay on RV Indochina Pandaw. Flew in from Singapore with Jetstar Asia, only 2.5 hour flight, so no jet lag to worry about. Immigration was easy, as was getting a taxi. The traffic however was horrendous, the driver lovely. It felt really weird to be in a left hand drive car, driving on the right hand side of the road, but as in most Asian countries there is a certain courtesy on the roads, fast disappearing in western countries.
Our hotel was the Chatrium Royal Lake, with a view from our room to Shwedagon Paya.
The staff were very friendly (as we would discover are the Burmese people in general) nothing too much trouble, and all keen to engage in conversation.
We took a taxi to downtown for 4000 kyats (about USD $4) and wandered the streets admiring a crumbling charm of colonial buildings and street life as you see in other SE Asian cities. Before long a massive downpour turned streets to streams, and umbrella danger became a minor concern. We plonked ourselves down in a beer bar to watch the action, cold draught beer at 600 kyat a glass (glass cold and frosty too). Some fantastic photo opportunities presented, including lines of up to 15 nuns out seeking alms. Apparently they only come out on the day before holidays, which is three times a month. The Buddhists have three holidays each month, new moon day, full moon day and halfway between. We saw plenty of nuns in our 20 days, so not sure if this is accurate.
A pleasant meal was had at the Chinese restaurant in our hotel, reasonably priced and delicious in a lovely setting. There was quite a palaver trying to organise Pandaw to pick up our luggage, but not us, as we wanted to visit Scott Market next morning (closed on Monday when we arrived). A very funny palaver though, three phone calls all with different spellings of the wharf our Pandaw would be at. We also received a tissue paper envelope under our door with very large writing " Please attaché your luague" inside we're two Pandaw luggage tags, we laughed and laughed.
Next morning checkout was smooth, and taxi to Scott Market easy, although traffic again diabolical. We were quite early so the market just opening up (watch out for the washing of the shop fronts !) I was on a mission to secure a pedicure, and found many cosmetic shops but couldn't quite make myself understood that I wanted someone else to apply the nail polish. Eventually, "foot spa" was offered and I was directed to the second floor where two lovely young women worked on my feet. I enjoyed some tea with lots of seeds in it, and got an excellent pedicure for 4000 kyats. Also bought some great sandals for 9400 kyats, and the first of many longyi, a beautiful cotton with silk embroidery in the Shan state style, very tribal. The young woman at the longyi shop had the most amazing blue eyes. When I gasped and exclaimed at her beautiful eyes, she grinned back and said "contacts" , how funny.
My husband helped two young girls who were struggling to open some huge heavy wooden doors, they were besides themselves, and giggled like crazy, again we would see this reaction many times over the next 19 days.
The most amazing thing about Burma was the people, so very friendly and helpful, and now prepared to talk about the political situation that they have endured for many years. Later in the trip I would be brought to tears by the powerful imagery evoked by conversations with our two guides on Pandaw.
Right now am at home and off work due to dysentery, my fault, don 't let that deter you from visiting this fantastic country.
My husband and I are mid to early 50's live on the Gold Coast in Australia, and love travelling. We both still work full time, so can only manage four weeks holiday each year, favourite destinations are, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Bali, and oddly enough Spain.
More on Pandaw later.
Caroline

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