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BURMA, SHANGHAI, HONG KONG--PART TWO OF ASIAN ODYSSEY 2010

BURMA, SHANGHAI, HONG KONG--PART TWO OF ASIAN ODYSSEY 2010

Old Jun 7th, 2010, 01:38 PM
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There is a village within walking distance of the hotel, but we opted to remain “at home” in the evening and have dinner in the hotels’ pretty dining room.

We shared the premises with two large groups of tourists, one from France and the other from Russia. We noticed only two other tables of independent travelers. Much time has passed since that dinner, so I do not remember many details but I do remember that the main course, the prawn sambal, was excellent, if lacking in heat. So excellent, in fact, that I ordered it for a second time the following night, when I insisted that they make it as spicy as possible, with very good result. The food at the hotel was surprisingly good; I do not remember the price of the food but I did note that a rum sour with domestic rum cost $6US.


There was some discussion regarding the next morning’s departure time. I would highly recommend setting off at first light to maximize both good photography time and to arrive at any markets in advance of tour groups. We left the hotel, after a good breakfast, at 7:45, bound for the 5-day market which was held that day at NamPan. As the hotel is not actually on the main body of the lake, the boat traveled through a narrow channel for about 10 minutes before reaching open water.

Due to the low water level, there was quite a pileup of boats in the marshes at the edge of Nam Pan village. Normally the boats could pull up right to the market area but with the level so low, they were forced to dock in the marsh itself which meant that market-goers had to clamber from boat to boat—through a lineup of 20 boats or so-- to reach the shore. This would have been very difficult for anyone with mobility problems, as the boats were not stable. I found it kind of scary at first, but quickly got into the spirit.



The market was truly wonderful and the few hours we spent here would have been alone worth the trip to Inle Lake. The scene is right out of National Geographic, with the crowded stalls piled with all manner of wares, manned by vendors of various ethnic groups. We saw many tribespeople in indigenous garb, most noticeable of which are the women of the Pa’O minority who dress in black skits and blouses emblazoned by bolts of bright colors and wrap their heads in brightly colored turbans which were once hand-loomed cottons and are today brightly colored terry towels. Although we spotted a few tourists, the market was patronized overwhelmingly by local people who had come to shop, to have their hair cut, to eat, to gossip, and to gamble at cards and at cockfights.

It was a thrilling, animated, and very colorful scene.

Although I had eaten breakfast I could not miss the opportunity to stop at one of the market stalls for a few snacks. Although my friends passed on this, NyiNyi and I devoured the variety of samosas fried sweet crullers, pakoras, and other treats that are served along with an order of tea at the “tea stalls.” Everything was freshly made and very tasty.

We also did a bit of shopping here. I purchased a brass opium weight ($10US for the largest size) and a very interesting white silk jacket emblazoned with Pali script and astrological calendars. I thought that this was quite expensive at $50; the vendors here were not willing to drop prices much even after spirited bargaining.

On the way back to the boat I was trailed by a rather desperate woman toting a round black lacquer betel box embellished with brass medallions. I did not want this box but she was so persistent that I eventually capitulated. In retrospect, as I look at the box on my shelf, I think it ranks among the most attractive souvenirs of the trip.

We spent several hours at the market before scuttling along across the sea of boats to our own little ship, and setting off for lunch.



more soon...
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 04:41 PM
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I'm learning a lot from this, Eks, and it's making me yearn to go, like Kathie's report did. And I can't count the number of times something seemed too pricey and I later regretted not buying it.
It's sad for us when the tourism begins to dilute authetic local life, but maybe not so sad for their families' income and better standards of living. I loathe being dragged to these tourist restaurants until I realize that in many places without tourist there would probably be no restaurants at all.
In Botswana, we went for a mokoro (canoe) that I was dismayed to learn was made of fiberglass, not the original wood. Silly me, they must be so much cheaper to buy, easier to pole and simpler to clean. I'll bet those teak boats won't last long. Good for the environment? Maybe, maybe not.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 11:57 PM
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Planning to visit Nampan on market day enroute to southern area this Nov after your report ! I read somewhere that it is 1 of the bigger markets of the 5day rotating markets, we visited Mine Thauk n bought grass cushions to put on our patio and large colourful woven shopping bags to lug them in! Last Dec we invited our UK pal n she was late everyday - didn't start till 9.30am (just as well I booked afternoon flights all thru !)so we did see a few tourists about in the market but not in Samkar !

We took 2 hours from Nampan to Samkar. The journey was enlightening n surreal- a photographer's dream ! Visited the village nursery school as we brought (via my guide) books n stationery to pass to the teachers. The children were so shy n adorable. Passing thru the village n talking to the guide we found that their new hospital was unused as they don't even have basic medicine n bandages, so we are coming this year!

We stayed @ Inle Resort(www.inleresort.com) on the eastern bank n it was quiet n sumptuous. Built by Princess Resort Owner than sold to Myanmar business (not Tay). Stayed @ mid range deluxe teak villa $65 with deck,sitting room separated by teak sliding doors to bedroom. Had a air con cum heater which was useful as temperatures drop down to 10C @1am !We'll go back to Inle Resort again as we didn't have time to try their spa during our 2 nites n 2 full days there.

Saw small groups of French ,US n UK guests around in the restaurant, no big groups. Food was large portions & good with menus for Asian & Western palates, so we did a mix & match, burb !

As long as the food was hot n freshly made it was quite safe for us as we tried the local restaurant nearby Heho airport n even our bashful driver joined us. We were being massaged whilst waiting for our food Loved both the fried & soupy Shan noodles, vegetables were so fresh especially the marrow sprouts/tips fried, mange tout,yum. My tour guide helps with her mother's potato farm when she's not guiding so I bring sealed packets of seeds for her to try. She tells us what veg is in season, we ate well during our stay in Inle.

We bought some Shan jackets @ the silk & lotus weavers as it came in various colours(red,ple,brn,blk ,thick cotton n just $15.Our UK pal took 2 back, I bought a red plus silk scarves(presents) n some silk fabric to leave with my Yangon tailor.

Yes ,sounds like I'm in love with Burma, how can one not be, the people are gracious n very warm and when you get to know them well , they can't do enough !
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Old Jun 8th, 2010, 02:35 AM
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what would you estimate the price of a burmese silk scarf to be in nyc??? oh maybe $600??
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Old Jun 8th, 2010, 02:37 AM
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I am wondering now about the information that I received from our guide that it would take four hours EACH WAY from our hotel to Samkar in the south. When I heard 8 hours in the boat, plus exploring time, I made the decision to skip it on this trip, especially since my late-starting travel companions were dead opposed. Now it is possible that the guide was exaggerating the distance in time. Perhaps he had to take into account the location of our hotel, which was on the western bank, pretty far north. I did not research this myself but depended on his counsel, which is unusual for me! I certainly would have gone alone if I had had an extra day.

But tell me, if it was a four hour trip each way, what exactly is different in the southern part of the lake, besides the fact that there are fewer tourists? The markets we saw looked "authentic" and not very much marred by tourism.
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Old Jun 8th, 2010, 03:03 AM
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When we did it, Samkar took all day. We made several stops however, so we did not spend all of that time in the boat. Without stops, it would probably be about 2 hours each way from your hotel.
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Old Jun 8th, 2010, 03:16 AM
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Well I have only myself to blame for not double checking the info that I received from the guide. Let that be good lesson. But having said that, I doubt if I would have gone since we had only the day of arrival plus the next day. I think that two nights is really the bare minimum for Inle Lake. I would like to return to that area and see not only more of the lake (while there is still a lake!) and also travel to Kalaw.

I just looked at the map and see that Nam Pan is in the center of the lake,so the travel time from there to the south would be much shorter than from my hotel to the southern end. So people wanting to visit the southern end might want to take hotel location into account before booking.
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Old Jun 8th, 2010, 03:17 AM
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...and also visit Taunggyi, which is only 19 miles north of the lake. That city is also in a 5-day market rotation system.
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Old Jun 8th, 2010, 03:46 AM
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Did you visit Taunggyi? In addition to the 5-day market there is a large (and interesting) central market there...
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Old Jun 8th, 2010, 08:23 AM
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Eks, we visited the southern end of the lake and it didn't take as long to get there as were were told. It took probaly three hours to get there (you have to stop and pick up a guide and a permit, plus there is a permit checkpoint. It took maybe 2.5 hours on the way back. But all of that time in the boat was heavenly. There was always something to see.

The southern part of the lake is less touristed and less developed. It has only been open to visitors for a few years. The stupas at Samkar were un-restored and rising up out of the water. We had tea with a monk at the Samkar monastery, one of those things that are hard to arrange in the more touristed north.
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Old Jun 10th, 2010, 05:12 PM
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Here's a great idea. Start a trip report, make it really interesting and get so many replies that you have to start a new thread beacause the old one takes too long to load up. The new thread begins like a house of fire and then you stop posting because you vanish to the hinterlands each weekend. You give no thought whatsoever to your loyal readers and just stop posting. Welcome to Ekscrunchyland.

last we heard they were fooling around on some lake ignoring the jumping cats.
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 03:21 AM
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Welcome to Ekscrunchyland, indeed! I am on a temporary hiatus and will return within a few days. Panda you know very well that I am having work done here (still) and have not had as much free time as usual.

Craig, I did not visit Taunggyi on this trip, but I would love to do so if I am fortunate enough to return to the Inle area, or to Burma!
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 07:16 AM
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A hiatus by definition is temporary. Plus, you've been having "wok done" forever. They could have built an entire new building in this time.

BTW, "having work done" is a phrase from NYC that can cover a wide range of activities. Anywhere from remodeling a bathroom, to having a picture framed to getting a face lift. About 85% of NYC residents are "having some work done" at any given moment. It's a perpetual state of being and no excuse for trip report delinquincy.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 06:08 AM
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We are trying to organise a trip in February (hoping that it will be cooler than yours in March) and keep coming up against flights from one part of the country to another. We recognise that this is the fastest/easiest way to get from one part of the country to another, but are more inclined to try to see more in one area rather than fly up and down the country.

How time consuming/difficult/long are these international flights? Yangon-Bagan, Mandalay-Heho, etc.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 07:01 AM
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carlux: the answer to your second question is IN this very report, in <i>great</i> detail. Do a Google search for the rest. Type 'Yangon - Bagan'. Click on the first link you find - or ANY link. As pretty well 100% of tourists take the Yangon/Mandalay flight I reckon you'll find what you need.

A map can be found on Google, too - always good to look at.

The laws of physics would suggest that flights take the same time to get from A - B in Burma as they do anywhere else in the world. On the assumption that they've wound the rubber band tight enough, you'll be fine.

As for <i>difficulty</i>... well, that's up to you. What kind of difficulty were you imagining? I suggest you read some trip reports. See the search box up above?
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 07:31 AM
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Carlux: I understand what you mean, but you really will want to fly within Burma. It sounds well and good to want to see the country by road, but I do not think that you will want to cram onto a local bus and doodle along many of those roads for an extended period, and getting to and from most places WILL require an extended period of time. As mentioned, the flights are easy as these things go. Flying into or out of Mandalay is a bit more time consuming than some of the other route due to the location of the airport far from the city. But even then, as I mention, we traveled from our hotel in Mandalay city to the airport, flew to Heho, and were at the market near Inle Lake by about 10:30am. Because flights often leave early in the morning, you do not waste a good part of the day in transit.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 08:03 AM
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Carlux - when I was there in 2005 I traveled entirely by road - with a car and driver. I really enjoyed seeing the countryside and the villages. It depends partly on how long you have - I was there for 14 days, and saw Yangon, Inle Lake, Mandalay and Bagan, plus overnights in Taungoo and Pyay.

I'm planning to be there next February, too, but I want to concentrate on the north this time, so I may well take the Yangon-Mandalay flight. But I've already done the drive. There is a (government run) train (see http://seat61.com/Burma.htm) - but private, AC, buses are faster.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 08:40 AM
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Thanks for that eks. I have actually read the report, and DO understand the laws of physic. What I wanted was some idea of the difficulty - having had to get to airports hours in advance it seemed like it might take up a lot of the day. It seems you are saying that it doesn't. I know we don't want to take long car drives either - the choice is more should we spend more time in fewer places or less time in more places.

In fact I've read your earlier report, and we too are very interested in a boat trip/cruise. Not the long one you did, but perhaps about 5 days.

http://www.ayravatacruises.com/royal...ls-cruises.htm
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 11:09 AM
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I will attempt to continue with an unfamiliar computer:


After our visit to Nam Pan market, we headed for lunch. This time, our chosen restaurant stood atop stilts opposite the Phaung Daw Oo Paya, an immense tired pagoda which is said to be the holiest religious site in southern Shan State. It certainly appeared to be popular with tourists and, as we lunched, we watched a steady stream of boats pull up at the dock and disgorge large groups of (mainly Asian) visitors.



I do not recall the name of the restaurant but by this time I was of the opinion that it did not matter much-both of the lake restaurants we visited had similar menus highlighted by salads and stir fried dishes and both served tasty, if unmemorable, fare. My meal consisted of a bean sprout salad, a mixed vegetable stir fry, and a fresh lime juice. The total price was 4,000 kyat, or US$4, quite a bit less than Ann's, where we had lunched the previous day.

This particular restaurant consisted of two levels, with the upper providing the superior view. Our fellow diners on this level belonged to a group of Japanese travelers who sported virtual truckloads of photo equipment of as assortment and quantity that I had never before seen. Both men and woman wore gloves and masks (removed during lunch) to protect from the sun.

Lunch breaks also present an opportunity to use clean restroom facilities; both restaurants we visited had western style toilets. Both also offered plenty shopping opportunities.

I forgot to mention that someplace that day I found my pair of Shan trousers, made from hand-loomed blue-and-white textured cotton and priced under 10,000 kyat. Number of times I wore these trousers on the trip: One. Number of times I have worn them since returning home: None.

After lunch, after a short ride, we left the main body of the lake and made our way along a narrow channel rimmed by green fields and punctuated by waterfalls. Each time we passed one of these sets of falls, the boat would drop, much like a ride in an amusement park. It was really fun! We traveled about 20 minutes or so, halting finally at the dock beside Indein village.


More soon...
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 12:36 PM
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The waterfront of this tiny village is one long shopping mall with small stalls offering all manner of objects from Buddha statues and oil paintings (monks are a popular subject) to handwoven textiles and handmade puppets, interspersed with a few tourist cafes advertising “spaghetti with sauce” in several languages. Perhaps because these stalls were permanent, rather than mobile as we ha seen in the actual markets, the scene seemed more touristy here than other places we had visited on or near the lake.

From the village, our guide directed us past the dusty market area, empty on this day since the 5-day market was at NamPan, and along the bamboo-shaded banks of the stream (we were accompanied the entire way by little kids trying mightily to sell us dried seed pods with which they kept up a continual rattle). Our final destination was the Shwe Inn Thein Paya, a complex of more than a thousand chedi in various states of repair, that climbs a steep hillside about a 20 minute (hot!) walk from the boat dock. A stepped staircase ascends the slope and strung along the steps are more souvenir stands. Along with the usual subjects, we noticed some antique lacquer and ancestor portraits; I thought prices were high. At the top of the staircase, a makeshift café offers cold drinks including Red Bull, which seems to be quite popular among locals able to afford the price. We spent only a few minutes at the summit, however, before making a slow descent, pausing to admire a few of the chedi, many in a dilapidated but atmospheric state of disrepair, along the way.

We then made our way back to our boat, passing groups of Pa’O women returning from market laden with goods. From the dock, it was back through the channel, past a few water buffalo lolling in the shallows, and on to the main lake. From there, we set out for the hotel, arriving late in the afternoon.

For our last dinner in Burma, we again headed for the hotel restaurant and I again ordered the tasty prawn sambal, which was delivered with an added lashing of spice at my request.
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