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We are still here! Let us send you tips for travelling through Myanmar and stories from the road …
Travelled from Yangon to Mandalay by overnight bus, and then hitched a lift on roadside motorbikes to catch the early morning flight to Homalin.
Normally you would then take the public boat to Htamanthi. However in our case no boats were running due to Thingyan so we had to hire a private pickup truck – which broke down midway.
The weather is hot, environment is desert-like, dry zone(ish). The road is rough, you lose concrete sporadically and it becomes sand and rocky. Half way the car broke down. We crossed the Chindwin River and changed cars to drive to Layshi. Shared the boot with everyone’s bags. The car couldn’t make it up all the roads, mostly concreted but unbelievably steep, so everyone had to get out and push.
By now it’s the third day into the trip. We woke up in a homestay in Layshi. We met our guide. Children were celebrating Thingyan.
Now in the mountains, weather is cold at night (trousers and hoody) but sunny and pleasant in the day. All shops shut, so made do with some instant noodles, crouched over an old lady’s fireplace. We hired motorbikes.
With each bike carrying four additional bottles of fuel (difficult to find after Layshi) we arrived in Daingalaing village. The kids were transfixed by the camera. We drank tea.
Next we arrived in Sabya village (Para Naga tribe) where we would be staying the night. The children played a game with circular seed pods until dusk. For dinner we were treated to fresh vegetables, delicious local rice, no meat, which was the same for all subsequent meals.
Waking up to the incredible mountain views in Sabya village. We met the village priest. We biked to Shera village (Makuri Naga tribe) where we would be staying in the Church guest house. Fresh blackberries everywhere.
We left for the Indian border. 45min – felt longer – difficult riding. The roads were under construction, big rocks, small rocks, sand, mud, small margins for error. We passed through the Myanmar checkpoint on the top of one mountain and reached the Indian border on the top of the other.
Back at Shera village, we trekked to the river in the valley below….
… where these gentlemen were throwing handmade dynamite bundles into the river. The size of the fish caught shows how destructive this approach is to all fish and life in the river.
Slowly left Shera, reading and relaxing in the morning. Made jam with freshly picked blackberries.
Stayed in Sanbya village (Para Naga tribe) on route back to Layshi. The village chief’s two wives cooked us a delicious dinner. We had a lesson in spirituality from a Shaman. Unlike the other villages Sanbya is Buddhist and Nat focused (rather than Christian).
We arrived in Layshi to meet the evening sun. We stayed in the same homestay as when we arrived. Aunty made us feel welcome with noodles over a roaring fire.
Slow morning reading and chatting to home owners, tried cane fruit – sour. Add lots of chilies, salt and water and you have a curry; actually quite good!
Boat from Htamanthi to Monywa via Homalin and Kalewa. An unforgettable experience. The best and the worst of Myanmar packed into a metal boat for three days.
Spitting. Sweltering. Hawkers hawkers, hawkers, at every stop invading the boat, shouting, loud. Cramped … Boat departs the stop and peace until next stop… Realise I have a relatively good seat, next to window, with legroom, look around to see everyone else not moaning, just getting on with it. Pregnant women, caring fathers, young babies, hot surfaces. No complaining, just accepting. Realise I need more water, wait for the hawkers to buy rice, sweetcorn, fried food. Read my book, move around to the front of the boat, feel the wind, watch the sunset, heat of the day has dissipated, absolutely magical punting down the Chindwin river with book in hand.
Crept up on top the boat roof with a few others. Lay down with my bag as a pillow – slept well.
Arrive in Monywa. Head to bus station. Organise shared car to Mandalay. Arrive in Ned Kelly hotel, hot shower. Order Spicy Bloody Mary (double).