Burma Off The Beaten Path Tips by Mique Top 5 Page for this destination
Burma Off The Beaten Path: 83 reviews and 113 photos
When i first laid eyes on this paya i thought i was looking at some fairytale disney thing. It is very brightly coloured. Gold, red, pink & orangy dominate. Inside it is even more impressive. Little buddha statues fill every part of this huge building. Only very sometimes you can find an empty spot where there is still room for an additional buddha. These you can buy in the paya and put at one of these vacant places.
As far as i know this is a unique building in Burma. I haven't found anything even remotely similar in the country so far.
A painted ceiling
These caves are near Monywa (but still quite a ride away). We took a tuk-tuk like vehicle to get there across the bridge instead of going by ferry and arranging transport on the other side. It took us almost an hour to get here. But it is worth it. The caves are quite a sight. Though many are in bad shape it is really nice to go in and have a look around. Apparently quite a few caves have been plundered by relic robbers but fortunately there is still enough to see. When i was there i was the only westerner here. Of course this was in July which low season but it is a bit out of the way for the big 4 (Yangon, Inle lake, Mandalay & Bagan) so you'll find less people here. There are burmese around who'll approach you since they want to be your guide. It can be worth doing since there is a lot to know about these caves which were built between the 14th and 18th century. it took us the better part of a morning to get around. then again, i'm a sucker for these kind of places.
At namhsan's biggest monastery
Namhan isn’t a place where many tourists get to. For one thing, it just takes way too much time to get there. We took the bus from Kyaukme even though we were told we could get on in Hsipaw as well. But we were very glad we’d taken the time to get to Kyaukme although it meant quite a few extra hours in the bus. It is 80 miles and supposedly it should take about 7 hours. Well… even with the added time from Kyaukme to Hsipaw back, it was way over 13 hours. In the back of the bus on a whole busload of bags (literally) with unknown contents. Sharing a space of 2 square meters with 9 other bodies. In Hsipaw our guide got on the bus too… There was absolutely no space left so he sat on the roof. Sharing that with a few other guys and at least 1 chicken that I know for sure since during the trip an egg was dropped from the roof onto a window near where I sat. When we went back from Namhsan we were therefore quite sure we had the same bus. The fried egg was still on the window….
We crossed a bridge where we all had to get out since during the rainy season of 2003 or so ( I don’t remember the year exactly but it had been a few by the time we crossed in 2006) floods had damaged one of the 2 pillars and therefore people were not allowed to cross with the bus at the same time. At the other side we had to sign our names in an entrance book for the area. The last tourists before us had checked out again about a week before we came. And they had signed right beneath their entrance dates. Just as we signed right under our names again as well. It is that crowded there….
I really liked Namhan. It has a gorgeous monastery up on the hill above Namhsan. All families in Namhsan had contributed one stupa to the monastery. A most excellent spot for a late afternoon stroll and seeing the sunset. Along the way to the monastery we encountered many people in the process of sorting tea or other tea-procedures. It is all tea-country up there.
Our Pa-o guide at Kekku
We had an extra day at Inle Lake and we wanted something else. So we went to beautiful Kekku. It is not very far from Inle lake and well within Pa-O territory. You have to pay $5 p.p. for admission at the Pa-O administration office in Taunggy But with that money they keep the site up (and make repairs since it is an active religious site) and you get a guide to come with you and explain everything. It is a really interesting place. I'd liked to have taken the trek from Nyaung Shwe (Inle Lake) to this place which would have taken us 7 hours but since both my stepmother and me weren't able to do so at this particular time, we'd taken a car from Nyaung Shwe. The drive is nice, through Pa-O villages where you can stop if you'd like to. If you do the hike (with guide of course), you can sleep at the wooden bungalows that have recently been constructed next to the one restaurant near the site (though there is a food market close by where you can get excellent noodles). My father listened mostly to the explanations of our guide. The others (including me) did our utmost best to make as many beautiful pictures of this site as possible. I think between the 3 of us we did fairly well ;-)
It is still a reasonably unknown place even though it is this close to Inle Lake. Last year they had around 4000 people visiting the site.
Young monks in a monastery in Kyaukme
Kyaukme is a sleepy town between Pin Oo Lwin and Hsipaw and very few travelers go here. Which is a pity. It has a nice ambiance (nicer than Hsipaw i personally think) and like in Hsipaw it is a good place for walks and hikes. But since there is no 'Mr. Charles' who organizes everything, you'll have to do much yourself. There are a few 'guided' in town though who are more then ready to help you along should you want their advice and/or company. Even overnight treks can be arranged.
The burmese/chinese border
One of the nicest ways to enter Burma is to 'do' the Burma road. For one thing, it is the only border crossing you can use without having to fly part of the way to get to the rest of Burma. Secondly, this border is usually open to foreigners who want to visit Burma instead of doing a 'visa-run' for Thailand. The borders with Thailand are very subjectively open. At the moment they aren't (may 2007) and haven't been for a while (though people have been able to cross at the beginning of the closing period. Apparently not all border guards were up to date).
For the border crossing with China, you need a guide. They will help with all administrative hassle as well as road-blocks, border guards etc.. And they will arrange the car & driver that will take you to Lashio. From there you are on your own. The travel agency is situated in the Camelia hotel in Kunming. Prices for the trip are independent of the number of travelers. And i heard the other day that prices are up now to $200 per person.
I loved it when i did this trip and if i ever have to come from China into Burma again, i will most definitely do this route again. I'm quite convinced that had i entered via Yangon and not via Mu-Se i would not so readily have fallen in love with this country. But i did. The people, the landscape heck even the food was 10 times better then what i encountered later in Yangon. Not that it is bad there, just not as good ;-)
There are not that many people (yet) to cross here. I have met only 1 other person in the (by now) 6 months i've been in this country so it is still very much an 'off-the-beaten-path'. When we crossed in februari 2006 the border guard on the chinese side told us they have foreigners crossing the border about every 2 weeks.... Mostly other asians.
There isn't much to distinguish the Burma road from any other road when your on it. The views are great. People we met where really nice. But that is it. Basically it is more your own feeling that makes it more or less special.
Last time i asked it was supposedly about $200 for everything (help at the border crossing, a guide and driver till Lashio) and whatever paperwork they need between the border and Lashio.... Up to Ruili you are on your own (not difficult, there are overnight sleeper buses). The flight might seem a little cheaper (i think it is somewhere between $160 and $200 i'm not sure about that. It was about $160 2 years ago). But you'll have to pay the taxi from Mandalay airport to the city which is highly overcharged (anywhere between $12 and $20 depending on how many taxi's are there/left)since there are no other options available (it is way out of the city and there are no buses/trains or even a village....).
For me, i really enjoyed the trip overland. I did the flight too but it is not nearly as exciting. Besides, the area between Kunming and Hsipaw is really visited by tourists so it is really interesting. Btw, there are hot springs in Lashio. I haven't tried this out yet since i didn't know they were there. And if you do go overland, find the english class/school (the guy has the only internet available i think). It is much fun to be there. And we got invited to dinner by the boys of the class and for breakfast the girls took me out ;-)
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