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  • After 10 hours in an amazingly comfortable night bus and at least 5 hours of sleep, I found my trekking group at Sam's Trekking Services with our guide Momo. Momo was born in the area and knows the places, plants, history and best trails by heart. He showed us all the plants being grown here, visits the local tribes and farmers on the way and interprets with the locals. We saw and trief green tea, papayas, tumeric, ginger, herbs and rice that the tribes grow here.

    The group is an interesting mix of French, Spanish and Israeli fellow hikers and we get along perfectly!

    After a short night and 24km of hiking, I'm in bed (=a blanket on the wooden floor of a family house) already before 9pm today ;)
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  • Waterbuffalos have been a big theme of this trip! Back in California, I sing the waterbuffalo song with my friends Logan and Aria (5 and 7 years old :) ) all the time. In Cambodia, we saw many and here in Myanmar, there are even more waterbuffalos. Yesterday I saw so many, I asked our guide Momo if I could ride one. He said yes, but only a friendly one with its owner. So obviously, that was my prayer when I went to bed ;)

    I woke up at 6am and in front of our guest house was an extra friendly huge water buffalo, and the owner laughed at me - but let me ride it anyways. Yippee, what a moment!!!

    The hike today was absolutely beautiful! I picked pees, chilies, egg plant, ginger, citronella, tomatoes and elderflower on the side of the road. I'm also adopting to the culture and bought a bamboo rice picker's hat and tried their famous chewing tabacco, chili and a sauce rolled up in a betel leaf (which I spit out after 3 seconds, but at least I tried).
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  • Our second day in Bagan was another fun day of riding scooters through the ancient temples, racing on the gravel roads and playing with the kids that try to sell postcards by the touristy areas.

    Since we wouldn't buy anything from the kids, as they should be in school, we just hang out, play games, talk or buy them food. They taught Merten a local song and Bibi, a 6 year old boy, gave me a pen tattoo (=drew a joker on my arm) :)

    For dinner, we brought some of the food ourselves and had the restaurant prepare an appetizer with the vegetables I had picked on my hike. They were a bit surprised but loved our story and made delicious fresh vegetables tempura!
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  • Bagan is a mind blowing place! Founded in the 9th century, the ancient city left behind over 2000 temples, small and big, shiny and simple, there are more temples than you could ever visit.

    To explore, we rented electro scooters and are driving from one temple to the next. People here, as pretty much all people we've meet in Myanmar so far, are extremely friendly. The temples are beautiful, ancient adult playgrounds and I'm having such a good time. When we got on top of a few temples with roofs to give a good view, I just couldn't believe my eyes!!!

    Another highlight of the day was meeting little Charlie (pic 4) and his siblings. I fell in love instantly and now can't help thinking I should take him with me on my travels :)
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  • Today was transit day, as our 10 days in Cambodia came to an end and we headed to Myanmar.

    We were lucky enough to arrive the evening of the annual full moon festival in Yangon, Myanmar's capital. It was basically a huge street fest with food stands, live bands and rides like this fascinating, unmotorized ferris wheel So we took advantage and met super welcoming locals, danced with Myanmar's rock music fans at a concert, and ended the night with a long walk through town to the huge Buddhist temple Shwedagon Pagoda.

    The country has given a great, authentic and un-touristy impression. It's friendly, chaotic, dirty, and absolutely beautiful. I can't wait to explore it further.
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  • We had a short day to see Yangon today, so we chose to see Shwedagon Pagoda and a park nearby. The Pagoda is a giant, 2600 year old golden temple (but you cannot walk into it), surrounded by many other temples and shrines for the locals and Buddhist monks to come and offer fruit, flowers, etc. and to pray.

    The boys were all wearing shorts, which is not allowed in the temples, so the bought Logis, traditional skirts that the men wear.

    In the park, Merten once again turned into an attraction for the locals and we took selfies with them.

    I left in the afternoon to catch a 10 hour night bus to Kalaw, where I will be hiking for 3 days. The rest of the group is taking their own adventurers and we'll meet again in a few days :)
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  • Today was the final day of my three day hike as I reached Inle Lake. If it were up to me, I'd have kept going for a few more days! The simple life here has been very inspiring and I loved meeting new friends and learning about customs and nature.

    The tour guide Momo has been fantastic! He grew up in one of the towns we passed through and knows plants, animals and of course the people here better than anyone. With all the things we got to eat off the trees and fields, freshly picked, I collected a little vegetable basket for the others who missed the trekking. Will be awesome to share it with them along with many stories!

    Crazy to say, but I will miss bucket showers, sleeping on the floor, eating simple meals of rice and vegetables, getting up at 6, and hiking in strong heat all day, sweating like a pig ;-)
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  • 'This is Burma, it is quite unlike any place you know about'. Rudyard Kipling couldn't have put it any better. A country who for years has been isoated from the Western world, the evidence of which lies in its complete lack of any western logos; no McDonald's, no samsung, no Shell, no Starbucks, no Sony... Nothing. Everything is local and you really feel like you're in a new world or at least a parallel world. The globalism weed has not taken over in this part of the world yet a few seeds have been sewn as told by the sprinkling of coca-cola company products in shops and restaurants.
    I crossed the Thailand-Myanmar border in the morning and was immediately approached by an English-speaking guy who asked where I was heading. He directed me through immigration, across to a money seller (at nearly 1000 kyat to the dollar, I was given wads of notes held together with elastic bands) and finally to a share taxi kiosk. Once I paid the fare to Hpa-an (4 hours for $13), I was directed to get into one of the vans and waited there for an hour until we had more passengers. Once more passengers arrived we moved to another van and were then on our way... 7 of us and the driver.
    After only 10 minutes we were in rural countyside, looming hills and green forests. The dirt road was in a bad way and soon we were driving on 4x4 terrain and even driving across rivers (see pics). Then the most interesting part; every 2 kms or so we were stopped by a soldier with a HUGE gun with the letters KNL on his breast. This stands for the 'Karen National Liberation' Army who are fighting for the Karen state to be an autonomous region. The turmoil in the area explains why the border crossing was only opened two years ago. The soldier would talk with the driver who immediately handed over money before the two engaged in heated discussion, finally ending in further money being passed over. This bribery is the foundation of Burmese culture. This happened about 10 times, one of which the foreigner (me) in the car was of particular interest and nearly cost the driver more.
    In the back seats of the van were three young lads from Yangon one of which spoke some English and could hold a conversation. At the lunch stop we talked about our lives and they were very friendly. The played their music in the car which included 'my heart will go on', justin beiber and Boyzone's back catalogue. We all sang along and they asked me to tell them what the songs were about as, in his own words, 'we can sing the words but we don't know what they mean'.
    In Hpa-an I hired a tuk-tuk to take me to the caves in the surrounding countryside. They were filled with buddhas and shrines and one had fantastic views. The ride in the tuk-tuk was rather uncomfortable due to the awful state of the pot-hole ridden roads. It was interesting, however, to watch all the farmers in their fields as the afternoon sun faded. That evening I ate at a traditional Burmese restaurant. The food was incredible and comes with 10 condiments and dipping sauces. For dessert they have 'jaggery' which is coconut and cane sugar.
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  • So if you saw 'salted plum juice' on a menu, would you try it? I must say in general I like salted refreshing drinks, but they are usually diary (yogurt-ish), not juice. Verdict: tasty, super refreshing and a good way to chill in the park before my departure to next destination - Inle Lake. But going to the bathroom, I had to take a closer look and find the mustache as the typical Burmese longis are pretty similar for males and females...Read more

  • After a few days of solo travelling I found some friends who were on the bus to the 'Golden Rock' with me. A mexican, a yank, 2 germans, 2 brits and a belgian. We all stayed in the same characterful hotel (the staff were rather entertaining) which was right in the centre of town. To get up to Mt Kyaiktiyo 40 people pile into the back of what is essentially a giant flat bed ute with bench seats and head up the windy road to the sacred rock. The half hour journey up the hill was more entertaining than the destination; holding on for dear life as the truck sped around corners and accelerated on downhill straights so it could get enough momentum for the uphills. The atmosphere at the top is a spectacle in itself. Hundreds of pilgrims and tourists descending on the summit, many of whom set up camp near the rock for worship. The rock was a little smaller than I was expecting but the way it is precariously balancing on the side of the mountain is rather impressive. Only men are able to touch it, women simply 'can't touch this'. Legend states that the boulder maintains its balance due to a precisely placed Buddha hair in the stupa. The journey down was even more thrilling as we were at the front (so could only see the back of the cab and not where we were going) and it was getting dark. Dinner was at a very authentic local restaurant where the bill for 6 people including drinks came to $17. I had green tea leaf salad which is a Burmese speciality.Read more