Shahnavaz Mehta

Joined January 2018
  • Day4

    Home Sweet Home - A New Chapter

    February 16 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    I probably don't have much to talk about today as to be honest we got up, got the bus, got to the airport, ate our Speck and Cheese Ciabatta Sandwiches and then I spent the rest of the time updating and finishing the blog. We will be back in Manchester by 5pm.

    Well it's time. We are finally coming home! It's finally time to get a job (seriously if someone needs a Project Manager please let me know, we need money ASAP!) and start our normal lives again.

    Since booking our ticket home people have asked are you happy to go home? Honestly my answer is yes. I'm so excited to see my family, my friends, their babies, my incredible choir people, I can't wait to sleep in a real bed, to not have to eat out every meal of everyday, to sit on a sofa with a duvet, to cook, to know what I'm eating and know it won't make me so ill, to go to the doctors and check out my stomach as seriously its now been 3 months and it's not any better... But most of all I can't wait to begin my next chapter with my best friend, my partner in crime, my scuba buddy and the man who has stuck by my through thick and thin for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the last 13 months and the last 10 years. Of course we have had our ups and downs but honestly who wouldn't. Neither of us are perfect, no one is but he is the only one that every minute of everyday I think about and get excited to spend all these incredible moments with. I am currently the luckiest person in the world. How can I be sad to be going home when I've had the most incredible honour of exploring this beautiful world. This isn't the end. This is just the beginning.

    I'm currently sat in the airport in absolute disbelief that we have just spent 13 months in 13 different countries, seeing the most incredible places, seeing wonders of the world, learning new skills but most importantly building a world of friendships and meeting the most incredible people. People have asked us was your experience life changing, what have you learnt, etc I've learnt that life can be really simple. People are people no matter where you go, we all love to eat, be happy and speak one language - beer. We are just one family no matter your colour, no matter the differences, the gender, the nationality. People are just incredible.

    I'm going to finish with a few quotes from my inspiration Mahatma Ghandi:

    "Be the change that you want to see in the world."

    "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."

    "Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes."

    "You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results."

    See you soon xx (Just landed and it's grey. Welcome to Manchester!)
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  • Day3

    Our Final Day

    February 15 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    We slept!!! We actually slept!! I don't remember putting my head down to sleep but I didn't wake up till 5am and then 10:30am. Heaven!! But I actually feel more tired from sleeping ha. I think I need a week to catch up on sleep.

    We had a rather slow morning which was nice and then just went for a wander. We came across a very cute Trattoria. So we went for a valentines 2 course lunch with wine. We are going to have zero money when we get back so we are making the most of it now! The lunch was really yummy. We noticed that the service for the Italian customers was impeccable. As soon as they were seated they were given a basket of bread and water for the table. We were barely given a menu... I must admit this is now our second day here and I'm not finding Italy very welcoming... I've not had a single person smile back at me. Anyway I didn't let the terrible service ruin our meal. When all the various items arrived we had a really lovely meal.

    Our first sight seeing spot for the day was the vertical forest of Isola. We then jumped on the metro and visited the Duomo. In case you ever go and get a ticket for the Duomo from the ticket office ignore the ladies that give you a ticket number and tell you to wait. I honestly don't know why they do that when there are ticket machines further in. We had already waited half a hour for our number of 365. It was only on 277 when we discovered the machines. Within 2 minutes we had purchased the ticket and were out. It was about 5pm by this point and inside the Duomo it was freezing. My whole body ached. Although it was beautiful I just couldn't help but want to leave.

    After the Duomo we went to the Gallery and spun on the famous bulls balls for good luck before heading to GROM for a hot chocolate.

    For dinner we went to Pizzeria Piccola Ischia. I would 100% recommend it here. They serve delicious Napalese pizza for only €7.50 and wine for €5.50 for 1/2l. We even treated ourselves to a tiramasu which was served in an espresso cafetiere. It was to die for!

    By 10pm I was once again fast asleep, but unfortunately didn't sleep through the night. I was up at 3:30am with huge stomach cramps. I don't think our stomachs are used to this much dairy 😢
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  • Day2

    Ti Amo

    February 14 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 11 °C

    Since stepping on the flight last night everyone has been talking to me in Italian. I've now been in South East Asia for 13 months and been very much used to people not speaking English, but normally from gestures and the situation I've been able to understand what people are generally saying. But here in Italy for some reason I've found it almost impossible to understand anything. You would have thought as Will can't mostly understand and speak Italian that they would speak to him or he would save me from these embarrassing situations but unfortunately not. They always want to speak to me and by the time he's realised he's missed what they are saying. Why they always speak to me I don't know! I've now learnt how to say "I'm sorry, I do not speak Italian", which to be honest seems to complicate the situation further. Haha

    It's sooo cold here!!! We've come from 37 degrees to 12 and I honestly don't know how I'm going to cope with it. I'm wearing a coat, thermals, a tshirt, a wooly hat, a scarf, 2 socks and trousers on top of my thermals. Help!!!!

    Today's plan is actually quite hectic... As usual! We are going to get up at 7am, leave at 8am. Check into our new airbnb by 9am and then join a walking tour at 10am. Myself and Will were up and ready but we waited for Niranjan to have his breakfast and tea and we didn't get the bus until 8:45am. We checked in by 9:45am but were running very late for the tour. Luckily they had a rough itenary online with timings for each site and were able to catch them up by the second site.

    The tour was FANTASTIC!!! The guide was a typical Italian and reminded me of our friend Nello. He was so expressive and gesticulating everywhere. His pronunciation was like that of an actor, you had to be careful not to be too close otherwise you would have lost an eye and been covered in spit. He was hilarious and although shattered he really kept us stimulated. We visited Church of San Nazaro In Brolo, Statale University which used to be an old public hospital. Then we visited the outside of Duomo Cathedral, Vittorio Emmanuel II Gallery and then had a break for lunch where we had Panzerotto at Luini and a huge slice of pizza from Spottini.

    Next stop was Theatre and Square Alla Scala. The Scala Theatre was built to replace the previous opera house that was burned down. The rich Milanese were desperate for a replacement, so they funded an immediate reconstruction. The main reason they wanted one built so quickly? The only place they could legally gamble was at the theatre during shows. Often the guests at the shows wouldn't even watch the Opera, they were there simply to gamble! So, far from starting life as a place of culture, the theatre was rather the opposite! However, there fortuitously happened a 40 year period in which several wonderful operas debuted at this theatre, including works by Rossini, Verdi and others. Such a critical mass of notable works couldn't help but change the atmosphere, and soon the theatre had become the centre of opera in Europe and the gambling was forgotten about.

    Next was the merchants square. While at merchant's square our guide told us an interesting story. When merchant's ran up too many debts which they were unable to repay, the town would break in half their stall to prevent them from trading any more. In Italian this is known as "banco rotto" (lit. broken desk). Over time this became a single word: bancarotta, from which English gets its word bankrupt. In fact, of all the countries in Europe there are only 5 who don't use a derivation of this word!

    Our final stop on the tour was Piazza dei Affari or business square. The reason that Piazza dei Affari is famous is that its the site of the Italian stock exchange Borsa Italia. The second reason its famous is for a 2011 piece of modern art erected in the courtyard directly in front of the stock exchange . This artwork was gifted by the sculptor to the city of Milan. The artwork? A giant hand, with every finger cut off except for the middle finger. As the hand is facing away from the stock exchange towards the onlookers the message is clear: a giant "screw you" from the banks to the little people. After all, when this artwork was erected Milan was right in the middle of the financial crisis and the people of Italy were suffering. Modern art at its finest? You decide.

    Finally it was time to sit and get warmed up so we took refuge in a nearby coffee shop. What looking at what to see and do next we found our haven. GROM. If you have never been to GROM when in Europe you have to make it your aim to find one and go. GROM serve the most thick, hot and heavenly dark hot chocolate. So obviously that was our next stop. It was just heaven! I finally felt fully warm. Refreshed and happy to keep going so we then visited San Maurizio Monastero Maggiore which was beautiful hidden gem within the city. The church was covered in beautiful frescos. If you've been to Milan and not seen this church you are missing out. We then went to the Castello Sforzesco which was free to walk round in the early evening and then our final sightseeing for the day was the Sempione Park. It was a really lovely park and really picturesque with the evening light shining on the trees. It was now getting very cold and to be honest it was beginning to get painful. We were joining the Milan Couch surfing hangout but it didn't start till 7:30pm so we still had 2.5 hours to kill. In most countries that would be fine as you would just visit a cheap bakery or cafe or find a shop to take cover in. All the shops were ridiculously expensive so we felt we couldn't even walk in with the attire we were wearing, all the cafes were either crazy expensive or shut and after walking for a while it felt like we were just on barron streets. After over an hour of freezing we finally found a little bakery were we sat and ate a lemon custard croissant and escaped the cold. The croissant and sit down was just what we needed. I began to get a little too comfortable and almost fell off my stool when I nodded off for a second.

    It was finally time to go and meet the Couch Surfers at Cafe Ethniko for Aperitivo. I had never had this before. Aperitivo is where you buy a single drink which then gives you access to the buffet food. We spent about 20 mins looking through the menu and trying to translate the cocktails. We finally decided and went to the bar and saw an incredible looking cocktail that
    ... ordered. I instantly made a new friend and asked what his cocktail was and had a little try. That was the one for me! Will was so jealous that he ordered the same. Honestly the cocktail was the size of a fish bowl and it was soo fresh and fruity. Yum. The evening was really fun. We met lots of other couch surfers either living in Milan or visiting Milan for a weekend break. Will was able to practise his Italian and it was such a lovely evening. By 10pm we were shattered and headed back to the airbnb and honestly I don't even remember going to sleep. I'm pretty sure I just passed out due to exhaustion.
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  • Day1

    Bye bye Yangon. Hello Milan!

    February 13 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 9 °C

    At 8am we got up, felt very very sick, shuvelled down food in attempt to feel human again, showered, went to pick up some bakery goods for lunch and splashed out on a taxi to go to the airport. I suddenly became very hyperactive, god knows why. I must admit I'm very excited to go home and this lack of sleep is beginning to just crack me up I think.

    The airport was absolutely bizarre... From check in to immigration to security there was absolutely no other customers. Just us. It was like walking through a zombie game waiting to get attacked by the Zombie Staff. It was bizarre. Even when we went to the gate and ate our bamboo sticky rice, avocado and bakery goods there was still only a handful of people there. Can I just add this was such a winning lunch. So tasty! Also I love that it's always possible to get hot water from the water dispensers here. We were able to enjoy our sachet of coffee that I took from the hotel 😊

    At 2:45pm they called us for the flight. You could see everyone looking around thinking well it doesn't take off for another 45 mins so we have time as there's only 10 people here. No one moved confused by the whole situation... They announced the flight 4 times and everyone slowly got up one by one looking around in disbelief that we are about to take a flight with 10 people... We were very wrong. We entered the plane and it was full! The plane had clearly done a pick up somewhere else and then come to Yangon. It was the weirdest experience ever.

    We were soon in the air and as usual I was already planning what films to watch, what free alcoholic drink I get etc. I'm not sure if I mentioned but I get so excited when we take a long haul flight. I hadn't done one till our first trip to Mauritius. It was the first time I had alcohol on a flight and I remember and even now get sooo excited about getting free drinks, food and watching movies. I'm a simple human being 😊

    My excitement was soon taken over by restless tiredness but I found it impossible to get comfy and after 11 hours we soon arrived in Milan. We jumped on a bus to the Central Station where we met our Savior, Niranjan from Couch Surfing. He was really sweet and made us tuna pasta for dinner and we stayed up chatting till about 1am. Will was literally passing out midsentence so it was definitely time to go to sleep as tomorrow isn't even going to be a day of rest...
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  • Day26

    Good Morning Yangon

    February 12 in Myanmar ⋅ ☀️ 33 °C

    At 2am we arrived at Yangon Bus Station which is far from the city center. As we couldn't check into our dorm bed anyway we decided to sleep in the bus operators waiting room. Will went to the loo and the bus driver said I could go upstairs and sleep, I waited for Will and then we went up. When trying to go upstairs the guy started speaking Burmese at me and showing a poster written in Burmese. I honestly didn't have a clue what he was saying until I went upstairs. It was clearly for ladies and children only! Exhausted Will didn't care and just found a spot anyway on the lino floor. I wouldn't say it was the best sleep but it was better than none. At 7am we got up to an empty room and headed to our hostel.

    We got the local bus to the hostel and it was sooo packed but I love travelling with the locals. They are sooo smiley here it makes me so happy. On the way from the bus we stopped at a local Tea house for breakfast of dumplings, somosa, puri and lots of tea. The streets were packed with locals as it was independence day. The main street was flowing with market stalls and hundreds of Burmese. Luckily when we arrived at the hostel we were able to check in so after a quick shower I felt normal again.

    It was our last day so we were determined to enjoy it! Luckily it wasn't as hot as in Hpa An so walking around wasn't as difficult. We had a fab noodle soup for lunch, had a few goodies from the bakery and walked around the colonial area of Yangon. Of all South East Asian cities, Yangon has the highest number of colonial era buildings. Hundreds of late 19th century structures remain on an area of several square miles in the downtown area. It was really interesting but by about 3pm the heat and tiredness were hitting me hard. Will found a barbers so had a quick hair cut and his first clean shave which gave me time to have a rest. We then jumped in a taxi and went to our last tourist stop for the day, bogyoke market famous for its textiles and where we were hoping to by the last few presents we wanted. Annoyingly the taxi driver didn't actually tell us it was closed until he took us there and we were leaving the car. Quite annoyed and in need of a sit down we went to the near by glamorous shopping mall and had a coffee.

    For a while myself and Will have been eyeing up Xaomi Products. We have the Xaomi MI Band 2, but I lost mine in India and Will's has broken slowly over the last few months. The mall had a Xaomi Store! We were like kids in a candy store looking at all the cool gadgets. We aren't one to buy things generally but when we got home we were planning on getting new bands and I was actually going to get the brand new Amazefit watch for Will's birthday but I didn't have enough time. After A LOOOONG time in the shop going back and forth we bought the watch. In the UK its £80 and it was only £40 so we couldn't resist the bargain. So we are now proud owners of the Amazefit!! We were both very excited. We were honestly in the shop for 1.5 hours trying it on, deciding whether we really wanted it and finally setting it up.

    To celebrate our last night we went to the top of Sakura Tower, enjoyed a £2.50 Singapore Sling and the gorgeous view of Yangon City. At that moment in time nothing could have ruined how perfect it was. Or so I thought... As you know we booked our flight home but the cheapest was to fly direct to Milan and then go to Manchester. As we are going via Milan we decided to book 3 nights in Milan to enjoy a holiday within the holiday but we are massively low on funds so we booked quite a cheap airbnb. Guess what... While enjoying our night of cocktails I recieved an email from the host saying he is booked up and can't host us. This booking was an instant book and so the payment had already gone through! Basically it turns out he has 2 listings of the property and hasn't actually updated the sexond/ isn't aware of Instant Booking. We instantly started looking for an alternative but everything was looking to be €50 a night. Now for the normal Jo reading this you're probably thinking, that's what I would expect. It was giving us a heart attack thinking about it. We got on the phone to airbnb and they said they need to talk to the host before they can help us, they said they would be in contact in 2 hours. It was now 7pm in Yangon. Having slept on a lino floor last night the plan was to go to the hostel soon and have an early night. At 9pm obviously they didn't call back and so I messaged on the support app. I was then quoted 4 hours. This would take us to 1am Yangon time. We were getting very panicky and unfortunately we really let it get to us and it did ruin the very end of the night for us.

    Anyway looong story short I couldn't sleep a wink and at 3am a couch surfer got in touch and said if we are still desperate for a place to stay he can host for one night. Relief!! I then reduced the search for just 2 nights stay and found a room for £80 for 2 nights and just went ahead with it. At 5am Will woke up saying he couldn't sleep and I was able to tell him the good news that all was sorted! Proud of my nights work but absolutely exhausted I attempted to sleep. We had made plans to go to the Market in the morning before the flight but there was no way we were in a fit state.
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  • Day25

    Day of Relaxing?? Nah!!!

    February 11 in Myanmar ⋅ ☀️ 34 °C

    After yesterday's epic hike to the top of Mount Zwegabin our calves were in agony. We had a slow start to the morning packing our bags, checking out and attempting to find couch surfing hosts or affordable accommodation in Milan which will be our very last stop before heading home on the 16th. We messaged a lot of hosts and fingers crossed we find someone as accomodation is ludicrously priced!

    Once all the admin was done we jumped on the motorbike for our last ride. First stop was Kaw Ka Taung. We were both really hot and hungry when we arrived so we sat and It was a small cave with lots of Buddhas inside and surrounding. What was very different about this cave were the small embossed Buddha silhouettes that pertruded from the cave walls. Above the caves were pagodas exposed on enormous high rocks. Hpa An has some really beautiful scenery very similar to that of Phong nhã and Tầm Coc in Vietnam and it brought back some really happy memories. We decided to walk up to the top and see the views. Why is everything here vertical steep steps!! Our calves screamed in paid the whole way, but it was worth it. There was absolutely no one at the top and we had the complete rock to ourselves. I think we went a bit delirious with the heat as we found a broom and had what I now call an Ellia Moment. I rode my nimbus 2000 in the air and Will swept up the top of the pagoda haha

    Next we drove to see Kyauk Ka Lat Pagoda another very impressive sight. Again the pagoda was built on a huge exposed rock but this time in the middle of a lake. Again the climb up involved steep stone steps but luckily it wasn't so high. At the top was a very tiny area where locals were being blessed by the Monk and it was a memorable sight to see.

    Our next and final stop was Hpa Pu Hill for sunset. It took quite a while to get there and on the way we drove through local villages and were greeted by lots of small children ecstatic to see foreigners but the road was a dusty red sandy dirt track. When we arrived were covered head to toe in red sand! We were both very tired by this time and really achy but that never stops us, so up we went. It was a painful one hour vertical steep staircase up. Along the way we passed some tourists on their way down and they said unfortunately access to to the top isn't possible as the last part of the climb was broken bamboo ladders. Once we got there Will was keen to see if it was possible. I can confirm it was possible, but and this is a very big but, with a high risk of catastrophic collapse. I was proud to get to the top and vey relieved that it didn't collapse under us and I must admit it was worth the terrifying state going up. We even asked Ellia and Karin if they went up when they came and they said "What you went up there, you're crazy!".

    The view was perfect for our final evening in Hpa An and due to it being so crazy looking it stopped others coming up resulting in us having the top to ourselves.

    The day so far was definitely the calm before the storm as what came next was quite stressful. The plan for the rest of the evening was to quickly get down, ride back to town, grab a quick dinner from the night market and then go back to the hotel to pick up our bags before jumping on our final night bus of the trip back to Yangon. That was the plan...

    We stayed up a bit longer than expected and had to walk very quickly just making the bottom before it was fully dark. We jumped on the bike and the lights had stopped working. This was our worst nightmare and what came next is something we said we would never do. We had to drive back with no lights. It was our last trip on the bike, we had been riding for 13 months and we had never had an accident. You're probably thinking why didn't we just phone the hotel and get them to come and pick us up but by the time they would have come and then brought us back we would have been late for the bus so we just jumped on, I put on my head torch and shone it with my phone in front of Will to ensure people in front could see him and off we went. . We drove very slowly, stopped a few times and eventually got to the night market which was 1 minute from the hotel. Phew!! It was the stupidest risk we have taken on the trip but luckily we were safe. We enjoyed chicken nuggets, sweet and sour noodle soup, a banana and strawberry milkshake and a coconut pancake to celebrate our survival.

    When we got back to the hotel the owners were very nice and let us have a quick shower in a spare room and even took us to the end of the road to catch our bus.

    As I mentioned this was our last night bus and I must admit in terms of its comfort and features it was by far the best. It was like being in the presidents airplane from House of Cards with huge leather seats with plenty of leg room and even an individual media centre with films on! I was like a kid at Christmas. Although exhausted I couldn't get to sleep so I watched Escape plan with Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in. It was actually a really good gripping and easy watch film. I didn't sleep perfectly but I think I got a few naps.
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  • Day23

    Hpa An

    February 9 in Myanmar ⋅ ☀️ 33 °C

    For once we arrived at the more sensible hour of 9am, but once again we got little to no sleep. On the way to the hotel we stopped for tea and naan with lentils. Along the way to the hotel I was getting a really friendly vibe from all the locals, even more than normal! Everyone was saying hello and was super smiley, it was like being in the country side up north 😊 We were too early to check in so we just chilled out in the lobby for a while reading our books until we could. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and doing our laundry.

    In the evening we went to a cute little cafe for a salad and milkshake, walked around the local lake to watch sunset and finished in the night market. Unlike a lot of nightmarkets we have been to this one was really good with lots of freshly cooked food and all very tasty. We had an amazing sweet and sour chicken noodle soup, some freshly cooked chip shop type chips, a couple of meat skewers, some very stinky Tofu stuffed with tea leaf salad (bleugh) and a strawberry milkshake yum yum yum.

    The next day we got up early and were feeling adventurous. As it was early and not as hot as midday (only 33 degrees 😢) we climbed up Mount Zwegabin. We've done a lot of hiking on this trip and to be honest as we've been ill a lot our fitness level isn't as good as it was but somehow this hike felt impossible the entire way up. The hike was vertically up steps for 2 hours with little relief in terrain and it was scorching hot and humidity levels were rocket high. We were drenched head to toe. We were hoping it would take us less time but it was impossible in this heat and humidity. Towards the top we met a lot of college students who were all litter picking. They were so proud to be looking after the enviroment and really helped our mood for the final half an hour push.

    Once at the top we came to the pagoda and sat and rested for a while. A lot of locals were also at the top in tour groups. They were a good laugh and even offered us chicken bread. Now chicken bread isn't quite what you think it is. It's a very sweet croissant type bread stuffed with sweet oily hairy chicken strands. No it doesn't sound appealing and it wasn't great but we can't be rude about it. Although Will was sat there sniffing it for quite a a long time. All the ladies were giggling at him as if he was about to eat an alien.

    The hike down was just as tough to be honest, slightly quicker, but long, hot and very steep. By the time we finished the hike it was definitely time for lunch but we decided to wait till our next stop for lunch.

    Our next stop was Saddan Cave famous for its size in the area and when you exit the other side it leads to a lake where you can get a boat through caves, along the canal and through rice fields. It was unexpectedly really beautiful and very relaxing. For lunch we ate bamboo sticky rice and an avocado. I must admit I just can't get enough avocado!

    Everything took much longer than expected today so our final stop for the day was the famous bat cave. We arrived over an hour before sunset and were the only ones there. You can't actually go into the cavern of the cave, but it is famous for being a viewing point where you watch millions of bat's leave the cave after sunset fly all the way to Mawlalmyine to feed and come back every morning. When the bats start flying out, they start beating drums (actually jerry cans) and using brooms to make a swishing sweeping noise so that the bats make interesting patterns in flight. We even joined in making the sweeping noise with our mouths once the ladies stopped as it was just fascinating to watch. It is an incredible sight! I wish I could upload the videos! If you are interested just let me know and I'll send it to you on fb or WhatsApp. Its beautiful to watch.

    For dinner we went to Wadee Restaurant which is full of tourists but although very very slow it provides incredibly tasting local dishes. We sat with Simon who we met at the Saddan Cave and had a really good chat about travelling. I'm going to really miss meeting like minded people so easily. As we are getting to the end me and Will went all out and feasted like royalty. We had Prawn Curry, Chicken and Potato Curry (just like my mums at home), tea leaf salad, 2 banana milkshakes and a beer to share. We finally won a free beer too, it was a great day. I wish England had this beer game it so fun. Basically you have the chance to win cash or free beer by looking on the inside of the bottle lid.
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  • Day21

    A Day Of Real R&R Shared With Friends

    February 7 in Myanmar ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    Today we all decided to have a day of real R&R. We had a very lazy morning reading our books over breakfast. Then I went for a leg wax while the others chilled out in a garden. The waxing was the strangest one I've ever had. They had clearly never waxed an Indian person and they were just fascinated by our thick hair haha But I must admit it was thorough! The girl even had another girl next to her to check no hairs were left. In addition to the oos and aaahs coming from them while waxing once they got a bit more comfortable they began taking selfies with me! Definitely the most bizarre time to take a selfie but it was fun and they did an amazing job. The only thing is that they took FOREVER!! Normally it takes 30-45 mins. They took an hour and half.

    Eventually I went to meet the others and then we went to the local market for veggie shan noodles. It felt like 100 degrees in the market so we were gasping for juice and so went in search of specifically strawberry milkshake. It was super tasty!!

    Then we planned to go for a well deserved massage but this time at Gemini's. Will and I had bikes so we went to pick them up while Ellia walked. When we got to the bikes Will's had gone! Luckily a lady from the waxing salon came to help and Ostello Bello had CTV. Unfortunately they couldn't see the face clearly but could see that 3 foreigners had taken 3 bikes one of which was Will's. The odd thing was that Will had put the lock on so they wouldn't have been able to use the back wheel. Eventually we got to the masseuse and were given unlimited biscuits, tea and snacks. Yum!! The grandfather that welcomed us was a very sweet old man that spoke basic English and was very proud of showing off his family. He was 73 years old, he had 9 children and 14 grandchildren and 4 houses for his family all next to each other.

    For me the massage wasn't great to be honest and Venus was 100x better. There were some good bits but it was mostly too soft. When finished they gave us avocado shakes, more biscuits, snacks, fruit and water.

    Karin was suddenly feeling very sick so her and Ellia got a lift back to their hostel and Will and I went back to ours for a freshen up. For dinner we went to Ostello Bello so that we could see Karin and Ellia to say our goodbyes. I can honestly say we've made 2 fantastic friends here and we can't wait to visit them in Switzerland!

    The next day me and Will had another chill day before getting the sleeper bus in the evening to Hpa An, our final new destination. We had a slow morning and read our books over breakfast. Checked out at 12pm and went straight for our Venus Massage. I'm so glad we went back there as the massage was the best I'd ever had. I think I fell asleep at points because I was so relaxed!

    For a late lunch we had the famous Burmese Rice which comes with various rice toppings including chilli soya beans, dried anchovies with dried onions and dried shrimp paste. It sounds crazy but it was tasty!

    We then jumped on our sleeper bus by 4pm and were on our way. It was going to be a looong night... 16 hours bus 😭
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  • Day20

    Boat Trip Around Inle Lake

    February 6 in Myanmar ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    After such a lovely boat trip after the walk and talking to the Canadian couple we decided to team up with Ellia and Karin on an whole day boat trip. At 7am we went for breakfast and then jumped on the bikes to the ferry port. I must admit my bum was still hurting from cycling yesterday so I'm looking forward to sitting and relaxing on the boat.

    First stop was the Ywama village which is famous for silver making. Ellia and me even bought ourselves some new earrings.

    Next we spent an hour at the market at Phuang Daw Oo Pagoda where we bought a few goodies to bring home, ate Shan noodles and drank endless amounts of tea.

    Next was a stop at Inn Paw Kon Village where they make lotus Silk. The stems of the lotus flowers produce a fine web like thread which is then woven into thread for garments such as ladies scarves or robes for the monks. It was really amazing.

    Then we stopped at Nan Pa Village where boats and cigars are made. Why the combination I have no idea. Ellia, Karin and Will tried the sweet, banana and strong tobacco cigars. It was weird sitting around them while smoking and smelling the soft scent of banana around me.

    After lunch by the river we walked to Shwe Inn Dein Pagoda which was surrounded in small stupas, almost like a mini Bagan. The site is believed to date back to the days of the Indian emperor Ashoka, who sent out monks in the 3rd century BC across Asia to spread Buddhism. Centuries later two Kings of the Bagan empire, Narapatisithu and Anawrahta built pagodas at the site. The site contains hundreds of pagodas, collectively known as the Shwe Inn Thein pagodas. Most are from the 17th and 18th century; the earliest one with an inscription dates to the 14th century. We were all hot and slightly delirious by this point. We were constantly giggling, hiding behind stupas and jumping out, Ellia even found a broom and randomly started clearing up the leaves and then pretending it was a nimbus 2000. I can't explain why we suddenly went crazy but it happened haha

    After what must have been a good 2 hours we headed back to the boat and had a quick stop to see the long neck ladies. Honestly I don't know why they still make this a stop on the tour because I don't think I've met any tourists that like it. Its like going to a human zoo and its all faked for tourists. Long necks in this area don't really exist and the ones that do don't wear the necklace all the time anymore and can take them off. Or so I've been told. One of the ladies made us hold the necklace claiming it was 8 kg. It was barely 2kg!!

    The next and final stop for the day was the Nga Hpa Kyaung also known as the Jumping Cat Monastery. In the past it was famous for its active cats that would jump through hoops during scripture readings but now the cats are much more lazy and do as all cats do and just lie around in the sun. I can't remember if I've said previously but we always carry balloons and give them out when we see tiny children. As the monastery wasn't that impressive while wandering around we gave some children balloons. They were sooo excited and jusr ran round the outside of the monastery screaming with enjoyment. It was sooo cute!!

    Our tour was supposed to be finished by 4pm but we must have been very slow at each of the stops because it was now 5:15pm. So we asked our boat driver of he would go slowly so we could watch sunset and he happily did so! He also slowed down everytime we went past the iconic one legged fishermen so that we could take pictures with sunset. It was a really picturesque and relaxing end to the day.

    When we arrived we went to Ellia and Karin's hostel Ostello Bello's roof top bar where me and Will played a quick game of the Burmese version of Caram and then we sat and chatted to a few other tourists. I had a really yummy strawberry mojito or so I thought initially. After a few sips my mouth was suddenly full of glass bits so I quickly took it back!! Luckily no harm was done!

    For dinner we went back to the local restaurant for grilled fish, fish steamed in banana leaf and tea leaf salad. It was the best dinner I've had in Myanmar. Cooked to perfection. Absolutely loving our time hanging round with these guys they are fun, funny and so down to earth. Hopefully we can go meet them in Switzerland!!
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  • Day19

    Massage and Wine!

    February 5 in Myanmar ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    All I can say is after 5 days trekking I think we deserved today. We had a very lazy start to the morning of Avocado's and egg on toast, banana and honey pancakes and lots of tea and coffee for breakfast while chatting to a canadian couple till about 12ish. Then we had a massage at Venus and would 100% recommend it as your are greeted by the sweetest ladies and given endless tea, biscuits and snacks at the beginning and end. The massage was just what we needed and we felt great afterwards.

    We then went to pick up our laundry. I was so excited to have clean clothes again! For lunch we met up with Karin and Ellia at Pancake Kingdom before heading on the bikes to Red Mountain Vineyard. My bike was awful with zero suspension or gears and the 45 min ride felt like it took hours. I was in pain when we arrived but it was soo worth it. The views were just beautiful. We did the wine tasting and there is a reason you've never heard of Burmese Wine haha We watched the start of sunset and then cycled back.

    For dinner we had fresh grilled fish, avocado salad, tea leaf salad, stir fried vegetables and rice. Yum yum yum.
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