Kinpun-Golden Rock

Day 23: Fu.. fu.. fuck! (so I said it, sorry for the language)

After we sad goodbye to Germany and Italy (who were not really on speaking terms), our hotel brought us to the airport. One of the staff members joined us (she picks up new guests at the airport). Klaas asked her to give our hotel ' The Golden Sunrise' at Kinpun (base camp for the golden rock) a ring with our ETA. She spoke to the manager who knew we were coming. After all the hassle we went through with the (non existing) reservations, I do not want to take any more risks. Flying in Myanmar is so relaxed. You arrive, drop of your luggage, they give you a sticker of the aircraft company and practically half an hour you are in the air. 45 minutes and two cheese sandwiches and a coffee later you arrive at your destination. It's like taking a bus. Love it!

We agreed that I collect our luggage and that Klaas went outside to start negotiating our taxi to Kinpun. When I arrived outside with our luggage on a stroller, Klaas already waved at me. After some heavy discussions and some fights between taxi drivers he got a good price 80.000K (80 euro for a 3,5 hours drive) to Kinpun. Easy said, easy done. At 3.30pm we arrived at the Golden Sunrise I booked months ago. This place is highly recommended at Tripadvisor (and the bible). It was also because of this really nice hotel we decided to go to the Golden Rock. I reconfirmed my booking 6 weeks ago and 3 days before we came here. And we called them the morning we arrived.

When I stepped out of the car, a guy (later he told me he was the manager) said to me: go back in the car, hotel is full, we go to other hotel. I couldn't believe my ears. The both of us yelled together: FULL? We have a reservation and two confirmations. He said: I know, but full, we go to other hotel. We said: No we stay here, we have a reservation. So he went to the back of his reception, came back with a key and took us to the end of his property (a construction place) and showed us a simple ugly bungalow with a fantastic view on the construction place We didn't accept. I tried to reason with him. The only thing he kept repeating: 'many tourist book, make reservation, but no come. You understand?'

I said that I totally understand this, but when I asked him why he reconfirmed my room via e-mail and this morning on the telephone, he kept repeating the same (fu..) line: 'many tourist book, make reservation, but not come. You understand. Also Yangon office make mistake'. Apparently everybody blames the (non excising) office in Yangon. I lost it. I am not proud of this behaviour, but I just lost it.

I started stamping my feet, with my head almost exploding. We just F &%#% paid 80€ for a ride to this place.... I just have NO respect for this kind of behaviour. When we kept on arguing with the 'manager', two tourist with guide (private car) arrived and they got their bungalow straight away. So I said, why do they have a bungalow and we don't? The manager spoke the very memorable words: 'they make reservation.....and they confirmed'.

The whole thing became one big farce. To put it mildly. Very childish of me maybe, but I wanted to cry. But instead I said to him, show me the other hotel and if we take that, you give me a huge discount. So with the guide of the other couple and the 'manager' they showed us a fancy place in the middle of this town (2 streets). It looked clean but so ordinary. No balcony, Chinese business style. We didn't look for something like this. So he took us to another place, a dreadful looking bungalow park with no English speaking staff and with 45$ for a room, way over the top. But we had no choice: we agreed to take one of these bungalows. When he left, I exploded again. 

I looked at the shit hole of a room and decided to explore the village on my own. I checked out the 'Sea Sar Guesthouse'. Okay bungalows, bit rundown but Myanmar clean and hot water. Between 25, 30 and 35$. Pan Myo Thu Inn I could not find. I went back to our first hotel, 'the Bawga Theiddhi hotel'. After all we saw, this one seems to be the only real mid range place. For Myanmar matters, I think posh. And it comes with free internet which is pretty rare in this town. I collected Klaas at the other place and we checked in at this strange 'design hotel' across the street from where the trucks leave for the Golden Rock.

And bad luck continued. When we unpacked, a bottle of wine fell on the floor of our room in 10000 pieces. I was still very upset and angry and we both were hungry. So we looked at each other saying: 'Okay we have to go out of this place, have a beer and eat, otherwise we'll end up fighting'. So we did. We ran into Clemence and Caroline from Brussels. They are on a 3 month honeymoon. I sign up for that :-). Like us they just arrived and were looking for a place to eat. This little town is totally different then all the other places in Myanmar. There are hardly any tourists, no English signs and the everybody here seems totally indifferent. Like they really don't give a shit. Is this the true Myanmar life, not influenced by tourism?

This is really our lucky day...when we told Clemence about our frustrations he told us to stand still and prepare for another one...



Clemence, no! you are kidding us, right? NO! Clemence is not kidding us, it's under renovation and covered with bamboo mats. Now is the time to start crying, but as a 42 year old woman that seems such an odd thing to do. So instead I decided to start drinking beer. We found a place that looked the least dodgy and after quit some hassle (the ladies of the restaurants at Kunpin are very aggressive sales tigers) we sat down and had a couple of beers (Not one for free though; we are really running out of luck here). Clemence his beer was still frozen. So no new beer...just a bowl of water to put it into: Myanmar style.

Caroline and Clemence are a fun couple to hang out with. We chatted and had actually a really nice diner. We decided to go to the Golden Rock at 8am the next morning, just for the sake of it. Up there we want to try to find a guide for some hiking back to town. We read on Tripadvisor in several reports that the hiking here is fantastic. After we said goodnight to the Belgium couple we tried to find a guide in town, but nobody speaks English or seems to give a s... So we ended up in bed around 9pm. Frustrated, angry and tired. Why the hell nobody told us that the Rock is under renovation. Why?

Day 23: Golden Fock ! (& more fcuk fcuk fcuk)

We slept good, which I didn't expect. When we looked out of the window the sky was pitch way! Rain? Yes rain, much rain. While we were having 'breakfast' (toast, fake strawberry jam and an egg) heaven burst open and it started to rain cats & dogs (more like elephants & hippo's). Wow, so much rain. I looked at Klaas starting to shake my head. This is just not going to happen here anymore.

Serious rainfall, click on video:

I want to go. And there it was, I said it: I want to go, leave this horrible place with the covered rock. Klaas looked deep in my eyes and totally agreed, ha ha. He run to the bus station to change our bus tickets. We also went to the truck station at 8am to see if Clemence and Caroline were there but they weren't, so they probably stayed in their room (good choice!). We packed our bags and had four hours time to kill. I wrote my blog and Klaas did some reading, some counting (he counts our money daily, so cute) and some e-mailing. We had an early lunch (fried water cress with an omelet, just to be on the safe side) and waited for the bus which was 80 minutes late: nothing seems to work in this village. While I am typing this, I am totally fed up by it all. This town has totally no potential pfffffff...

This is the guy at the bus station:

And this is the river of Kinpun (tons of litter and plastic):

and this is what we saw of the Golden Rock...a beautiful calendar.


Ngapali Beach

Day 17: We made a reservation
(with confirmation), really!

In our previous hotel we met an older couple, Sue and William from the UK, who needed a ride to the airport at the same time we did. So we shared a taxi. Easy piecy, 18.000K. They picked us up at our hotel at 7.30am (early!!) and we had a great chat with these two world travellers. One of their sons lives in Indonesia, in a town Sue describes as 'the ass hole of the world', which made me laugh so much. Sue and William have a house near Toulouse where they live permanently. At least once a year they travel to Asia. I like to see that people at that age are still so alive and kicking and adventurous (maybe Sue a little bit more then William -who is an accountant-,..which says it all :-)

Like all the other flights we took, we had great fun at the airport...uuuhhhh airport? See it more like a big room with chairs and people running around with signs in their hands saying which flight needs to board. So relaxed. The guys at the x-ray machines don't even look at our stuff on their computers. Liquid on board,..hell why not? Surprisingly there was an espresso joint in the waiting area, so for 2.000K we had a proper cappuccino, mmmm delicious. Our plain took off right on time and after having a chicken sandwich, some pastry and a coffee, we landed at the airport of Ngapali beach. We looked for our complementary hotel pick up taxi, but there was nobody with a sign in his hands with my name on it. I asked around and one guy said: 'Yes it's me for Memento resort'. So after a ride of 15 minutes we were dropped of at the Memento resort which I booked 2 months ago.

The lady behind the reception had no idea who we were. There was just NO reservation of us in their handwritten system. We showed her all the e-mails we sent and the confirmations, but she kept on saying 'different resort'. I was flabbergasted and showed this straight away. Klaas looked angry at me and snarled to keep my big mouth shut. I know that it's wrong to show my emotions, but after all my preparations and confirmed reservations, months before showing up, I can't stand it that -with all of the written proof in my hand and on my iPad- people say it's not their problem.

What the actual problem was, I still don't know, but after quit a bit of hassle we got our 50$ bungalow without twin beds which we specifically requested! There were no twin beds available said the lady. On our last day we had to switch to a 35$ bungalow in the back row, because the 50$ bungalows were already reserved for other people. After another hassle, we got an extra sheet and blanket. That's why we always ask for twin beds, we need our own sheet and blanket (difficult sleepers you could say!). The mattress was about 3 cm thick and the sheets were made of polyester and as usual too small for the bed. So after turning around a few times, the sheet on the mattress folds up so in the morning you notice that you slept on the (dirty) mattress...aarghhhhh..

We explored the surroundings a bit and went to the nearest village, Thandwe. We took a tuk tuk (40 minutes, 500K pp) to buy some gear to make our bungalow and bed a bit less spartan and more comfortable. Thandwe is a small village with no tourists, so we were an attraction again. After buying our stuff, which was not easy, we bought some pastries at the market and took a tuk tuk back to our bungalow.

For sunset we met Simon in his posh hotel named 'Bayview', next door to our backpack kind of place. Bayview is everything you wish for if you are looking for peace and comfort. I was so jealous of him. He showed us his bungalow. I was basically gasping for air...the shower, with all the pebbles, that enormous bed,..that...that....damn what a super cool place. "Although it's a lot of money, it's worth every penny" (Simon's words).

We sat down at his beach bar and watched the sunset while nipping on our 5$ cocktails. Quit cheap drinks for such a nice hotel (glass of decent wine also 5$). We took a couple more and decided to have diner across the street, because the food is really expensive at Bayview. We found a great place near our bungalow called 'Golden Rose' were we ordered all kinds of fresh fish...wowww! Dirt cheap: 4.000K for a fish, potatoes and lovely avocado/tomato salad. To top it off with a 2.000K beer. The owner and his son are such a nice people. The son works during the day at the Bayview...what a life: work work, and still look happy and warm & helpful towards the customers.

That night we slept very bad. Why? Because the air conditioning of the 'fancy' 85$ apartment above us was heavily dripping water on our thin iron roof. This made such a noise, the whole fu.. night long, that we could not sleep. It sounded like a heavy rain shower. Klaas was totally fed up with it all at 3am and whispered in my ear: 'Darling no worries, we move to that beautiful place next door where Simon is in too, and I pay the extra costs..'. I was flabbergasted, but so happily surprised by his gesture.

No more of this:

Or blankets on the roof, that will help...yeah right!

Day 18: It's all about finding the right place

The next morning we saw that the staff of Memento knows all about our roof dripping air con problem, because there was a blanket on the roof to avoid noise coming from the dripping air con above it. What a stupid solution. Again, tourism, service and Myanmar: a long way to go. What makes me angry is that they ask European prices (in eight years time prices for accommodations are multiplied by four !! I know because I still have my old Lonely Planet from 2005) without providing any (extra) comfort and/or service. I think this is so wrong and probably will work against them in the long run; that's what I hope because this whole industry right now is all greediness.

We checked out at the Memento Resort the next morning. I was so grateful to Klaas that he firmly made the decision to go to the Bayview (113€ a night!), because this week on the beach was something we looked forward to so much, and with this very unpractical and noisy bungalow we were definitely not going to have a good time! But Elles is Elles; I was actually really angry that after all the problems we had, we still had to pay the full amount for that night. 50$ is just crazy for such a place. At least showe some understanding for our feelings and deal with it, in a way. But complaints are just not in their vocabulary. Although I have much appreciation for the Myanmar people, there is a limit to my comprehension. In Thailand a bungalow of this kind would not cost more then 15$ (and it comes without leaking aircon's).

But checking out, doesn't mean checking in. We went to the Bayview to use their computer room to book through Agoda (the only way possible to pay with a credit card). The walk-in rate of the Bayview is 190$. There are only a few hotels in Myanmar that are bookable through Agoda (the only booking site that offers Myanmar accommodation). The lady of the reception asked us what we were up to. We explained to her that we were about to book this hotel for 5 nights. She said that it was not allowed for non guest to use their computers. Duhhhhh, we said, let us use the computer so we can book this hotel. Happily for us a smarter reception clerk understood us but the internet of the Bayview didn't work so we left to find an internet cafe. There was one around the corner, so we tried to book the hotel, but only 2 out of 5 nights were available. Damn...! Klaas went back to the hotel to talk to the hotel manager who told us that except for 1 night he had a room for us. We didn't mind taking that risk; for sure someone will cancel and we will be able to stay also that particular day. The manager 'opened' the dates we needed in Agoda and we were able to book our ridiculous splurge midweek. Oooh yeah! But my god, what a hassle! This is the downside of travelling in Myanmar. No ATM's and no credit card payments possible.

Our room looks horrible, as well as the swimming pool:-) See for yourself:

After we jumped around in our huge room -like little children- and taking a loooooooong hot shower, connected all our electrical gear, we said hi to Simon (the lucky bastard was moving to a beach front bungalow). He was so surprised to see us, and that we decided to stay at his place while the night before we told him that the resort was waaaaaaaay above our budget.
We took a walk on the beach to explore the rest of the competition in this sleepy fisherman's village.

What we saw was one over the top priced resort, after the other. It's really ridiculous. The resorts are huge (we often got lost finding the reception). All the premises are super well maintained and nicely decorated, but prices start most of the time at 250$ a night. Seriously..? Yes! So what happens: there are no backpackers nor flash packers, instead only old senior kind of package tour tourists with little to no Myanmar interest (this is my own opinion after doing 'Elles style' research. Most of the resorts were at least half empty. Not in our place, always fully booked and has by far the coolest and chillest vibe of all the places we saw (but hardly any young people 30/40 year).

Strange place this Ngapali beach and what a shame that such a fantastic beach is basically not 'available' for the less fortunate tourists and travellers. The only three places that have 'budget' options ar Lin Thar Oo click here(60$ for a beachfront bungalow, very run down. Or a new one, very nice for 80$) and Memento resort (35$ for a very simple bungalow no sea view no airco, or 50$ for beach bungalow, very simple and old with airco and 85$ for a normal bungalow).

And last the lovely Yoma Cherry, click here, a 15 minute walk from the 'main' area. Yoma Cherry offers bungalows between 50-70 dollar but the room comes with free bikes. All these places have no electricity between 6am and 6pm (so only at night).

After our long exploring walk, we had lunch at #1 Tripadvisor restaurant Silver Winner. According to the TA contributors, this is the place to be. Right! Food wise, no complaints, but service wise we got totally annoyed by 3 girls of the staff breathing in our necks. Privacy,..Jeehuuu? The cook / owner came also to our table and asked if everything was alright. Please people, leave us alone for a bit. Actually, we didn't like the place. It was all so extremely pushy and too much in our face. Again, I try to understand that they think we like this kind of service, and that they are very anxious to make us feel at home, but for us this works totally the other way around.

We had a rendez vous around sunset with Simon in his oooh la la fancy beachfront bungalow. We bought some wine and Simon managed to get a few candles, chairs nuts and a wine cooler at the restaurant. Look at us, sitting like kings, watching another crazy sunset; finally without any of the notorious Myanmar touristic drama, but with Mr. Jobs nearby...(if you look closely you see an iPad and and Iphone to catch the dramatic sunset)..

For diner we went again to our favourite place across the street from our hotel, the 'Golden Rose'. Simon had lunch there that day, and specially asked the owner to throw in some bottles of white Myanmar wine and 3 big snappers (fish) for our diner that evening. When we arrived, the table was all set up with a sign 'reserved' and the wine cooler stood firmly in the middle of the table: let the games begin!

We had again a wonderful evening (Simon is a charming and vivid story teller and Klaas and me don't mind to share our stories). It was also great to see that the Myanmar staff of our hotel, and the German manager Patrick, were having their own private drinking party in the back of the restaurant. We are almost sure that the staff working at the Bayview really enjoy their job and I also think that the management of Bayview takes good care of them. You never know for sure, but from what I have seen: no alarm bells.

Day 19: SPF 15 or 30?

The next morning (after a fantastic night sleep...finally!) we saw Simon who was just checking out. We hugged each other and promised each other to keep in touch. Simon didn't sleep that well, since the kitchen staff (next to his fancy up scaled bungalow) decided to have a party till 5 in the morning. That's why we never take fancy up scaled bungalows :-) Simon looked so tired, or was that because of the 3 bottles wine and some cocktails we drank the night before?
While Simon went off to the airport, we went to our first Bayview breakfast buffet. And that was no punishment, what so ever, ladies en gentleman! Wow, I like! Pastries, fresh juice, eggs, pancakes, real cheese, muesli, yogurt and to top it all off: great coffee latte. View: a magnificent swimming pool. I can get used to this.

The rest of the day we basically didn't do anything, besides swimming, working on the golden brown tan, hanging around, eating, drinking, another swim (pool or clear blue sea...damn all these choices!). We wrote some postcards while we had lunch at Htay Htay (good lunch, nice place).

I took it really easy while my cold wasn't getting any better. Having a cold at the beach..WTF *%#^!! Fortunately there is a cooker in our room, so every few hours, me and my nose take a steam bath and we sniff purified salty water. Aaarggg, not my favourite waste of time. I also bought some heavy tiger kind of balm which opens all the pores in my body. That will do the trick hopefully.

There is one thing we didn't really figured out yet, and that is our ride from the airport of Yangon to the north-east, to Golden Rock, in 3 days time. When we collected our plane tickets at our travel agency Peace House Travel in Yangon, we saw that our flight back from the beach to Yangon was an afternoon flight, not a morning flight as agreed upon. May, owner of Peace House Travel knew very well that the only demand we had, was a morning flight from Thandwe back to Yangon. Klaas already figured out back in Holland that there was no morning flight with KBZ that day, but May assured us that there was. When we collected our tickets, we noticed on our tickets the difference in time. No morning flight, but an afternoon flight. What???

May said to us that there was just NO alternative aircraft company for morning flights back to Yangon. She explained to us how difficult the whole flight thing is in Myanmar; not enough planes & pilots, so itinerary's change all the time. We totally believed that. And I think to a certain extend it's true, (but in our case I think it was not). So back then we thought we had no other choice and more or less accepted it.

But frankly, over the past couple of weeks, we talked to several travel agencies at several places throughout Myanmar and they all told us the Air Bagan and Air Mandalay flights do ALWAYS fly in the morning, already for a long time. The KBZ flight, she booked for us, on a Tuesday, is at 15.40pm for quit some time. Only on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday KBZ offers morning flights at 9.30am. Like Klaas already figured out in Holland. So this information has been available for quit some time. I don't understand why they booked us on a KBZ flight (with the wrong time, while two other companies offer morning flights). This bothers me a lot actually. So in order to arrive early in Yangon we now have to buy new tickets with Air Mandalay.

By the way, we noticed that all our KBZ tickets are more expensive then the Air Mandalay tickets. Every time we fly, I ask people what they paid for their tickets. Our KBZ tickets are always quit a bit more expensive then the other aircraft companies offer (same day, same itinerary). Sometimes there is a 16$ (!!) difference per ticket. I don't mind that a travel agent takes some money as an agency fee, but I would like to have known this. Explain it to the customers, because I assume that a travel agent takes the cheapest option for their clients, not the most expensive. So when we collect our refund at Peace House Travel, I want to discuss this thing with May, I like to understand why she did it this way.

Pfffff...well, now this is all been said, we still have to arrange a car from Yangon to our hotel near the Golden Rock. I just posted a message on TA forum and I was so happy that 'SnowDropLondon' responded to my question by saying that a taxi to Golden Sunrise is going to cost us not more then 75$ (through Traders Hotel). The price we got through a Myanmar travel agent 'Oway', click here, was 250$ one way, which made us laugh and shiver at the same time. So we will take our chances and negotiate a price at the airport. Adventure!

I asked Klaas if he didn't mind to have diner 'at home'. We are having such a great terrace and lazy chairs, I like to enjoy this luxury. Besides that, I really want to take it easy to get rid of this silly cold. So we got ourselves a great diner (from the Golden Rose again), but this time in white plastic take away cups. It was yet another perfect evening while Keane played their best songs.

Day 20: Happy men, are gay men

It wasn't easy; the next morning we had to pull ourselves out of our mega comfi beds, towards the breakfast buffet (joke). While Klaas went to his most favourite place in whole Myanmar (the egg station), he met a strange species there. A German woman that barked to the 'egg man' of the egg station. According to her, he didn't know shit about cooking eggs, bla, bla, bla! After she sent one omelet to the trash bin, she took over the station and began frying her own scrambled eggs. When Klaas came back to our table, he was disgusted by her behaviour. I said, always in for a riot, let's talk to here, let us explain her something about human behaviour vs politeness. But as always, Klaas didn't want me to put up a scene, so we ignored this monster - probably a country side imbecile - who thinks that Myanmar is some kind of region of Lloret del Mar.

We like to hang around the buffet, talk to the elderly ;-) and drink tons of coffee. Klaas met two very spontaneous men from our country (Breda) who are retired and enjoying life for the full two million percent. They just did a two months around the world cruise (that involves dancing, jogging on the deck and black tie diners). During wintertime these two blokes always take two months time out in Holland to spent time at Hua Hin (Thailand). Two well dressed men, far away in their sixties and already 43 years together. I say hurrah for such an achievement! We invited ourselves (a very Dutch thing to do) that evening at the boys (Wijnand and Ad) bungalow, promising them that we bring a chilled bottle of white wine. In return we asked them to entertain us with their (cruise) stories. And by cruising I mean sailing on a boat..

We had a terrific lunch at the Ngapali kitchen (fresh tuna, Thai style, mjam!) and while I was taking my last bite, I almost fell of my chair. What the hell.....NO WAY! (mind you: we are in Myanmar. A very very prudish country, were everybody wears longs skirts and tops covering the shoulders. Only at the beach, people wear less.

Are really? Yes they are: walking around in the street wearing only a bikini and a pair of swim trousers..... WHATTTTT?
And there they were: zeeeeeeee Russians!!!! They spoiled Thailand and Egypt and probably they slowly start taking over Myanmar too? I feel so bad about this. I think that Russians are the most horrible travellers/tourists in the whole wide world and I have far too often totally been disgusted by their manners and overall presence. This is really bad news and although the Myanmar people do not have that much experience with (mass) tourism, they know very well who Russians are, and they are not happy with their presence at all.

Around sunset we went to our 2 Dutch men. These guys are full of funny stories. There seems to be no ending to what they've seen, done and are going to do. After 2 bottles of wine, we asked them to come along to our favourite Golden Rose for diner. Good choice, because Ad is crazy about French fries and they happen to make a damn good 'frietje' (Dutch for fries) at the Golden Rose. I think we, all together, had 4 plates of various fresh fish and 5 plates packed with 'frietjes' (of which Ad ate at least 4) and a few plates of avocado and tomato salad. It's such a luxury to have this kind of food available, so fresh, so tasteful for only a couple of dollars.
We totally fell in love with these two charismatic handsome Dutch personalities. They promised us to come and see us in Amsterdam. OMG...I need to be fit then, because these two naughty boys are in a different league when it comes down to energy and late night chats (including drinking).

Day 21: Moving to the neighbours

We are in Myanmar now for 3 weeks. I am sad that time flies so very fast. I remember so clearly that we arrived in Yangon at the Sunflower hotel, but it also feels like centuries ago. We haven't had one argument yet, my lovely honey bunny and me, and we've been counting our blessings every day. We are healthy and we made the right choice not to go for the whole baby and children thing; instead we travel and that suits us more then perfect. Well enough of these reflections, we have things to do! We have to move out of the Bayview, they are still fully booked, there were no cancellations. We saw that one coming, so we went made a reservation for 2 nights at the place next door, 'LinThar Oo'. They have a few brand new wooden bungalows on the beach for 'only' 80$.

After chatting again for a long time with our brand new BFF's Ad and Wijnand while having another superb breakfast, we packed our things. I moved my stuff in three times. I am so fed up with packing my backpack (hihi). The bungalow of LinThar Oo is fab! Wow! I am actually happy that we had to move out of Bayview; this is the real Thai beach vibe I feel here! With one foot I'm standing in my bungalow with the other one in the sea. I am so spoilt right now.

Our gay happy men came to take a look in our rustic bungalow, and although Ad couldn't really believe that no electricity during the day is possible, they both agreed our bungalow wasn't as bad as they expected, ha ha. We said goodbye to them, because they were about to take off to Yangon. We unpacked our stuff and sat down on our fantastic porch overlooking the silver white sandy beach while listening to gentle waves rolling on the shore. The rest of the day we did nothing, except for things you expect people to do at the beach on a sunny day. Klaas has a bit of a cold again so we took things easy.

We had lunch at Paradise across the street, okay fruits-de-mer noodles. By the way, I forgot to explain about the crown cap's of Myanmar beer bottles. Well we've could have been drinking free beers for the past 3 weeks, if we would have known that there are hidden messages under the plastic layers in every Myanmar beer cap...
So what does it say? From left to right ->

Free bottle/1.000K discount/500K discount/100K discount. And if you are unlucky you get this one:

That says: Je su tin ba de (thank you).
If we only had known....

That night we stayed in again. I went to the Golden Rose for some small bites to take home and a few candles for some extra romance. With 2 bottles of chill wine in the fridge and the latest novel of Leon de Winter on my e-reader, our evening on the porch was going to be just perfect.

Day 22: Germany and Italy in one bungalow

The night before, at the Golden Rose, I met an Italian guy who stays also at the Lin Thar Oo (LTO). We chatted for a while and the next morning we saw each other again at the breakfast table. By the way, they serve a pretty decent breakfast buffet at LTO. He told me that he shares a bungalow with a German guy. We chatted about the usual stuff people talk about while travelling. His German room mate joined us later and I found out that both man are gay but that was the only thing they had in common. Wow, two totally different characters. Later that day John (Italian) and me walked all the way to the end of the bay (1 hour walk).
The Ngapali bay is so extremely beautiful, many older aged travellers think it feels like Thailand 30 years ago (but with Swiss prices :-)). 

I didn't take my camera with me, but John promised me to sent some pics of our walk. At the end of the bay, on the cliffs, there is a cute little (expensive) restaurant were we had two lovely cocktails (the pina colada is fantastic with fresh milk directly from the coconut). Later the German (nameless) guy showed up and ordered a carrot juice, which made John and me laugh so much. This guy is totally healthy. He swims, runs and doesn't drink alcohol, and that shows. I almost asked him if they photoshoped his body. The Italian is totally the opposite, back home they call him 'Sue Ellen' (Dallas, alcoholic, remember?) and he smokes. So there I was, sitting in between 2 guys with totally different views on how to life, arguing German vs Italian style. Pfffff.(The next morning I think they decided to go separate ways, which I think was a wise idea).

That evening we packed our bags feeling sorry for ourselves. Our days at the beach are almost over :-( We had dinner for the last time at our favourite Golden Rose. I gave the owner two wooden shoes on a hanger from Holland and he gave me a cute shelf with Ngapali written on it. So cute.

Bye Bye beautiful beach!!

Traveller facts: Accommodation is very expensive at the beach. If you want a bit of service and a good breakfast is will cost you around 135$ a night (Bayview). There are only view 'budget' options. Linthar Oo/Memento/ArkanLand/Yoma Cherry. Food is very cheap. A set menu with a whole fresh fish is 4.000K. Tuktuk to Thandwe 500K. pp one way. Happy hour almost everywhere between 5-7pm. Fancy drinking in the big hotels 5$ per cocktail. There are good wines available at the local liquor store (near the new hotel Jade resort & spa/ next to Ngapali Kitchen). Decent red French wine 7.000K. a bottle. Our favourite restaurant by far: The Golden Sunrise. The worst: Silver Winner. We also liked Ngapali Kitchen a lot. Next door to Htay Htay is an internet cafe May: 1 hour: 1.000K. The Bayview has free wifi. Password: ocean (they will probably hate me for sharing this). Flight to and from Yangon to Thandwe airport: 99$.


Inle Lake

Day 13: Let's get down to the lake

Well the breakfast part is really bad at the Pindaya and a whole group tour of silly Swiss people arrived the night before (they where ALL sitting in their underwear in the sun at their balconies the day before...I saw many many many big white bra's and huge shinny panties), so we decided to grab a cup of coffee outside in the sun and hit the road as quickly as possible. Klaas made a fantastic deal with the cab driver who brought us to Pindaya to take us for 50.000K to Inle lake (another world wide highlight place in the world). But to be honest, it is crazy that we pay all together 100.000K for Heho-Pindaya/Pindaya-Inle Lake. It's a short distance and the roads are horrible and it took us back about 3,5 hours to get to Inle, but still, this amount is way over the top. 

Not only the price irritated me heavily, also the way the taxi driver drove and especially how many times he honked his horn. Every f&*^ second sounds his horn which, at a certain point, wanted me to kill him. Thank god for my iPod and headphones. What a shame that the government doesn't use their energy in a really good way and put a stop to this idiotic way of driving (this happens by the way all over Myanmar except for Yangon where honking the horn is forbidden!)

We arrived at the PYI1 guesthouse (near Inle Lake at the backpack district called Nyaung Shwe) around noon, our room wasn't ready yet. When we sat down for a coffee, we saw already many many backpackers hop from one guesthouse to the other to find a bed to sleep in. No chance, every bed is taken. It's ridiculous, but if you made no reservation, you are so screwed!
We briefly spoke to a German girl on her own with no room yet. I felt so sorry for her.

We walked into town (LOOOOOOOVE THIS LIVELY LITTLE TOWN!) to rent some bikes and met an old guy, Mr Win, on his motorbike. He asked if we were interested to be on a boat tour with him the next day. Straight away I felt good about the guy. This was actually a type of boatman I hoped to find around Inle Lake. After 15 minutes we agreed upon a price and most important the itinerary (more information later in this chapter) and came back one hour later at the PYI1 with bikes and a boat tour, YES!
I had a totally different idea of the PY1 (with such high Tripadvisor  recommendations).

I found the whole place not my cup of tea. Difficult to explain why I feel this way, but it's a really narrow place without any views, the bungalows are very simple and you can hear everything your neighbours whisper. Just for comparison, in Thailand this would cost maximum 20$ a night, here 45$. I know, it's not really fair to compare, but still. I paid 10$ for a nicer room, 8 years back. The shower has almost no pressure, so washing my hair took me ages! No wifi (you can use a computer of the owner though). Basic breakfast: yogurt, eggs, toast, fruit and instant coffee. There is no fridge. Just all very basic, but charming.

The owner, a pretty young guy, spontaneous type, lived in the UK for several years, but I just didn't like him. Sometimes there is just no click, instead alarm bells go off. So we are trying now to get into The Princess Garden (tried that already back in Holland several times, but all the time full already). We went by the place already twice, but it's all the time fully booked. The owner really wants to help us, so we call him again tomorrow to see if anybody cancelled his booking (this apparently happens quit often). This Princess Garden is awesome. It has a cute little swimming pool and the whole surrounding is so nice, very green and urban. Just a good vibe, felt it straight away.

The rest of the day we explored this lively town and had a great avocado salad with rice crackers, mjummie. We saw the German lady again and she told us, she found a dorm room for 9$. We asked her if she wanted to be with us on the boat the next day and she liked it, great! She showed me the dormitory. OMG! x 1000. I could never sleep with 8 people in one room on a cold floor on a thin mattress with only a cold shower outside. I just could not believe she was capable of doing this and calling it 'holiday'. She asked us if we wanted to join her for a wine tasting sunset afternoon at the vineyard about 2 miles out of town. Well if wine is involved and drinking, you don't have to ask us twice, so the vineyard it will be!

Later that afternoon, near the busy market, we saw Simon (we met back in Bagan). He was sitting in a trickshaw (lazy bastard!) exploring the city. He was happy to see us. He actually just dropped me an e-mail where to meet. It was Simon's lucky day and we had a full boat the next day. Germany, the UK and Holland in one boat, I say: good fun!

At 4.30pm we cycled together with Inga (Germany-Darmstad) to the Red Mountain vineyard. A fantastic 20 minute ride where we saw much rural live and traffic! The vineyard is on the top of a mountain and the views are breathtaking, we thought we were in France.

A bunch of travellers was sitting outside sipping wine, watching the sunset. Over the top romantic (if you want to propose to somebody, me, this is the place). We decided to do a wine tasting for 2.000K. They served us 4 different wines in tiny little glasses (not more then a sip).We all liked every single wine, but the Shiraz-Tempranillo was so outstanding that we quickly ordered a whole bottle of this divine grape juice. At 6pm the place closed and everybody cycled back to town. Not in a straight line though.

Inga suggested to have diner in a Nepali place so we went there and really enjoyed this food which was actually new to us. We went to bed early, Mr. Win is going to pick us up at 7.30am!

Day 14: More whiskey Mr. Win?

There he was, Mr. Win in disguise, 7.30am sharp. He was wearing a woollen hat all over his face, like he was about to robe a bank. We picked up Inga and Simon at their hotels and walked to the docking place. Many boats were about to leave. This here is big big tourist land, but still pretty doable. Mr. Win has it's own boat, The Inle Taxi. Five chairs with a pillow to sit on and blankets to deal with the morning cold. Great gear Mr. Win! Let's go.

See film:

I was sitting in the back so Mr. Win tapped on my shoulder all the time he wanted to explain about something. While his English was understandable most of the time, with the motor engine making quit a bit of noise, I often had no clue what he meant. Our first stop was the 5 day market (held in a different village every day).

It was amazing. So many people, so many vendors, so many items to buy. Mr. Win bought us all a coffee and delicious fried fresh split pea tofu and churros (Dutch: soort lange oliebollen).

What a treat. After the market we sailed to the part of Inle Lake that is opened to the public only a few years back. The people living here, lived in total poorness and without any knowledge what was going on in their own country. For example, the buddhist demonstrations, they had no idea. We stopped in a small village with a beautiful pagoda with shinny little things on the top. The village recently has a school and many kids from the whole region go there and sleep there too. You could say it's kind of a boarding school. Mr. Win was really proud about the progress Myanmar is going through, certainly here at this place. Every week there is a firewood market in this place that was going to take place the next day. many farmers and vendors were already putting their firewood on the land. Simon thought he landed in the middle of a medieval movie. It was indeed totally surreal.

We hit the water again and enjoyed every minute of it, certainly this southern part where we were the only tourist boat. We felt like being in the 'Apocalypse Now' movie. My only demand to Mr. Win was: no tourist boats and please keep away from the beaten path! And Mr. Win understood that perfectly. People kept on waving at us, which never gets boring, in contrary, it made me feel so happy.

Our next stop was another old village where we had tea with a family in their own home. This village makes pottery and sells in throughout the whole Shan region. It was again so surreal. They dig big holes in the ground, make fire in it, put the soft clay items in it, so they can dry. After that they paint the items.
Mr. Win is a very special guide. He knows everybody in every single village. His son is a monk and teacher and Mr. Win sometimes brings orphans from these small villages to his son's monastery. When we sat down with the family, had a green tea and Klaas suddenly was in a total culture shock. He realised that his life and theirs was 10000% different. The rest of the day he kept on telling me "Elles, this is all so much we see. Everything is so different from how we life."

When we said goodbye to the family, I pulled out a pair of nice Dutch earrings (I have a small gift bag with me for special occasions) and gave it to the child of the family. According to Klaas, the family appreciated this enormously. I was too nervous/shy to take a good look at them after giving the present. I always feel that way because I don't know if they appreciate my gesture.

After leaving the village we went back up the lake again. Mr. Win stopped at a brewery were they make, totally old skool, rice wine. Amazing how they do this. After that: rice wine tasting. Mmmmm good stuff. We all liked it a lot and I bought a bottle.

Simon decided that it tastes a bit like grappa. Klaas thought it was more a kind of sake. Anyway, whatever it tasted like, Mr. Win started to drink quit a bit of this cloudy white liquor. We paid the owner voluntary two dollars for the wine and finger bites; tea leaf salad and headed for a place to have lunch. It was already 2pm. The closer we got back on the northern part of the lake, the more touristy it got (but still so beautiful).

Mr. Win passed all the boats and stopped at a quiet restaurant on the water. Lovely place with a big terrace. We sat down (we were the only ones) and ordered a set Shan meal lunch. Mr. Win started to drink one whiskey after the other. Within a time laps of 40 minutes Mr. Win was totally pissed (which was not funny anymore). Simon comes from the UK and Mr. Win already mentioned a few times the tensions between the UK and Myanmar (because of the colonial times). Now after a couple of drinks he really started to bully Simon about it. Simon didn't appreciated this, and teased Mr. Win. At a certain point we said: Simon be the smartest of you two and don't respond to him and anymore, just ignore it and let's hit the water again.

We made sure Mr. Win ate his plate of food before we jumped in the boat. Inga wanted to see the longneck women. When we arrived at this wooden house on stilts two longneck's were weaving. The whole thing was a big tourist scam. The longnecks life 120 km further, so these women were put there just for our pleasure. Klaas and me did not enter the place and fortunately Simon and Inga turned around too. After this sad experience we sailed through the floating gardens where the farmers grow tomatoes. It was astonishing that this kind of agriculture was all on the water.

The last stop was at the jumping cat monastry. Inga liked to see it. No more jumping cats though. The buddhist decided that too many tourist are asking for this show, so it's not part of their routine anymore (which I totally understand).

Being back in the boat we said to each other that Inle Lake will probably be like Venice in a couple of years. We are so scared what will happen to this pristine authentic place once the tourism industry really explodes.

We said goodbye to Mr. Win who was pretty sober again. We told him we had a fantastic day on the lake, but that he should not drink while he's doing his work. He nodded, he knew. We gave him all a dollar tip. (The next day Klaas hooked him up with a few travellers. He was so happy with that. Klaas told him again: Mr. Win, keep away from the booze when you guide these people. He said -and I found that utterly cute-: I know, I am so angry with myself. So message understood. But I guess we were also part in his drinking. We encouraged him to pour out more and more rice wine, so in a way we were to blame too.

This was probably the best day we had so far. What a totally different atmosphere on the water.

The evening, the four of us had dinner together at Thoo Thoo. A romantic place that serves very tasty food. Avocado salad: 10 points, like the ginger salad. They served 'our' Tempranillo wine too, so we drank at least two bottles (12.000K each) while Inga told us her most embarrassing flight attendant stories! Red ears all over the place. Normally Simon, as a travel guide, is the one with the 'you won't believe this' stories, but Inga defeated him by far with a story about a passenger shitting before the toilet, because he thought there were not enough toilets on the plain. Really, yes really! And this story was only to warm us up :-).

We went to bed quit tipsy (and woke up pretty hang-overed but happy the next morning).

Day 15: You don't like my room, then go!

Inga decided to cycle to the village of Maing Thauk (half of it is on the land, the other on the water). She wanted to see the forest monastery. We agreed upon leaving at 7.30am. It took as about 70 minutes (!) by bike to get there. Unfortunately there was no river view because of the foggy air. We talked a lot about her life, which hasn't been that great lately. So we shared some emotional moments. I like Inga a lot and I hope she will have the courage to make some dramatic changes in her life.

When I came back at the hotel, Klaas didn't get a room at the Princess Garden ( I was soooo disappointed) so I went off to look for a different place. I didn't sleep well the past 2 nights and the whole vibe at PYI1 I hated. But what I basically already knew before starting my search: everything was full, full, full. When I came back I talked to the owner's wife about being unhappy with the water situation (no pressure-so basically no water) and the bad beds (hard and the linen to small for the beds). She referred me to her husband with whom I had a very unpleasant conversation. 

I thought I was very polite to him but he reacted totally infuriated. It made me so angry, he was not reasonable at all. We pay 45$, which is a lot of money for this place. Am I allowed to ask some kind of service. I think it works both ways, right? That my alarm bells went off, when I first saw him, didn't ring undeserved. Klaas tried to reason with him too, but it just didn't work out. So we decided to start looking again for another place. It wasn't easy but we found a true gem, a few minutes out of town. It has everything, even fast wifi, a hot shower, a fridge, a soft mattress, a lovely breakfast with cheese and avocado and a porch. Guess what, 'only' 40$ a night. Me happy, Klaas happy. We quickly packed our bags, paid for the 2 nights at PYI1 and went to our hidden treasure Aung Mingalar. A 3 minute ride 'out' of town.

The rest of the day we drank beers with Inga at a nice terrace next to the canal, we talked a lot and had a great pancake with avocado, garlic and onions. At 4pm we said goodbye to Inga, she was going to Yangon on a 20 hour bus ride...OMG! 
I really liked being with her. Saying goodbye on trips is something I am so not good at. 

Klaas and me took it easy the rest of the afternoon; reading books, writing blogs and having a great dinner at this upscale place called 'Green Chili'. A bit more expensive, but such a nice vibe and delicious food. Great quiet place, with outstanding service.

Day 16: Hot springs and SoeSoe

We slept great and were very surprised with our breakfast. A very appealing avocado, toasted bread, kind of cheese (or was it very old butter?), marmalade, eggs and a banana pancake. The only thing that a lot of the hotel staff in Myanmar do, and what in my opinion they really need to change is 'the hanging around the table'. The guy in our hotel kept on standing next to our table, watching us closely.

The moment my plate was empty, he took it away. Many people of the restaurant and hotel staff in Myanmar do this. I guess they think we appreciate it; that it's some kind of great service, but for us personally, we get really nervous by this behaviour.

We have a nice porch so I did some girly things like polishing my nails and plucking my eye brows.

Although I am not vain during travelling, there is a certain limit to my backpack look. All shinny and new, we took our bikes to explore the hot springs a few miles out of town. Along the way we found a coffee house that also makes churro's and had a quick stop over for these tasteful calorie bombs and a coffee.

The road to the hotsprings is really terrible. Dusty with many pebbles and rocks. Every time a truck or motorbikes passed, we were eating dust for at least 15 minutes. But we liked it. Ha ha ha..adventure, right? After 50 minutes of heavy sweating we arrived at the hotsprings. The building looks really good, see their website here.

The ladies at the reception were lovely, they let us take a look at the private pool (men and women together, read: the tourist pool) and the separate pools. It looked totally different then what we've expected. It's really small and I think the water in the pools is very dirty. It's not a water flowing kind of pool. The price was just ridiculous: 8$ pp. We were standing there with our mouths open...what? 8$, really? Yes really! The bible quoted 5$, so this fast prices are raising. Ridiculous.

'Tata' we said (Myanmar language for 'bye bye') and left. The road back to our hotel was of course bumpy again, but the scenery is beautiful. So all together it was definitely worthwhile going there.

We stopped at Min Min (the cocktail bar in town) and had a fresh lime juice. Great for a thirsty throat. We decided to come back for diner. We did, (after freshening up at home) and had a few pina colada's. They are plentiful with rum and they put fresh lime in it too. Wow, for 1.500K a fantastic pina colada. Min Min and his wife run the place and they have a daughter named SoeSoe. Next door of Min Min is a school:

Cute kids:

SoeSoe is more of a boy then a girl, her mother explains to us. At school SoeSoe always stands in row with the guys and she refuses to wear longys (long skirts) and she wears her hair short. SoeSoe wanted to sit on my lap and the rest of the evening she stayed there playing Angry Birds on our iPhones. She was so sweet. We ate a good home made pasta with pesto (we wanted to do this at the restaurant the bible suggests, but this place was packed with group tour tourists,..argghhh. After bringing our bikes back to the rental place, walking back hand in hand to our hotel, we looked at each other: HAPPY!

Traveller facts: Make a reservation for a hotel at Inle Lake. This is a serious warning! We never saw so many frustrated travellers with nowhere to go - who really slept in the streets! Hotels are priced way over the top in this town. Certainly not enough value for money, but in this situation, they can ask whatever they want. A shame, but happening! Expect to pay at least 50$ per night (2 persons). Boat - short tour: 15.000K. Long tour all the way to the south: 25.000. We paid Mr. Win 30.000 because he's a guide so we paid a little more for him and the boatman and a full day on the water. A bargain, I say! Hotspings 5$ public bath/8$ semi private bath (read tourist bath). Beer like everywhere 1.800/2.000K. Food very reasonable, most dishes 1.500/2.000K. Cocktails: 1.500K. Home made pasta around 3.500K. Taxi back to Heho airport: 15/18.000. Bikes: 1.000K a day. Entrance fee for Inle Lake 5$.