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  Kengtung BURMA!!!  |  02.05.2008
 
 

Yesterday was just a day of rest and catching up on some communication ie we spent all day on our email and facebook! I perched myself in a great spot in Monkey Island Guesthouse where I could see across the river to Burma which was still just metres away. Nothing much happened until we were coming back from dinner and we met Michelle who was also staying in the room next door to us. We sat in the lounge space between our two rooms and talked till late in the night. Turns out Michelle is travelling round Asia on a retreat as such. Her stays in every country are based around temples and meditation centres who let her stay and practice her meditation. She had been in Yangon for a month in a meditation centre but had to leave to renew her visa and had been in the Chiang Mai region visiting other temples in the area. She is trying to get a meditation visa for Myanmar which would alow her to stay longer. It was brilliant talking to her and before we went to bed we agreed to try and cross the border together today and perhaps travel to kengtung together - depending on whether we would be allowed to ride our bikes in.

This morning was a bit of a rush as we forgot to set the alarm again. We left Harry's at 8am which did not leave us long to cross the border and get on the 9am bus to Kengtung! Me and Lesh had decided to bus it to Kengtung to speck out what he road was like and then try and bike it back. We got through the Thai immigration quickly but the Burma side was a different matter. Luckily we gain half an hour just by crossing the border which gave us a bit more time to deal with the fiddly process of getting the 14 day visa. The first room we were ushered to were proclaiming that yes yes it was no ploblem, no ploblem, to take the bike across....but then we went to one more room to hand over 3 passport photos and fill out the necessary forms only to be told absolutely  no way could we cycle to kengtung. He said we would not be allowed to cross the military checkpoints without the correct papers which could only come from Yangon. We thought about it for a while and in the end thought never mind lets just go anyway and take the bikes as a heavy and bulky piece of unnecessary luggage. After completing the forms and posing for some more photos we were handed our new passsports! Our actual passports we had to leave with the immigration guys, while we were given a piece of card which now acted as our ID. Its a bit scary to leave such an important document with strangers - but thems the rules, so we followed them. We started walking in the direction of the bus station and after a while of pushing our heavy bikes I told Lesh he should cycle on and try and stop the bus from leaving and I would follow with Michelle. After a while we asked a group of people if this was the way to the bus station and they said yes and that it was 3km away. Presuming that they had got mixed up and meant 300 metres we continued walking. As we were walking a big truck delivering water came noisily up behind me which scared me into thinking he was going to run me over - which by my comedy panicing made them fall about laughing at my expense. I looked back and couldn't do anything but laugh too as my panicing must have looked funny. As they drove past they waved  and said hello. After a while of walking we decided to ask again for directions. Again we were told that it was up ahead and about 3km away! But we had surely just walked 1km?! The guys from the truck delivering water were coming out of the shop and joined in the conversation and when I pointed to the back of the truck and then at Michelle they happily agreed to give her a lift to the station while I cycled behind! The road was terribly bumpy and it took a lot of concentration to follow the van and make sure I stayed on the bike. Mix in with that numerous hellos to cars drving past me and also trying to keep a watch out for Lesh who would for sure have started coming back for us since it was so far away. I was right and as we made our way to the the station I saw that Lesh had turned back. Luckily I had managed to catch his attention as he was not looking out for us since he thought we would be miles further back!

At the station it was a quick negotiation to get the bikes on and we made the 10am bus to Kengtung. Our driver was called Nelson and he spoke great english and was very aimated and helpful and very keen to make sure we were ok all the time. We had only been in the country less than an hour and already I was seeing such wonderful hospitality. the drive was supposed to take 3-4 hours and we wound our way through some mountains and climbed to 1500 metres! Not bad considering Harry had said it was a flat road! We stopped twice for a rest stop. On the 2nd stop Nelson bought us some crisps refusing to let us pay as we were guests in his country!

When we got to Kengtung Nelson helped Michelle get a motorbike taxi to Harry's guesthouse (yes this one was run by a Harry too!) while we followed. Unfortunately it started to throw it down as we started to ride and we were drenched by the time we got there. The road was shocking with pot holes which slowed my progress, though not as much as not being able to see anything throuh my soaked glasses :( Michelle tried to hold an umbrella over herself and her motorbike driver but it kept blowing inside out so it was rendered usless in the end and we all showed up at Harrys looking like drowned rats!

The rooms at Harrys were not great and they were expensive but by then we couldn't be bothered to go out again in the rain....so we accepted them and put up with it. We check where would be good for dinner and opted for a restaurant which ended up being miles away. There are street lights in Kengtung...but there is just no power so the streets are pitch black expect for the odd house lit up by candles or shops running generators. Like idiots we forgot our torches and only Lesh had his head lamp which needed new batteries and so gave off no light at all. In any other country I would have been really panicing (and in fact I was a bit nervous) but I must admit I did feel safer than I ever would even compared to KL and St. Helens! I don't think I will ever get used to seeing military with guns and feel comfortable with it. As we went past a temple there was a military guy who was guarding it and was propping himself up with his gun. Dinner was a place that specialized in Shan specialities and it tasted great. We had a really fragrant and tasty fish and lots of veggies. We tried some Myanmar beer but only ordered one bottle between 3 of us since none of us found it that tasty.

I still can't believe it is our birthday tomorrow and we will be spending it in Burma! We were in bed early and were watching the news on tv when all the lights, tv and fan went out at 10pm sharp! No choice but to have a early night round here!

 
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1 Comments
Shruti
It is so lovely that u guys r doing this.... and it is so much fun to see all ur pics and read everything u guys do. I must say i am surprised, for a person who rarely has the concentration span to even read a book, i am doing very well. It must be great to meet people from different walks of life and learning so much about their culture and lifestyle. Kinda helps appreciate the goodies we have in life. Well... all the best always... Keep having fun and always be happy:))) hope you guys had a fabulous birthday!!!
 
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