Mandalay & Hsipaw, Myanmar

Mandalay

When I got to Mandalay, I decided to take it easy, get caught up on some laundry, and relax a bit from my intensive week of travel up to this point. Also, I had learned that the two girls I met at the airport and hung out with the first day in Myanmar, Helen and Sabine, decided to head to Mandalay before Bagan. They were on their way up in a night bus and I planned to meet up with them and start Mandalay fresh with them. One thing I did do my first day in Mandalay was go to a restaurant with a full on Burmese meal by accident with two other travelers that had arrived. The girl that was sleeping in the pod next to me, Sara, just arrived from extensive travel in India and had also hiked a number of trails in Nepal. We had had a pretty nice chat and decided to get food together. Another girl in the same dorm room also had just got in and was hungry. I love this part of travel, just randomly asking strangers if they want to get a bite or even if you can join them at a table they may be sitting at.

The next day I met up with Helen and Sabine at their hotel in the early morning. We got breakfast at their hotel and called a taxi to give us a tour to the Three Ancient cities. We drove around from temple to temple up until a little after sunset.

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We ended up meeting two girls from Chile, a guy from Malta, and another dude from Australia. We had a few beers together during our lunch break and then enjoyed some more at sunset. Later that night we met up with them. I invited Sara to come because I had bumped into her in the hotel lobby and we walked the kilometer down to the place we were going to meet everyone. When we got to the restaurant, we found it to be a little nicer than we were used to on these sorts of trips, but we enjoyed a few bottles of wine and I had salmon with the group.

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After dinner, the crazy of the night began. A group of us headed to a club we heard was open. When we got there, we found out we had to buy an $80 bottle of whisky in order to get in. Tim, from Malta, and Doron, the Aussie dude, went off to get more money and left us at the door waiting. It was really weird standing in the lobby of this club with all the security guard dudes and sketchy looking people. There was a point we thought about just leaving, but we hung out and waited for the guys.

When they got back, we went into the club where we found ourselves to be the only foreign people. The club reminded me of a Korean nightclub and we ended up having a blast closing down the bar. Helen, Sabine, and the guys went to the sunrise spot to catch that popular activity while I decided to head back to the hostel to get some sleep. We all agreed that what seemed a little uneasy starting out with the club was one hell of a good time. But, I don’t think we will be clubbing any more on this trip!! We did not enjoy our headaches or sleep-deprived bodies.

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The next day we took a day bus up to Hsipaw. Here we planned to go trekking and try to get away from the touristy places a bit.

Hsipaw

It was around 9:00 PM by the time we arrived in Hsipaw. We checked in and got some food at a Chinese place down the road. After that we headed up to the rooftop of the hotel and started drinking beers and playing Heads Up. It was a lot of fun and we had a great view of the city from our new hangout. After putting away a number of beers, we headed to bed. Our plan for the next day was to take a break and pretty much do nothing.

When we woke up, we got some breakfast at the hotel and then went looking for a coffee shop in the hopes for some good Internet. Even though the place we were staying was nice, the Internet was not very fast. But, of course the coffee shop had no Internet at all. So, we decided to just order our coffees and sit by the river and take in the scenery. That evening we went to see the sunset on a hill just outside town and went to bed early so we could get up for a two-day, one-night trek.

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The trek began at 9:00 AM and we jumped in the tuk-tuk with our guide and headed off to the trail we would be starting on. The first day we covered about 18km, climbed about 238 floors worth of hills, which, according to my phone, allowed me to hit over 30,000 steps for the day. That night we stayed in a local families home in the area were fighting between the Burmese government army and the rebel army sometimes occurs. We saw a small military presence and soldiers walking around with AK-47s here and there. But, it was nothing to worry about because the current fighting wasn’t in the area, for the moment.

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One nice thing about being out in the middle of nowhere was that we had no Internet service. I know this seems strange for me to say, but it was actually nice. So, we just hung out a small fire, read books, played with our cameras, and gazed at the stars. There were so many stars that we could hardly pick out many easy to find constellations. The girls got some great shots of the stars with their cameras. It was really breathtaking. Here is one of the night sky pics Helen (Instagram @_while_we_live) took!

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The next day we headed back to town and walked nearly 20km. The end of the hike graced us with an nice waterfall to hang out with and lunch.

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Afterwards, we were pretty exhausted and asked the hotel if they would make a pizza for us. So pizza and beer it was for dinner!! We then hung out for a few more beers at our rooftop hiding spot. The next morning we would be taking the train to a city call Pyin Oo Lwin.

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