On the way to Lake Inle

Taungoo Travel Blog

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Blessing our POS Hyundai for the rough journey north...

10/6/06

Well after a thrilling breakfast of fried rice, instant coffee and Burmese Tang, we headed downstairs anxiously wondering if Myo Ngwe would show up with our "English speaking" driver. Well no need to worry, there he was smiling away with not one but two other men. We are still not sure why but, at no extra charge (not including "presents" of course), we were introduced to our driver Min Ko and our "free" tour guide Min Min, both of whom seem nice.  We figure either:

  1. Min Ko doesn't speak English well enough to spend two weeks with us;
  2. Min Min is going up north to see his girlfriend/family/someone and figured he would catch a free ride;
  3. Min Min is on vacation and knows Americans tip well (unlike most of the world, the Burmese seem to like us).
    Giant Buddha at Kyaik Pun Pagoda in Bago

So today's little eight hour drive (Yangon to Taungoo is only 178 miles - the roads aren't great!) takes us to Bago and Taungoo which is about half way to Lake Inle. Our first stop was to buy black market gas since the government ration is only two gallons per day. Later in the day we stopped at one of the government stations for our ration and there were big signs saying "No cameras!" Guess the government doesn't want the world to know that their economy is in shambles.

Our next stop was at a large Banyan tree where we purchased an offering and had the car blessed (I seriously hope we don't need this.

Flower Vendors in Bago market
..) On the way to Bago we stopped at a pottery place and watched them make pots with just a hand powered wooden wheel and I sampled some of the local firewater - a scorpion infused cocktail (it looked better than the one with the giant centipede in it). It tasted like rocket fuel with a hint of scorpion.

In Bago we stopped by Shwethalyaung Paya to see a large Reclining Buddah with bejeweled feet and wandered around the market with a brief visit to Shwemawdaw Paya which is similar to Shwedagong in Yangon but not as impressive since it isn't on a hill.

We had a great Burmese lunch with tons of little dishes that was dirt cheap. Cindy played Good Samaritan by giving a rather large Spanish woman some Neosporin (doing her part to convince the world that not all Americans are bad). She had been riding in a bicycle rickshaw that crashed. Min Min coyly said that the Rickshaw driver was "unbalanced.

Shwemawdaw Pagoda in Bago
"  This could be because the Spanish woman was at least twice his size.

So what would you think the most important piece of equipment on a Burmese car is? Transmission? Engine? Brakes? Suspension (haha! What suspension)? All important but all wrong, it's the lowly horn, an integral part of the Burmese driving experience.

Min Ko is seriously addicted to his and has severe withdrawal if he doesn't blast it every five or ten seconds.  Between the scooters, the trucks, the dogs who think they own the road, the buffalo, the narrow, dusty, pothole ridden roads and the other cars I guess it is necessary but still annoying, especially for eight hours. Sort of like Chinese Water Torture - your brain can’t help waiting for the next friggin beep. 

The road from Yangon to Taungoo is very flat, winding through rice paddies, now bright green with yellow tips ready for harvest, and small villages with mostly wooden homes with woven bamboo walls.

Kids riding bicycle rickshaw in Bago
We stopped at one village that was already celebrating tomorrow's Full Moon Holiday with a big crowd watching a Pole Climbing contest. There was a huge piece of bamboo at least thirty feet high that was greased and had a flag at the top. Teams of five then later six boys clambered up each others shoulders, most of them covered in mud, trying to reach the flag and win the prize of 5000 chat (just over $3.50). This was pretty funny to watch. The little kids were the most fun to watch as they fell in the mud and then all ran to jump in a swampy puddle to clean up. 

We finally made it to Taungoo only to find out that our guest house was booked. They suggested another, the Yoma Hotel - which may translate as "crummy hotel with large cockroach on door", but, other than the roach which the bellboy caught (in his hands) and disposed of, it had clean beds and AC and we were too tired to look elsewhere.

Our first choice for hotel had a Chinese restaurant where we had mediocre food (Cindy's fried rice came with an extra special treat, no not Mr. Roach but a little rusty nail -obviously not her day). At least the dark walk back to the hotel was down a muddy road! Oh well, its only one night...

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Blessing our POS Hyundai for the r…
Blessing our POS Hyundai for the …
Giant Buddha at Kyaik Pun Pagoda i…
Giant Buddha at Kyaik Pun Pagoda …
Flower Vendors in Bago market
Flower Vendors in Bago market
Shwemawdaw Pagoda in Bago
Shwemawdaw Pagoda in Bago
Kids riding bicycle rickshaw in Ba…
Kids riding bicycle rickshaw in B…
Giant Buddha heads in Bago
Giant Buddha heads in Bago
Full Moon Festival Pole Climbing C…
Full Moon Festival Pole Climbing …
Taungoo
photo by: lrecht