A few more Burmese habits became clear to me when we reached the city of Mandalay. We seen that the majority of Burmese people wear face paint (men, women and kids!), we found out later it’s to keep them cool and protect them from the sun. I also learnt that parasols here are multi-functional, not only working as a guard against the sun but as a shield for kissing privately. Public displays of affection aren’t tolerated well and so couples will kiss with their parasols tilted forward to hide them! I found this both incredibly confining and romantic at the same time! We stayed at the Nylon hotel which was nice enough and cheap for Mandalay at 18 dollars a room with breakfast. Our hotel, like many in Myanmar is run by teenagers! I mean they seem happy and their job is pretty handy as they just watch tv and play on their phones most of the day but still!
We caught the bus to Hsipaw as the trains in Myanmar are crazy slow, we encountered stunning scenery enroute and arrived in Hsipaw at night time. It was beyond freezing, I could see my breath! Lucky for me, the market sold the cutest hats for a euro! Our bus was met by guesthouse workers giving us info on their guesthouses and offering us free lifts. We decided to go with Yee Shin guesthouse and I’m really glad we did. They made us feel very at home, let me wash my own laundry and hang it our on their line and have as much coffee as we liked for breakfast ? They gave us lots of info on the area and so after brekkie, we rented bikes from them and went off exploring ?
We cycled a loop to the Shan villages (they have their own customs and language), we were met by many may sung khaa (hello) by adorable kids who ran along our bikes. We seen their beautiful Shan houses, which were wooden huts made up of geometric patterns and they all had pretty gardens with vegetable patches. We seen plenty of farming and got stuck behind a tuk tuk full to the brim with hay! The buffalo were used similarly to how horses used to be used in Ireland, for ploughing and working the fields. We cycled back to Hsipaw beside the train track to grab a bite to eat. We stopped off at a beautiful cemetery with a big lily pond all around it, which housed many fish that the local kids fed ? We ate at Mr Food, which was very tasty but the owner should be called Mr Grumpy lol! We also had shakes at Mr Shake, I’ve never had a nicer shake in my life! They have every fruit under the sun and all shakes (even the ones with room) are 1000 kyat! Hsipaw is a bit like a fairytale land with a Mr Food, Mr Shake, Mr Book and even a Mrs Popcorn (more about her later!).
Despite our legs being a bit shaky from the morning ride, we decided to head out to the river and the hotsprings, where the locals were washing everything from themselves, to their clothes, to their buffalo to their motorbikes! It was amazing seeing the young kids up on the buffalo backs washing them ?
We chilled for a bit back at Yee Shin where we met an awesome local guy called Jimi, who told us about trekking in the area which included a homestay ? We decided we would do it the next day with two others. We then cycled out to Sunset hill, where we sen beautiful views of Hsipaw and the surrounding countryside and amazing statues at the monastery up on the hill ? We slept well that night!
The next post will tell of our trekking adventures in Hsipaw ?