Behind the scenes in Myanmar – Chapter 5
The Khiri Travel Myanmar team is giving a behind- the- scenes glimpse on their recent inspections around the country. This new series will be covering the experiences of our team members while exploring some new and some better known destinations.
Find Chapter 1: Overland from Mandalay to Yandabo here
Find Chapter 2: On the road to Hpa-An here
Find Chapter 3: Trekking into the World of the Kayan here
Find Chapter 4: Trekking to the Paluang in northern Shan State here
Chapter 5: Venturing into the Rural Hinterlands of Northern Myanmar
Have you ever traveled to a truly rural or authentic part of Myanmar? Although I am Burmese I have to say that this was the first time I had ever traveled deep into a rural part of the country, so I’d like to share my first experiences with you!
We left the capital city of Yangon by train at 1.00 pm for Pyay town in the Bago Region to the north; we prepared some lunch boxes and some books for the journey. While on the way, we passed some beautiful panoramic views of rice paddies and saw lots of different people working along the railway. We arrived in Pyay quite late, at 9.00 pm, but it took only about five minutes to walk to our hotel from the station. We then enjoyed a traditional Rakhine style dinner at a local restaurant not too far from Pyay train station.
Day 2: Pyay – evening bus to Yenangyaung
We visited the ancient city of Sri Ksetra founded between the 5th and 7th centuries, located just 8 km southeast of Pyay, which dates back to a time before the ancient city of Bagan. It was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2014 by UNESCO. We also visited Shwesandaw Pagoda in Bagan, which is said to contain sacred hairs of Gautama Buddha. There was also a chance to visit a jam-making workshop, where they produce many kinds of jams such as lime, papaya, and so on. We stopped for lunch in Shwe Taung village and enjoyed some Shwe Taung noodles which are famous in this area. In the evening we continued on to Yenangyaung town and arrived there by bus at about 11.30 pm. We weren’t hungry because we had eaten dinner during the bus journey at a rest stop.
Overnight at Lei Thar Gone Guest House
Lei Thar Gone Guest House was very comfortable and beautifully situated on the east side of town with wonderful views, perched high above the Irrawaddy River. The owner of the guest house is also the founder of a local school called Light of Love Private High School, with over 100 children who are mostly orphans and poor children from the surrounding rural areas. Guests who stay at Lei Thar Gone help to fund the school which can also be visited.
Day 3: Yenangyaung
Actually, Yenangyaung means ‘petroleum stream’ in Burmese. The name comes from the city’s oil industry, which began in the 18th century when oil was discovered by local people. After breakfast we walked to the Irrawaddy River bank and took a boat out with some local fishermen to see what we could catch. They used several kinds of fishing net, but told us it was difficult to make a good catch during the rainy season. Despite this, we managed to catch 11 fish for our dinner!
After the fishing trip we walked to the location where petroleum is produced. The town’s oil refinery was destroyed by the British in 1942 during WW2 to stop it falling into the hands of the advancing Japanese, but some of the oil wells can still be seen. We then returned to the hotel for dinner, which included delicious fried fish – the fish we had caught earlier that day!
Day 4: Yenangyaung to Magyikan by motorbike
We left the hotel on motorbikes at 7:30 am, traveling along the Irrawaddy River bank. The condition of the road was very good and we enjoyed beautiful views of the rural scenery with green rice fields and toddy palm trees to our left and right. On the way we stopped off in Pakannge village to see Shin Pin Sar Kyo Temple that has a pagoda with a wooden staircase and dates back to the Pagan Dynasty.
We arrived at the homestay in Magyikan at about 1.00 pm, enjoyed a delicious home-cooked lunch prepared by the family hosting us, and then rested for a while. Later that afternoon we walked around the village to find out more about the local people. We joined a group of villagers for a game of Chinlone or cane ball, which was great fun. It was nearly dark when we headed back to the house where we were staying. It had been a long day, so after our delicious evening meal prepared by the family, we went straight to bed! Being in such a rural area it was so quiet and peaceful. The only source of light was from the solar panels on the roof, but there was not enough power to charge our phones, so we switched them off. If we had brought a power bank with us it would have been nice!
Day 5: Magyikan – Sale House – Bagan
In the morning, we took a 15-minute ride by local truck to Salay village. The village, which dates back to the Pagan Dynasty, has something like 50 monasteries including some 19th century wooden monasteries. We visited a beautifully carved monastery called Yoke Sone Kyaung.
Salay village was also an important port during the British colonial period and so it is also home to some beautifully preserved British colonial buildings harking back to a different age. We then continued on to Sale House, a British colonial-style restaurant where we relaxed and enjoyed some fresh fruit. We then took a private boat back to Bagan, while enjoying lunch on board, arriving there at about 4.00pm. It was just the right time of evening to catch the famous Bagan sun setting over the temples. Then it was off to Bagan bus station to catch the overnight bus to Yangon.
It had been an amazing trip traveling through rural Myanmar and making use of all sorts of different modes of transport. We also learned so much about rural life from the places and people we met – it had been a really fantastic adventure!
Blogged by Khin Su Su, Assistant Operations Manager at Khiri Travel Myanmar