The more I travel the more I find alone-ness to be dangerously addicting. I submerged in this feeling I have tried explaining before as I took a train across an engineering wonder of the rail world and a boat ride through parts of a famed lake. Two of Myanmar‘s most iconic landmarks would have been ideal at a pace ten times slower than what follows, but I appreciated my experiences nonetheless.

 

 

Inle Lake

 

Getting There & Around

I got on the train of the Gokteik Viaduct in Hsipaw and bought a ticket for Pyin Oo Lwin, 8 hours, $5. It appeared foreigners were only allowed to buy one type of ticket, so we were all seated in the same compartment and given the window seats with the best views.

Then things got messy. I recommend going to Pyin Oo Lwin first, taking a train to Hsipaw, and taking an overnight bus to Inle Lake.

I had to share a taxi from Pyin Oo Lwin back to Mandalay as there were no direct busses. By the time I reached Mandalay the busses for Nyaung Shwe town at Inle were full, so I took a bus to Taung Gyi, the next closest town because I was low-key desperate.

So few foreigners walk the roads of Taung Gyi that the only way to Inle was a $15 private taxi. I gritted my teeth and started walking along the highway, waved down a pick up taxi, which took me to Shwenyaung for under a dollar. I hitchhiked to Inle Lake.

In town my hostel had free bikes for guests and agencies offering boat tours riddled the waterside.

To leave, it was exceedingly popular to trek for two or three days to Kalaw, although most people trek from Kalaw to Inle. I took the 5:30 overnight bus to Yangon, around 12 hours and $11, because I had an important meeting to make(:

 

Gokteik Viaduct

 

Accommodation

I loved Song of Travel Hostel. They let me have a bed for the day for $5 and I could use their free bicycles, shower twice, use wifi, and drink as much coffee and milk tea as I pleased. It was really clean and had a nice atmosphere, organized daily group activities for guests, free local snacks in the afternoon like fried tofu with spicy sauce, and breakfast was included which was pumpkin soup and toast the day I was there, $10.

For a more party (as much of a party you can have in Myanmar) or social vibe, the chain hostel Ostello Bello was a top choice, $10. But no free bikes, so as a wise Oregonian once told me, maybe stay at SoT and bike to Ostello Bello for beers.

 

Gokteik Viaduct

 

Be a Tourist

Day 26

Gokteik Viaduct

Trains and bridges have been so relevant because Myanmar is a step back to the 90’s. Even more so than Cuba

I had never encountered seats that rotate every 90°  so I felt like I was watching TV on a sofa as the hot sun brightened the farmland. Except the everything was so old I also felt at risk for getting rocked out the chair and for going deaf from the whining steel.

 

You’ll get about 20 minutes before the train staff yells at you to rotate back.

 

I thought a long time about why I was sleepless in Hsipaw.

Fun. Nothing at home is that fun. Leaving the country is where the fun is. So why had I created the ultimate Option B for my near future, but couldn’t simply just go do it??

Deciding between A, staying a month in one Vietnamese city or B, going to a Filipino farm and island hopping a bit and getting a PADI with Belgians, was self-torture. I had to get back to these Workaway hosts.

In fact, I had enough money to go on ten dives, go to all the islands, and wash as many elephants as I pleased. I could stay in a resort every night and be fine. But it’s the humble decisions I’ve made with this same money for the past three years that have shown me how to understand myself and know what is fulfilling to me.

But the truth was no matter how strong my ego was, my heart was stronger.

Most people have told me they cannot handle the pray portion of Eat Pray Love. Had I not left everything I’d known two summers ago, I wouldn’t have been able to either. But constantly taking my peaceful life and shattering it  with dares I impose on myself had taught me what I needed to read this book.

And in the chapters I was reading, or perhaps focusing on, were words that I needed to see.

 

100m up on the Gokteik.

 

Yeah…I had written the above in real time. Let’s take it down twelve notches in intensity.

It turned out in Vietnam I would be teaching English and the medical portion was only a single day. I had taught English in Kenya and although it is on my list to live for an extended time one in Vietnam, this was not the trip for that.

I had also figured out it was cheap to fly from the scuba area of the Philippines to Vietnam, and Couchsurf had huge communities, like 27,000 hosts strong, in major Vietnamese cities. I could have my authentic pho and Viet home stays after all.

And as for patient care, I found a more than imaginable amount right here in Myanmar.

If I lost any readers with my always-racing mind, basically the most important thing is to always focus on the present and not think about where I will go.

I’ll get there when I get there.

 

Inle Lake

 

Day 27

Inle Lake

Around 5:30am the inside of my brain sounded like this:

“Damn it. A week ago I told you you were not gonna hitchhike alone in Myanmar.

What is the problem with you?

Everything. Right.”

All the locals were helping me scramble over the bags of the pick up. I bought jasmine flowers from the next woman who got on because they smell so good and everyone always had them in their hair and cars.

At the next town I was getting harassed by a lot of motorbike taxi drivers and as one was talking to me for the second time I was trying to wave down every passing vehicle.

A minute later an overnight bus scooped me up.

Another minute, to my dismay, we stopped at a tourism office upon entering the Lake District. Officials boarded the bus and announced foreigners owed $10 a head, and essentially walked up to the handful of white people on the bus, taking no notice of me.

I thanked all the melanin I had been genetically endowed with and treated myself to a nap, a bowl of tofu nway, and a $10 lake tour.

We went to only a few of the typical tourist stops and it was already enough to make me feel a little disgusting.

“My dream in life is to be put on display in a nonnative province because I wear a lot of heavy gold rings around my neck,” said no one ever.

 

Too shamed to post photos of the Kayan woman and her daughters.

 

Still, I was happy to witness the fishermen balance and row their boats using their legs, even if half of them were staged as well, because the image is used as such a classic representation of this lovely country.

 

At 5:30pm the inside of my brain sounded like the letter ‘Z.’

 

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