as usual, i have to wake up early today to get to a new city. it seems like half my time here is spent waking up early, rushing to catch boats, buses, rickshaws etc. it’s starting to get exhausting and i’d love a decent night’s sleep. but i only have a measily 18 days in this country. gotta make the most of it.
this girl megan had written me *6 pages* of advice on what to see in myanmar, and one of the places she highly reccomended checking out was this small town called Monywa. it wasn’t much hyped in lonely planet, so i most definitely wouldnt have ended up going there if it hadn’t been for the suggestion, so i was lucky to get a chance to see it. by the way, if anybody wants to read an interesting blog w/ *great* photos (not like the crappy blurry stuff i shoot), you should check out Megan’s blog.
the first part of the trip was by boat, and we trudged along the now familiar ayerwady river. after several hours by boat, i had to change to a bus. the guy tried to charge me for 2 seats, saying that i can put my pack on one seat and sit on the other. are you kidding me? we argued back and forth for almost 10 minutes until he finally let me buy just one seat. i think this guy was too much liking ripping off foreigners. i asked to use the toilet. as he showed me the way, he muttered something about me having to pay 200 kyat for it! WHAT? to use an outhouse?? i’ve never heard of such a thing in myanmar, but i had to go so i decided to pay. when i came out, he now said i had to pay 500 kyat instead of the 200. i was gonna argue, but then i just decided to pay up. 500 kyat aint much, just 50 cents, but it’s the principle of the matter.. especially when my bus ticket only cost 600 kyat.
the bus ride wasn’t too eventful, but the bus was completely packed, and my back was hurting like crazy. i ended up being really glad that i had talked the bus guy into only selling me one seat. the bus was completely full, so full that people were sitting on the floor. i woud have felt like a total loser, chilling there taking up two seats while people sat on the floor. i got to town, totally exhausted. it had been a long last several days and i hadnt had a good night’s rest in a while. i decided to not see anything till the following day. all i wanted tonight was to post some stuff online and then go back to my hotel room. i even paid extra to get a room w/ a tv. internet, shower, tv.. that’s all i could think of.
after eating, i set out to find a internet place. an old man said he knew where one was. he walked w/ me down a road for what seemed like forever. oops, that place didnt exist anymore. we walked back through town for a long time in the other direction. just another reminder of how nice people here are. this old man, with absolutely nothing to gain, spent a bunch of his time, and a lot of walking, just to show me where this place was. i was very appreciative. just my luck though, the place was supposed to close at 9, but closed early today, so no net for me. i was really frustrated. i hadnt been able to get online for days, and now i would have to wait more. oh well.. at least i could go back and watch tv, right? wrong. the tv received only 3 channels. 2 of them were blurry. all of them were in burmese and boring as hell. if i had known that, there is no way i would have gotten the room. i went to bed frustrated at how the day had turned out.
the main thing to see in monywa was thanboddhay paya. it’s a huge temple just a little out of town. the design of this temple is totally crazy, way different than anything i’ve seen here. all the colors are really bright and flourescent, and there are tons of random little statues of people etc all over. it almost made me feel like i was in disneyland on the “its a small world” ride. but it gets even more interesting the whole place, inside and out, is filled w/ tiny little buddha sculptures. these things are really small, only like an inch or two high, and they’re *everywhere*. the pillars have the tiny statues all along them, the walls do too, all the way up to the ceiling. it was so trippy walking through the place being surrounded by a miniature army of buddhas.
the bright colored outside of the pagoda… all those little white dots are buddha statues
inside.. see all the statues in this room and the next?
after that, i went to this other place nearby where yet another army of buddhas was waiting for me. this army was life-sized, and there were rows and rows and rows of these life-sized sitting buddha figures. the figures came in different styles, some looked like they were frozen in stone while others looked more realistic. in the middle of all this, there stands a huge tower. you go inside and take this winding staircase up to the top. from the top you can look down on the field of buddhas below. it’s quite a sight! also, if you look out in the distance, you see the biggest reclining buddha you could ever imagine. this thing is ginormous. the book says it’s *90 meters* long. 90! basically, this buddha is the length of a football field. amazing.
there were other small pagodas etc around that i walked around to. the sun was scorching, and it was painful to walk on the blazing cement (you cant wear shoes at the pagodas). as i walked, i acquired a small army of children who started following me. first there was one, then two, and the numbers slowly grew. their initial intent was to sell me some postcards, but when i said no, they spent the rest of the time just walking around w/ me and pointing out stuff. little kids are so funny here. i’m not normally a big fan of little kids, but i can deal w/ these ones!
the army of buddha statues
90 meter buddha!
eventually, it was time for me to leave monywa. in the end, i only had like half a day to see stuff there. i took the bus to mandalay. i had decided to cut mandalay out of my trip since i just didnt have enough time for it. but there was no direct way from monywa to where i wanted to go, so i would have to spend the night there.
when i got there i was starving. i thought about giving burmese food a shot, but just couldnt bring myself to do it. i knew i would have to get western food. my trishaw driver reommended a place but warned it might be quite expensive. i couldnt care less. i just wanted something tasty and not too weird. the “expensive” prices were like 3 or 4 bucks an entree.. heh, wouldnt break the bank. they had “steak n’ mushrooms” on the menu, which to my surprise had steak, mushrooms, and even a little letter “N” cut out of toast. it was so gooooood. i had been dying for some nice food, and this tasted like the best steak i’ve ever eaten (i’m sure it wasn’t). even though the restaurant wasn’t too pricey, it had a pricey vibe. the waiters pulled out your chair. they put a napking in your lap. etc etc. i looked around the room and noticed that a lot of people there were well dressed. a couple even had cellphones. this must be where the elite hang out. as i walked out of the place, i noticed lexus and mercedes parked out front. so bizarre. what an alternate reality to everythng i had seen in this country. people are living in bamboo $200 dollar houses and can barely afford gas for their tiny scooters, while some fat cats here drive a lexus and chat on their cellphones (i later found out a cellphone here costs 1,200$!). it just seems so grossly unfair that some people have it so good while others barely have enough to live. i guess that’s the way it is everywhere, but the differences between the haves and have-nots here seem much more pronounced.
i had barely half a day to spend in mandalay. i was feelling lazy though, so i didnt bother to see any of the sights. instead, i grabbed a rickshaw and headed for the Moustache brothers. they are a performance troup that is highly reccomended by LP and i was hoping to see them perform. of course, they only perform at night, so going there in the middle of the day was a waste of time. but, i met the youngest brother, who oddly enough has no moustache. he was so nice!! just seemed like the freindliest guy. after talking for a bit, i ended up buying a cd of theirs, so looks like i’ll eventually see their performance after all. he urged me to come back to mandalay later to see them perform, but i doubted it would happen.
riding around mandalay, i finally came to terms w/ this whole trishaw thing. a trishaw is basically a bike rickshaw, but instead of in india where you sit behind the driver, here there is a side car. ever since i’ve know about these rickshaws, i’ve loathed taking them. i just feel horrible. how could i let some dude haul me along on his bike? it just seemed so shitty for him to be straining and biking in the million degree weather while i sat there. for that reason, i’ve always tried to avoid these things, but as of today, i dont care. driving a trishaw is his job. that’s how he earns a living. if he sees no problem w/ it, why should i?? who am i to decide that his job is undesirable, and how would i really be helping him by not giving him business? rickshaws are an accepted form of transport here, and there’s nothng demeaning about driving one, so why should i impose my own perceptions on it?
that night i took a bus to inle lake. it was a long exhausting 13 hour bus ride. the bus had AC, but for reasons unknow, they had it turned off the whole way. so it was painfully hot. i was in the back row, w/ no window. my seat didnt recline. the guy next to me slept the whole way w/ his head on my shoulder. the deepness of his sleep was astounding. i would elbow him, shove him, push *really* hard.. but he just wouldnt wake up!! eventually i gave up. ugh.