Myanmar - Kalaw: Trekking in the Myanmar Hills

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Vivid Green: Rice kissed by the rising sun

Rising before the sun, seeing it rise over the hills, covering all it touches is golden highlights is amazing at the best of times, couple that with the brilliantly vivid scenes of gently glistening dew covered rice growing in the field – its simply magic – simply Myanmar.

 

While in Kalaw, staying at our early 1900’s bed and breakfast, we could not turn down a change to walk in the rural countryside. What better time than early morning.

English houses in the Myanmar Hills

Our guide assured us the night before that the terrain would be ‘gentle’ and ‘down hill’.

 

I think today must have been Opposite Day since 7 of the 12km was up hill rising to 1404m above sea level at the high point. By not means was the walk hard, just unexpected.

 

The villages that we passed and their inhabitants live a truly rural existence. Every second house had a water buffalo in the front yard, who received a loving pat as the families departed, walking their a small children heading off to school.

Local tractor

 

During our visit, the children were heading off to school on the last day before a 10 day break. Which means after cleaning the school grounds they were free to go home which they were doing when we dropped into the local school at around 930am.

 

As the villages are totally devoid of mains power, every house had a solar panel for lighting during the dryer months and a mini hydroelectric setup in the local stream for during the monsoon season.

 

Our guide even showed us the roadside local herbs that the farmers use for first aid – one to stop nose bleeds, which when burnt also keeps the squadrons of local mosquitoes at bay, another that you put the sap on cuts and scratches to seal against dirt.

 

Frankie and our Guide

 

During out time in  Kalaw & Inle Lake a number of internal bombings occurred throughout Myanmar,  the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT) has emailed me a few travel advisory updates informing us that a number of explosive devices have been found across the country. Detonations have been confirmed in Yangon and Shan state ( the state we are in now). While the information is most welcome, it will not be effecting our plans, but I will be keeping a ‘weather eye’ on the situation.

A massive 6 months!

SAMSUNG CSC

Starting around Sept 2013 I finished a 6 month rotation to Darwin, where I found a new found love of jogging and exercise.  I was lucky enough to meet great friends and go  to places I never would have the option of going to if it was not for work .

 

Read more about my time in Darwin here

Almost as soon as I arrived back in Canberra we were off again. Thanks to my  amazing partner lead me on a tour of his incredible country – Myanmar. We spent an unforgettable 3 weeks traveling the lengths and breadth of this nation. Even after all the sights and experiences his FAMILY was the true highlight for me. His mother’s warmth and care, his father’s intelligence and willingness to share and ask questions about my life too. 

A more in-depth write up of our time in Myanmar is here
 
Then the “ experience “ of meeting my parents in Kuala Lumpur and catching up with my good friend Ron who then joined the four of us traveling to Redang Island (Palau Redang) off the north east coast of Malaysia. It was the second time Frankie and I had been to the Lagoon Redang resort. After the ferry ride from Kuala Terraganu on the mainland over to the resort (where my father’s sea sickness came to a head) and check in, the island is really just a water sports playground. 
All expenses paid apart from alcohol and diving services. After snorkelling every day and also trying SCUBA I was HOOKED. The resort is a PADI accredited resort which means they have instructors and Dive Masters who can facilitate everything from the minimal training ‘Discover SCUBA’ right through to your ‘Dive Master’ qualification. Frankie, Ron and I decided finally we would try the ‘Discover SCUBA’ – which is essentially being kitted up and thrust under water. 
 
Frankie and Ron could not get get more than 10cm under the surface before pulling the pin. I managed to get all the way through the experience – roughly 15mins getting to a depth of 5.5m. I was so excited to be doing it I forgot to actually take my GoPro3 from the dive bag on the beach before getting in the water. 
 
Back in KL the ‘experience’ of travelling with my parents again reached crescendo with the all important family yelling match in an international airport. Don’t be shocked. Its rather common for my family. We get over it faster than our words echoing around departures. 
 
  
 
A more in-depth write up of our time in Malaysia is here
On return back to Canberra I started in a new role with a new team in the a new office. 
 
 Not long after our return from our big overseas adventure we decided to start thinking about buying a house. When I say thinking, we looked at one and brought it. A 2br, split level east facing townhouse. Requiring 5% down in Nov 13, and the rest in around Nov 2014. Perfectly suited for what we needed. Also keeps my NBN dry. 
 
 
 So because I am swimming in cash *COUGH COUGH* I then booked my PADI Open Water Dive Course. 
 
 I nearly didn’t get to do the course! 
 
The doctor was worried my lungs were almost not up to the minimum capacity. But don’t worry, I managed to get over the line. 
 
 The first weekend was half theory and half practising in the pool! I don’t know about you but I am never lucky when it comes to being partnered up in anything sporty, usually picked last. Well there was this one mega cutie on our group – and for once guess who I was partnered with!! JACKPOT! He was a great guy, sweet and innocent of the ways of the world. It wasn’t until the pool technique practising that my inner filter turned off. I couldn’t stop giggling when our instructor was inadvertently saying things with MASSIVE innuendo such as “ right team lets get under water, get on our knees and have some fun’ I looked at our assistant instructor with my ‘trying not to laugh’ face – which is hard in full mask and regulator in your mouth’ Sadly his mouth was level with the water and it caused him to inhale and cough with the biggest smile. The laughs only continued.. 
For those that are not divers, there is a requirement to learn how to tow your buddy should they become fatigued or injured, this cryptically is called the ’Tired Diver Tow’ which involves you laying on your back and your buddy laying between your legs face up, you hold their tank and kick – pushing you both forward. I simply said ‘ I don’t open my legs for every one this easy, buy a boy a drink first sailor’ He too could not control his giggles The second weekend was the in water component, unlike the current Australian government immigration policy, as it was under water rather than on water I can talk about it. The first day was 3 dives at 6m practicing skills we learnt in the pool. The second day was at a site called Toll Gates – read about that bit here
 
 
 

All was going well, a little too well.

 

I was getting ready to finally sell my maxi road scooter – 500cc – on consignment with a local dealer.
 
 
 
 
The fates intervened again. I was crossing an intersection with a green light, I stopped as a cyclist crossed my path and was collected right in-between my passenger front and rear doors. Causing $6000 worth of damage. I am insured however the insurance company is still ‘determining fault’ hmmmm. 
 
 
To top of a roller coaster of emotions. I was voted by an overwhelming majority to lead my employers Gay & Lesbian Network. A total of 1/2 of the overall votes came to me. A lot of pressure is now on me – some will say ‘its just a volunteer thing, no extra pay, why bother’ – It is important to make changes, drive the changes. You can’t do that from the outside.

 

If this was the last 6 months, I wonder what the next will bring.

Hopefully you will also see some changes on the site coming soon. I hope you will enjoy.  As always, please like, comment or subscribe.

 
 

My Christmas Gift to Me: Kathmandu Lansan Light hiking tent and rediscovering the bush capital #CBR

Since being back from Myanmar and Darwin I have been looking to do more bushwalking and day hikes. I have also discovered the Namadgi National Park. I know it sounds silly to say I have just discovered it after living in the ACT for nearly 10 years, however I am glad I have. Namadgi sits about 40kms to the south of what most people think of as the bottom of Canberra, Tuggernong. Namadgi actually takes up around 46% of the area of the Australian Capital Territory.

A few weekends ago we stopped off at the Namadgi National Park visitors centre and collected maps as well as talked to the staff there as I was looking for a gentle part day walk to get my partner used to carrying a pack. Previously he was not even keen to carry a tiny pack with a water bottle and camera in it. The staff suggested the Yankee Hat walk to the only Aboriginal Rock Art located within the ACT, being only 7kms round trip.

Following on from that trip, I have decided come hell or high water I want to start walking and at least doing overnights, if my partner can not or will not hack it, I will go alone. To this end I started hunting around for a light ( read able to be carried without doing my back) tent. I was bidding on a Hubba Hubba V6 on eBay for ONLY $250 which is hundreds of dollars off, sadly I missed out. Fortunately the even lighter but slightly less versatile Kathmandu Lansan Light  came in at $250 ( down from $699) during the Christmas Sales and weighted in at sub 2kgs.

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I also managed to pick up a Mountain Designs Tasman 40 pack on sale for $65. After packing my new tent, my sleeping bag and my ground pad, there is not much room left for anything else.. I really should have got a 50L if I want to go solo.


UPDATE:

Regarding the Tent: Read here


Myanmar: Inle Lake

Inle Lake

During our visit to Inle Lake, a large freshwater lake in the Shan state, I say large because it can easily sustain a floating village with a population numbering in the thousands with a fishing industry and floating tomato beds and still provide vast amounts of water that Myanmar uses for irrigation and hydro power generation. After arriving on the shores of Inle Lake, we were settled into our private ‘long tail’ boat- extremely shallow propellers fitted on long handles in the water sending ‘tails’ of water into the air as they move along

The 45min boat ride to our hotel on a was extremely enjoyable after the plane and car rides usual of the travel we were doing. While our hotel wasn’t actually ‘floating’ it was built on stilts – not that it helped when boats went past as the whole room swayed with the waves – a very disconcerting feeling when you are in the bathroom or in the bath. However the location and facilities were amazing.

 

 

Before our trip to Inle Lake, I had no idea that you could use the fibre from the inner stem of the lotus flower as a material for weaving. Turns out for the people of Inle, it's a staple.

 

I was absolutely fascinated by the people of Inle and their lives, everything they do is associated with the water - they have to, their houses are built on it, they rely on it for transport.

 

 

Inle is one of the largest tomato producing regions of Myanmar, the floating beds are based on floating tuff cut on the banks and secured into position.

 

No trip to Inle Lake count be complete without seeing the iconic fishermen, who remarkably paddle their low profile fishing boats with their legs - leaving their hands free to net and set fish traps.

Sorry for the death by pictures - but the location was just so amazing.

 

Tell me what you think below

Mt Kyaiktiyo – Myanmar’s Golden Rock

Golden Rock by Night

Mt Kyaiktiyo

The Golden Rock of the Golden Land

 

Golden rock at night

 

Getting there

 After leaving Yangon by the newly constructed multilane concrete hghway the former capital with the new capital Nay Pyi Daw located towards the centre of Myanmar it struck me – we are one of only a handful of cars on this road. It soon struck me as to why. Toll booths – paying the few kyats at each the toll gates located as close as 20km apart was simply beyond the means of many Burmese. They simply found less maintained paths.

Turning right at the big fork in the road heading towards the mountain the landscape changed from the rice producing flat lands to the fertile hilly region of Mon State where Mt Kyaiktiyo (to my ear it is pronounced Mt Jie Tee O) is located.

Some 6 hours after leaving Yangon we arrived  at the bus station at the base of the mountain. I say bus – really a tip truck with wooden planks for seats. Hey – if it was easy to get to, it wouldn’t be a pilgrimage site.

Taken from Wikipedia


The season that we are  in Myanmar is the period between the end of the monsoon season and the start of ‘festival season’. (Early October).

Most of the religious sites appear to be forgotten, unrepaired and abandoned. This is a good thing – no other people around, locals or tourist.

During ‘festival season’ all the sacred sites are polished, painted, swept and thus crowed with not only foreign tourists but also Burmese pilgrims coming to pay homage.

Why See It

Mt Kyaiktiyo, with its famed Golden Rock is one of Myanmar’s 3 most holy sites. :

• Swedagon in Yangon
• Mt Kyaiktiyo’s Golden Rock; and
• The Maha Muni Buddha image in Mandalay.

Where to stay

We stayed at the well named “Hill Top Hotel” which really couldn't be any closer to the Rock if it tried. It is also the most expensive place to stay costing between $100-150AUD per night. For the cost conscious you can always stay at the bottom of the hill in the local village and day trip up the mountain.