Today is the first day I enjoy the wonderful Gipsy Inn breakfast. My first breakfast in Myanmar, as I usually have my first food around noon! Only Mark and Amy, the 2 “Thais” from my bus, are here. I write “Thai” because that’s how they present themselves, but Mark (originally from Thailand), is American, and Amy (originally from India), is English. They grew up in Thailand together. Lovely people!!

 

I join them for breakfast, Amy leaves for the day to Kakku, a beautiful countryside place with thousands of pagodas, very expensive to go to as you can get there only by taxi – for 45 000 K.

 

Mark and I decide to go cycling, he’s been on the east side of the lake yesterday, so we’ll go west towards the hot springs!

Renting a bicycle costs 1000K for the whole day.

 

After only 5 minutes ride we’re already out of town. The road there is being made, and it’s made by hand!! People are breaking the rocks, piling them on the road, some are making asphalt on the side, sending a horribly stinky smoke. And they don’t even wear masks!

 

A bit further a side dust track leads to a wooden monastery surrounded by pagodas. Why not have a look there!

 Cycling Around Nyangshwe

 

The path goes across fields full of water, farmers are collecting something but we didn’t quite get what it is!

 

 

The green of the mountains in the background and the pink and white of the lotus flowers give us a wonderful sight! We stop by the pagodas and start walking around. It’s so peaceful! (Don’t forget to remove your shoes every time you enter a religious site!)

The peace is only disturbed when an old monk calls us and invites us into the beautiful wooden monastery. His english is surprisingly good and he keeps laughing, bringing us rice cakes and bananas, telling us about the monastery’s history. He describes us every season and shows us the traces of the high water from the floods few years ago. Impressive!

Cycling Around Nyangshwe

 

He explains us the different opening and closing time of the lotus flowers. Did you know the white ones and the pink ones are not on the same schedule !?

 

He asks us where we are from.

 

“ Oh Thailand! I know! Many things, Thailand, come to Myanmar!”

Soap! Thailand, come to Myanmar!

Biscuits! Thailand, come to Myanmar!

Clothes! Thailand, come to Myanmar!”

He says, gesticulating at every example. Yes, lots of products are imported from Thailand!

 

My turn comes:

“Oh France! I Know!! Holland!”

“Not Holland, France!” I say.

“Yes Holland! Francois Hollande! Sarkozy! Chirac! Mitterand! Giscard D’Estaing! Pompidou!”

My god!! He knows them all! In order!!  I’m amazed! So much culture from an old monk in the Burmese countryside! He really is a character!

 

Cycling Around Nyangshwe

 

We thank him warmly and get back on our uncomfortable saddles. On the main road we take another side path, on the right hand side this time. It leads to a small village. We park and start walking. A small kid comes to us and holds out his hand saying “Money!”. First time I hear this from a Burmese kid! They usually don’t beg!

 

Cycling Around Nyangshwe

We keep walking, visiting the village, a volley ball pitch, a house seems to be the local chicken farm with hundreds of them making funny noises and having a funny smell. A young girl calls us. When we reach her house she disappears with her sister. We wait. A woman comes from the opposite direction, she’s carrying a very cute baby. The girls suddenly reappear, 2 pink lotus flowers in their arms. They hand them to me timidly. Ohhhh!! I’m touched!! I thank them and we take a picture together, I’m happy to immortalize this moment! The woman laughs at seeing the picture, she wants one of the baby!

 Cycling Around Nyangshwe

 

Once again we leave and cycle back to the main road. Next right again. Some kids are swimming at the bridge at the entrance of the village.

 

Further on the left, some men are playing a kind of bowling game with marbles. At the window a girl waves at us to come up. Alright! We leave our shoes and climb up the wooden stairs to the 1st floor. Inside, women are working making cigars! It seems to make them laugh a lot to have us here! I don’t know what kind of jokes they were saying about us but it seemed very funny! We watch them work, some of them know few english words and the conversation starts. We struggle a bit to communicate but we all have a good laugh!

Cycling Around Nyangshwe - cigars

Women making cigars

 

 

Once again, I seem to be very interesting for the young girls. After about 20 minutes, one of them wants to give me a pair of earrings. I look at Mark. Can I accept? It’s hard to know if it’s rude to accept or rude to refuse!! I have so much and they have nothing! After making sure it’s for me, I accept them and put them on. Everyone seems happy! My mind is racing, what could I have in my bag that I could give her in return? Nothing… Sh..t!!

 

When we finally leave them I have a quick look inside my bag. I have my colorful purse from Guatemala. It’s not much but I give it to her. She seems happy!

 

I’m released! It’s better than nothing! I would have felt very bad to leave just like that, and I certainly wouldn’t have given money and start the vicious circle of tourism!

 

Cycling Around Nyangshwe

Local village around Nyaungshwe

Back on the road, now surrounded by a bamboo forest. A slope. Lots of rocks. I stop and push my bike for a little while!

We get a snack and small tea at a small shop and keep going, now heading south. Going past the hot springs we stop next to another monastery where we can hear monks praying. It’s an enchanting sound!

 

 Cycling Around Nyangshwe

Outside the monastery’s garden, a young guy is playing guitar and beautifully singing Burmese songs. He’s really good! He smiles at us and the show goes on. At the end of the song, he looks at us and starts playing beautiful arpeggios.  I suddenly recognize the song: Celine Dion! “My heart will go on” from Titanic! We start singing, he keeps playing. It really was a beautiful moment, I liked the energy we all gave to that song, this little something we had in common, beyond words.

End of the show.

We’re off again.

I love all those magical encounters but it always feels too short!

 

On the way back we stop at the hot springs just to have a look. 8$ to get into hot pools in a brand new building, no thank you! It seems very relaxing though, with beach beds and a nice bar.

 

It’s been an amazing day!! But it’s not over yet!