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the delights of Taungoo

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The bus trip to Taungoo was uneventful but took a little longer than we had been told it would so by the time we arrived it was beginning to get dark. Due to me being a little eager and thinking a rather grand looking building was the town hall when it wasn't we ended up getting off a little earlier than we should.

On first impressions there didn't seem to be a lot to the place, and we didn't discover the hidden gems till later the next day. As things stood the town was drawn out along the highway and there were a few places to stay. We made an attempt to locate a hotel we'd read about in the guidebook but in the end we were too tired. We stopped to have some food at a restaurant and ended up staying at their hotel as well. The room was nice, a little dark due to the wood panelling that covered the walls but it was comfortable.

We wanted to go on to Inle Lake the next day and a boy who worked at the hotel asked if we would like him to purchase the tickets for us. When we enquired about the price it was the same as we'd been told it would cost to go all the way from Yangon to Inle. For this reason we decided to try and find the bus station in the morning and hoped it would be cheaper if we cut out the middle man. We relaxed for a little while and then went out to get some dinner. We opted for takeaway and a couple of young girls cooked some kebabs we picked out on a small bbq. They gave us shy smiles and other people walked by with wide eyed expressions, it would seem the foreign tourist trade is not booming here. We enjoyed our dinner and then called it a night.

In the morning we walked over to the restaurant and ate our complimentary breakfast before going in search of the bus station. Still believing the building we'd seen was the town hall made everything a little confusing and our day got off to a frustrating start. Having not found the bus station we ended up getting a rickshaw driver to take us to the train station. However after some pointing at the map we managed to gather that a train did not go the whole way and we would only be able to go so far before having to transfer to a bus. As this seemed a bit pointless we decided we would definitely take the bus the whole way.

Another rickshaw driver then took us to a few different stands which were set up in small houses/shops along the highway. They represented different bus companies and sold tickets to Inle. Unfortunately the price the boy had quoted the night before was one of the cheapest and as we were to discover it seems to be the norm to charged full fare even if you are only doing part of the journey. They also openly and covertly charge you more for being a foreigner which angers us as it I don't think it would really happen in the UK. In the end we bought a couple of tickets and were told to return at 5pm.

By now we had realised our earlier mistake and found the real town hall so the map made more sense. We returned to our hotel to check out and collect our bags and then trudged back in the heat to drop them off where the bus would pick us up that evening. The morning had been tiring and tensions were quite high as we turned off the highway and finally found what we knew had been there all along the heart of Taungoo. Slowly over the rest of the day the charm of the place and the people softened things, I think even a heart of stone could be melted by the old man we were to meet.

We went over the ancient moat, crossed some train tracks and then walked down a quiet street with a few shops. We then passed by a nunnery on one side and a monastery on the other. The nuns wear similar robes to the monks but theirs are pink instead of the dark red or orange that the men dress in, all of them have shaved heads. You could hear the chanting or reciting coming from the open windows as much of their day is spent learning. Just a little further on was the towns pagoda, called Swesandaw.
It is said to contain a hair of the Buddha and is therefore a very sacred place. Instead of going in we continued on and came across a lake.

The lake was quite large and marshy, and there were hundreds of water lilies covering much of the surface.
There was a little boy fishing with a home made rod and it was so quiet. We went to sit on a wooden bridge and enjoy the tranquillity. After a while an old man approached us, he was slightly stooped and had a kind and open face. He asked us where we were from and we told him, he then invited us to follow him. This just wouldn't happen at home and if it did you would be suspicious but here I had no qualms.

He lead us through a little park area to a quiet spot. Here he motioned for us to sit down. I can't remember his name which sounds terrible but he only told us once and it's always hard to register when it's not familiar but we sat and spoke to him for the next hour. He explained how his dad was a policeman when Myanmar was under British control and he seemed to have a lot of respect for the English despite our shameful history in the country. He told us that we were the first British tourists he had ever met.

His English was very good even though he kept apologising for it and he was one of the most endearing people I have ever met. He was in his mid sixties and had a wife but no children. He had only ever visited China but had lived in both the very North and very South of Myanmar. He had never seen a passport and leafed through ours as if it was some kind of treasure. Unfortunately we didn't have any sterling on us because he really wanted to see some but nonetheless he seemed happy to simply chat.

Conscious that we had to get our bus to catch we said our goodbyes and spent a little more time by the lake. Some boys were playing in to water, jumping in off the bridge and splashing about.
We started back towards the highway but stopped to go and have a quick look round the pagoda. There were a few men seated on the ground who wanted to have a chat but we just didn't have the time. We explained and apologised before leaving for the bus.

Although the day hadn't started in the best way we left Taungoo with some lasting memories. We will always remember the man by the lake.

More Soon,

Laura & Adam

Posted by LauHot10 02:09 Archived in Myanmar Tagged round_the_world

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