Category Archives: travel

Taman Negara , The oldest rain forest of Malaysia

I am recalling some of my memories of travelling  in Jungles. Usually, I regard myself as a xylophile ( someone who loves trees ) and always try to find spots with lots of trees.

I went to a jungle with lots of stories in 2012. The forest is called “ Taman Nagara” which is the biggest national forest of Malaysia. It is estimated to be older than 130 million years and covers 4343  square km. It is believed that there are still endangered species of animals such as Malayan tiger and rare species of birds.

I have to admit that I didn’t go many places there as it was a day trip and I didn’t have enough time to explore the area. I was attending a wedding of my colleagues in a town, Jerantut which is 2 hours drive from the rain forest. So me and my travel partner decided to visit the forest in a short time without proper plan.We drove from Jerantut to Taman Negara and the scenery was very nice along the way.

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Then we arrived at the jetty and met our tour guide Mr lee.

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jetty of Taman Negara

Mr Lee led us to trek, and showed the rain forest. The water was quite shallow that time and lots of birds fluttering around the flowers.

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our tour guide Mr lee

 

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Then we went for the canopy walk. According to the record, it was the longest canopy walk in the world although it was built recently in 1992.

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my friend Raihana, smiling on the canopy walk.

 

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The guide led us for hiking ( I didn’t go for hiking and waited for them at the base of mountain , resting on the bench, luckily I found interesting people , one is a geologist and two are French tourists, they entertained me while my friend was hiking the mountain

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the geologist I met during my trip. He has a lot of knowledge about rain forests and has been in Taman Negara many times.

Then, wee were on the boat again  and visited a village belongs to Orang Asli ( aboriginal people ).The villagers are short, dark and have curly hair. They look more like short people from  Africa, totally different from Orang Asli I found in other places of Malaysia. However, Orang= man, Asli= Origin, so they don’t need to be the same people as different people arrive Malaysia in different places of the country in different time. Our guide Mr Lee said he believes the people are originated from Papua New Guinea.20

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They looked disturbed when we arrived and children were afraid of us. Many of them ran towards their mothers as soon as they found strangers. One kid was so adorable and I asked permission from mom to carry him, but he struggled out of me and I had to return him to his mom. All of them had Tinea infection ( fungal infection ) and their living condition is not very hygiene.

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Most of them were on bare foot as they cant’ afford foot wares. They know how to swim, fish and hunt very well. The guide showed us how to make fire out of two stones and how to shoot arrows.

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the guide showing us how to make fire

But the more interesting part is about the people.

Orang Asli people in Taman Negara still holding their belief strong. They never bury the dead bodies and instead carry them to the deep part of the forest. The spiritual leader called Bomoh arranged the journey and he only allows less than two people to follow him so that they can carry the dead body. When they arrive the secret spot, they hang the dead body on the trees. The place is kept as a secret and only Bomoh , chosen spiritual leader knows how to go there. Actually, like other Orang Asli, they are very attached to the forest and willing to remain as spirits inside forest after their death. After Bomoh has done his ritual, he orders his followers to cross the river for seven times so that spirits will not follow them on the way back to village.  Their belief is once you reach the area of spirits, they can follow you on your way back.

Once they arrive back the village, they observe the nature and behavior of the animals . If the animals seem disturbed or get diseases within seven days of arrival, all villagers pack and leave the village, seeking another spot to settle.

Another ritual which makes me amazed is their marriage. Once man and woman wants to get married, the villagers will lock two of them inside the building ( a house / a hut/ any kind of enclosure ) and lock them from outside for 24 hours. And people are not supposed to disturb the couple. If no one demands to get out before 24 hours ( I have no idea how to do that, they must knock the door or shout from inside ), their courtship means successful. Then after completion of 24 hours, the door will be unlocked and the whole village celebrate the marriage by having a feast.  By the way, as I worked in the town which is two hours away from that village, I know they get married very young. One time, my patient who was in labour was only 12 years old. The marriage was arranged by her parents and her husband looked like he was 40 plus. The girl was crying in pain and we couldn’t even ask her the name of her husband because she simply didn’t know and not bother to know as well. She just asked us to call her mom. Usually, most Orang Asli girls  marry young and have a lot of children up to 12- 16 children. They rarely use contraception and a man can get married easily when the wife dies. The men prefer to marry young girls. Nowadays, the government gives priority towards Orang Asli regarding education and health care. All of them can get free health care and education although some of them are not willing to go to towns.  I have a friend who is an Orang Asli girl and she is a doctor. I hope there will be more educated young people in their population in the future.

Another interesting thing is their belief about spirits. They don’t have religion and they usually worship on spirits. As they live in jungle and live on farming and hunting, the favor of spirit is very important to them. For example, you must pray to spirit of river if you want to have fish, and have to be careful not to piss the spirits of land if you want to harvest. The children have to be careful not to venture at night into jungles as the spirits can make them sick etc. Some Organ Asli do sculpture of spirits out of wood and keep at their house. One time, I went to museum to observe these sculptures. The museum was deserted and to save electricity, the room was poorly lit. I looked at the faces of these spirits and it made me feel scared. I was wondering they might see the spirits , otherwise how can they make sculptures out of imagination.

 

I don’t know whether spirits really exist, but the guides who are educated are also very careful about jungle spirits. My guide told me some tour guides lost their way in Taman Negara although they were not far from the village. They believe it is because the spirits hide the way. And a lot of tourists have tragic events in Taman Negara such as drowning. Let me tell you my experience. We took a package tour organized by a well experienced tourist guide.  We were on the boat and observed lots of beautiful birds from the boat.

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before going for swimming

The tour guide allowed us to swim in the river. I was not a good swimmer, in fact I know very little how to swim. So I decided just to waddle in the shallow water. As I wanted to see the trees, I walked further and further away from the crowed. Although I was walking in the shallow water, suddenly I plunged into a deeper part of water. It really made me scared especially the soil of river bed was not sand and very sticky mud. I tried to call out my friend to help me, I felt like I was drowning. She thought I was joking with her as the river looked shallow to her. But I swear that that time, my legs couldn’t reach the floor of river bed anymore and I was struggling to float. And the current, it was pretty strange that I felt that the current was pushing me further only at that particular spot.  I was drifting away from the crowd. My friend herself doesn’t know how to swim , but she is much taller than me. She waddled and walked towards me and finally her hand griped mine. Then she told me “ how come you look so afraid? The water is very shallow.” I can say that that is the most weird thing I have encountered in my life. After she reached me, I felt the water was not deep anymore. It was at the level of my breasts. Suddenly, I could feel that my legs could stand on the ground. It was extremely creepy.

The interesting part is after I came back from Taman Negara, I had a chat with a colleague about the place, just discussing about jungles in general. She was smiling uneasily and said “ oh, Hnin, my parents would never allow me to go there”. I only thought overprotective parents usually don’t allow daughters to travel far. But she continued that “ do you know that my brother who was a swimming champion died in Taman Negara out of drowning. He was 19 that time. That’s the reason my parents didn’t feel good about the place”

Back to our story, after I had nearly drowning experience, I didn’t feel like staying there at night anymore. I nagged my friend to go back. But she was very keen to stay there and finally I gave in. She booked a night safari tour for us  and we were about to observe nocturnal animals . Around 8 pm, the tour guide came and fetched us to go to the palm plantation area. It was not the deep jungle. But we were at the back of the van without roof. The driver told me to hold a bottle and I thought it was like a water bottle. He told me “ this is the holy water and keep it with you. We usually carry it when we have night tour “. So, I gripped the water bottle tightly with me. We found wild pigs, pythons, fogs and lots of birds already resting on the trees.

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night safari tour

 

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birds nesting on the tree

We spent the night at a cheap motel and I couldn’t sleep well because I had a very unsettled feeling. The next morning, we drove almost 4 hours back to our town, Kuantan.

The good thing is we met a group of tourists who became our friends .

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with our new friends, Tan Richard, Ding and Simone

But the thing I want to tell you is my feelings after the trip. Once I arrived back home, I took out my camera and tried to download the photos into my laptop . The photos were both day time and night time taken. But when I looked into night time photos, I felt very uneasy feeling as if some images were inside my photo. In one photo, I found a woman sitting on the tree. ( I just wish it’s not real and I just wish it’s all my creepy ideas). Finally I shut down my computer and deleted a lot of photos. For weeks, I felt like there was someone with me, especially when I stood in front of mirror. It was very bad until I was afraid to stand in front of mirror. I called my friends and they shared me some prayers.  Finally with the help of prayers, I no longer feel the woman was around me anymore.

Well, if someone ask me “ do you wana visit Taman Negara again?”. My answer is “ No…..”

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cycling in Bagan , Ancient city of Burma

Yesterday, I read a post named “ Silly things I made during my travel “ by a blogger whom I follow.

Then , I was thinking about the silly things I made during my wanderlust years. There are countless number of events  including

Riding a motor bike, unskillfully and had a fall paired with  a fracture of my arm in Thailand,

Going to Komodo national park when I was having period ( Do you know komodo dragons can smell the blood from a few kilometers away and can bite  you straight away as they are forever hungry carnivores. )

Swimming in river of jungle ( Taman Negara ) in Malaysia ( without knowing how to swim ) and almost drowned.

Before you get irritated with my silliness, or should I call it more like stupidity, I would like to write about Amazing Bagan.

Bagan is situated in central part of Burma, standing on the Eastern part of Ayeyarwady River. Bagan Era existed from 107 until 13th century and reined by 55 kings, there are lots of stories behind. For example, there was the time, people left pretty ladies for the human sacrifice at the area of big bird who only wishes to eat beautiful girls.  It makes more sense to think that giant bird cannot be defeated by villages and instead of letting it come to village again and again , runing everything randomly, the villagers decided to choose girls to feed the bird. I was making joke with my best friend that I would not be eaten even if I was born in Bagan that time. Haha. According to the legend, the bird ate 4300 girls until it was killed by a hero. There is a display of the statue of bird as well as the tunnel area where girls used to hide from the bird.

the statue of giant bird
the cave where the bird used to live, the place was transformed into a building with tunnel inside
the entrance of the cave

 

Some pagodas were built by a dedicated hero whose spirit still linger around the pagoda. For example, near Dama Yazaka pagoda, the tourists was taking photos and later he could see the image of a man wearing an ancient attire in his photos. Creepy! Isn’t it?

Damayazaka Pagoda

Some pagodas were built to compensate for the sins of the kings or to show the remorse. For example, King A Laun Si Thu made the mistake of vowing “ I am the most powerful King ever in Bagan” although there are 44 kings previously. He became blind because of his inappropriate statement, punished by the spirits of the previous Kings. To counteract his mistake, he made the statues of 44 Kings in gold and worshipped in the pagoda called “ Kadot Palin “.

Kadot Palin pagoda
Kadot Palin pagoda

Another example is Dhammangyan Gyi pagoda which was built by crule King “ Narya Thu” ruled AD 1163-1165. He killed his father and brother as he wanted to get the power. After the cruel killings, his guilt haunted him and had continuous nightmares. He asked National Counsellor, a monk for the advice to get rid of nightmares. The monk asked him to build the pagoda. To outdo his predecessor, he recruited the best architects from the country and made a statement that “ all the bricks should be strong and should align to adjacent bricks without any gap in between. If a pin can be inserted between two adjacent bricks, the hand of the bricklayer responsible will be chopped off”. The pagoda could withstand the earthquakes even though there is some dark stories behind. ( Bear in mind that, whatever the Kings did, was not reflection of real Buddhism and Buddhism would never allow anyone to kill for any kind of compensation. The building of pagoda cannot compensate for the sins too. It was just a cultural belief of that time )

Dhammanyan Gyi pagoda

Some pagodas have happy stories as they were built by good Kings who ruled the country with rule of Laws and justice.

Mural painting painted AD1183
Thatbyinnyu Pagoda, the tallest pagoda in Bagan with stunning archaeology

I think I am getting lost in the stories of pagoda which can be very long. Really, Bagan has many stories, many types of buildings built in different Eras. When Myanmar Government ordered the residents to move out of area of ancient buildings, the place became deserted at night. It has been a good decision ever as people can destroy our archaeological value.

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When I visited Bagan in 2014, me and my friend decided to cycle in the ancient city as it will give us access to a small lanes and hidden areas. As it was in February, it was not so hot . However, Bagan is always a bit more hotter than other parts of Burma. We hired battery bike and cycled them to various temples. We cycled across the river banks, near pagodas and remnants of unknown buildings, etc. We felt like we were back in the past, exactly 2500 years ago, lost in all old buildings.

me and my best friend
resting before continuing our cycling
me with archaeological remnants

 

 

beautiful Ayeyarwady river
river bank where you can see life style of people
boats are the main transport for some villagers
Htilogminlo pagoda, AD1218( it was built with the wish to get the throne )
we found people getting on hot air balloon,

 

remnants of building
sunset of Ayeyarwady , taken from Bu Phayar

 

But we didn’t notice the battery bike need to be charged. So in the end, the battery ran out and we were stranded in Middle of Nowhere in Bagan. It was quite far from the town and very deserted. As it was getting dark, I recalled stories my friends told me. There are still lots of spirts around Bagan and they decided to come out at night to have a stroll around pagodas. Some are pretty ladies wearing ancient Attire and they like to hire the horse wheel cart. The drivers of these horse wheel cart are used to the spirits and usually allow them to get on the carriage. Upon getting off, the ladies would offer them gold coins in return of gratitude. Some drivers were freaked out and ran away as soon as they see that sort of girls on the road.

horse wheel cart , transport for Bagan
Sulamuni pagoda where you can see the giant heads in each corner of pagoda, it was meant to protect the pagoda

Back to our story, while we were alone on the highway at twilight, I was more concerned about spirits and ghosts than the robbery. As usual, I am full of imagination and I would not know how to react if the spirits came out and talked to us . So we tried to get a lift from passing vehicles. Unfortunately, the road was rarely used by travelers and for a long time, we couldn’t see anyone. Then some private cars passed by us without offering us any lift. Finally, a motor bike stopped for us and offered one of us a lift to go back to town. It means one of us would be left behind with two bikes without battery. None of us wanted to be left alone. So we declined the offer. Then the biker said “ it is getting dark. I am worried for your safety. I will wait until we get another bike. However, who will take care of the bikes? If the bikes are unattended , someone will steal them. You should call to owner”.

So we desperately tried to contact the owner of the bikes. We were worried we would miss the bus as it was only one hour away from the departure time. We were supposed to go back to Yangon on the same day. Finally, the owners of bikes came to rescue us. They took back the bikes so that we could safely go to the bus station with the gentle men who gave us the lift.

 

Next time, I would charge the bike every 4 hours. Don’t worry.

Note: These photos were taken in 2014 before the earthquake of 2016. So some buildings were damaged due to earthquake and you might not find the original pagodas anymore.

 

Beautiful Pindaya Cave, Shan State, Burma

20161229_145145.jpgNow, I wana post photos of Pindaya Cave in Burma. The Cave has legends and its situated near a big lake and people believe angels came and swam in the deep blue water of Lake.

While angles were inside the cave after a good swim, a giant spider closed the entrance with its spider webs and trapped them.

Then a prince appeared and killed the spider. Later, he fell in love with the youngest sister and the angle did not follow his sisters back to Heaven.

However she was forced to go back by her father  . Later the prince went up to Heaven to bring her back.

Anyway, there are lots of Buddha statues and pagodas inside the cave now.

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the view on the way to cave
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The view on the way to cave
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Gorgeous landscape
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These trees are more than hundred years

 

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PONE TA LOTE LAKE

 

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The view from the cave

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Gaw Yan Gyi island , Myanmar , how to go there and where to stay

Gaw Yan Gyi island is situated in Irrawaday division of Burma, Nga Pu Taw Township. I was in doubt when people said how mysterious the island is, but I found out it is really a fairy island and people should go there before the tourists destroy the genuine nature. As this post is going to be long, I am going to divide the blog into two parts. The first one is how to go there and where to stay.

HOW TO GO THERE

You might think you are very good in driving and you might want to drive there. Please don’t do this unless you have four wheel drive and you can drive like “ Fast and Furious”. The road till Pathein is quite ok, but after you pass Pathien, you will suffer a lot of road sickness as the roads are  narrow lanes close  to divine. The scenery may be nice but after watching outside for a while, your head will be spinning as the bus drives up and down the mountains. Luckily, there are two buses running directly to Gaw Yan Gyi and the bus is quite cheap. They charge only 10,000 kyats per person ( You might need to pay more if you are a foreigner ) for one way. The journey takes 9 hours. The roads are not developed yet and some area are still under construction. First , you have to arrive Nga yoke Kaung sub township where you need to take a boat to go to the island.
Here, I will give the phone number of the buses

Name of Bus : Kan Htoo Aung

Name of Bus station : Dagon Ayya  in Yangon ( Hlaing Tharyar Township ), Other bus stops don’t have direct bus to Nga Yoke Kaung.
Phone : +95-9 4211 559 11, +95-9 4211 55922 ( From Yangon to Nga Yoke Kaung) departure time: 8.30 pm
Phone : +95-94900 2539 ( From Nga Yoke Kaung to Yangon ) Departure time : 6.30 pm

Name of Bus : Myat Mi Khin
Name of Bus station ; Dagon Ayya (  yangon, Hlaing Tharyar Township )
Phone : 09-444779309, 09-768612572 ( From Yangon TO Nga Yoke Kaung )
Phone : 09-444779314, 09-768612577 ( From Nga yoke Kaung to Yangon )

You will arrive very early morning at Nga Yoke Kaung town around 5 am. The sampans or boats will not be available till 6 am. But you can take coffee and snack at the café at the bus stand. Some people will ask you to go with mortor bike which can cost you around 7000 kyats. Please don’t do that. The road will be very bumpy and long. We were also misled by the motor biker because they sent us to the wrong jetty. By the way, the motor bike should charge you only 500 kyats  per person to go to the jetty. There are two jetties called Nant Thar Pu jetty and Kway Chaing jetty. Ask your hotel which jetty is nearer to your hotel.  The boat will take around 20 minutes to arrive Kway Chaing where you can have lots of hotels. The boat fare is only 200 kyats per person.

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Nga Yoke Kaung Town ( Photo credit to Hay Mar from facebook )
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The bus station of Gaw Yan Gyi, there are only two bus companies which has direct access to Nga Yoke Kaung.
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Nant Thar Pu jetty
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Enjoyable boat ride at dawn

 

Where to stay

There are various places to stay . But I will start with the most expensive one.
1) The Log hotel
Price : 90,000 kyats per night for two people. If you need extra bed, they charge you 45,000 kyats for one extra bed. Yes, it’s crazy. The hotel is quite isolated and good for people who needs privacy such as Honey Moon goers. But there is no shady trees around the hotel and I guess it is hot in the afternoon. Remember, there is no Aircon in any hotel as there is no electricity on the island. They use engine to have electricity and can get it during night only. It is situated at Pa-lin-Chaing.

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The Log Hotel

Unfortunately, I can’t find the contact of the hotel. If you know it, please comment below.

2) G7 Plage
Price : 50,000 kyats per night for two people, for extra bed 25,000 kyats per person.
For foreigner : 45 US D per night.
Review : The nicest location as the beach is the most beautiful and the best location for wind surfing. You can cycle, ride motor bike or jog just in front of the beach. The bungalows are modern and clean. They have western toilets and rain showers.

Reservation : g7hotelplage@gmail.com
Phone : 09-453 235 252 ( Myanmar ), 09-452 216 685 ( English )

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G7 Hotel Plage
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G7 Hotel plage

3) Adventure resort
Price : 50000 kyats per night for two people and extra bed is 15000 kyats. For the hotel which is a bit far from sea, 40,000 kyats per night . If you want to live on the upstairs, they charge 10,000 kyats extra.

Review: clean, comfortable. The food cooked by hotel chef is nice. Their prawn and crab curries are super delicious.  The hotel does not charge extra for foreigner . The staff are very friendly and will do everything to make you feel comfortable.
Disadvantage : It is very hot as the wind does not blow across the hotel. There is fishy smell at the front beach as the fishermen dry the fishes there. There is a stretch of blue sea  , but not rock formation near by. They give electricity only from 6 pm to 12 midnight while other hotels give from 6 pm to 6 am.

You can look for the contact from facebook page called Adventure Paradise Hotel, Gaw Yan Gyi. It’s always easier to message from Fb messenger.

Contact number : +95- 9444489991,  +95-9444489992

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Adventure paradise 
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Adventure paradise

4) Thirithuta Hotel

Price : 35000 kyats for two people. Extra bed 15000 kyats per person.

They also have tents and cheaper accomodation . For example, you pay only 8000 kyats for one person if you don’t mind to use common toilet and bathroom.
I stayed there for two nights in beach front bungalow and I really recommend it. The place is very near to pagoda and Lake Chaing . They have hammock in front of the beach. They also have beautiful scenery near by and to swim. There is no fishy smell. It is not too hot like Adventure resort. People are friendly
Disadvantage : The food is not so good . I recommend to eat outside or bring your own food there. They also display motor bike fare for various places so that motor bike people cannot cheat you.

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The prices for motor bike
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Thirithuta Hotel

 

5) Win Beach Hotel
It is recommended in one of the website. One bungalow charges only 4,000 kyats for four people. There are two kingsize bed and the bathroom and toilet attached to it. They cook for you like other hotel with fair prices according to review.
Phone : +95-9 49734702, +95-9 250118017

 

6) Family House resort

Price : 40000 kyats per two persons

Review: clean, good accommodation, understaffed, looks like the staff does not know much

Disadvantage : No Western toilet

I saw tents there also. The location otherwise is very nice.

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There are lots of other hotels which I do not mention as I don’t have photos. Please find it in their facebook page for contact.

Boat fares

From Thirithuta to the pagoda, it is only 1000 kyats per person. But if you hire by only two person, they charge you 4000 kyats per person.

Motorbike fares
They can charge up to 10,000 kyats for the whole day. Otherwise, you can only give 500- 1000 kyats for near by places. Some hotels regulate the taxi fares and you should ask advice from your hotel.
There is no available taxis there and motor bike are only available transport. Although, the road is bumpy and spine chilling at certain areas, they are very skillful drivers.

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Phone and internet availability

You can only use MPT phone line there. So please buy one sim card before you go there.

Things to bring
1) Sun screen
2) Sun glasses
3) Hat
4) Mosquito repellent ( not much mosquitoes, but certain hotels for example Adventure and G7 plage do not offer mosquitoes nets . But Thirithuta hotels give mosquitoes nets )

For Foreigners, you need permission from Pathein if I am not mistaken. Please contact the travel agent. Otherwise, I don’t think police will chase you just by visiting there as I saw some foreigners as well.

 

Note: I took some photos from Hay Mar facebook.  Some photos are taken by me.

Please continue reading about myth and legends about island in my blog Gaw Yan Gyi island part II. Thank you

Mergui archipelago/ Myanmar

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Marcus or Harris island

In February 2017, I could tick off one of my bucket lists, travelling to virgin islands of Burma, my mother land.

Mergui archipelago is located in the most Southern part of Burma bordered by Thailand.

The archipelago officially has more than 800 recorded islands. But according to my guide, there are 2000 islands and out of them, only 800 islands are officially recorded, and out of 800, only 200 islands are accessible to the outsiders. fb_img_1488690567190

There are not only islands but also lots of mangroove swamps enriched with diversity of plants and animals. ( the government does not allow foreigners to sleep on the islands. But you can arrange day trip tours. please check before you go)

fb_img_1488686652542There is still no proper rule regarding land ownership and the fishermen build the cottages on the island and can stay there without paying anything to government. The government approves most of the application to build settlement as the region needs to be developed.

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the small island with two houses.

To arrive Mergui islands, I had a flight  to the town called Myeik with Myanmar National  Airline ( unfortunately, it’s as expensive as the flight to BKK ). Myeik is a beautiful town, it’s clean and roads are spacious. There is not much  traffic jams and lots of nice food. And if you are very much into birds, there is a lake where you can watch varieties of birds.

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there are three kinds of birds in this picture,one of them has brown color when they rest and they turn into white color once they fly

fb_img_1488686892822And to see the panorama view of Myeik, you can go to Thein Daw Gyi pagoda to watch the sunset and the amazing view of the Adaman sea.

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panorama view from Thane- Daw – Gyi pagoda

fb_img_1488686921106If you wana try famous cuisine in Myeik, I would recommend “ Kyan Taw” restaurant and “ U Maung Win” Restaurant , phone 098763270. At U Maung Win restaurant, please try pork brain mixed with eggs, It’s yum. And you can order “ Kat Kyay kite” ( fried white color noodles ). For accommodation, I would recommend you  “ Golden sky Hotel” ( telephone 059-41991),

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it’s just 5 to 10 minutes drive from airport, very clean and has a pool. The price is 28000 kyats for Myanmar citizens and 40000 kyats for foreigners per head , if two people, they charge extra 10000 kyats. You can also ask them to arrange airport pick up for you.  It is very easy to get motor bike for your transport if you are alone. They are not costly and bikers are very skilful. I think it’s more fun to ride on bike in open air than in the car. Afterall, the town is not big and you can go everywhere with bike .

From Myeik, you need to arrange boats to go to the island. It takes one and half hour to go to the  nearest island. Mergui travel and tour has very nice boat and its more speedy than other boats.

fb_img_1488686990880We went there with Blue Ocean Star Resort and Travel. The project developer is Kyaw Moe. His cell phones are 09 451022389, 09420709547. Email is kyawmoe2005@gmail.com.

Blue Ocean company is developing Harris island into a comfortable place to stay. They built a cottage where some staff live. They cook, clean the place, do some buildings, and organize the boats.  The staff are multi purpose and one of them even massaged for us at night. They also have clean toilets and enclosed bath rooms. They developed a tube well for fresh water. Before blue ocean arrived that island, an old lady was staying alone selling fresh water to fishermen. Harris island is 1300 feet long and the water is crystal clear.

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They built a bridge where you can look into deep water from the bridge.

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You can also climb the hill where you can see the bird eye view of island.fb_img_1488686848854

fb_img_1488690683424fb_img_1488686819002You can also jungle trek and get lost in the jungles where there are rare flowers exist.

fb_img_1488686813036 There is a very famous traditional drink . They keep the artichoke , squeeze their flash and oil , then mix with beer and drink it.

fb_img_1488686942046A lot of people like it. But we didn’t try because the locals told us it’s kinda fishy.  In contrary to what people said, I didn’t see much fish there. It’s mainly because there are a lot of illegal fishing boats near by. ( I assume illegal and the foreign companies come and buy fish from these boats) I saw a few schools of fish in deep water.  Near the bridge, the sea has lots of artichokes. They can be painful if you accidentally step on them.And if you want to go and see corals, you have to take risk of getting injured by spikes of shells stuck to the stones.

As most of us are not good swimmers, we end up getting injuried walking in the sea at the back of Harris island. I was bleeding profusely and had to get on the boat again.

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a friend trying to hide from the heat

The sand is very soft and velvety. The water is blue. It’s amazing.  I went up the hill and although, I could climb uneventfully , on the way back,  it’s quite a difficult descend.

fb_img_1488686832647 In the end, I decided to sit down and slide as I was afraid I would slip and fall.

It’s a breezy day. So I decided to dip my feet inside the salty water and feel the tides touch my feet. Suddenly, the crabs ( very beautiful deep green color ) came under the stones and walked around me. They were fascinating. I always have a thing for crabs. If you want to watch them, you have to be very still. Once they can sense vibration, they run away from you.  I savored my solitude with nature and thanked God for guiding me to come to that beautiful island.

At night, we were given two options to sleep, either we could sleep on the benches made of bamboo or sleep in the tents. As we are concerned about mosquitoes ( mind you, it is the malaria endemic area ), we decided to sleep in the tents.

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So the staff prepared tents just in front of the sea. It was amazing. The highlight of the trip is we lie on the benches before going inside the tent and talked about a lot of stuff.

fb_img_1488690665771 fb_img_1488690500142There was a starry sky, it was beautiful. The beach was well lit as a lot of fishing boats anchored near the island and we were surrounded by boats with lights.  Luckily, there was no rain. The weather was perfect. I felt like I found out new friends during the trip because I could talk to my travel partners for a long time at night. So travelling is not all about finding new places, it’s also about finding new people who might become your long lasting friends in the end.

Our tour guide called Aung San Lwin is a cheerful guy, he  has a very good communication skill.  His cell phone is 09782667126, obviously a happy-go-lucky person. He was more excited than us when he saw a school of  Nimo fish. He did not accept the tips and finally, I found out he is not a staff and one of share holders for the business. He is very helpful , but not a typical guide who will watch over you.  He would rather enjoy himself. So you need to watch out danger for yourself if you are with him.

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He brought us to fish farm ( on the way before we arrive islands ) to get fresh fish and cook for us at night.

The tour guide Aung San Lwin arranged all our meals with fresh sea food and the staff can cook very well. Surprisingly, the cost of all sea food meals’are only one tenth of ordinary price there.

We also went to the Main –ma- hla island meaning Beautiful lady island. There is a shrine and a small waterfall. I saw the fishermen are taking water out of waterfall. The water is very cold and refreshing.

The next day, we went to the stone island where you see lots of beautiful stones  as if angles lay the stones there perfectly. The stones has smooth surface and rounded in shape. Some are transformation of shells mixed with lime , white in color. You can see lots of beautiful fish there although its difficult to walk on stones.

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stone beach. Please wear the footware as the stones are hot in the afternoon
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stone beach

Then we headed to the famous Moken village.

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It is quite famous for its native people called Moken or sea gypies. They are trained to be at sea since very young age. Their vision is much sharper than other people under water. They can swim tirelessly with grace. Some claim they can even sleep under water. They can dive up to 30 minutes without coming up. Previously, they are the only resources to supply famous Burmese pearls to the world as they can dive and know locations of clams more than other people. Still, they are struggling even to have a proper school and now the church is being used temporarily as the primary school.

fb_img_1488686584954When we arrived there, all kids came out from church and looked at us.  They were singing in the church in Moken language. We distributed jellies and sweets and they gladly accepted the snacks. In contrary to what I saw in books, most kids have fair skin . I think may be the skin might change once they go out to sea more often. I am glad they are still learning their own language.

fb_img_1488686599768 At times, one of my friends raised up question regarding loss of culture. We know Moken people know the sea like the back of their hands. But my friend wondered whether the tradition and culture is disappearing among young people. Then , the head of Moken village replied him that although the technology seeps inside the village, the kids still learn about the sea from their experience. At the time of Tsunami, the kids who were playing at sea noticed the change of color in the sea, they quickly ran back to the village and alerted the adults. Soon after that, the whole village shifted to the hilly area and escaped from the tides which devoured the whole village.

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Moken boy using two pieces of plastic as oars
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fishing in the small boats

After that, we went to the two faced island. The island is 1800 feet long and very beautiful. By chance, we ran into a crowd who came to island with the ship. They were celebrating a party and even offered us some free food. And some tour guide caught crabs and did barbeque on the island. We were a bit hungry and glad to be able to buy some chicken and salad on the island fortunately. It was not all time event, and by luck, the snack were sold by visitors as well. The island is 1800 feet long and nobody staying on it except hornbills which I saw by chance. It was a big hornbill and flew just above my head while I was sitting on the rock.

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two- faced island
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two-faced island

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two-faced island
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quieter side of two-faced island

We were supposed to go to a few more islands. But our boat was not functioning well because of polluted oil purchased from fishermen. When we arrived “ Don waterfall”, I decided not to go down as I know I am not a well balanced person to walk on the slippery stones. But the sight of waterfall is beautiful.

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Don waterfall
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Don waterfall

fb_img_1488686690641As our boat is not functioning, we came back with another boat and it was faster on our way back.

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We came back with lots of memories and a few cuts here and there on our bodies. I am telling to my friends that I need to go back to the island with my guitar and a stack of books. This is a place which will be forever in my ” must go back ” list.

Hninn

BORACAY island, Phillipines, May 2014

For the first time, Air Asia launched direct flight to the Kalibo town near Boracay island in 2014 and we decided to fly there  in  May. Phillipines has more than 800 islands and Boracay was chosen as the best island in the world in year 2012 ( partially due to a visit by celebs like Brad and Jolie ) .

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A few travelers said some places in Philippines were not safe  but  Boracay contrary to other parts of Philippines is pretty safe and I enjoyed every bit of my holiday there.

More than that, Filipino have warm personality and good English. I blend in very easily and even local tourists thought I was a Filipino and asked me for direction, choosing me among real Filipinos. I chuckled and explained I am not a Filipino, but they said I look like  one. Haha, And I pretty admire women attitude regarding their body. I am overweight and very shy to wear bikinis, while most Filipino women regardless of age and body figure were leisurely strolling along with two pieces. I do adore them and their laughter.

At that time we got 40 ps for one us dollars and food and drinks were quite reasonable even for a tourist place. The first time, I saw color jeeps , I was so fascinated.

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We went to Kalibo with flight  ( it cost us around 250 us D for return flight from Kuala Lumpur ).  From Kalibo, we  had to get a coach . It is around one hour drive to arrive the jetty and from there, we have to get a ferry.

8The only thing I don’t really like about island is the green algae at the beach. They look pretty at sight, but I don’t feel good about them once I read in someone blog mentioning the algae grow excessively because of poor sewage system.  Yuk !

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The water is crystal clear and it’s baby blue, deep blue, light green and deep green.

18 I tried to search itinerary and found out some amazing places to go such as crystal cove island. We are ok to do crazy things, but not adventurous enough to dive from the cliff . Crystal cove is a small island near Boracay with a lot of men made decorations. They beautifully place ornaments such as lanterns, statues all over the island and it is a pretty place to do parties and weddings. And it is the only island you need to pay entrance fee.

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Crystal Cove island

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Crystal Cove’s island, you need to pay for entrance fee

There are lots of interesting boats called Paraw sailing. You need a few people to sail them and it is very nice to be on them at sunset.

58 We went to Puka beach. Puka is the shell in Philippines and the sand is very rough because of fragmented shells.

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Puka beach

We saw a private beach owned by Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao and it is awesome as he built the house inside the rock.

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I don’t really like Filipino food as it is too sweet and bland for me. They love pork and Italian restaurants are everywhere paired with live bands and reggae singers.

71829398 There was an Italian restaurant called Don Vito and it was awarded as the best restaurant of Phillipines in 2011 . Boracay has McDonald and additionally, they have icecream dipped in mango juice.

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114The length of the island is only 8 km and it was lined with street hawkers, bars , restaurants and street performers.Even with short distance, you can hire the three wheeled cars if your legs tired .  116.jpgRegarding accommodation, I don’t recommend you to book five star hotels as some are quite far from beach. You can get 3 star hotel with only 20 us D per night at the beach front

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beach front hotel with reasonable price
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the hotel we stayed

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I thought activities were cheaper outside the hotel , I was wrong. Our hotel offered better price for island trip as the competition is high. We went out and bought island hopping trips  and turned out the activities are much more expensive if we buy on our own..

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activities of Boracay, the agents will annoy you and hunt you down unless you claim you have already bought tickets

I did some braiding and it was fun , they charge only 4 us D for it while Kani did some artificial tattoo. ( Hotel warned us we need to pay fine if we print tattoo and sleep on their bed without shower ).

We waddled to Willy’s rock  through shallow water. Willy’s rock is a natural tourist attraction, oddly shaped volcanic formation in station 1 ( the island is divided into three stations ). It has a small chapel at top with Virgin Mary statue inside.

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Willy’s rock
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volcanic remains

The town is very clean and well maintained, it has many cute bars and cafe.

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cute coffee bar
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the hotel inside the town, which is  only a few minutes walk from beach
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clean and spacious roads
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stores are everywhere

We decided to do something for fun. One of my friends suggested to walk on the underneath of ocean wearing oxygen tank and suit called helmet diving. I objected as I know I would freak out. We decided to go for fly fish, a ride on the inflated balloon with handles linked to a speed boat driven a slightly insane boat man. He made us literally fly in the air as he drove the boat crazy and the balloon lifted up. We were screaming, me not out of pleasure, but rather fear of impending fall and being eaten alive by either sharks or unknown marine fish while my friend Kani was crying out of excitement and pleasure. I held the handle tightly as I know a slip for  a second would make me fall into the ocean.  Kani thought it was so fun. Belinda barely managed to hold it as she is small and I was worried she would fall. Later, she said, she always falls whenever she tries banana boat and fly fish is far more scarier than banana boat. At night, I got severe pain at the knuckles and elbows because of holding very tightly to the handle.

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before screaming and disastrous ride 
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Thank God, we didn’t fall

At sunset, we had very good massage and had some cocktails at the bar.

89 I guess everyone in Boracay can sing. They are very talented in singing and playing instruments.  It was a very nice trip and good to write about it although it has been 2 years since I went there.

1448416Thanks for reading.

Myin Ma Hti cave, Kalaw , Shan State, Burma

I am not particularly interested in cave as I am asthmatic and I usually get eerie feelings and sense of suffocation whenever I visit inside the cave. However, my curiosity always drives me to do some venture inside the cave and I went twice to Myin Ma Hti mountain to observe the cave. Another reason I went there is the view on the way to the cave is awesome and there are lots of seasonal flowers especially sunflowers and sesame flowers ( I went there before harvest time in December , so the scenery was yellow , white , green and red , the color of soil in Shan State is red ). But if you go there other time, you will not see sunflowers.

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According to the record done by a monk at the Myin Ma hti village in the year  1906, the pagodas inside the cave were first founded by King  Siri Dama Thaw Ka around 2300 years ago. King Siri Dama Thawka was well known as a king who tried to spread Buddhism all over the country. He built 84000 lakes, 84000 wells and 84000 pagodas,  The cave  is 1028 feet long and on the walls , there were side tunnels which are linked to outside.  Previously, the cave was covered with the water and it was used to be called water flowing cave.  However, it was assumed that the water disappeared through some opening inside the cave and nowadays, it is dry.  There are still 28 statues which was assumed to be created 2300 years ago.

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After  King Siri Dama Thawka , King Anawrahta took over the pagoda and did some renovation , then it was taken over by King Along sithu. According to the record, the cave has existed for thousands of years before Buddhism flourished there.

Myin Ma Hti mountain is four miles from Kalaw Town. Kalaw is 4315 feet above sea level and the summit of mountain is 1075 feet from the base.

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There is a legend that four powerful and extraordinarily strong horses came out from the divine and ate the paddy field and vegetable from the village farms.  The villagers could not shoo the horses away and asked help from the King Anawrahtar. The king sent his four heroes named Kyan Sit Thar, Nga Htwe Ru, Nga Lone Lat Phal and Nyaung Oo Phee. The heroes managed to tame wild horses and brought them to the palace. On the way back, Hero Kyan Sit Thar galloped on the powerful horse and jumped over the mountain. The horse could jump over it and the mountain was named Myin Ma Hti ( The mountain which the horse didn’t touch )

You could reach the cave by turning to the right after you passed the toll  if you come from Kalaw. You need to drive a few miles and the cave was on the way to Pin Long  .It is situated in between Kalaw and Aung Ban. It is four miles away from Kalaw and two miles from Aung Ban. The temperature inside the cave is quite low and the water drops pour out from the cave. There is a place where you can make paste from the tree bark and wear it on your face. Some old people believe it has therapeutic  effect.

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ir was written the angle’s stone and the girl is trying to take the paste of tree bark from the stone.

If you are a fan of cave, just take it as one of your destinations when you arrive Kalaw

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