Departing Indawgyi Lake
Indawagyi Lake was amazing! It’s what I was looking to find in Myanmar, and found it.
Local people living life in a beautiful place.
@ Indawgyi Lake
Jack and I took a truck taxi from Lonton to Hopin, sharing with many local people. There was an older man who had some trouble getting into the vehicle, he was smoking what looked to be a rolled up newspaper. A man working the truck was hanging off the back and told us that he was smoking marijuana. We turned down his kind offer to try some.
A few local woman had tears from their eyes, initially Jack and I had thought it was the smoke that was bothering them. They were smelling limes, hacking and spitting out the side of the truck. It is a winding, uphill and downhill way; throughout the ride it became more likely that the woman in the truck were all experiencing motion sickness.
After arriving in Hopin we booked train tickets to Naba. We found some some coffee and pastries in town. After a few hours of the bumpy ride we arrived in Naba. We were bound for Katha but the train only goes as close as Naba so we had to take a taxi for an additional 45 minutes.
As we were leaving the train station a man asked us if we need a taxi. Katha is a popular destination from the Naba train station. The driver had managed to find many local people looking for a ride, the back of the truck was getting packed. A few of the local guys hopped onto the roof when space was running out. I wanted to ride up top with them so I climbed up. The driver had wanted me to get down but I assured him it wasn’t a problem.
It was a great ride on the roof watching the sunset over the mountains. The truck was swerving around corners and bumping along. It was fun exchanging a few words and laughs with the locals on the roof.
It was dark by the time we got into Katha. Jack and I made our way to a guesthouse and looked to find some information on the boat to Mandalay. We didn’t find much information about the government boat and the alternative ‘fast boat’ is 25,000 kyat ($27 Canadian). We wandered around town for a few hours; had dinner and a few beers at the Riverside Bar right on the Irrawaddy River.
We met some funny local people and had a ton of laughs. Littering seems to be an accepted norm nationwide. Watching the guys working at the restaurant, I was disappointed to see them take the trash off the table and throw it into the river rather than into the trash bin that is 2 meters away. We headed back to the guesthouse and called it an eary night.
After waking up in the morning Jack and I tried to find the price and time of the cheaper government ferry. Again finding any information in regards to this was tough, the woman said her manager was gone so she was unsure whether or not the boat would go the next day. The price for the slow government ferry was about half of the fast boat fare so we tried again later in the day for a thrid time, still unable to determine when the boat would go we just bought tickets for the ‘fast boat’. The guys working in the ticket office were really nice, we were joking and laughing with them for a few minutes. After chatting for a bit we ended up paying 20,000 kyat ($22) for the ferry rather than 25,000 kyat. It is scheduled to leave at 05:00 am.
We spent the afternoon wandering around the town. Not many people visit Katha, tourism doesn’t appear to be very popular here. We walked and saw George Orwell’s house where he lived and wrote the book Burmese Days. It has changed into what looked like a school. The back of the house gave a stunning view onto a body of water with houses all around.
We explored some local markets and chatted with some people. It was a great day, walking in the town seeing first-hand how the people go about life and dealing with the high levels of the Irrawaddy River. We met many smiling people saying ‘mingalaba’ and waving as we walked through different neighbourhoods.
Walking in Katha beside the Irrawaddy river, it quickly becomes obvious that it is like a bloodline for the people. It is used in such a large capacity, tap water is most often used in the western world for similar activities. Throughout the day I passed by the river many times as the guesthouse was located on it. Every single time there were always many people bathing, washing, doing laundry [and more things] when I walked by the river.
It was an early morning waking up at 04:30 am for the 05:00 am boat ferry. The morning sunrise brought a brilliant sunrise from the boat, the sky was showered with vibrant colours. It was nice to lay out at the front of the boat to catch a bit more sleep.
Irrawaddy River Adventure
Leaving Katha we picked up some more passengers at another port outside of Katha. As we were heading down the river many local people would leave their houses on the mainland and have a small boat take them to the ferry; the big boat would slow down and the boats would be parallel to each other. The man working on the boat would help the person get onto the ferry and assist them bringing their things aboard. This happened frequently throughout the trip, [mostly for ~ 150 kilometres from Katha].
The ride was a smooth journey. Enjoying the views as the sun was shining. The effects of the monsoon were still shocking. Many of the houses that lined the Irrawaddy River were submerged under the river water with only the rooftops visible. When we came within 150 kilometres of Mandalay local people would individually move towards the front of the boat and indicate to the driver where they would be picked up by there family member or boat taxi. It was the reversed procedure as when people were coming onto the boat. Thankfully all the boats picking up people had a motor (except one) so things moved relatively quickly when people were getting off the boat.
Reports have come out that over half a million people in Myanmar have been displaced from the torrential rains and flooding.
It was an amazing journey, arriving around 04:00 pm, taking almost 12 hours. Jack and I both had a great time lounging on the boat watching the local people do as they do. We had packed enough food from Katha to eat well for the whole ride [ & local people came onto the boat selling food at different times of the ride].
Arriving in Mandalay we were offered a few taxis. The man wanted 10,000 kyat to drive us 1.5 kilometres. The price was ridiculous for such a short journey so we walked to the BBQ restaurant we had seen on maps.me. We ate some dinner and had a few cold Myanmar draft beer.
We found a reasonable taxi and headed to Dreamland Guesthouse. A guy we met at Indaw Mahar Guesthouse in Lonton had recommended it. It was a nice place offering music lessons and had many instruments free for guests to use. I played some guitar and ukulele throughout my stay there.
The two nights I spent in Mandalay went by quickly. Wandering around the city and trying different foods, I was feeling tired from all of the transit and travel. I was due for a few days of relaxation and wasn’t feeling too motivated to see more temples.
Hanging out and visiting the local markets was how I spent my last few days. Jack and I went out one night finding the only nightclub in town named Pioneer [same name as the nightclub in Yangon]. We were disappointed to find that entry for a foreigner required buying a bottle of alcohol. The cheapest on the menu was 65,000 kyat ($70 Canadian) while locals could get entry for 5,000 kyat ($5 Canadian). It is entirely unfair so we just went back to the guesthouse and had a few drinks with some friends.
I have spent almost a month in Myanmar and loved everyday, sometime in the future I would like to return to visit the coast (during the dry season) and parts of the country that aren’t yet open to tourism. I left Dreamland Hostel and took a shared taxi with two other people for a total of 10,000 kyat.
Flying out of Mandalay bound for Bangkok, Thailand. I will figure out where my journey will take me next once I get there.