Paradise of Pai

Meanwhile, in another quiet morning in Pai, I have found time in my doing nothing to write some words.Sitting in the outside common room, listening to the relaxing yoga session going on next to me, my mind and body are at peace (even though I am not even participating in the yoga session). And thank you for that, because Pai plague has already caught four friends by now. Hopefully it will pass me by – I’ve already had my share in Chiang Mai.
IMAG1503
IMAG1516
Pai is the most tranquil paradise I have encountered so far. Imagine waking up whenever you want, walking out of your dorm room and of course, the sun is shining. You take your first chill moment and head out for breakfast at Om Garden (obviously). After stuffing yourself with good food, you take your next chill moment and you can do whatever you want. Shopping, renting a motorbike and preferably not crashing and exploring the waterfalls, fake Chinese villages and Pai canyon, reading a book at one of the many little restaurants or just napping all day until it’s time for another favorite passtime: EATING! In the evening, the night market bursts open with opportunities for more shopping, eating pad thai, springrolls, veggie lasagnas, burritos, dried squid, kebab, gyoza, crepes and much more to stuff your face. After gorging all the food you can get your hands on, you guessed it, it’s time for another chill moment before heading off to one of the countless live music venues around to listen to the many talented artists that flock to the village.That is basically your average Pai-day and it’s awesome. It’s a perfect way to charge up before going to China and meeting the parents. “Living by doing nothing” is the slogan – and I have been living by it precariously.
IMAG1487    IMAG1528

Basically, Pai is one big great cliché, the type of hippie town where you can easily hang around, where the dreadlocks and tattoos are common, vegetarian and vegan foods are super easy to come by (and generally, the food is to die for), the clothes you can find are standard hippie trousers and tie-dye shirts. So you can imagine – I feel right at home here and I have been smiling every single day again. I will explain why the term again.

After Myanmar, my stomach was still acting funny, resulting in a few running-to-the-toilet times and a discreet puking-in-the-Bangkok-MRT moment. Still in Chiang Mai not a complete 100% yet, and when that was combined with bed bugs, I had my first-ever “wish I was home (or at least wish I had my mum now)” thought. Though, I’m a 22 year old girl, I can take care of myself! So I did and once I got to Pai, I was feeling 100% again. Yay me! This is why I hope I will not catch Pai Plague.

A week left of relaxing in a hammock (which I’m doing right now), eating (which I’m going to do in an hour or two), biking around (maybe tomorrow) and shopping (continuously). I think I will manage.

IMAG1510

Yeah I’ll definitely manage!
IMAG1534

my love letter to Myanmar

Dearest Myanmar,

while I’m sitting in Bangkok, I miss you more than you can imagine. Thank you for welcoming this Dutch girl into your country. I felt your warm arms around me the minute I walked on your soil. Over the past 24 days I have learned a lot about you; about your culture, your food, your landscapes and your people. These words are an ode, a serenade to you, my beloved Myanmar.

I love your extremely loud karaoke & James Bond buses, your bumpy trains, all your different, overcrowded tuk-tuks, your bike-takes that can fit three full-grown Westeners plus one skinny Burmese cyclist and your many, many constantly honking motorbikes.
I love your countless hello’s, mingalarbar’s, how are you’s, only one’s, byebye’s and which country?
SAM_5674
I love exploring your landscapes, whether by foot, by bus, by train, by e-bike, by normal bike, by boat or by motorbike. Motorbike trekking around Kyaukme took me past rice paddies, up mountains and through grassy lands (highly recommended: johnny.inmyanmar@gmail.com ). Whilst the almost 60km trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake transported me from the African savannah to Tuscany, Greece and Spain.

Kalaw - Inle

Kalaw – Inle

Motorbike trekking Kyaukme

Motorbike trekking Kyaukme

Kyaukme
I love your food, even though it had me vomiting one afternoon. I love your Shan noodles, your absolutely mouthwatering avocado’s and the tiniest, sweetest mandarins I’ve ever tasted. Likewise, I love your drinks, Myanmar beer is light and refreshing especially in these temperatures and your fruit juices are to die for. Even your “muscle relaxation” is a part of my love for you. Furthermore, I love you prices. I barely paid more than 4000 Kyat (3,50 euro) for a whole meal and the best dishes were only 500 Kyat (0,45 eurocents).
I love all your temples, stupas and pagoda’s (yes, I know they’re basically the same). The impressive Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon or the temple-dotted plains of Bagan or the unexpectedly beautiful stupa in Pyay or the caverns filled with golden Buddha images in Hpa-an – they all define and enrich you.
. SAM_5295
I love all your sunrises and sunsets, and I’ve seen many of them. The most impressive one in Bagan, with all the hot air balloons floating above the hundreds of temples. Seeing the sun turn pink and red reminded me of where I was and how grateful I was to be there right there and then.
Bagan!

Posing fisherman in Inle Lake

Posing fisherman in Inle Lake

I love all your cats since I became friends with many of them. One of the red ones even wanted to join me on my motorbike. Sorry Kira & Mies! SAM_5374
I love your sense of fashion. Combining your traditional longyi with t-shirts adorning Mickey Mouse, Angry Birds or Spongebob Squarepants is a sight to see. On the other hand, your traditional clothes, especially for women, are insanely beautiful – including the towels on the heads of wrinkly old Burmese ladies.
I love how there are no McDonalds, no KFC’s, no Pizza Huts or any other international fast food chains soiling the streets of your cities. This is the second country and it’s liberating.
I love how all the men I’ve talked to know Robin van Persie, especially the monks seem to be football fans. Talking about monks, I love seeing monks drive a car, drive a motorbike, use a smartphone and rocking other technological stuff.
I love your betelnut red smile that appears on your people’s faces when I smile and wave – and almost everyone chews betelnut (including many of the women). And even though it was a big disgusting as well, I got used to your spitting and gurgling and your red spit-filled streets.
I love your notions of friends, family and love – from calling your significant other “doctor” to 528 (friends) & 1500 (love) affection, even though everyone I asked could not explain where it came from.
I love meeting fellow travellers and talking about our mutual love for the country – from sharing a room in a mental guesthouse in Pyay with Sophia (including cockroaches) to sharing homestays with my two different hiking groups (one of which included 4 Israeli’s and Sophie – the most positive English girl I’ve ever met, plus we were an injury-prone group!!).

Yes please! With Sophia

Yes please! With Sophia

But most of all, dear Myanmar, I love your people. I love how generous they are, inviting me inside their homes for tea and cookies. I love how they try to talk to me even though they don’t know English and I don’t know any Burmese. I love getting tipsy with the locals and Sophia, guessing English melodies played by a Burmese guy on a guitar rocking Burmese lyrics to Sweet Child O’ Mine and Love Hurts. I love asking difficult questions about politics, culture and everyday life and getting enthusiastic responses since they can (finally) talk openly about these things. I love talking to young kids in their English class taught by monks in Kyaukme (thanks again Johnny!). I love their curiosity, shyly looking at me and smiling broadly when I recognise them. I even love that they desperately wanted to go on a photo with me – now I’m wondering how many Facebook profile pictures I rock. I love how nobody tried to scam me or rip me off. I love how incredibly friendly every single person is, from taxi drivers to guesthouse owners, from trekking guides to little kids peeking out of their houses.

Though we must have a little talk, Myanmar. There is still a lot in your country that has to change. The fighting, the hate on the muslim minority, the politics… Many things have happened very fast the past years and even though change has been good so far, do not let it get to your head. Tourism will continue to rise and this is a double-edged sword. Meeting a military soldier with a huge rifle in front of our first homestay during the trek in Kyaukme was worrying, though they did nothing except snore very loud. Still it reminded me how close the fighting was. So be careful and watch out for yourself, I’d hate it if something were to happen to you.

Dear Myanmar, I hope I have made my feelings for you clear and even though I was with you for three and a half weeks, I had to leave you. Don’t worry, we will see each other soon.

Yours,

Rianne
SAM_5557

Malaysia – truly Asia!

After 50 km of hairpin bends in a bus with constant honking before each bend, I have arrived in the Cameron Highlands where the cool temperatures are a perfect getaway from the dense heat of the cities. Singapore, Melaka en Kuala Lumpur were all really nice, but a week of cities makes me crave for a bit of nature. Thankfully, now I’m in the midst of nature (in long trousers and a vest!!!) surrounded by tea plantations and jungles with apparently the biggest flower in the world (rafflesia). Hooray for the Highlands!

Yesterday I went with a tour and did an awesome hike through the rainforest. About 4 hours walking in (our guide: yeah, I do this whole hike in about an hour and a half on my own; I will do Mt Kinabalu (highest mountain in SEA) to check my fitness for Everest Base Camp) we had conquered the top and walked all the way to the teaplantations. About 800 acres of teaplants! Heaven! And of course, we drank some tea to recover from walking on slippery roots, climbing over and under trees and getting my dreads caught in plants. Apparently the forest sentials didn’t want me to leave. I have a good aura – thank you rainforest!

Rianne SAM_4944

So I’ve been on the road for a little over a week and I feel like a beginner. Basically because I talk with my fellow travellers who have been on the road for several months and keep telling me all those places I should see (MYANMAR!) and all those things I should do (canyoning!). Oh well, in a few months I can be the one recommending all those things to new travellers. Malaysia is brilliant though and I feel like many tourists/travellers race through it, some even admitted that. Okay, maybe it’s not as exciting as Thailand but it has so much to offer. Of course, I cannot wait to go to Bangkok, but I’m taking it slow. My plan is to spend 2 more weeks on the westcoast of Malaysia and then heading off to Bangkok in one long-ass train. I will be coming back to Malaysia to do the eastcoast and of course check out Sabah and Sarawak!