Blood, Kingdom and other things

Myanmar, Travel Journal

Nursery, reminds me of the blood. Monastery, reminds me of the false monks. Beach, reminds me of Ngwe Saung. Kingdom, reminds me of the thousands of temples. Nature, reminds me of the floating gardens. People, remind me of native people, undamaged by any tourist society. One month, that’s my time in Myanmar.

  • 03.17 – 04.17
  • One month

The Thabarwa Monastery

There were fourteen Workaways in Myanmar. Some were a bit shady, some were not replying and one had been visited the most; A Monastery in the suburbs of Yangon, the “Thabarwa Center”. I agreed to a two weeks stay and I did not know, what was about to happen there. Under the hood of 60 volunteers, I had joined the Medical care team and experienced not only the harsh circumstances of life in Myanmar, but I learned in eleven days about the first-time Nursery, Two-faced Monastery and the culture of Myanmar. It begins to remind me of India, when I had arrived at Sumit’s place at my Workaway called: Haryana’s Invitation. I got thrown from the Swiss culture, into the madness of true Indian culture, where I had learned so much about Indian people. Same here, I got thrown from comfortable lifestyle into an absolute chaotic experience, where I had learned so much about the people, like an absolute adrenalin shot.

My most difficult Workaway experience I ever encountered, is my personal recommendation to read. Check it out for a fully detailed explanation of this Workaway called The Experiment, where I had my first lessons as a Nurse and experience in a Monastery. I wrote The Report of Thabarwa, about the tragic circumstances, concerning this place and received critics for it’s true information. I posted the report on my blog, during my last days and just as I left, the blog fired up and made rounds around the Monastery and even international. The Workaway got shut down, due to my report. I felt not only tired, but angered, saddened and on top of it, mentally exhausted. only one place could make me feel better; I’m talking about the beaches of Myanmar. I chose Ngwe Saung.

The Getaway

Yangon – Pathein – Ngwe Saung. After 24 hours and one night in Pathein, my journey to the West coast had reached the finish in the “Dream House”, a guesthouse with great rooms for people, that travel together, in order to share the costs.

Tip about Accommodation: It is advisable to travel Myanmar by two people, that can share a queen size bed, as  the costs are lower by renting a room with a bed, than a single dorm in a hostel. Even if prices would be equal, a private bathroom is still a win. This tip applies to several countries.

The first night had free drinks, because the guesthouse celebrated army day, so I had a hard night, that I really needed to have. I had to get trainwrecked and breathe fresh air, outside any forced controlled environment, people, that don’t think esoteric, talking about a normal place. I stayed five days in Ngwe Saung and used it as a mental shelter. The main beach had a little trash problem, but as soon as you located yourself at a further and distinct place, beautiful places were showing themselves. There had also been a fair for a few days for locals and you would not believe the scenery of plastic tents, simple games, and gambling spots, that could be seen. I won a beer and the strongest red bull in history. I gambled with the locals and lost three USD, which was a lot for me, hahaha!

The deserted Kingdom of Bagan


Sunrise in Bagan.

Bagan had been a mixed feeling for me, because I suffered from a mix of sunstroke and light food poisoning during my stay there. I went back to Yangon and continued my journey to Bagan, with a night bus, where I discovered hundreds of temples with my eyes and soul, not understanding, how such unprotected monuments can be spread across the region. It was an astonishing and surreal sight to visit, that must be experienced in Myanmar. I rented an E-bike (very common thing to do in the region) and cruised with a free tour, organized by the hostel around the scrublands of the abandoned kingdom. Most of the paintings on the wall are still original, many buildings are not renovated, artefacts like written stone plates had been stranded in the rivers. Locals used them as a washing plate and other artefacts gets sold on the black market. I stayed for two days, which was enough for me and moved on, going for a trek, which I hadn’t done since Sri Lanka. I am talking about discovering the floating gardens of Inle Lake.

Journey to the floating gardens


The journey through the lands of Myanmar.

My last mission of this journey had been the discovery of Inle lake. I made my journey further East and arrived in the middle of the night in Kalaw. Instead of taking a room for a few hours of sleep, I decided to camp outside on a chair and watch “The Godfather” for 3 hours. As the morning sun had risen, I met my group of around ten people and began my Three day trek through the scrublands.

The nature seemed somewhat dry and the sun had been so aggressive, I decided to buy a local leaf hat for 50 cents, in order to protect me. The guide was very funny and entertaining and she was addicted to berries, which were growing in the wild. I saw ladies doing the hard work and men choosing the easier work. Local food had been well and most of the people were very ordinary in the group.

After we had finished our trekking in the scrublands, we had arrived in a surreal world called the floating gardens. What the locals did, was taking the earth from below the waters of Inle lake and stacking it up, until it reaches the above of the surface. Various plants grow on this place everywhere, eggplants are swimming around the little alleys, where we had to pass through with our little boat. The boat took us for two hours on an evening cruise to our town called Nyaung Shwe with a very loud engine, so get your earplugs or headphones ready with you, if you’re ever to experience this. I docked at the village, shared a room with Dustin for a few nights, ate lots of Indian food and departed from my last mission. I went back to Yangon and prepared for my leave, but not without a little extra: The Shwedagon temple.

Mission Complete: Back To Yangon

I arrived at a cheap hostel downtown in Yangon and realized, I forgot my shoes in the Bus, I took in Nyaung Shwe! It had been early morning, so I had time to figure out, how to go up again to the north (15KM). As I spent my whole day, fixing my day,  I went back in the next day, in my Longi, a local skirt, that made everyone stare at me at the airport, when I left for Thailand.

Final Impression

Friendly people they are. Letting children and women work on stone quarry they do. Respecting foreigners they will. hitting children like a cow they do.. see, the people there are not used to criticism from the outer world, they think everything they do is normal. Culture is a very clear two-sided coin and if you have a heart for the good, you will have an eye on these things and ask yourself for a right answer. The things I had seen, the things I had witnessed, the things I recommend to people to see as well; Blood, Kingdom and other things.

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