In planning a trip to Myanmar, you hear a few tales about the difficulties travellers have with transport… With accommodation… With money… Or, well, generally with everything. It’s this country that hasn’t been in the centre of tourism for all that long, and isn’t yet set up for handling the number of us making our way into the country.
I had an insane experience of just how unprepared the country is for tourism when I went to Hsi Paw for a little trekking fun. I’d met up with a friend (Leila) in Pyin Oo Lwin, and we did the iconic (yet long) train journey from there to Hsi Paw just to see the Gokteik Viaduct.
We arrived late at night, well behind schedule (that’s normal for Myanmar), were driven to our hotel, and as we checked in, Leila asked about trekking trips starting the next day. Immediately the manager responded – “no trekking”. We thought there was a misunderstanding. Perhaps he didn’t speak much English? So we ventured out to get more information.
What we eventually discovered, now that the holiday is over, just seems like an insane story to tell.
The entire city couldn’t run any treks. Not a single company. Why? Because the Shan State Rebels and the Government were holding negotiations. Someone had contacted the main tour agency in town and warned them that tourists shouldn’t venture into the countryside in case things got a little hairy. Leila and I met a couple of people who had been on a trek when the notice first came. They told us stories, and even showed us a few pictures, of people wandering around with guns. These people didn’t know whether to keep walking or find somewhere to hide.
With no idea on when this would all be over, we decided to make our own short trip to a nearby waterfall. But once again, we met a wall.
We’d hired some bikes from “Mr Book” in town (for a tiny 2,000 kyat) and had some advice thrown in for free.
Mr Book told us that to get to the waterfall, we head out of town towards the monastery and then walk from there to the waterfall. Simple.
As it turned out, things were not so simple… It took us an unreasonably long time to get to the Monastery with the city map being basically useless. Then once we did finally arrive, we walked around for a good hour, unable to find out how to walk to this waterfall.
Somehow, magically, we did eventually find the path though.
If you’re keen to check it out, here’s the directions from the Monastery:
- You’ll get to the Monastery in one of two ways. You’ll either make it the sensible way, where you turn right from the main road and come straight up to the Monastery… Or you’ll take the long, unclear route and come in the back way (like Leila and I did). Either way, you want to be on the side furthest from the town, and closest to the main road. Wander around a bit and you should eventually find a small dirt path that’s taking you further from the town. Head down here! But before you do, check out the view of the waterfall – but don’t worry. It isn’t as far as it looks!
- Eventually, you’ll find yourself at an intersection. Take a right turn.
- The road will soon end in a fork – continue along the right.
- Continue straight (no more right turns) and you should soon pass a building with a well.
- When you reach a proper road (remember we’re talking Myanmar standards), take a left.
- Continue along this road until you reach another fork. Here, take a left and head over the makeshift bridge.
You should arrive at the waterfall soon – the way is pretty clear from here!
I would like to point out that these are the directions we took to see the waterfall. We saw others at the waterfall, who had apparently come directly from the town – but we don’t know where they started!
Read More at: Myanmar Travel
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