36 hours in Berlin.

So an impromptu visit to Berlin was on the cards, I’ve visited before and loved it as a City. This time we were going over for a concert and a quick sightseeing adventure.

Arriving late we headed straight for our Air BnB before hitting a couple of pubs, wandered across check point charlie and grabbed some beers from one of the ‘spatis’, the famous late night shops you can buy booze and snacks from.

The next day we were up pretty early and headed in the direction of the closest piece of the Berlin wall, one of the most famous monuments in history. Walking along the wall gave a real perspective of this barrier separating a nation. We stopped for a quick breakfast where I had a matcha latte to die for.

Continuing our walk we found another piece of wall before wandering through Berlin, checking out some souvenirs and then sombrely navigating our way through the Holocaust memorial site.

The maze like structure takes up a good amount of space and it’s an interesting and haunting place as you walk between the various shapes blocks.

From here we found ourselves at the Brandenburg Gate, the famous Berlin landmark built over 200 years ago.

Moving on we spotted the memorial to Gypsies murdered in the Holocaust, a peaceful circular pool almost hidden away in the city park. It was a short walk from here to the Reichstag building, it was mostly burnt down in 1933 under suspicious circumstances which the Nazis used to their advantage against the communists.

We hung out here for a bit before checking the map and heading over to the Soviet war memorial in Tiergarten. It’s a pretty impressive monument and one of 3 you can find in Berlin. We stopped for lunch and had some yummy Asian food to fill us up, then wandered back through the City towards a bunker museum about Hitler and WWII.

This was actually super interesting, detailing Hitler’s life and how he changed into this maniacal dictator, and how the country and the political climate allowed him to gain such a control over Germany. We spent so long here we had to rush to get ready and go out to see The National.

The rest of the night was spent chaotically trying to find karaoke and then a bar to drink in! It was fun to spend a little break in Berlin and catch up on some sights.

Hanging in Hanoi for 48 hours.

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and gateway for a lot of people into the amazing country. Not only is it the entry point for Halong Bay but it’s also a great place to explore for a few days. After my last visit I couldn’t wait to explore again, see some new places and check out some new sights.

Arriving at Hanoi airport, it’s easy to get a taxi into the City and I had planned ahead by downloading Grab. It’s the Asian version of Uber and you can either pay in cash or through an account. Last time I visited Hanoi with friends the hotel was erm… cockroach friendly, so I had booked a nice one called the Light Hotel in the old quarter.

I had 48 hours before flying on to Hong Kong, so what can you do in that time??

Vietnamese Food

Is there anything better? It definitely ranks up there with my fave foods, so what better way to start the day than with some Phó the clear noodle broth that everyone in Vietnam eats.

Fancy an on the go lunch? Banh Mi is sold everywhere, French influence is found in the baguette and pate but the rest is solid Vietnamese…filled with fresh herbs, vegetables and pork.

Wash it down with Vietnamese coffee and finish it off with a French pastry, the influence from being a former colony is still strong in the food. Dinner could be fresh whole fish, BBQ or one of the egg pancake dishes like Banh Xeo where you wrap meat skewers up.with peanut sauce and crunchy salad leaves.

Stuck for dessert? Some Vietnamese cakes could go down a treat, with their blend of European and Asian flavours, or try some fresh and tasty Asian fruits!

Ho Chi Minh

The former leader’s presence here is impossible to miss, with his mausoleum dominating one area of the City along with the huge museum dedicated to his life and legacy.

The area around the Mausoleum is nice to walk around, with some gardens and the famous downed B52 plane hidden in a small lake nearby.

The museum is interesting if you enjoy learning a little about a country while you’re there, and really interesting if you’re a history buff. Especially with the information on Vietnam’s communist era.

There is also the big lake nearby which is nice to stroll around, or cross the central road running through it and check out a temple, war memorial and grab a drink or an ice cream.

Old quarter

The famous old quarter is full to the brim with coffee shops, hole in the wall restaurants and street eateries.

Unfortunately it’s also full of the same souvenir and tour shops. Its definitely a worthwhile visit to wander around and now and again you’ll find a little slice of the real old quarter.

On this visit I only spent time there in the day, but the nightlife is cheap and fun. It really starts when the curfew hits and you’re snuck from bar to bar.

The other cool thing can be found on street walking the length of Phung Hung St you pass life-like paintings of Vietnamese and Hanoi life. It’s super instagrammable and you can have a lot of fun posing at each place.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Found within the old quarter, the area around the lake is great to take a stroll first thing in the morning and, as the sun goes down you’ll catch all the locals exercising and enjoying romantic walks. It’s the small temple in the middle of the lake that most people come to see, crossing a lovely red bridge it’s a peaceful sanctuary in a very busy City.

At night everything is lit up beautifully and it’s a great place to come before heading into the winding alleyways of the old quarter.

Hanoi Train Street

I didn’t know this existed last time I came, but I wish I had! Found just on the outskirts of the old quarter, it’s cool to walk along the tracks in the daytime.

The fun part of this street is when the train comes through, usually in the evenings or more frequently on the weekend. You arrive early, pick one of the tiny bars and sit on the typical plastic stools drinking a nice cold beer or cocktail, chat to the locals and wait.

Then when it’s nearly time, you edge right up to the walls of the street and watch as the train comes down…filling the street as it zooms past. It was really fun to do and our bar got us to put coins with our names on the tracks. If we found then flattened it’s supposed to be good luck, and I found mine!

The Rest

There are a few other things you can do whilst in Hanoi, Hoa Lo prison is interesting to find out a bit about how the French treated the Vietnamese. Thang Long, the Imperial City doesn’t quite live up to its name but was pleasant to walk around, I liked the bunkers the most. There are even a couple more lakes to wander around that aren’t far away. Of course the aforementioned Halong Bay is an amazing place to visit. Hanoi is also a great start off point to explore the North such as Sapa.

The real essence of Hanoi though is immersing yourself in the culture, food and people, and enjoying the neverending sea of motorbikes that somehow part around you as you cross the road.

A day on the lake in Inle, Myanmar.

So we were up super early today to explore the lake by boat. I think it was around 4am we were getting ready, the tour was through the amazing hostel I was at…the Song of Travel.

Ready for sunrise we set off down the river towards the lake, it was so calm and peaceful as we passed through the town. Once we entered the lake it wasn’t long before we spotted the traditional fisherman. Unfortunately they are posing for the money, as fishing techniques have moved on, but it was cool to see them.

Next up was breakfast! Sat on our little 5 man boat we tucked in as the sun rose, unfortunately it was really cloudy so the sunrise wasn’t the best. Though it was cool when the shafts of light started peaking down through over the mountains.

We were soon off again, the lake was beautiful and we could spot fishermen paddling with their one leg, so they had both hands free. Pretty ingenious!

Our first stop was at a traditional silver smith, where we were shown how they make silver and watched them make extremely detailed pieces of jewelry. It was interesting but I enjoyed the cats that were hanging about more than the shop at the end.

After this we travelled past some incredible floating gardens, with loads of tomatoes growing in all different colours. Then stopped at a ‘floating market’ that was actually all on land apart from a couple of boats trying to sell us souvenirs.

I enjoyed walked around and checking out the various produce and no one is very pushy in Myanmar which made the whole experience more relaxing.

As we left we also spotted a lady wearing traditional brass neck coils, the traditional clothing of the Kayan tribe. It was a good spot and she smiled and waved at us as we sped by.

Our next stop was the Shwe Inn Thein pagoda, this was near the small village of Indein and the journey there along these small waterways was amazing.

The little village we stopped by was cute and the old ruined Pagoda were amazing, you have to pay a fee to take photos, I thought I was templed out but wish I had done it now. You can rent longyi, the traditional cloth worn in Myanmar there too. I enjoyed hanging out by the bridge while some of the others wandered around.

We went Speeding back through the little waterways towards the lake again, our next stop was to learn about lotus and cotton production. This was really interesting and we learnt a lot! A few people on the your bought some clothes from here too.

I was excited for our next stop, lunch! We were brought to a stilted village on the water and led into a room where we had some snacks and tea.

This feast they made for us was so tasty, I couldn’t have the fish but all the sides and salads tasted so fresh. I loved the green tomatoes grown on the lake. The food was soon devoured and we lay out for a rest, I even fell asleep for a moment.

Then the women who had cooked for us had us paddling them around the village in little wooden canoes. They were giggling at us trying to row the whole way, finally before we left this little guy posed for us.

I even saw a snake pop his head up out of the water as we rowed the little boats around! Our final stop was to see traditional cigars being made, I’m not much of a fan of cigars but I enjoyed trying the flavoured ones, especially banana and I liked that they made them with 100% natural ingredients.

We ended the trip going through big water plants and at the same bridge we had been on the day before. We didn’t stay long here and started the journey back to the hostel. This was one of my favourite parts as I enjoyed the views across the lake.

We finished the day with some amazing food, including tea leaf salad, and a few beers at a bar in the center of town. The next day it rained from morning till I got my night bus to Yangon, but the staff kept us we fed with evening snacks. The hostel and their staff were incredible and I would recommend everyone to stay there.

The inside scoop on Inle Lake, Myanmar.

So the bus was actually pretty nice, I managed to sleep almost the whole way and although it was annoying arriving at 4am, I decided to walk as there was no rush to check in. It wasn’t far and the only scary part was a big dog pack that I took a detour to avoid.

I arrived at the Song of Travel hostel. £8 a night and great reviews had led me to this place, plus the façade looks like a giant boom box. There was someone at reception who checked me in and let me use the ground floor bathroom and gave me a bed to lie down in till I did check in later.

I opted to pay 2000 kyat for a pancake breakfast when I woke up after a quick nap, and booked onto a boat tour around Inle for the next day. At breakfast I met a German guy who was doing a bike trip round the lake, I had thought about doing this so we agreed to meet in a couple of hours and then head out.

We managed to find another guy, Andy from Sheffield to bike with us, and after choosing from the free bikes provided by the hostel we were on our way. Stopping off at the local market, I got some deep fried tofu and a little bottle of garlic chilli sauce and a drink.

We went North first, past a cute little lake to a monastery, it wasn’t that great after seeing the ones in Mandalay and I’d probably give it a miss next time. So we were now headed South towards Inle lake, it’s a pretty easy bike ride, with just one hill that nearly killed me. Bearing in mind the last time I properly rode a bike was 3 years ago in Vietnam (that was all flat too) I didn’t do too badly, but not long after we got to the top of the hill we had a steep climb up to a pagoda with great views of the lake.

At this point the clouds above us suddenly opened up and it began to pour down. So we did the only sensible thing and waited it out with our snacks.

It soon cleared up, and we were back on our way, having a pretty good conversation as we rode on. Andy mapped our way and we found ourselves in the Tofu village. Where for 5000 kyat. (£2.50) we got a full tour of this guys traditional village.

It was pretty cool and the guy literally fed us the whole way around as we saw different ways to make tofu and some tasty Myanmar snacks. Finally we were back at his house to eat some fried tofu with a great chilli dip.

At that point the rain came back 10x worse and we had to wait a while before we could get the boat across the river. So we spent our time eating, and chatting with this guy about Myanmar life and Buddhism. It was really interesting, but the rain eventually stopped and we were on our way again. We put our bikes in the long wooden boat and settled in as we sped through small waterways, motor chugging away behind us.

Unfortunately it was still raining a little so the views of the lake were a bit obscured, but we saw fishermen paddling in their tradition manner, using their foot to steer so their arms are free to catch. We made it to the other side of the lake and walked our bikes along a wooden bridge to dry land.

Who knew Myanmar would have its own wineries?! Not me, but as we cycled back to the hostel it was there, up a steep hill and with views for the grapevines that spoke of Italy or France more than Southeast Asia.

For 5000 kyat you got a 4 wine tasting, 2 white and 2 red. They were all drinkable but even my unrefined palate could tell they weren’t top class. However, it was a fun thing to do and the views including a great sunset made it well worth the visit.

It was a short ride back to the hostel, where after relaxing for a little while we met up on the rooftop, with the addition of Julia from Belgium. After a couple of beers we headed out for some great food at a Myanmar/Dim Sum place nearby. Julia and I were up early to take a boat tour of the lake and I was soon tucked up ready for more adventures.

Sunrise, Sunset, over Bagan.

Same story today, 5am wake up. Get ready, check sky. Looking much better than yesterday, bike guy waiting for me, no hesitation this time as I sped off to the pagoda from last night.

Arriving nice and early there were only a few locals putting out their wares for the day. It was a beautiful clear morning and I was super excited for the sunrise. A few more people slowly arrived but no more than 10. So it never felt crowded. As the sun rose it sent a golden light over the pagodas of Bagan.

It was seriously one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and as the sun rose higher it just got better and better. It’s definitely nice to be able to walk the whole way around the pagoda and get different perspectives and photos of the place.

Sitting watching the sun climb higher and higher was a total lesson in contentment and I soaked up the atmosphere. Around 7am I decided it was time to move, and, after a quick walk around the nearby pagoda, off I went.

Today I had a rough plan to explore old Bagan’s temple complex and palace and try and see some of the pagoda I missed yesterday. It was great driving around this early, it was cool and even less people were about than yesterday.

After stopping off at a few cool looking pagoda I found myself by one of the main sights, Shewsandaw Pagoda, I wandered around here for a little while, but it’s definitely a shame you can’t climb up it at the moment.

My next destination was the golden palace of Bagan. I parked up just off the main old Bagan street and walked through past several cool pagoda, eventually arriving at the gates of the palace. I can’t remember exactly how much it was to go in, but it’s definitely not a must see place in Bagan.

It was a nice change of pace from the pagoda, but it’s not original and it doesn’t take long to wander around.

I left the palace and went back to my bike, my next destination, via a few more pagoda which were pretty cool, was to reach the river Irrawaddy. Arriving there I parked up in old Bagan and walked down some steps to check it out. Loads of locals were arriving and departing on boats, and a boat trip was offered to me on numerous occasions.

I opted to sit in a restaurant and have a drink while I watched the river world go by, though they seemed a bit shocked that I wanted to come in to their restaurant. I grabbed a coffee then departed, thinking it was maybe a bit too early.

I meandered down towards new Bagan as the heat of the day grew and grew. Only stopping at the more interesting pagoda. I checked Google maps and found another riverside place to try, and it was worth it.

Called the riverfront restaurant, they were super friendly and I had a lovely sweet pineapple shake, and another delicious tea leaf salad. Sat overlooking the river and mountains it was good to be out of the sun for a bit.

It was almost 2pm and I was feeling like a nap after being up so early. I went back to the hotel and set my alarm ready to try sunset again. This time it was better, still a bit too cloudy but much nicer than last time. Still with only a handful of other tourists sat with me. I chatted to one local from Mandalay for a while before his tour group of 4 ladies wanted to leave.

Once I had watched the sunset I was pretty tired, and headed back to the hotel, grabbing a beer in the bar bit foregoing the night swim. After the amazing sunset the day before I decided to have a bit of a lie in after a week of 5/6am starts. Today was my last day, I had a night bus booked at 7pm to take me to Inle Lake.

I had covered most of the temples and decided to spend the morning at the pool, where I saw an amazing rainbow in the clear sky. I also managed to get an extra 2 hours to checkout. I headed back to Moon for my lunch, trying a coconut curry this time. All the food has been amazing there and I would definitely recommend it. After the food I walked towards the river, checking out a golden pagoda that sits up high on one of the bends of the river.

I wasn’t sure what to do with the rest of my day, so I had a wander through New Bagan before heading to the riverfront restaurant from yesterday for sunset. I was again the only one there and had a front row seat to an amazing sunset. Fisherman glided past on their boats up and down the river and the golden pagoda lit up with the last rays of sunshine.

It was then time to catch my bus, so I walked back to the hotel and sat waiting patiently. A mini truck arrived packed full of other tourists and took us out to the main bus station. I got on the bus and almost immediately fell asleep, looking forward to Inle Lake.

Biking around Bagan.

So I woke up at 5am and started getting ready, looked outside and it was full on thick cloud. So I went back to bed for a bit and got up for a swim and breakfast at the hotel. No sunrise today!

I walked across the road and rented an electronic scooter, charged and ready to go for 6000 kyat for the full day till 9pm. I was a little worried at first but it was either this, cycle or walk, and I was excited to explore.

Off I sped on the main road through Bagan, and luckily there was hardly any traffic, and the roads are in pretty good shape. I headed up towards Old Bagan and the temples started coming thick and fast. I was given a map and you can download one from a keychain you get when you pay the Bagan archaeological fee.

However I decided to go rogue and try and be a full on explorer. So at some point I turned off down a dirt track towards some of the huge brown pagodas. I stopped off and made sure I remembered to turn the bike off so I wouldn’t run the battery down. I then wandered slowly through the pagodas, each one seemed to have a Buddha inside.

They were beautiful, old and it was a surreal experience finally being here after reading and hearing so much about it. There were pagodas of all sizes just on their own, but also bigger complexes with outer walls and doorways to explore. I definitely felt like Indiana Jones and was sure I would find some ancient treasure.

After taking some fun pics and probably being far too excited about it all I headed down the next dirt track I could see, the paths here are quite small and sandy but I found it pretty easy going. It was only when the sand got a bit deeper that the bike struggled and I learnt to avoid this pretty quickly.

I actually was looking for a pagoda that I could climb up to get some good views, and later there would be some random locals asking if they could take me to some, bit I heard that after the earthquake in …… A lot of the pagoda were shut as it’s too dangerous to climb them.

I continued on, stopping at ones I liked the look of, jumping on and off the bike as I pleased. Then I saw a huge temple near one of the places I had stopped, so I worked out which path seemed to lead there and headed over.

It turned out this was one of the more popular points of interest, called Dhammayan Gyi temple. You could go inside this one and go through huge corridors and small windows taking you in and out of the building. There were even a few shacks outside selling drinks and snacks.

After this I continued my exploration until about 1pm, realised I had been driving around for about 4 and a half hours so decided I would head back to Moon in New Bagan for lunch. This time I had a bright green mint and lime drink, and tried the traditional Myanmar tea leaf salad.

Now this salad is literally one of the tastiest things I have ever tried. Fermented tea leaves, tomatoes, onions, and a load of crunchy beans and nuts all covered in garlic and chilli. I couldn’t believe how good it tasted and I felt bad for the aubergine curry I had next. It still tasted good but nothing like the salad.

After cooling down a bit in the restaurant and chatting to a guy who worked there, I stopped off at a couple more pagoda but it was super hot by this point, so after driving around through Old Bagan and up to ….. I drove straight back to the hotel and chilled out for a couple of hours.

After sunrise had been a miss I was looking forward to the sunset, and went back out on my bike at around 5pm knowing sunset was just after 6pm. The guy in Moon restaurant had given me a couple of tips on where to go but as I drove up the main road out of New Bagan the sky was dark and flashes of lightning were visible on the horizon.

I passed one of the guaranteed spots pretty quickly but wanted to check out the others, this was a big mistake as I then struggled to find them, only managing to find some small banks that you can view the sunset from.

So I quickly headed back to the spot from earlier, just making it about ten minutes before sunset. Although it didn’t really matter as it was again a bit too cloudy for a decent one. It was cool seeing the lightning and rain in the distance, I soon realised it was heading my way and jumped on my bike, getting back just before the heavens opened.

So I ended the night with a drink and swim at the pool as lightning illuminated the night sky above me.

Mingun and the cracked pagoda.

I was up early again today, knowing that my bus to Bagan was booked for 2pm I deliberated on what to do. I went down for a breakfast of noodles and fruit and spoke to the reception for help. I wanted to know if I could make it to Mingun, an area North of Mandalay, and back by 2pm.

Luckily for me if I left in the next ten minutes I could make the 9am boat up the river, so with the help of the hostel staff I was racing there in the back of a tuk tuk.

After sitting around from 8:45 the boat was acually ready to leave for 9am so myself and 4 other tourists walked a very unsteady plank of wood up to the boat and we sped off up river. The journey took around an hour and it was great, I spent it bird watching and looking for river dolphins, unfortunately I didn’t see any of the latter.

Once you arrive in Mingun you pay a small tourist fee, and decide if you want to walk around yourself or let a local latch on to you and take you around with the expectancy of a tip at the end.

A young guy latched on to me and I let him take me around as he promised me some thanaka paste. It’s a traditional paste made from a tree, they rub the bark onto a flat stone with some water to create it. Then apply it to areas at risk of sun damage.

Thanaka’d up the first sight was the Mingun Pahtodawgyi, a huge unfinished pagoda, first the king who was building it died, then it was hit by several earthquakes. It’s very impressive even unfinished and it’s cool seeing the huge cracks going down through it.

Next up is the Mingun bell, the second largest in the world and the largest uncracked bell. I got to stand in it and listen to people striking it with a huge piece of wood before I had a go myself.

The 3rd sight is the white pagoda, almost blinding to the eye in the sunlight. Hsinbyume pagoda is striking with its wavy design and golden pagoda at the summit. I wandered around here in awe.

I stopped for a drink as it was getting pretty hot at this point and chatted to my guide. Then we went to see a small pagoda with some interesting Buddha inside. One was made completely from one teak tree, another was stone and another made from metal. It was nice but probably not a must see.

The huge traditional boat just outside was pretty cool, again being carved from one huge tree. The last stop were the huge lion sculptures that are now missing their heads. I thought they looked more like elephants but was assured they were lions. At this point I went my seperate way from the guide, giving him 5000 for his troubles. He started asking for US dollars and I think was a bit disappointed I didn’t have any.

I spent the next hour wandering around checking out all the fried goods and trinkets lining the main street. Then it was back on the boat and back to Mandalay. I took a motorbike taxi back to the hostel with 30 minutes to spare till my bus.

Then it was a 6 hour, 96 Mile journey of stopping every 10-15 minutes to let people on and off. Even when I thought the little mini bus was full they pulled out plastic stools for more people to sit on. I was super excited to get going to Bagan, it’s probably the main reason people head to Myanmar.

I arrived at the station around 7:30pm and had to take an expensive taxi -12,000 kyat into New Bagan where I was staying. There are 3 areas you can choose from, the others being Old Bagan and Nyaung-U. It’s pretty same same with anywhere you stay as they kind of surround the main temple area. You have to pay 25,000 kyat for a 3 day pass to the Bagan area. About £12 which I didn’t mind at all if it allows them to keep the temple complex in good shape.

I checked in and immediately headed to a vegetarian place I had heard of called Moon (Be kind to animals) it was a 15 minutes walk from the hotel and I saw my first pagoda in the darkness just off the main road. The food at Moon was amazing, I had a tea leaf curry with rice, it tasted so fresh and garlicky. I couldn’t wait to try more on the menu.

Heading back I was up early (again) to rent an E-bike, am electric motor bike at 5am to go see the sunrise from one of the pagoda.

Exploring the ancient Cities of Myanmar.

Today I was up super early, I got everything ready the night before including a shower so I could get up 15 minutes before Min Min was picking me up. This was still 4:30am but I was excited enough to not feel too tired, Min Min was waiting for me outside and off we went towards U Bein Bridge, the longest wooden bridge in the world. It’s located south of Mandalay and is a popular spot for sunrise and sunset.

On the way we stopped at a pagoda where the monks were washing the face of Buddha, people arrived to pray and attach gold leaf to the body of the Buddha. It was a nice little start to the day.

We drove out of the City and into the countryside, arriving at U Bridge at around 6am. It was so quiet and only 2 other tourists around, unfortunately it was also really cloudy so I wouldn’t get a good sunrise. I still loved walking along the bridge and taking with the locals, I even found a little chameleon friend.

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Once I had walked to one side and back it was on to the next part of the tour, the ancient Cities. We stopped at a huge broken pagoda, destroyed by an earthquake, I had the freedom to explore the whole place, and I had it all to myself. After about 20 minutes or so I was ready for breakfast, with Min Min waiting just across the road from me.

Breakfast was a traditional Myanmar dish consisting of thick cold noodles with egg and a chilli, garlic peanut sauce. It was delicious and came with a banana plant soup. I ate it so fast the lady serving in the little covered shack was asking if I needed more! Even the little side dish of bean sprouts with a slice of lime tasted really good.

Once breakfast was finished it was back on the bike to continue onwards. We now headed to Innwa, one of the ancient Cities of Myanmar. The bike journey was so cool, passing by old temples, banana tree groves and rice paddies. We passed the old ancient walls of the City and really went off road.

The main place to see is a huge stone temple that you can explore, with a white and gold pagoda adjacent to it. I really enjoyed this place, it was a beautiful building and again I wandered around without seeing anyone else.

After I had been on my little adventure around the area, we continued to an old tower that had also been damaged by earthquakes, we didn’t linger here as you’re not able to climb it so no exploring!

The next stop was a small partly damaged pagoda with some cool Buddhas and great views of people working in the rice fields. This place was so peaceful, with villagers going about their morning duties and the scent of incense filling the air.

Our last stop in the Southern area of Mandalay was an old wooden monastery. I believe it’s used to teach children, but I couldn’t see anyone around, just a few squirrels and some dogs guarding the steps up, so I didn’t dare to climb them.

Next on the agenda was Sagaing hill, to get there we drove back up towards Mandalay before crossing the river over the …. bridge. Min Min stopped for me to take some pictures of the Irrawaddy river up close, then we started to ascend the hill.

Again I had to get off at the steepest part but it was definitely worth it as we reached the top and I took a short uphill walk to reach Soon U Ponya Shin pagoda, I hadn’t done any research on this so it was a great bonus. The bright blue curve of the temple along with all the Buddha inside was amazing. Plus the view of you walked a little further up over the whole river delta was spectacular.

We drove back down and stopped at one more pagoda, a controversial one that the government had painted gold against the community wishes. This one was good but I was a bit pagoda’d out at that point. We continued our drive and stopped for tea at a little teahouse while we waited to go to the next temple.

This next one was really cool, mainly because we got to watch the monks there chant and ring their bells before queueing up for food from one of the nearby villages. There was a lot of ceremony involved and it felt great to be able to watch it. They eat lunch at 11:30 and that’s their last meal for the day.

It was a long drive back into Mandalay but interesting to watch day to day life and the locals would always wave and smile when they saw me going past as a westerner.

Arriving back in Mandalay Min Min wanted to show me one last point of interest, Shwe In Bin monastery. I’m so glad he did as it was a beautiful wooden building with lots of intricate design. Monks walked peacefully about and I probably spent more time there than in some of the others places due to its beauty.

I was soon back at the hostel and ready to relax after being out for over 8 hours it cost me 20000 kyat for the whole day with Min Min, including food and drinks, he was so great and explained a lot about Myanmar life. I chilled out till the early evening coolness and had a wander around the hostel area. I don’t know if I was just in the wrong place but it felt like there wasn’t really much in the way of shops/restaurants or bars in Mandalay.

That evening I walked up the night market which wasn’t great, before finding a little restaurant on the street called Shan Ma Ma. It was similar to the night before, you ordered your main dish then got some sides and soup to go along with it. After explaining I only ate vegetables I was soon tucking into we great food again.

Suddenly the whole street went dark and I realised it was a power cut. My second of the holiday. Luckily the restaurant had a back up generator so I finished my meal with a beer before walking back some very dark streets and I think I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

Gili T and the Waterlice

Even after doing so much sightseeing every day, 2 days of relaxation and chilling out was enough for us so we decided to take a boat trip out to some cool snorkeling spots where we might see more turtles and some other cool sealife. Our hotel organised it and after being escorted to the boat we jumped and were given the chance to have flippers.

The boat was fun and pretty rocky as we crossed between the islands to Gili Meno and turtle point! Once we reached our spot everyone jumped in and followed our snorkel guide. As we were swimming it felt like something had stung or bit me! I had a bit of a panic and quickly looked around me but I couldn’t see anything.

This continued for the rest of the swim as we watched turtles far below us grazing on the seabed, one of them came swimming up to the surface and the whole group went crazy trying to get close to it, why can’t we just enjoy things without having to touch?

I later found out that the little stings I was getting were from sea lice – more on them here : https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/oceanfit.com.au/education/sea-lice-an-itchy-problem/amp

The swim took us to our boat which had gone ahead and was waiting for us all. We jumped back on and sped off to the next snorkelling spot a little closer to the shore. The fish here were good and it was fun being a bit further out than I had dared the day before, but after the 3rd spot it all became a bit too similar. Even though we were in a group of 20 or so I never felt too crowded apart from the turtle moment.

We stopped on Gili Air and had a little wander and a beer to celebrate a good days snorkelling before heading back to Gili T as the sun was starting to go down. When we got back Peter decided to go for a massage, but I was only interested in seeing that amazing sunset one more time.

So I walked over to the West side of the island and sat at a table, ordered a beer and watched an incredible sunset over Bali. It was sad to think that tomorrow would be the last day we spent in Asia. That night we went back to the BBQ place where I had lobster and Peter had steak. It was so good and cheap compared to back home, but expensive compared to the rest of Bali.

Gili T and the Turtle

Today we decided to relax on the beach on the North West of the island and do a lot of snorkeling, so we met up with Liv and Jord and took the same track from yesterday up to the beach.

It was hot and beautiful as we walked along, showing the others the swings and pointing out a few of the more interesting parts of the route. We made it to the beach and, donning our masks we started off through the shallow rocky water to get to the good stuff. We did see a few starfish on the way, but as soon as we dove into that clear water a whole world was revealed.

We saw all sorts of colourful fish, definitely more than the day before and as we got further out huge schools of fish greeted us and we followed them around, spotting some pretty big fish in the depths.

I even saw a barracuda hovering near the surface only a few feet away. Thankfully we didn’t see anymore sea snakes, and it was nice alternating between snorkelling and sunbathing. I would say that you could do with getting some aqua shoes as the shallow part of the sea was pretty rocky and spiky.

After sunbathing and relaxing with a beer or two Jord and I headed back out to snorkel. We went pretty far out and saw some big fish and even tried to find some reef sharks to no avail. After about an hour or so we were about to give up our turtle hunt when I noticed something in the distance. Wildly gesturing to Jord we Sam like mad men in that direction and as we got closer our excitement grew. It was definitely a turtle!

It was so majestic as we swam alongside it, we took a few photos and the turtle seemed so relaxed. We followed it for quite a long time before realising the sun wax going down and we were a good 20 minute swim/walk from the others. So we said our goodbyes to the turtle and headed for shore, making it back just in time to watch the sun set behind Mount Agung. It’s definitely in my top 3 sunsets I’ve ever seen, the sky was such a deep red as we sat there listening to nice chill out music and sipping a cold beer.

After all the excitement and swimming we were pretty tired so headed back to the hotel and ate at the restaurant before turning in, wondering what tomorrow would bring.