PART VI: LIMESTONE CAVES AND THE FAST BOAT TO HPA-AN
We are up early. After packing and enjoying a final breakfast from the Breeze’ veranda, we are picked up at 7:30 am and tuk-tuked to the ferry dock across town. I am a bit sorry to leave lovely mellow Mawlawyine but it is time to move on and explore anew. It is quite foggy and brisk to start. Our little trio has now grown to six with the addition of a German couple and a Chinese woman.
The fog offers a break from the tropical heat; however, it adds a level of challenge to my photography. Nonetheless, it also adds a level of texture to the environment that I find appealing. There are many fishing boats out, casting their lines and nets.
We also pass by some small villages. Other than the outboard motor, one gets the impression that life has not significantly changed here in the last 40 years.
Later the fog begins to lift. During the last 45 minutes we see an increasing number of interesting limestone rock formations, some with pagodas on top.
We arrive in Hpa-An and take a tuk tuk to Soi Brothers Guesthouse where we have made a phone reservation earlier this morning. One of the brothers, an elderly gentleman with a white Fu Manchu beard offers to set us up with a tour for the following day. For $10 each, he will arrange to take us to seven different limestone cave temples and other sites. After our last positive experience we decide we are in for another tour! Soi is a great location in the middle of town and after settling in, the six of us go for coffee drinks to the New Morning Cafe. I have a latte and a very good custard. This is my first (non Nescafe or the notorious 3-in-one packages) real coffee since arriving in Myanmar and it is great as is the real French pastry. Then we go out for lunch to a fun local place. We are served many dishes: mutton, pork, chicken, lots of veggies. Everything is delicious and only 4,000 kyat each for everything (US$4.64).
Then we walk for hours. We walk along the river to a pagoda and spend some time there having fun with the local kids. It is very hot by now and many of the children are swimming in the river. As appealing as this seems to our overheated bodies, the water looks very polluted so we only observe.
A group of local women show up and attempt to show Snowy the proper way to tie her longyi. The crowd increases and we all find this terribly funny.
Then we walk some more back into town. Along the way we discover yet another Buddhist monastery and pagoda. It’s a bit run down and they obviously don’t get many foreign visitors. We get a free personal tour of the whole place and are offered to have our fortunes told. There are gazillions of Buddha statues.
Returning to Soi Brothers, we rest a bit and then go out to dinner. Another good meal with some curry and all the trimmings: 2,000 k (US$2.32) for mine. Returning to our guesthouse we have a drink in the German couple’s room before retiring. Tomorrow will be another full-on touring day.