Bagan, MyanmarBagan, Myanmar

Bagan – Exploring thousands of Pagodas and temples with bicycle

Bagan temple fields are really a highlight – over 2000 temples and pagodas – built in only 250 years starting approx. 1000 years ago…

We have chosen to get spoilt and to stay in a very nice hotel (Blue Bird in New Bagan) and to take our time to explore the 40 km2 by bicycle (no Mountainbike, just a local bike without gears – repair stations on the way and definitely needed). Two challenging factors: the temperature (39 degrees in the shade) but with mercyless sun and the unpaved “paths” between the two main roads leading to the hidden gems…

The pagodas and temples used to be painted in white (or with golden tops) with fine decoration. The last couple of hundred years have washed away the outside decoration in most cases – whats left is the red brick stone which is now the dominating color.

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Inwa, MyanmarInwa, Myanmar

Der Karren, der im Dreck steckenblieb / The 3 former royal capitals Sagain, Inwa and Amarapura

Next day we made a tour to Sagain – with a sweaty climb up the Sagain Hill, Inwa – with a „Karren, der im Dreck steckenblieb“  and Amarapura – with an >160 years old and 1,2km long teak wood bridge…

Sagain Hill is spiked with pagodas and temples – countless. The way up (must be more than 1000 steps) was quite a workout – on the top we had a cup of tea in a questionable clean cup (no, there was no side effect) on a terrace with very nice view on shaky sticks… When checking out the temples we found a quite good artist up there as well and we supported the local art scene with a bit of extra revenue.  Also quite interesting in the temple the big rabbit next to the Buddha  – he used to be a rabbit in a former life!

Inwa used to be a capital of the kingdom, but now is a farmer village with some day tourism and not a lot of paved roads.

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Kuthodaw Pagoda, MyanmarKuthodaw Pagoda, Myanmar

Wet start in Mandalay / 99 Pagodas on the way to Mandalay

99 Pagodas already on the way from the airport in Mandalay to the city center… wow…

After arrival we thought we walk to the first temple and/or pagoda but after half an hour we were so wet (even with rain gear) that we ended up in a café to think about plan B (other than walking or bicycle)…

Next day we got a car to make a not too wet pagoda / temple tour through Mandalay (plus some shopping: umbrella and gold leaf sheets)… We visited a monastery (Shwedandaw), a former part of the emperor palace. As King Mindon passed away in that wooden hall, his son placed it outside the palace walls and due to the bombs in WWII and the fire it is the only remaining piece of the royal palace. Old, dark teak wood with wonderful wood carvings, covered with gold leaves… Beautiful!

Close by the Kuthodaw Pagoda has the text of the Buddhist “bible” (the tipika) carved in > 700 stone plates – for each a little Pagoda built.

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Cap Malheureux, MauritiusCap Malheureux, Mauritius

Die Ruhe nach dem Sturm

Das Auge des Zyklons ist recht gut an uns vorbei gezogen (La Reunion ist auch zumindest einigermaßen glimpflich davon gekommen). Die Ausläufer haben uns aber ganz gut das Wetter vermasselt – und auch das Meer gut aufgewühlt, weshalb die Sicht sehr schlecht war und wir deswegen diesmal leider auf das Tauchen verzichtet haben (es wäre sowieso nur noch ein Tag möglich gewesen…). Immerhin kann man Bodysurfing machen, was nicht oft geht auf Mauritius, normalerweise ist die Lagune ganz ruhig… richtige Wellen direkt am Strand sind eher eine Seltenheit, so war die gesamte Dorfjugend am Strand – und Thorsten mit großem Eifer dabei und kaum mehr aus dem Wasser zu kriegen… Ich habe meinen Klumpfuß in den Schatten gelegt. Übrigens Vorsicht vor gelben Riesenwespen auf Mauritius, die sind alles andere als harmlos, die Locals können ein Lied davon singen… nach dem kleinen Missgeschick mit einer dieser Wespen an der Wade vom Neujahrstag, konnte ich immerhin am 5.1. wieder halbwegs ordentlich laufen (zum Glück kann man überall mit dem Roller hinfahren). Aber man kommt ganz gut ins Gespräch mit den Locals im Cafe und jeder hatte seine Wespen Erfahrungen beizutragen (Spannweite von Arm 5 Tage in ner Schlinge bis zu 10 Tage Krankenhaus, weil man gleich mehrfach erwischt wurde…).

Da das Tauchen also nichts wurde, taten wir uns mehr auf dem Land um (der Roller hatte nach der Woche 400km mehr auf dem Tacho).

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Weather Forecast, MauritiusWeather Forecast, Mauritius

Silvester auf Mauritius und die Frage, warum das Wetter so schlecht ist und alles zu hat

Den Silvesterabend haben wir stilvoll bei unserem französischen, ein bisschen chaotischen Host gefeiert. Er hat groß gekocht, als Vorspeise einen großen Teller mit Austern und Riesengarnelen – da wir etwas ohne Fisch oder Meeresfrüchte wollten, haben wir Lachs bekommen *smiley winking* Hauptspeise war ein wirklich sehr gutes Rinderfilet im Blätterteigmantel und Gratin. Das Maccaron / Eis Dessert ist aufgrund von etwas längeren Geschichten und der Abwesenheit von Zeitmanagement leider erst so ca. 1,5 Minuten vor 12 aus der Küche gekommen… So haben wir es nicht für das Feuerwerk an den Strand geschafft, was aber mehr für die Einheimischen ein Drama war als für uns, normalerweise fährt man mit dem Boot in die Bucht raus und schaut sich die großen Hotelfeuerwerke an… *smiley winking* Für uns tat es aber auch Sekt an „unserer“ Gartenbar mit dem Feuerwerk am Himmel zwischen den Palmen…

Das Wetter im neuen Jahr ist mächtig bescheiden – da wir mit Roller unterwegs sind, ärgert uns der ständige, ganz schön starke Regen doch etwas… Bei der abendlichen Fahrt am Neujahrstag zum Restaurant in einem Nachbarort haben wir zum Glück Wechselklamotten mitgenommen…

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Mont Choisy Beach, MauritiusMont Choisy Beach, Mauritius

Mauritius – A cultural melting pot with endless summer

Well, when we arrived after an 11h night flight, we were a little done… but getting out of the airport at 6am and right away searching for sunglasses was quite promising…

The airport is on the other side of the island, approx. 70km or a good hour’s drive from our little guesthouse away. So we had a little island tour already (lots of sugar cane fields… guess how this might have an influence on the cocktail list…) before we arrived at the guesthouse, had a nice breakfast in the garden before we got our rooms and organized the essentials (scooter rent for the time we are here, calling the diving center…). Ah yes, and we were introduced to the guesthouse cat “Bebe” (a completely spoiled little cat which once used my T-Shirt as a towel as it was not lucky enough to escape the heavy tropical rain shower in time) *smiley tounge*

The first days were all about the beaches…

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Mulu National Park, MalaysiaMulu National Park, Malaysia

Mulu – caves and bats

Coming from Brunei and getting back into Malaysia was easy – bus starting off directly in front of our hotel, leaving us 30 minutes for the breakfast buffet in the lobby *smiley smiling* However all buses in Malaysia and Brunei seem to originally have been fridges now just with addition of some wheels… *bibber*

Defrosting in Miri was easy with temperatures well above 30 degrees. Overall this city is only a necessary stop over place for us and in general more an oil-industry than a tourist town. We found a nice spot to stay for the night at the Dillenia Guest House and spent the afternoon exploring the city.

Next morning, again a flight because the other option involves hours and hours on small boats with transfers at various places and/ or some serious trekking through the jungle along the “headhunters” trail.

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Bandar Seri Begawan, BruneiBandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Brunei – not a small Dubai

We were quite curious how Brunei will be like so we spent 2 days there… is Brunei another small version of Dubai due to the oil found offshore of this little sultanate? Well, it isn’t really… there is a mosque with lots of gold on the exterior, but some of the houses (especially the traditional water village houses) are still quite basic (although there is water and electricity supply)…

The water village Kampong Ayer is HUGE, we strolled around and found quite some plant loving inhabitants (almost anything makes a good pot for plants) and it is interesting to see that everything seems to exist in a way: schools, school boat, petrol station for the boats (yes, a liter is only 0,5 Brunei Dollar = 33 Euro cent!!!), little restaurants…

Also quite interesting, there was a quite ugly clock tower somewhere in the city which is supposed to be important. Why?

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Sepilok, MalaysiaSepilok, Malaysia

Sepilok – or Orang-Utans up close

Coming from the Kinabatangan jungle area we decided to skip Sandakan city due to some well phrased comments in guide books („light on must-see attractions“) and advise from fellow travellers coming the opposite direction („quite ugly city without anything to see“) and headed strait to Sepilok.

What is Sepilok?

But honestly it is partially a sad story…

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Kinabatangan, MalaysiaKinabatangan, Malaysia

Kinabatangan – Where are the elephants?

We heard that there are pygmy elephants around Kinabatangan – in preparation for our Africa adventure later this year we decided to start small with elephants and go there to see this very rare (1000 – 1500 animals left) and endangered species. But will come back to the topic rare a little later…

To go to the jungle, we had to take a bus several hours through palm oil plantations. Hardly any forest left, what a shame… we could really see what “loss of habitat” means for the monkeys, elephants and other animals…

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