Miles of Smiles in Taungoo
At Myanmar Diaries we love unusual, off-the-beaten tracks destinations and we want to discover every inch of this beautiful country. We often decide on the whim where to go for the weekends, but it almost always ends up being a fantastic trip with amazing memories.
This time we wanted to see something different but still could not venture too far from Yangon. We thought about Nay Pyi Daw, the mysterious “empty” capital city that we had all heard of but not yet visited. The least we can say is that we were not disappointed (read one of our previous article on the empty capital). But one whole week-end in Nay Pyi Taw is a bit long considering the limited number of things to do. Thus we decided to have a one-day stopover en route in the town of Taungoo.
Taungoo is a charming small town on the Yangon-Mandalay highway, only 4-hour drive from Yangon. It is known for its elephant camps in the surrounding forests but we were keen to check out the town itself so we left by bus after work on Friday arrived around 11 pm. We quickly dropped off to sleep in our guesthouse and woke to a hearty breakfast- or should I say break-feast!- with six different types of sticky rice – sweet and salty – pancakes, bread, jam and loads of fruits. As it was rainy season, we were the only ones in the hotel which granted us an extra-warm welcome from the staff (as if it was possible for Myanmar people to be even more welcoming). Since we hadn’t planned anything, we decided to opt for bike rental at our guesthouse as we heard landscapes around Taungoo were beautiful.
We were certainly not disappointed by our choice. It took us 30 minutes to ride out of town and the crazy traffic – when you are on a bike you realize how powerless you are riding alongside trucks!- to reach Royal lake at the edge of town where dirt tracks led us to the first villages. In the blink of an eye, the scenery changes and you leave the hustle and bustle of Taungoo for the peaceful rhythms of villages.
As we pedaled along we felt serene and happy, especially as the villagers all came out to greet us. Some waved, some laughed and others shouted out a friendly ‘Hello’. A few times we were asked “Where you go”, but in truth we had no plan and were enjoying just riding and discovering the natural beauty. And oh, it was beautiful! The color palette was incredible: the intense orange of the clay dirt tracks, lavish green of fields and crisp blue sky made for a stunning contrast of colours. We took a break from time to time to observe the farmers ploughing their fields under the burning sun, using only their bodies and their oxcarts to work the land.
Unfortunately, we got caught in heavy rain while in the middle of the fields, with nowhere to shelter. That is when we saw a villager, on his motorbike, waving at us. He wanted us to come inside his house so we could keep dry from the rain. We followed him without thinking about twice – should we emphasize once again how generous Myanmar people are?! Once the rain stopped we resumed our ride with our new friend who decided to follow us for a while. We stopped at a pagoda half-shrouded by lush greens and stopped for a well-deserved drink. We enjoyed our escape from the city and truly felt we had stepped back in time. The slower pace of life and friendly people left us with big smiles on our faces and, despite our slow legs, we felt blessed.
After our long day of cycling, we decided to try another form of transportation and took the train to Nay Pyi Taw. Once again, we had barely set foot in the train station that someone came to assist us with purchasing tickets. We got our tickets, paying just 850 kyats (less than 1$) each for the 2 hour journey. While we were waiting for the train, our improvised guide was glancing at us from the distance to make sure we boarded the right coach. The ride to Nay Pyi Taw was as bumpy as our bike adventure, but it was different and peaceful. We had the opportunity to mingle with locals and to take pictures of marvelous landscapes all along the ride. We arrived in the capital city refreshed and ready for new adventures. (Check our previous article on Nay Pyi Taw to learn more about what to expect when visit the “City of the Kings”). Everywhere you go in this gorgeous country, you will be amazed by the kindness of the people. Meeting locals and learning more about them is a reason enough to visit Myanmar, the Golden (Heart) Land!
Do you want to discover Myanmar off the beaten paths?
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