News from the Jungles

Short message for friends how lost us – we are OK.
Living in paradise island is something incredible, please forgive us for being quite for a while.
Since last post nothing outstanding happened, actually it did, but we are too lazy to write about it.

A week ago we made a day trip to Ko Samui for visa extension. Last time we been on Ko Samui island four years ago. Huge development, large number of tourist had change the island, and for now I can say that I do not like Ko Samui – hot, noise, traffic jams, etc. Ko Phangan is very, very, very quite to compare with Ko Samui, so we are very, very, very happy that we are here.

Visa extension process took about 20 minutes and cost regular 1900 baht. Assuming that Red Shirt Protests and street strikes are still happening in Bangkok, the price for one month in Thailand looks too expensive. I hope the Thai government will cancel the visas fee again, like it did after airport blockade in winter 2008. We was happy to use free of charge visas and will be happy to do this again.

It is a rainy season, but rain is not often. Sometimes it is very hot and dry, but sometimes huge rain happens. When it happens we do not have Internet connection and even electricity sometimes 🙂

After all we are doing very well, making some plans and enjoying the life. Pretty and simple.

Snorkeling on Ko Phangan

Today was a nice weather, not so hot and cloudy, and we decided to go snorkeling. The beach at Ao Mae Hat with beautiful view to Ko Ma is our favorite spot for snorkeling. This place very popular with divers and other snorkelers.
The visibility was ok, about 20-25 meter. Through the clear water you can see rich marine life in the corals just 10 meters from the beach!

clear water

Today we saw a lot of fishes, different size and color. This one are the favorites of the day:

tropical fish
Fishes are Chaetodon lunula and Chelmon rostratus.

In Jungles

Planning to stay on Ko Phangan island for about two month, we were aimed to rent a nice house.
There are a lot of houses for rent on Ko Phangan, but majority of them are full with tenants for now. Seems that season is still high in April.
But we got a luck too and found a pleasant place:

House on Ko Phangan

I love this place: very shady (the house surrounded by trees and palm trees), very quite (only birds sometimes disturb us) and very private.

Veranda with jungle view

The house has spacious living room and large bedroom, fully equipment kitchen and bathroom.
Living room

Bedroom Kitchen

House has everything necessary for comfortable living: Air Condition, bathtube with hot water, satellite TV and ADSL Internet.

That is our small paradise, where we gonna live and work for a next few month.
Dima for work

The price was very generous, we pay 10,000 baht (less than USD 300) per month, Thai owners asked us do not tell anyone, that we got it so cheap :). Every month we have to pay extra for utility, such as Internet, electricity and water, but still price will be fine for us.

So, the dreams can come true – now we live deep in Jungles!

In Thailand, again

Two weeks ago we came from Myanmar to Bangkok. The time past quickly with some business in Bangkok and Pattaya. We rent a storage box in Pattaya, where we normally keep all things that we have in Thailand (cloth, some leaving staff, souvenirs from different countries, motorbike gear, etc). Going to Bangkok we left in Bangkok in guesthouse Dima`s big backpack and went to Myanmar particularly without luggage. That is actually help us to save more than USD 10 with AirAsia tickets. On the way back from Burma we have to collect all our staff and move it a one place and took what we need to go to Ko Phangan.
It takes time.
Yesterday we finally went to Ko Phangan, the island in Thailand, where we been last year and liked it so much.

Ko Phangan sunset

Last evening in Myanmar

From Bagan to Yangon we took a nice air condition bus and arrived to Yangon at 4 a.m. on Highway bus station. From bus station we took a city bus N 43 and arrived to Sule Pagoda within sunrise.

That time we decided to stay in Myanmar Motherland Inn 2, which was highly recommended to us by Belgium traveler we met in Kalaw.
This cheap hostel has two amenities: free shuttle bus to airport and buffet breakfast. The stuff also nice and helpful, but cheap room very small and hot in this time of year.

The last evening in Myanmar we spent drinking Myanmar beer and watching local families on the Yangon streets.

Bagan and it`s 4000 temples

From Mandalay we planned to go to Bagan. Thanks to Indian lady from hotel we and two other travelers took a local city pick-up to go to bus station, Instead pay $ 5-7 for taxi we paid 300 kiat per person. On bus stand we found only one bus going to Bagan.

Bagan temples

In Bagan we chose in New Park guest house where we rent a room for 10 dollars with breakfast. Actually it was not a room, but a bungalow with nice porches.

Bagan is a ancient capital of Burmese empire, and famous around the world for it`s 4000 temples 3-13 centuries A.D.

The area with temples and nobody can tell you how Bagan is big. Temples and pagodas are everywhere. We spent there about 6 days cycling around the temples and we could not see all of them.
Ancient paintings

Exploring the temples by bicycle was very fun and interesting. The temples of Angkor Wat still the most monumental temples, but Bagan archaeological site has something special too. Ancient painting inside the temples are still possible to view, some of them has been restored, but some not.

The other good thing about Bagan temples, that they are too crowded, so it give you a chance to enjoy this relics with pleasure.

Burmese monk

Mandalay and jade market

Mandalay was not attractive to us as a city with temples or palaces. We came there for shopping.

It is not a big secret, that Myanmar is a kind of citadel for black gems market. In every tourist place somebody will try to sell you a “real ruby” for a “very good price” and every souvenir shop have special stand with sparkling small things there. But prices usually are not very good and quality of stones is very poor on this tourist shops. We went to shopping to local jade market.

The Jade Market located far away from center of Mandalay. First what we saw, when we came to place where market should be, was rows of locals working on a big machines.

Polishing gems

That is how Burmese polish the gems.

Near the entrance to the market there is a big sign saying that foreigner should pay 1 dollar for entrance ticket. Seems that market is not very popular with tourists. Nobody was interested of us and we came through this sign with no payment.

Inside the market there are lines with seller and buyers. Some of them trading jewelery small gems, but some selling huge stones.

Locals was so busy with trade, that even did not pay any attention for two foreigners walking around. But for us the main point was a purchase.

We stopped near one stand, owned by Mongolian family. The owner showed us some gems and asked a nice price. In Moscow I worked as a jewelery photographer and watched a lot of brilliants and rubies. So I`m knowledgeable a bit how to check the stones and have some ideas about prices.

We chose zircons, sapphires and spinel. Jade we bought from Burmese lady, with hard bargain we got half price, what she asked from the beginning.

We was so happy about the treasure we got, and about the money we paid.

Hsipaw to Mandalay by train

Burmese boy

From Hsipaw we decided to take a train to see Gokteik railway viaduk and get new experience. Ticket to «Upper Class» cost 9 dollars, the ordinary cost 6. The difference is not so big — same train, same comfort (upper class has no aicondition and even fan). But the good thing is that it is allowed only passengers with ticket to upper class.

The train left Hsipaw train station at 8:30 a.m. Half hour later, in the middle of colorful fields we stopped with big noise of breaks.

– Wheel on the ground — withour any worries said Burmese lady sitting opposite.

myanmar train

And she was right, the wheel was on the ground and it took about 1 hour to put it back. Seems the situation like this is normal for this place, because everybody was ok about that.

The whole trip was about this Gokteik railway viaduk, marvelously constructed under deep and huge canyon.


We arrived to Mandalay in the middle of the night, the whole trip took about 14 hours.
From Hsipaw we tried to book a room in Royal Guest House, but the hotel was full. The only hotel we could find in the middle of the night was Sabai Phyu Hotel. The room are not so cheap, from 8 dollars, but very old and duty.

Inle lake and floating life of Intha tribal villages

To go to Nuangshwe we spent about 20 minutes waiting for a pick-up on stand on the main road. Pick up was full of locals, carrying the passengers on roof is a not a big deal for Myanmar. The local price is 1500 kiat per person (as one Burmese old man told me), but the driver asked at the beginning incredible high price. But as usual he agreed for 2000 kiat per person.

We did not like Nuangshwe. It is not so agly town, but Kalaw was much quieter and nicer. In Bright Hotel we got a nice room with veranda for 10 dollar and it was the cheapest we could find around. There are few nice places in the town, serving good local and European food, but prices are high. Nuangshwe have dozens of pancake cafe – that was very good.

Inle lake

Full day trip with private boat cost us 13 dollars, it can be cheaper if we will share the boat with other travelers. Inle Lake itself is not so big, but the area with Intha tribal villages who living on lake is huge. The rice is ground on the fields around and irrigate with canals from lake. All other vegetable locals are growing on the water — on float bamboo rafts covered with dirt and lake weed The villages are also located on the water, bamboo huts based on few piles.


The boat is necessary for every family and Inle lake famous worldwide because of how the local fishermen operate with boat. They row the boat by foot only.

floating market

In Yawama village we arrived just on time — it was a market day (the dame 5 day system as was in Kalaw). Market isself was not authentic — a lot of tourists and a lot of souvenir vendors. They start doing their jobs just you showing up in a canal, floating sellers trying to attack your boat and will no let you go until you buy some silver jewelery for 2 dollars.

We liked the trip around the lake very much, especially Indein village with not restored stupas, where you can feel yourself treasure hunter or great traveler.
Indein vallage

In Nuangshwe we met a Lithuanian couple we met before in Kalaw. They finished 3 days trek from Kalaw to Inle and were a bit disappointed by guide, it was a 18 years old girl, barely speaks English, but the trek was very interesting for them.