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The Travel Episodes

Burma

Road to Mandalay

A ship from the British Empire. A captain singing karaoke. Spirits at dawn. Martin Schacht and Ken Schlucht­mann travel down the muddy river Ayey­ar­waddy from north to south towards Manda­lay.

Burma has maste­red the art of being either dusty or muddy like no other coun­try. Some­ti­mes it’s even both at once. The soil swit­ches abruptly between the two states, regard­less of whether it’s rainy season or dry season, north or south, city or coun­try­side. It’s the rebirth of dust from mud and from dust again, a sams­ara of grime. No sooner does the dust come into contact with water than it trans­forms into a viscous sludge with a distinc­tive deep red tone. 

People can use the condi­tion and colour of your shoes and feet to tell if you’ve been to Burma.

‘When in Rome,’ goes the saying, and the Burmese wear sandals to all occa­si­ons, even gala dinners. As a Euro­pean, howe­ver, you some­ti­mes end up feeling naked, or you’re worried about stubbing your toe, which isn’t enti­rely unju­s­ti­fied in a land full of potho­les and open sewers, into which it’s easy to stumble carelessly. Moreo­ver, it’s cold in winter – in nort­hern Burma tempe­ra­tures can reach free­zing. It’s no climate for flip-flops.

Our jour­ney to nort­hern Burma, where we’ll pick up a steam­boat back down to Manda­lay, will be the last for a pair of navy blue Prada slip-on shoes that have served me well for more than five years, achie­ving an advan­ced state of disin­te­gra­tion in the process. Manda­lay, one of the dustiest cities in the world, is a fatal envi­ron­ment for shoes, espe­ci­ally suede ones… but first, the moun­ta­ins.

We take a shared taxi – an anci­ent white Toyota – from Manda­lay airport directly to the Shan Plateau. The former Maymyo (named after the English Colo­nel May and the Burmese word myo, meaning city), now called Pyin Oo Lwin, became a favou­rite summer retreat for the British during colo­nial times, thanks to its almost Euro­pean tempe­ra­tures. Straw­ber­ries and apples thrive here in the summer, and in winter it is brisk but sunny.
 
 

Just a few kilo­metres away from the airport the car begins to wind its way up into the moun­ta­ins. Manda­lay disap­pears into the dusty haze, while the tempe­ra­ture steadily drops. Pyin Oo Lwin is a thousand metres above sea level. There are nume­rous colonial-style buil­dings, like the famous ‘Canda­craig’, today used as a hotel, and ‘Crad­dock Court’, remin­ders of the city’s past as a hill station situa­ted at the begin­ning of the Burma Road, a stra­te­gi­cally important supply line during the Second World War that linked Burma with the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. Now it’s full of flat­bed trucks carry­ing tree-trunks hurt­ling towards China, and crossing the street means taking your life in your hands.

Even today there are many people living here who are descen­dants of Indian mili­tary figu­res and Nepa­lese Ghurk­has. The latter have problems with natio­na­lity simi­lar to those of the Muslim Rohin­gya people in Rakhine State. Their well-known relia­bi­lity – which the British long ago lear­ned to trea­sure – has also made the Nepa­lese popu­lar as workers in the cate­ring trade in neigh­bou­ring Thai­land. An Ameri­can restau­ra­teur in Bang­kok recently confi­ded to me that he secretly paid them more money than the Thais, because they did all the work.
 
 

The hotel is ice-cold at night – I can see my breath – but the days are sunny, and the air in the mornings is gloriously clear. As well as many layers of duvets, someone has put a clay tea-warmer with glowing coals in our room, though it’s burned out by morning. I have a quil­ted jacket too, though I’m secretly alre­ady regret­ting that I didn’t bring any socks. But really – who on earth wears slip-on shoes with socks? I just have to get on with it. The staff, wearing longyis – tradi­tio­nal wrap-around skirts – with thick jackets, bobble hats and finger­less gloves, serve up a typi­cal Burmese break­fast for foreig­ners: two oily fried eggs, a stran­gely sweet toast substi­tute, spread­a­ble fat and some kind of myste­rious jam that resists all attempts at clas­si­fi­ca­tion. The custo­mary bana­nas I leave to my travel­ling compa­n­ion. I hate bana­nas and their slimy texture.

Those who like fish noodle soup in the mornings are advi­sed to opt for a Burmese-style break­fast: a mohinga. Unless you’re stay­ing at a luxury hotel, it’s always the best choice.

 

* * *

Chapter Two

A Bumpy Ride Across the Abyss

The famous Gokteik viaduct is an auda­cious mira­cle of a struc­ture, and a train jour­ney is a prêt-à-porter show of Burmese art.

We defi­ni­tely want to cross the bridge, which for deca­des was closed to foreig­ners and where photo­gra­phy was forbid­den due to its stra­te­gic impor­t­ance. The viaduct, comple­ted in 1900, is 700 metres long, and was once the second highest bridge in the world. It has survi­ved for more than a hund­red years virtually unmain­tai­ned. A new bridge built by the government a few years ago across the valley was promptly swept away during the first rainy season. You can gaze down in wonder at the remnants of it as you cross the old bridge above.

Buying a train ticket in Burma is an inte­res­ting process. As a foreig­ner you need a pass­port to do so, and its number will be pain­sta­kin­gly noted down in all sorts of lists and books. Once the whole coun­try was remi­nis­cent of a tropi­cal East Germany, and the bureau­cracy still is. The train jour­ney itself can’t be beaten on price, and it’s an expe­ri­ence that – espe­ci­ally in second class – gives new meaning to the term ‘cattle class’. This is where the locals sit, mostly cross-legged, on the benches, with bags of all kinds full of goods for their villa­ges.

Men and women push their way down the aisles before we depart, then at every station, balan­cing enor­mous trays on their heads and selling every imagin­able kind of snack. The small quail eggs wrap­ped up in plastic bags are genui­nely deli­cious, and you can get them ever­y­where, although I’ve never actually seen a quail in Burma. Some­where or other there must be a giant, clan­des­tine quail farm.
 
 

The train offers plenty of oppor­tu­nity to study Burmese winter fashions, which possess a certain chic­ness all their own that has abso­lutely nothing to do with our Western concep­tion of style. Burmese women are masters of pattern mixing, and their taste in colour is very diffe­rent: they’re quite happy to combine soft, fifties-style pastels with tradi­tio­nal patterns. They like to team their longyis with lots of layers of outer­wear, hats shaped like comic-book animals and a colour-coordinated child in their arms. They might also wear elements of their moun­tain tribe’s tradi­tio­nal dress, with custo­mi­sed patterns pain­ted onto their faces in than­aka paste. Some­ti­mes they wind a sort of towel-like checked fabric with a fringe around their heads like a turban – all in all it’s an ethnic-wear-meets-comic-book look that would also work well in big Western cities.
 
 
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After about two hours of being jolted around – the train carria­ges were a gift from North Korea, which until not very long ago was the only coun­try that had a friendly rela­ti­ons­hip with Burma – the train crawls slowly and pain­fully around a long, left­ward curve towards the viaduct, and you can see strai­ght into the ravine. 

Before it cros­ses over, the train stops for a few minu­tes as if pausing for breath. Then we conti­nue, no faster than walking pace. 

They don’t want to ask too much of the aging, weake­ned struc­ture. The bridge is single-track, and so narrow that you can look out of the window strai­ght down into a three-hundred-meter-deep abyss.

I think about how a local once told me that the bridge is pain­ted every five years by villa­gers, who get paid ten dollars a day. It’s a well-paid and highly sought-after job.

At the station after the viaduct we get out, but we don’t want to wait for the train back. There are no taxis or busses, but a friendly signal­man takes us to the main road one after the other on his moped and hails a pick-up truck for us. After almost four hours on zigzag­ging dirt roads we’re back in Pyin Oo Lwin and trea­ting oursel­ves to an asto­nis­hin­gly good cappuc­cino and piece of cake in the nice Golden Triangle Café on the main street. 

 

* * *

Chapter Three

For a Handful of Kyat

Buddha is smiling on us: we’re allo­wed to fly to Bhamo. It’s not curr­ently a restric­ted area, and this is where we’re plan­ning to board our stea­mer to Manda­lay.

You can actually get around in Burma pretty well, even if at first glance there’s no trans­por­ta­tion – just so long as you have no problem jumping aboard the occa­sio­nal pick-up truck or oxcart. And so long as it doesn’t matter whether you arrive a day earlier or later than plan­ned. You can always work some­thing out with a hand­ful of kyat, if you just slow down a little. It’s only flights that you shouldn’t leave to chance. My last attempt to travel down the Ayey­ar­waddy by boat was scup­pe­red by the fact that I couldn’t wait two weeks for a domestic flight, which would have taken me to Bhamo in nort­hern Kachin State. 

Back then there was conflic­ting infor­ma­tion, too, about whether foreig­ners were allo­wed to travel on the local boat at all, or whether you could only get to Myit­ky­ina and Bhamo by plane. In any case, you’re not allo­wed to travel out of there by land – or, at least, only with special permis­sion – because the rebels are enga­ging in skir­mis­hes with the army. Ever since Myan­mar suddenly star­ted getting along so well with the USA, the Kachin rebels have been supplied with guns and money by the Chinese.
 
 

This time we mana­ged to hunt down plane tickets to Bhamo in advance, and from there it’s a three-day jour­ney to Manda­lay by boat. Bhamo itself turns out to be a plea­sant surprise, not least thanks to a guide we’ve booked. Gene­rally speaking, a guide is always an advan­tage if you’ve not got much time and there don’t seem to be any obvious sights around (other than the vibrantly colou­red ordi­na­tion cere­mony for child monks that cros­ses our path). After all, guides know their way about. Our guide Sein Win, a sprightly old man in his late sixties, is a local cele­brity.

After forty years of working in his front garden he’s built a func­tio­n­ing heli­cop­ter.

This is one of Bhamos’s two tourist attrac­tions, and the only reason it doesn’t get off the ground is that Sein Win can’t afford the right motor. 

The other is Bhamos’s best-known attrac­tion, the longest bamboo bridge in the world. It doesn’t really grab me, at least in the abstract. Brid­ges are a last resort when I can’t think of anything else to do; as far as I’m concer­ned, even the famous U Bein Bridge in Manda­lay is nothing more than a clichéd photo oppor­tu­nity with rubbish-strewn villa­ges on either side, and the most exci­ting bridge in the coun­try, the Gokteik, is alre­ady behind us. In the hotel ‘Friendship’ the inter­net actually works for a change, probably thanks to a whole floor full of UN staff, who cruise through the city in white, spar­k­lin­gly clean four-by-fours. But the inter­net has nothing to recom­mend other than the bamboo bridge. Fine.

We reach the bridge shortly before sundown. Once again, I’m plea­s­antly surpri­sed: it’s not bad for a bridge.

There are people, mopeds, bikes and goats crossing the fragile, five-hundred-metre-long struc­ture, which is swept away by the current every year during the rainy season.

In the first week of Decem­ber, taking their cue from the shape of the moon, men from the surroun­ding villa­ges rebuild the bridge. Its comple­tion is cele­bra­ted with a party that goes on for several days.
 
 

Shortly after sunrise the next morning the atmo­s­phere in the market on the edge of the river is magi­cal. There’s only fruit and vege­ta­bles avail­able to buy – as well as some comple­tely useless Chinese trin­kets brought from over the border – but the morning light turns ever­y­thing into cinema.

 
 
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* * *

Chapter Four

Waiting and Whiskey

We board, but our ship doesn’t set off. There’s Burmese hip-hop, a marriage crisis and Grand Royal Whisky, all before daybreak – and then the ghosts appear.

‘Bus?’ my compa­n­ion asks at recep­tion every now and again.
‘Coming.’

I think the secret of travel­ling in Asia is making people feel like you’re in their charge. Then they’ll take respon­si­bi­lity and look after you. Today the bus actually forgets us, but in the end it isn’t a problem.

‘Coming back,’ says the woman at recep­tion, pres­sing parcels of food into our hands. She probably knows what we’re in for.

The Ayey­ar­waddy is a long, peace­ful and – for exten­ded stret­ches – very shal­low river, up to four hund­red metres wide in places. Always Burma’s most important artery, it’s seen power­ful empi­res rise and fall along its banks, most of them leaving only ruins and glit­te­ring golden hillside stupas behind them. Here faith inha­bits the moun­ta­ins. Fed by melted snow and ice from the Hima­la­yas and the dren­ching rain of the mons­o­ons, the river wends its slug­gish way through the heart of Burma, finally emer­ging into the delta by Yangon after more than two thousand kilo­metres. This was once the largest rice-growing area in the world, one of the things – along with teak and natu­ral resour­ces – that made Burma so cove­ted by the British Empire.

For the British, the Ayey­ar­waddy – or Irra­waddy, as it was then known – was the road to Manda­lay.

They sent their fleets along it to capture the coun­try, and later it was home to the legen­dary Irra­waddy Flotilla, the largest river fleet on earth, which met its end in the confu­sion of the Second World War. More than two hund­red ships were sunk outside Katha, to prevent them falling into the hands of the Japa­nese. The former head office of the Irra­waddy Flotilla Company in Yangon’s Panso­dan Road, with its façade of Doric columns, is still one of the former capi­tal city’s most glorious buil­dings. Remnants of the fleet are still serving on Burma’s rivers almost seventy years after the end of the war – like the three-level steam­boat that’s going to take us to Manda­lay, for instance. 

Our floa­ting coffin must have seen a few things in its time.

Our bus does come at some point, but in the end the depar­ture of our ship is delayed by a day anyway, and we spend about half a day sitting on small stools on the dusty banks. There’s no need to panic – people bring us cold and warm drinks, and we still have the food parcels. 

The passen­gers without cabins travel into the city, back to the Hotel ‘Friendship’. We, on the other hand, can check in strai­ght away. A thin foam mattress, a port­hole, a chair, a naked light­bulb – the cabin is a simple affair. The night-table drawer with the enor­mous cock­roach is held perman­ently closed with gaffer tape. 

In the last light of the setting sun, workers throw sacks over their shoul­ders as if the fifty kilos of rice inside were nothing. Sunburnt, sinewy and bare­foot, their upper bodies naked, they keep their balance across narrow planks and sling their burden into the belly of the ship. They hardly have time to unload one of the ratt­ling pick-up trucks before the next one arri­ves.
 
 

They’ll keep doing so by flood­light until dawn, their move­ments accom­pa­nied by the deafe­ning Burmese hip-hop blaring out of speakers as tall as them. Those not actively working squat down in the dust and drink Manda­lay beer – for ten bottle caps you get a promo­tio­nal T-shirt – or they while away the time with karaoke, a multi-voice caco­phony that sits unea­sily with the star­lit night. But in this sense the Burmese are no diffe­rent to people in other Asian coun­tries – they like it loud. 

Noise drives away the spirits.

At daybreak they appear. We’re sitting with a bottle of Grand Royal Whisky on the side of the steam­boat facing away from the bank and the noise, gazing at an increa­singly dense white wall. Swathes of fog rise up from the water, until you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. That shadow – is it a large bird? That lapping sound – a rowboat? The din of the music and the gene­ra­tors are just an echo here, and the glass we set down on the railing is ratt­ling a little in time to the rhythm. 

The crew have locked them­sel­ves in a cabin with a few bott­les of whis­key and a metal bucket full of ice cubes. They’re singing karaoke. The captain’s wife tries to open the door with a lock pick. She clearly can’t stand it when the men drink. Silent and dogged, she tinkers with the lock for almost an hour, appar­ently undis­tur­bed by our presence. Even­tually the door flies open, and after a loud argu­ment the bott­les are flung into the water. The party is over.

A wooden fishing boat disap­pears into the fog and heads over towards a sand­bank. Whole fami­lies live on these temporary islands during the dry season, digging up the gravel from the river bed to sell on to construc­tion compa­nies.

As broad and power­ful as the Ayey­ar­waddy is, for eight months of the year it’s also very shal­low along much of its length. Sand­banks and rocks are treache­rous for ships, which for most goods and passen­gers are still the only way of travel­ling across the coun­try. Our ship can only depart in the morning once the sun has dispel­led the haze. Two men are stan­ding on the bow and poking at the mud with long bamboo sticks, checking the water level. Once it reaches one fifty it’s enough. That’s the mini­mum the cargo ships and ferries need bene­ath their keel.
 
 
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If the boat runs aground anyway, it just mano­eu­vres back and forth until it’s gone a few hund­red metres furt­her. Only the rafts made of teak logs or bamboo can make it through with less water, and are heading southwards at a walking pace.

 

* * *

Chapter Five

The Spy, the General and the Lunatic

It’s four days to Manda­lay. Along the river you start to lose track of time. Then again, what’s the hurry?

At some point we’ll simply arrive some­where, and if we can’t go any furt­her by boat we’ll find some other means of trans­port. I’m not worried about that. I’m soon seized by a feeling of lethargy, as the land­s­cape scrolls past like a film: pago­das, rocks, water, herons taking flight. Buddha’s message is blaring out from the loud­speakers of an approa­ching ship. Thank­fully I don’t really have to move much. 

‘On the road to Manda­lay, where the flyin‘ fishes play…’. 

Maybe Rudyard Kipling was thin­king in his famous poem of the rare Ayey­ar­waddy dolphins, which appar­ently help out the local fisher­men with their catch, pres­um­a­bly working on commis­sion. By the time someone yells out ‘dolphin!’, I’ve obviously alre­ady missed it. It’s submer­ged in the unfa­thom­ably muddy waters. 

Just like hund­reds of years ago, women are washing clothes, naked child­ren are play­ing in the mud, and huts disap­pear bene­ath the huge trees on the river­banks. It’s only when we dock that chaos breaks loose. Women with baskets full of lunch­bo­xes, snacks and drinks spring aboard, hands full of fruit reach out towards the travel­lers, child­ren wave, various sacks and crates are carried on and off. It’s only a few steps from the jetty into ever­y­day life. A monastery, a small school – a shop, if you’re lucky – all these river­side villa­ges are like that. Dust-coloured dogs snooze in the shadows. Those who have busi­ness to attend to bustle quickly off the boat. It can take a while until the next one comes. As soon as we set off again the whole place is still and lifeless once more.
 
 

My shoes are holding up pretty well, though by now they’re two-tone. The red dust has sett­led in the seams and crea­ses, crea­ting an inte­res­ting and fashion­able colour gradi­ent. They have a water stain too, because there’s always a few centi­metres of water on the floor in the on-board toilet. It comes from the flus­hing mecha­nism, which sprays water ever­y­where like a sprink­ler system. Still, at least it’s clean water. There are a few wooden blocks you can balance on if you want dry feet while you’re on the squat toilet. There’s no shower, of course, and I decide against washing myself in a barrel. 

In the open lower deck there’s a kind of restau­rant with an open fire and a large, batte­red pot for cooking rice. There’s also an assort­ment of beer, whis­key, crackers and an incredi­bly sweet coffee three-in-one mix. The atten­dants are slee­ping behind the bar or around the stove, thic­kly swadd­led in plush Chinese duvets with a flowery pattern.
 
 

The local guests – and a German couple from the blog ‘Silver­pa­cker’, aimed at older travel­lers – have sett­led down between decks. There are numbe­red slee­ping places marked out on the metal floor, and in the morning the deck is cold, damp and slip­pery with dew. The Silver­pa­cker couple seem to know abso­lutely ever­y­thing, and have brought self-inflating slee­ping mats, all sorts of func­tio­nal clothes and probably also night vision goggles and a mobile water treat­ment unit. 

I find our acquain­tance distinctly infor­ma­tive, and absorb infor­ma­tion about remote parts of the world that would take fore­ver to rese­arch by myself.

If war broke out tomor­row, I’d latch on to them imme­dia­tely and aban­don my travel­ling compa­n­ion to his fate.

My photo­gra­pher Ken seems to sense this. They’re a thorn in his side. ‘A single Euro­pean ruins the picture,’ he likes to say, and he hates anybody who spoils his pictures as a matter of principle. He brea­thes a sigh of relief when we reach Katha – where George Orwell once served as an offi­cer in the English army – and the Silver­pa­ckers disem­bark in the middle of the night (thanks to the delay) and without a hotel booking. There’s no need to worry about them.
 
 
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The other passen­gers fit perfectly into our scen­a­rio. We’re given them code­na­mes: the spy, the gene­ral and the luna­tic. We don’t know whether ‘the spy’ is just preten­ding to be myste­rious, but a few years ago I would have sworn that the government had orde­red him to keep an eye on us. He chews betel and starts drin­king before midday, and his whole deme­a­nour is like a lean ques­tion mark with claw-like feet. He speaks surpri­sin­gly good English, and he sticks to Ken, who struck up a conver­sa­tion with him, like glue. He and anot­her group of men urge Ken into handing round a bottle of Grand Royal Whisky. I, howe­ver, have enscon­ced myself behind a book and a pair of sunglas­ses on the upper deck. I don’t think I’d survive listen­ing to the drun­ken ramblings of the locals for three days. People greet me respect­fully – appar­ently the book makes me seem like an intel­lec­tual.

I’m more inte­rested in the two soldi­ers. ‘The gene­ral’ is a sunburnt Nepa­lese man, about one and half metres square, who seems to have eyes on the back of his head. He’s accom­pa­nied by a youn­ger, silent soldier, who stares into nothing­ness with wide-open eyes as if seeing terri­ble visi­ons.

He only allows hims­elf to be drawn out of his cata­to­nic state for a few minu­tes by Ken’s camera. 

When Ken lends him his head­pho­nes too, he’s comple­tely enrap­tu­red for several minu­tes.

We disco­ver that ‘the luna­tic’ was trau­ma­tised in combat and that ‘the gene­ral’ is taking him for psycho­lo­gi­cal treat­ment in Manda­lay. ‘The gene­ral’ may look like a cuddly teddy bear in uniform, his pistol in his belt, but he’s certainly a force to be reckoned with. You wouldn’t want to bump into him on a dark night if you weren’t on his good side. We try to imagine what could have trau­ma­tised ‘the luna­tic’ – certainly some­thing to do with the rebels, who we’ve heard have recently been burning whole villa­ges to the ground – but we don’t want to know the details. There it is again, the feeling that’s always fasci­nated me about Burma: some­ti­mes you just can’t work out a situa­tion and its play­ers.

Maybe it’s all comple­tely harm­less – maybe not.

 
 
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After an initial jour­ney through spec­ta­cu­lar gorges, the river beco­mes increa­singly slow and broad, the tempe­ra­ture warms up and ever­y­thing on board falls into a routine. You nod or exchange a few words with ‘the spy’ or ‘the gene­ral’. Ken’s drin­king buddies feed us pist­achios that they’ve bought in huge numbers when we docked at a village not marked on the map. The whole deck is cove­red in shells.

Soon the wind will have whis­ked them away.

We’re now eigh­teen hours behind sche­dule, but I built in an extra day as a buffer. Suddenly, howe­ver, ever­y­thing goes very quickly. One last bridge, then Manda­lay emer­ges from behind a bend in the river. We dock some­where along the bank – why not the jetty, God only knows – and teeter across wooden planks onto dry land. There’s one final ascent up the moist, slimy embank­ment, then we’re stan­ding in the dust once more, joyfully awai­ted by a horde of ricks­haw drivers.

We’ve just missed our flight to Bang­kok, of course – maybe by an hour – but it doesn’t matter. Getting upset isn’t going to help. A few metres furt­her on there’s a stupa. I put my bag down and rummage around until I find my flip-flops. 

I almost feel sorry for them, my trusty shoes, when I see them sitting there so alone in front of the little pagoda, and I cast a final back­ward glance as the ricks­haw departs. So long!, I think. Someone or other will want you.

 

* * *

Trans­la­tion by Caro­line Waight

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An Episode by

Martin Schacht & Ken Schluchtmann

Martin Schacht lives in Bang­kok and Berlin. He is a travel jour­na­list for tele­vi­sion and print, and is the author of several books, inclu­ding „Gebrauchs­an­wei­sung für Burma“. Ken Schlucht­mann works as an archi­tec­tu­ral, product and land­s­cape photo­gra­pher. He has recei­ved nume­rous prizes, inclu­ding World Archi­tec­tu­ral Photo­gra­pher of the Year in 2012 and 2013:  diephotodesigner.de.

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  • Markus on 26. Januar 2015

    Groß­ar­tig! Danke fürs mitneh­men… jetzt will ich noch drin­gen­der dort­hin :)

    Reply
    • ken on 27. Januar 2015

      sehr gerne! es lohnt sich — aber gute schlap­pen einpa­cken ;)

  • Philipp on 26. Januar 2015

    Feine Sache! Ganz feine Sache. Liebe Grüße

    Reply
    • ken on 27. Januar 2015

      vielen dank! es war sehr eindrucks­voll!

  • May on 26. Januar 2015

    A fantastic adven­ture! Thank you!

    Reply
    • ken on 27. Januar 2015

      you are welcome! thank you for joining!

  • Simone on 26. Januar 2015

    Diese tage­lan­gen Fluss­fahr­ten sind toll. Es ist einfach wunder­bar die Land­schaft vorbei­zie­hen zu sehen!

    Reply
    • ken on 27. Januar 2015

      es war tatsäch­lich eine der beein­dru­ckends­den schiffs­fahr­ten, die ich erlebt habe. vor allem, weil wir prak­tisch nur unter einhei­mi­schen waren. da lernt man mit händen und füssen zu kommu­ni­zie­ren!

  • Kristine on 27. Januar 2015

    Vielen Dank fürs Mitneh­men auf die Reise!

    Reply
    • ken on 27. Januar 2015

      es freut uns sehr, dass es dir gefal­len hat! viele grüsse!

  • Susan on 28. Januar 2015

    Danke für diesen tollen Bericht!
    Die Zugfahrt von Hsipaw nach Pyin Oo Lwin war 2011 auch für uns ein abso­lu­ter Traum. Dein Vergleich mit dem Luft­ho­len, bevor der Zug über die Brücke fährt, sehr sehr passend. Ein wunder­ba­res Land mit tollen Menschen, denen wir begeg­net sind. Danke fürs Wieder­erwa­chen der Erin­ne­run­gen an eine groß­ar­tige Zeit.

    Reply
    • Martin Schacht on 29. Januar 2015

      zuerst fand ich pyin oo lwin ein biss­chen lang­wei­lig, aber ich war jetzt schon ein paar mal da, und ich finde es gewinnt jedes mal…

  • Claus Vester on 30. Januar 2015

    Faszi­nie­rend, welche Erin­ne­run­gen an eine gemein­sam zurück­ge­legte Etappe der letzt­jäh­ri­gen Burma-Reise aus der Gegen­per­spek­tive entstan­den. Eine lesens­werte Repor­tage von einem echten Kenner dieser Region! Toll geschrie­ben und wunder­bare Bilder!

    Reply
    • ken on 8. Februar 2015

      aller­dings hat martin etwas über­trie­ben, als er schrieb, dass ich euch gehasst habe – korrekt war nur die aussage, dass ein euro­päer das authen­ti­sche bild zerstört… ;)

  • Judith Posner on 31. Januar 2015

    Wish I had been there.

    Reply
    • ken on 8. Februar 2015

      just go for it!

  • Adele on 31. Januar 2015

    Wunder­schön! War bestimmt eine tolle Erfah­rung. Ich will in den nächs­ten 1–2 Jahre gerne mal einen ganzen Monat im Heimat­land meiner Mama verbrin­gen … <3

    Reply
    • ken on 8. Februar 2015

      es lohnt — nur schnell, bevor die chine­sen das ganze land erobern…

  • Christian on 2. Februar 2015

    Hallo an die Auto­ren des Blogs. Toll geschrie­ben und super Bilder… so sollte und muss ein Reise­b­log wohl sein…er weckt sofort das Gefühl da sein zu wollen… dahin zu wollen, wegzu­fah­ren los zu reisen, ab zu haun…ob mit Schlamm oder ohne.. :-) weiter so… *Ch., 48J.*

    Reply
    • ken on 8. Februar 2015

      vielen dank für das tolle feed­back! es freut uns sehr, wenn wir ein wenig der dorti­gen atmo­sphäre trans­por­tie­ren konn­ten.

  • Petra on 4. Februar 2015

    Danke für den tollen Kurzbericht/Film! Beein­dru­ckend gemacht macht er vor allem große Lust auf eine eigene Reise nach Burma! Viel­leicht habe ich ja das große Glück und gewinne die Reise ;-)

    Reply
    • ken on 8. Februar 2015

      danke eben­falls! nicht warten, sondern losfah­ren, bevor alle ande­ren da waren!

  • Mandy // Movin'n'Groovin on 8. Februar 2015

    Wow, danke für die tollen Bilder und die Geschichte dazu… sehr schön geschrie­ben, ich notiere Burma auf meine Wunsch­liste. :)

    Reply
  • Wohin verreisen im Februar? - Reiseaufnahmen on 13. Februar 2015

    […] in dieses Land entfüh­ren und dich nicht genug davon krie­gen lassen. Wenn du gleich dem Link zu dem Story­tel­ling Special von Martin Schacht & Ken Schlucht­mann auf Travel Episo­des folgst, dann werde ich dich […]

    Reply
  • Joni on 15. Februar 2015

    über­ra­gend! darf ich fragen wie der sound­track aus dem ersten film-clip heißt? :)

    Reply
  • Rainer Milzkott on 24. Februar 2015

    Das habe ich gern gele­sen und die Bilder einge­so­gen. Dass nichts nach Fahr­plan läuft, das hat man als Berli­ner S-Bahnnutzer immer­hin auch schon zu ertra­gen gelernt. Aber dieser Reise­be­richt macht mir vor allem deut­lich, was für ein Luxus­we­sen ich doch gewor­den bin: Über so viel Staub und Schlamm würde ich mich perma­nent aufre­gen. Keine ordent­li­che Toilette auf dem Schiff, furcht­bar! Womög­lich ist der Whisky gepanscht! Und die Beschrei­bung des Früh­stücks…, nein Danke! Aber das ist ja das Schöne an Reise­be­rich­ten, die „Er-Fahrung” sessel­ge­recht aufbe­rei­tet zu bekom­men.

    Reply
  • Max on 4. März 2015

    Wunder­volle Episode und fast noch schö­nere Bilder!
    Würde das letzte gern als Screen­saver und Vorfreude auf meine Südo­asta­si­en­reise im Sommer nutzen kann es aber leider nicht kopie­ren, wäre es möglich mir das Bild zuzu­sen­den? Verwende es nur für private Zwecke keine Sorge ;)

    Reply
  • william clydesdale on 14. März 2015

    Our son and girl­fri­end are on a holi­day and are just now on the way to Manda­lay, we did not know much about Burma and have found your arti­cle and photos fasci­na­ting.
    Thank you very much.

    Reply
  • Natalie Axten on 24. März 2015

    That’s what I call real design and worth the time spent reading, explo­ring, travel­ling with you all! Superb job!

    Reply
  • Marc on 14. Mai 2015

    Oh man! Toll, super. Ich will auch :)
    Sorry, für den kurzen Kommen­tar, aber ich finds einfach nur toll! :)
    Danke!

    Reply
  • Myanmar country profile | Som2ny News on 23. November 2015

    […] Travel Episo­des – Road to Manda­lay […]

    Reply
  • Dave on 17. Dezember 2015

    Bin selbst vor 2 Jahren durch dieses tolle Land gereist und bin seit­her infi­ziert.
    Habe unglau­bich viele und schöne Erfah­run­gen und Bilder gemacht.
    Plane 2016 wieder für 3 Wochen zurück zu kehren.

    Euro Photos sind groß­ar­tig, was für eine Kamera/Objective habt ihr denn benutzt?

    LG
    Dave

    Reply
  • Arthur Leidig on 17. Dezember 2015

    Frage: Kann ich von Mada­lay über Meiktila-Kalaw-Taunggyi weiter nach
    Mong Ping Keng­tung nach Mong-Hpayak bis zur Grenze nach Tachi­lek Mae Sai
    Thai­land fahren?
    Oder wäre es besser ich fahre von Laos über den Mekong hoch bis Tachi­lek–
    Mae Sai, und dann nach Manda­lay? Oder handelt es sich hier um eine Scheiß–
    idee?
    Danke für eine Antwort.
    Mit freund­li­chem Gruß
    Arthur

    Reply
  • Michaela on 23. April 2017

    Der Bericht ist einfach genial und das Video mit der Gokteik-Eisenbahnbrücke phan­tas­tisch. Man glaubt echt gerade im Zug zu sitzen :). Nun viel­leicht wird´s ja auch bald was. Myan­mar steht schon lange (zuuu lange) auf meiner Reiseziel-Liste!

    Reply
  • Howard on 10. Mai 2018

    I made exactly the same trip except that I took the train and boat from Manda­lay to Bhamo and then the boat all the way back to Manda­lay. I stop­ped off in Kata on the Ayey­ar­waddy which is where George Orwell was statio­ned when he was in the army. His book ‚Burmese Days‘ is worth a read.
    And on books about Burma there is a fantastic book (fiction) called ‚The Piano Tuner‘ about a British mili­tary guy who has a piano ship­ped out during his period there — amazing story.

    Reply
  • Marc D. on 21. August 2018

    Ich war im Winter 2017/18 für 5 Wochen in Myan­mar (mit 7 Tagen Over­stay) und habe wg. meinem Fern­weh, heute endlich diesen schö­nen Arti­kel gele­sen. Gut finde ich vor allen auch, dass darin vieles so beschrie­ben wird wie es ist, ohne geschönte Travel­ler­ro­man­tik. Mein Weg führte nach 7 Tagen in Yangon mit dem Zug nach Manda­lay mit dem letz­ten Platz im „Slee­per“ der noch zu haben war. Mit Indi­scher Tabla­mu­sik im Restau­rant­wa­gen sind wir bei Sonnen­un­ter­gang losge­fah­ren. Wirk­lich, Manda­lay ist unglaub­lich stau­big, beson­ders auf der Stran­droad entlang des Irra­waddy, liegt beson­ders viel Sand.
    Auch sind die Entfer­nun­gen sehr groß u. man muss aufpas­sen, nicht in eines der vielen Löcher zu fallen. Ich bin dann mit dem Boot (ca. 10–12 Std.) weiter Rich­tung Süden nach Bagan (mit riesi­gen, anti­ken Pago­den­feld, fantas­tisch). Dann gings nach 4 Tagen weiter mit dem Klein­bus nach Pyin Oo Lwin und von dort auch mit dem Zug über den Glondike-Viadukt. Auffal­lend war, das Zugfahr­kar­ten frühes­tens 2 Tage vor Abfahrt gekauft werden konn­ten, keinen Tag früher. Dann wieder zurück nach Manda­lay u. Yangon mit Silves­ter­party rund um die Sule Pagoda. Nach 2 Tagen weiter mit Zug Rich­tung Süden, Mawla­my­ine, Ye, Dawei und über Kawthoung weiter nach Thai­land. In Myan­mar zu reisen ist noch ein echtes Aben­teuer, die Guest­hou­ses sind etwas über­teu­ert, das burme­si­sche Essen meis­tens sehr ölig, Western Break­fast und frisch gebrüh­ter Kaffee sind nur selten zu finden, dafür leckere Früchte u. Essen aus Thai­land, China u. Indien. Zugfahr­ten dauern sehr lange und das Inter­net über WiFi ist sehr lang­sam, sofern es über­haupt funk­tio­niert. Habe auch noch nie so oft meinen Pass zeigen müssen wie in Myan­mar, glaube aber kaum, dass die Behör­den ihr eige­nes Büro­kra­tie­mons­ter noch über­bli­cken, denn
    alles wird noch auf Papier fest­ge­hal­ten. Der obenst. Reise­be­richt erin­nerte mit an eine TV-Reportage, da ist das Kammer­a­team 4 Wochen lang, mit der „Myan­mar“ den Irra­waddy entlang gefah­ren, das Schiff ist ein schwim­men­der „Super­markt“ mit Markt­frauen, das wochen­lang von Dorf zu Dorf fährt. Die Schiffe mit denen auch die Burme­sen unter­wegs sind, sind auch die einzi­gen die man sich leis­ten kann, die ande­ren, mehr­tä­gi­gen Boots­tou­ren für Touris­ten kosten leider um die 5.000–10.000 US-Dollar pro Person. Wunder­ba­res Land mit viel Licht und Schat­ten, beson­ders schlimm ist aber das Müll­pro­blem, die Burme­sen entsor­gen z.B. den gesam­ten Abfall, aus den offe­nen Fens­tern des fahren­den Zugs.

    Reply

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