Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Way up in the hills ...

Last night was the best nights sleep! Finally! We were off at 8am on a six hour coach ride to Kalaw and my stomach was feeling decidedly better! 

Kalaw is a former British Hill station found in the largest of Myanmars seven states; The Shan State.

After the decline and fall of Bagan in the 14th Century, smaller Kingdoms started to compete for power. There were The Mon Territories, Arakan, Ava and the Shan States. The Shan are Myanmars second largest Ethnic group, living mainly in the east of the country as well as just over the border with Thailand and Laos. Connected with The Thai people, Shan is actually a derivative of the word Siam.

The largest state they may be, but vast areas are off bounds to tourists due to the continued civil unrest between The State Army and the National Government - which has gone on for decades. And after TC's and my last 'dalliance' with 'civil unrest' between The Keralans and The Tamils when we were travelling across the border in Southern India six years ago, (that's a long scroll back in my blog!), we were happy to have a more 'tranquil' trip this time.

Kalaw has a high altitude of 1320 meters above sea level and I was not looking forward to the breathlessness, light headedness or nose bleeds that I experienced three years ago, when TC and I visited Mexico City. As per usual we were prepared for any long coach trips and I'd downloaded a ten part TV drama onto my iPad for us to pass the time. This years choice was 'The Affair'. (Those that have followed my blog in the past will know about this tradition of TC's and mine). 

And so we settled down in our seats, I took my travel sickness pills as that would give us an approximate two hour window  to watch a couple of episodes before the tiredness kicked in and I slept - Kay had warned us that the final part of our drive was going to be driving along very windy, narrow hairpin bends and the air con would have to be switched off in order to give the engine full power to get us up to the Hill Station! Something I did not want to see, let alone get travel sickness from!

Ear phones in, snacks at the ready and I hit play, only to find that I hadn't actually pressed the download button after buying the series off of Amazon in the UK! This meant the only way to watch would be to stream it, which was not possible given the cost of roaming charges or to wait until we found somewhere with a decent wifi connection and download it, which was practically impossible to find. 

I could see that TC was disappointed (as was I) and even the snacks alone weren't going to satisfy her on this long coach journey. So all I can say is "Thank goodness for BBC iPlayer!" Luckily I had downloaded a few films from our National TV station before we left and only one was remaining on my iPad!  

The film was called 'Jump', a gripping story set in Northern Ireland and one we were both glued to from beginning to end after which my travel sickness tablets kicked in and I slept through to the end of the drive, only to wake up at the end and find TC looking rather green around the gills from the hairpin drive.

We reached The Pine Hills Resort Hotel and were greeted by the lovely friendly staff. What an amazing hotel, very colonial in style and on beautiful grounds. There was an outdoor heated swimming pool and a gym (forget that! I'm on holiday) and a spa!

With an afternoon of free time and no pagodas, TC and I had a quick snack and then I treated myself to an hour and a half aromatherapy massage while my little travel buddy went for a swim in the pool. 

The massage was great! My therapist was called Noo Noo, (I don't know what day of the week that meant she was born on but I had to stop the teenager part of my brain kicking in and sniggering as 'Noonoo' was in fact one of the 'slang' words we used to use as kids in reference to a lady's 'front bottom' - and yes that was the other one!).

Anyway, the massage was great, unlike massages I've had in the past on my trips, that have been so painful to the point of torture that I would have instantly revealed where I'd hidden my passport. And I returned to our hotel room feeling thoroughly relaxed to find TC fretting about whether or not she had just brought back her ear infection by swimming in the pool!

That evening we all went to a local Nepalese restaurant for dinner, then it was back to the hotel where believe it or not we had to put the heating on in the room, as the temperature being so high up in the hills, had dropped drastically after sunset. Though admittedly it was not as low as -4, which my North London Chappie had told me earlier that day, everyone was suffering through back home.

And so TC and I climbed into our respective beds and went to sleep feeling very smug and snug in our 17 degrees of cold.

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