Local trains and lots of cake: Mawlamyine, Myanmar

Tea + cake + cycling = happiness 

A local village close to Mawlamyine

I had expressed an interest in getting the local train from Kyaiktiyo to Mawlamyine, as not only was it an eighth of the price but it would be an experience – and an experience it was. Not only did we pass some of the most fantastic scenery in the whole of Myanmar, but we were the only white people on the train in our $1 lower class wooden benches. I didn’t mind the stares one bit as it has become something of the norm during my few weeks in Myanmar and they were friendly stares, not like the ones you get back home.

Local train in Myanmar

Those who knew any English wanted to speak with us and I lost count of the number of times I was asked where I was from, again this was a regular occurrence (at least once every five minutes) in Myanmar. Another thing I love about local trains is that they are like moving markets with people hopping on and off selling all sorts of items from fruit to perfume, alcohol to shoes. I stocked up on a few mangos and a kind man bought us a cold bottle of water as mine had turned warm from the heat.

A man peeling our mangos

But have you ever thought that sometimes the kindness of others can become just too much? It seemed that everything I did was put right, whether it was an old lady trying to explain that when eating my corn I should pick and eat one kernel off at a time or another man telling me that I was peeling my mango wrong so showed me the correct way with his incredibly grubby hands – so much for the hand sanitiser! For the most part I was also left fanning a fan I had been given by a lady to keep the flies away which not only made my hand ache, but I couldn’t see any flies.

Myanmar cheese tart, not like their cheesecake with actual grated cheese

We arrived at Breeze guesthouse  just in time to enjoy sunset on the balcony of Help Grandfather’s and Grandmother’s restaurant which helped a good cause (the elderly if you haven’t guessed) even if the food was crap. After we went to a cake and coffee shop where I had a much needed Baileys coffee shake and a cheese tart which was an adequate attempt of a western style dessert.

The selection of cakes on every table in a Myanmar tea house

We had planned to cycle and hike to a mountain to see some Buddhist rocks but the heavens opened once again and we were left cycling in torrential rain. After my luck with rain and rocks in Kyaiktiyo I decided against the idea and luckily the others decided to also give it a miss. I decided that in the current state of weather we had no choice but to go for tea and cake. Myanmar is full of tea houses where the most popular drink is Myanmar Tea (sweet tea with condensed milk), sweet ‘three in one’ packet coffee and green tea, which is free everywhere.

Snacks at the Indian tea house

Snacks are usually in the form of Chinese steamed dumplings, sponge cake or Indian snacks, combining the Chinese, Indian and British influence seen throughout the country. Our first tea stop was at an Indian tea house where we had a selection of fried snacks. The second place we stopped at we had an excellent coconut rice cake leaving us all sweetened out and in need of some fresh air.

Men playing chess in the street

Thankfully it had turned into a glorious day so we got back on our bikes and cycled to a local village. Everyone we passed said ‘Hello’ and waved and a couple including one Indian man asked us a bit about ourselves. On our cycle back to town we stopped off at the tea house where the Indian man had been sitting to take up his offer of joining him for tea. Sadly he had already left but we stopped for a drink anyway.

Cycling through the countryside

A man in green came over and signalled for us to wait before taking off on his motorbike. What were we waiting for I wondered? Shortly after he came back with a note written in English saying “Please wait, I am busy now. I am joining a party”. We couldn’t work out who the note was from or what we were waiting for but we waited anyway and after about twenty minutes the Indian guy arrived with his friends in tow. The owner of the tea shop had told the Indian man we were there, knowing that he wanted to speak with us along with his friends as he was an English teacher.

Sweet French toast with condensed milk

We chatted to him for a while and he bought us cold water and asked if we wanted anything to eat. We explained that we were hungry, but at that time of day there is little choice apart from snacks which all seem to be sweet. We couldn’t possibly handle anything else sweet but had no choice when the man bought us a traditional mid afternoon snack of eggy bread with condensed milk poured on top. High from sugar we cycled back to town to try and find the view point in time for sunset.

Enjoying a rewarding beer at sunset

Time was getting on and we couldn’t find the stairs up to the viewpoint so I decided to shout ‘viewpoint’ at every local I passed and made stair-like signal with my fingers. In true Myanmar style a young boy and his girlfriend stopped in their tracks and signalled to us to follow them on their motorbike. Climbing a huge hill on a steep road made for cars whilst trying to keep up with a motorbike is not easy, especially after three cakes and two cups of milk tea. 

The second stunning sunset in two days

We eventually made it just in time for another glorious sunset which was topped off with a can of cold beer, perfect after a sweltering ride. That evening we went to the outside BBQ and noodle joints along the strand overlooking the sea.

Falooda – a traditional Myanmar/Indian dessert

After a cake-filled day I managed to find a little room for dessert so we headed back to the coffee and cake shop where a I tried a Falooda, a traditional Myanmar Indian-style dessert made from jelly, ice cream and cream pudding. Buzzing from the sugar, I cycled a few laps around town for 45 minutes or so whilst the girls showered. Cake and cycling, what a wonderful day.

Living life, loving travel,

H x


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