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The Time We Got Scammed in India

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The REAL Brown Bread Bakery sign (via TripAdvisor)

We are eight weeks into our trip (!!) and in about a week we’ll be finished with the Southeast Asia portion. SE Asia is infamous for the scams targeting tourists and, thankfully aside from a few rouge taxis, we have managed to avoid all but one.

That one is the knockoff-bakery-cum-fake-charity in Varanasi, India.

Brown Bread Bakery is a real restaurant in Varanasi (the first organic bakery and restaurant) that supports a real life charity called Learn for Life, proving education for impoverished children to help break the cycle of poverty. Read more about Brown Bread and Learn for Life here: http://bakerybreadbrown.blogspot.com/

Unfortunately, Ryan and I stumbled into a fake version. They have the similar signs and are a mere 10 meters down the road from each other. The fake Brown Bread has the same menu (although many items are “unavailable” since they aren’t actually a bakery) and will even take “donations” meant for Learn for Life, but pocket them instead! This fake restaurant is owned by the unscrupulous ex-business partners of the REAL Brown Bread who are just using the name of a good restaurant and charity to make more money for themselves.

I hope Karma takes notice.

We spent less than $10 at the fake Brown Bread, but it was still heartbreaking when we walked out to the real one and to find out the situation. The real Brown Bread has a rooftop seating area, four floors total, and a shop area on the ground floor selling muesli and other organic wares.

We didn’t do our research and have felt pretty down about it, but lesson learned.

Temples of Bagan at Sunset

It’s hard to grasp the immensity of Bagan. Over the course of 230 years, over 4,000 temples were built in an area of about 10 sq km. Standing atop one of the many temples at sunset, you can see the tips peeking out above the trees, quite literally as far as the eye can see. It’s breathtaking and so difficult to capture in a single photograph.

But I still tried.

Bagan Lora Kathleen Bagan Sunset Lora Kathleen    Bagan Sunset2 Lora Kathleen

Mount Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock), Myanmar

Golden Rock Mount Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma Lora Kathleen Golden Rock Mount Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma Lora Kathleen

Day Trip to Mount Kyaiktiyo (Golden Rock)

Golden Rock Mount Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma Lora Kathleen

The first time I saw a photo of Golden Rock at Mount Kyaiktiyo, I knew that I had to visit Myanmar (also called Burma). Since we don’t have a lot of time in Myanmar, we had to fit it in to a day trip from Yangon. It was not for the faint of heart!

We opted to take the train from Yangon to Kyaikto, a similar sounding town. The Myanmar train is an adventure in and of itself, but we were pleasantly surprised that we were exactly on time. Arriving around noon, we took a shared pickup truck to Kinpun, the small town of restaurants and hotels that serves as Mount Kyaiktiyo’s “base camp.”

After a quick lunch, we went to the truck station. Large open-bed Mack trucks were converted into seating for 40 plus people. Since there are only two of us, we were squeezed into the back corner of a ready to go truck full of Myanma tourists and Buddhist pilgrims. The ride up was absolutely terrifying as we were squeezed into too small of a space with little handholds. At one point, I really was convinced we were going to fly off. But we made it intact to the top!

Since we arrived at the heat of the day, most of the stone was hot. Shoes have to be removed far in advance of nearing the Golden Rock, but thankfully there is a pathway of marble to the top that was quite cool on our bare feet.

Pilgrims paste gold leaf Golden Rock Mount Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma Lora Kathleen

I had read online that women weren’t allowed to get close to Golden Rock and, but this turned out to be a bit of a misrepresentation. Women aren’t allowed to walk right up to the rock and paste gold leaf onto the rock, but we can get close enough for viewing. Many women pilgrims sat below the rock, prayed and lit incense.

The site was surprisingly empty while we were there. Sure, there were plenty of tourists, but not like I was expecting. Trucks full of foreigners began arriving around 4pm, most likely in time for sunset, but we had plenty of space in the mid-afternoon.

Tourists at Golden Rock Mount Kyaiktiyo Myanmar Burma Lora Kathleen

 

Due to fact we were on a day trip, we had to get down the mountain before sunset or risk having to walk back to Kinpun. We caught a bus and arrived in Kinpun around 4:30. Since the next train out was at midnight (!!) we opted to try for a bus instead. A lot of bus companies have a stand at Kinpun, so we picked one with a bus leaving soon, took the half hour shared pickup back to Kyaikto and hopped a bus to Yangon.

After a short stop for dinner around 6:30pm, we watched an interesting Myanma movie about love, revenge and death that ended just as we arrived back in Yangon at 9:00pm. It was a bit of a long day, but a really interesting one and totally doable (as long as you are okay with skipping sunrise or sunset!).

Bathing Elephants

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I am skipping ahead today because we had so much fun at the Elephant Nature Park on Sunday… here we are bathing one of the elephants!