We skipped all the nightbuses in Burma (in fact during our whole year in Asia), and took the local bus, the boat, the rickshaws and went by foot. It brought us to very special people and places.
A mysterious place and while quite touristy it is easy to escape this, especially if you explore by bicycle. Old temple-ruins everywhere you look. We criss-crossed the area for three days, beating the heat (end of March) and watching sunsets from lonesome temples. One of the most romantic places in the world.
With the help of an excellent guide, we visited the less-travelled regions of Odisha and Chhattisgarh. More than in other regions, we explored village life here, which brought us to people's homes and daily lives and close to people's tribal and religious rituals and festivals. A perfect combination with a glimpse of rich biodiversity at the mangroves in Bhitarkanika and Chilika lake wetlands.
Tamil Nadu is hot and dusty, but has cooler escapes at the coast and in the mountains. We were stunned by its beautfiul Hindu temples of Dravidian architecture and its multi-religious pilgrimage sites.
Revitalized with healthy shakes in Goa, we hit the road (and rail) again towards Karnataka and Kerala, with delicous food, beautiful green landscapes and very warm people.
We entered India over land from Nepal, and like for most people, our first day and night in India were a total culture shock. We seriously had to get used to the street noise, the amount of people, the cows and the rubbish. But the remaining three months in India more than compensated this. We spent almost two weeks in fascinating Varanassi, met great people in pretty Orchha, were astonished by the Khajuraho temples, and made fantastic train trips.
After a crazy ride with an illegal taxi through tiny unpaved streets in Kathmandu zigzagging around cows and cycle rikshas we realised we had entered a different world. Bhaktapur and Bouddhanath were our favourite towns in the valley, ancient and sacred.
Mustang, the former kingdom of Lo, is like a superb mix of the Grand Canyon, a desert, the Himalayas and Tibet. The area draws few visitors due to the costly permit and the popularity of the close-by Annapurna trail. The tea houses are still very basic and cosy, and you can be the only tourist at local festivals. One of the best ten days of our lives.
Pokhara offered us the best room with a view that we ever had, for peanuts. Surrounded by the high snowy peaks, the city is perfect for a good break after hiking. Rupa and Begnas Tal, two rural lake areas only 10 kilometers South-east, were breathtaking. The Manakamana sacred atmosphere and goat sacrifices gave us goose bumps.
We had no plan, so which direction to choose in China? National Parks are abundant, and high on our wish-list, but choices have to be made in this huge country. We arrived in Beijing with the Transmongolia Express all the way from Amsterdam, and after seeing some of the mandatory sights, we took the train heading West with the Tibetan plateau as our destination. We liked and disliked China at the same time. While the food was very tasty, it got boring very quickly for us vegetarians, and we regularly found pieces of pork in our food. After 3 weeks the pollution gave us extreme coughs. And in the National Parks the Chinese move in large, very large crowds and there is no way to escape. Nevertheless, we met very humble and kind people, the nature is astonishing and the Tibetan plateau was a rich and mysterious experience.