Pyay: A Special Place in Myanmar

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Reading our article on Myanmar’s people, you can see how that can be one of the main draws in coming to Myanmar. Not to sit and gawk and take pictures of the people, but to befriend them and learn a type of honest generosity and friendliness that exists very rarely in the world, Pyay is one of those places where we went and though the sites we saw were unimpressive we left with one of the best experiences and the happiest of memories.

The story begins in Bago where Aurelien met an old university friend who ended up suggesting for us to go to Pangabar Guesthouse as they were friendly, cheap, and had the best breakfast possible. Pyay would make a convenient stop between Yangon and Mandalay (or Bagan) and of course we are always eager to discover places not really on the tourist map.

Leaving Bago we went to Yangon, spent two days and then went to the bus station to get our tickets for Pyay. Waiting for the bus we had a few hours to kill so we decided to hang out in the conveniently located Beer Garden to try our first Myanmar draught beer. Drinking our beer we ended up chatting with a super friendly local who ended up giving us his card as he turned out to be the manager of the guesthouse we were already planning to visit. As he handed us his card I pulled out the card that our friend had already given us and we had a few laughs and he bought us a round of beers and some snacks.

We arrived in Pyay around 2 am but had thought we would arrive at 5am and as usual decided to kill some time or sleep somewhere to save a night’s hotel. While waiting around the bus station after a few tries to give us a ride a bus (maybe also motorcycle taxi) driver ended up showing us to his “office” (“office”- a counter and a few benches outside by his bus company), kicked his brother off the bench where he was sleeping and told us we could sleep there safely.

Around 5 am we then began the 30 minute walk to the guesthouse where we were greeted by the sleepy but friendly owner and allowed to check in at 5am (6 hours early).

We slept in until 11am and were met downstairs by the friendly owner, the manager, and several other family members, who immediately prepared us a huge breakfast, after some interesting conversation and a few hours of wifi we decided to watch the sunset at the famous temple, Shwesandaw Paya Pagoda, and then check out the night market. Leaving the night market we were greeted by a young couple who said they were taking English classes and if they could invite us to a tea shop for some tea. It was such a great experience sharing our cultures, stories, and hearing about the way of life in Myanmar. They later dropped us off at our guesthouse on their motorbikes and we planned to go visit a few sites with them and go visit some of their friends the following day.

Going out for a teas with our new friends.

Pyay is known for an ancient site Sri Ksetra, but as the entry fee was a steep $5 for foreigners, the pictures didin’t seem too interesting unless archaeology is your thing, and we were quite templed out after almost a year in Asia, so we were happy with the prospect to hang out with our new friends instead of another day of site seeing. We spent the day checking out the market, riding on the back of the young couple’s and the guy’s younger brother’s motorbikes to visit some ancient temples on the way to a nice hotel where the guy was tutoring the hotel owner in English, had a delicious lunch of chan noodles, spoke with the couple’s English teacher of the political problems in Myanmar and watched the sunset over the river. For dinner we were invited to one of the girl’s student’s (she is a high school teacher) home. There we had one of the most amazing meals of coconut rice, chicken dishes, lamb dishes, and so much more. As we ate we were surrounded by the student’s adorable little brother, extremely welcoming mother, and kind grandmother.

With the family and friends, Muslim and Buddhist alike.

Pure deliciousness coconut rice and plenty of tasty dishes.

The next evening we reluctantly left as our time was limited in Myanmar, but our memories of Pyay and the people there made our impression of Myanmar even better than it already was. Sometimes a place is more than the sites there, and Pyay was definitely one of those places.

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