When we decided to take a boat from Mawlamyine to Hpa An, we had no idea what we had signed up for.  In my head I pictured it as a fancy speed boat with ice cold beers.  This was not the case.  Joseline had decided to join us to Hpa An so it was Julie, Joseline and I. We had a tuk tuk pick us up from the guesthouse and drive us down to the boat.  The driver literally dumps us off, doesn’t say a word about where to go or what boat is ours and then leaves.  So we stand there for a few minutes lost and confused until they start loading one boat and we are about to get on when someone asked where we are going because we don’t have any tickets.  We just paid and when we asked for a ticket he gave us a high five.  I guess that works around here.  Anyways, with no ticket to give to anyone we had no direction.  That was the wrong boat, so good thing we didn’t get on and we were directed to a different boat.

Our boat was a very small wooden boat with three wooden 2 by 4s for benches.  Anytime you move in the boat it feels like it’s going to tip over. The engine propeller is one of those long metal ones that looks like a hand held kitchen mixer you would use to whip eggs. We thought at first it was just going to be us three but then a sweet little British couple showed up.  I sat in the front because I wanted to take videos and photos. Julie and Joseline sat in the back and the British couple in the middle.  The boat goes about ten miles per hour, so this trip was going to take awhile.  It was a gorgeous ride.  There were clear blue skies and it didn’t get too hot for the first couple of hours.  Sitting on a 2 by 4 for 4 hours is not my cup of tea.  I’ve got a big booty, I don’t understand why it doesn’t work as a cushion?

We stopped for gas and to use a bathroom half way through the ride. It was amazing seeing all the villages on the shoreline and tons of shipwrecked boats. One spot had so many that it looked like a ship graveyard. Again, as is everywhere here SO much garbage! In the water, on the coastline, everywhere.  Which is so crazy to me!  At one point the engine cut off.  Slightly nerve racking. But it was just a piece of string that had gotten tangled in the propeller.  Scared me half to death though.  I was thinking, this is where I die.

We arrived just when it was getting too hot to bear. My knees where burnt from not being fully covered by the small canopy on the boat. The drop off point was a steep empty shoreline covered in garbage. At first I couldn’t see the stairs and I’m thinking I have to climb up this wall of garbage with two backpacks.  Luckily there were stairs. We walked to our hostel and checked in and got some info about tours and things to do since we were only staying a few days and we wanted to make the best of it and see as much as we could.

We went for some lunch nearby because we were starving and signed up for a bat cave tour. It’s a quick tour near sunset so perfect for that night. It was just the 3 of us girls and then one other dude who really annoyed me so I’m not even going to talk about him here. I’m pretending in my memory that it was just the girls and I.  We had become quite the little threes company at this point.  Joseline had taken to calling us French Julie and American Julie, when addressing us, which I found adorable!

We took a tuk tuk to the bat cave where we climbed seriously dangerous stairs to the top of a view point. Why do they have so many dangerous stairs here? While at the top I saw one guy with a brace on his ankle and a walking stick for support as well as a small maybe one year old. So that tells me they aren’t really that dangerous or people are just crazy. One or the other, maybe a little bit of both. We sat at the top of the view point for a good hour and a half. We caught an amazing sunset and waited for the bats.

We were told that at sunset the bats are summoned out of the caves by a monk playing drums. So we wait for sunset, no bats. It’s now dark, still no bats. The monk plays his drum song and still no bats. I’m convinced this is a joke. Fooled us into sitting up on the top of a hill for no reason for hours. I’m scared to death to go down the stairs in the dark. They scared me in broad daylight. The thought of going down them in the dark is terrifying.  We decide to head back down before it gets even more dark.  At the bottom is when we finally saw the bats. Literally millions of bats!  They were really hard to see though.  If it wasn’t for the view point this tour would have been a waste of time in my opinion.

On our way back we helped out a guy and his girlfriend who had ridden bikes to the cave and now it was way to dark to ride back. We loaded up one bike in our tuk tuk and the other one in a different tuk tuk and then gave him a ride back to town. We were happy to help! I would want someone to help me just like when I locked my keys in the motorbike.  Traveling is a kinship.

After we showered I did a load of laundry in the bathroom sink with a bar of soap.  Then we headed to bed early so we could rest up for our full day tour of the famous caves of Hpa An.  Poor Julie had tiny little ants in her bed, actually they were everywhere. I think this particular hostel was built on top of an aunt hill.   Also, every time she moved even the slightest muscle her bed frame made so much noise.  All we could do is laugh.