One of the first things we did in Pyay was get to the river pronto to see the sunset.
After watching this, can you blame us?
It was a small sandy beach with the best unassuming bar where we got two pints and extolled our good fortune at finding this so close to town. We're staying at the Pan Ga Bar Guest House on Marchant Street, a family-run establishment where 12,000 kyat per person will get you a room with a double bed, air conditioning, hot water (ish), breakfast, and wifi.
Once we settled in, we took a gander down Old Post Office Road (how they came up with these names for their streets, we'll never know) where the largest concentration of restaurants and bars are situated, and walked through the very lively night market bursting to the seams with stalls and grilled food galore. We were about to sit down at one when something caught Jess's eye - a cuisine so unheard of around these parts that we just had to try it out.
A KOREAN RESTAURANT.
Grandma Cafe is a hodge-podge of things, really. The owner learned how to make Korean food during her travels in Malaysia and makes a decent stir-fry spicy pork, but she also serves burgers and pasta on top of Thai and Japanese cuisine. Usually when a restaurant's offerings are that diverse, everything tends to taste mediocre. But our meals were pretty good - so much so that we ordered another round of food and ended up polishing two dinners each. We definitely got some looks.
Pyay tends to stay awake a bit later than most cities in Burma for some reason, so you'll definitely not want for bars to hang out in. We walked along the river on Strand Road and came across Hline Ayar, which turned out to be an extraordinary place.
We parked ourselves innocently enough on the outside terrace and settled in for a game of cards. The clientele was entirely male, but that's nothing unusual here, so we thought nothing of it. Until the entertainment started.
One by one, a succession of young women took to the stage to sing. By Burmese standards, they were quite skimpily dressed, some wearing cocktail dresses that would make any Western father tell his daughter there was no way she was going out like that.
Almost universally terrible singers, it soon became clear that they weren't on stage because of their beautiful voices. But this didn't deter the men in the audience from showing their appreciation. Now and then, one of them would walk to the side of the stage, pick up one of the vast range of feather boas hanging on a rack, and drape it around his favourite performer. Thus earmarked, she would join her number one fan for a drink and a chat after her turn.
Seemed like harmless fun, but like much else in this country, profoundly weird.
All in all, we really liked what we saw of Pyay. Compared to the likes of Hpa-An, it's not yet on the beaten tourist track, but if you're passing through, it seems like a good place to kick back for a day or two.
Tomorrow is our final day using public transport, as we will be taking a bus 140km north through scorching barren desert wastelands to Magwe. It'll save us another thankless day's ride and get us one step closer to the promised land of Bagan.