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The next day, we headed for the Shan State capital city of Taunggyi. We stopped by Aythaya Vineyard, the first winery in Myanmar which was opened by the German entrepreneur. For wine lovers, it would be the perfect place as you will be able to witness the whole flow of wine-making right from the growing of grapes up till the fermentation process. I was not a massive fan of wine but it was still fascinating to learn about the process and being able to engage in wine-tasting in picturesque surroundings at the end was just the icing on an already scrumptious cake.

Taunggyi is a city that has developed and grown rapidly over the years and now boasts of its own city square mall. To see the extent of this growth, we headed up the mountains to visit the Shwe Bone Pwint Pagoda. Upon reaching there, I was quickly captivated by the brilliant bird’s eye view of the city. It was quite simply spectacular and ranked among some of the very best views I have seen of this beautiful country to date.

We then wandered around and soon chanced upon an ongoing local village football competition. As an avid football fan, I was naturally excited, and it was at the game where I was exposed to more of the local culture. The football game was held at a small stadium right beside the local market and the entire area was simply bustling with activity.

There were also many locals congregated all around the field, hoping to get a better view of the match. And among these locals, I could see many from the Pa’O ethnic tribe. Clad in their traditional black costume with their colourful headpieces, the striking Pa’O women were impossible to miss. I soon learnt that the people of Pa’O ethnic tribe would mostly live around this part of Myanmar. There were also several peddlers of food and drinks going around the stadium, hoping to entice onlooking spectators.

On the pitch, the action did not disappoint with the players pumped up from the strong support and goals flying in every few minutes. It might not have been world-class football action, but the overall atmosphere was certainly world-class.

It was soon time for lunch, and we decided to try some Pa’O street food. The dishes we ordered included a mildly spicy tofu salad, some vegetables and beef ball soup. They did not disappoint and were really tasty. I devoured them within minutes and was surprised to find out later that it was only about 2,500 kyats per person.

Our last stop for the day was the Kakku Pagodas Complex, a site which consisted of some 2,500 ancient pagodas. Before satellite view was available, it was said that there were so many pagodas that they had trouble counting the exact number and had to recount repeatedly. We had certainly saved the best for the last as this was a mesmeric place which gave off vibes akin to a dreamy fairy tale.

Furthermore, the stunning sight of the myriad of ancient stupas standing out in the evening sky coupled with the faint ringing sound of bells which were attached at the top of each pagoda made it feel as though I was transported to another place momentarily. This was a photographer’s paradise and even though I was no photography enthusiast, I too could not help whipping out my phone to capture as many shots as I possibly could.

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