When we thought of Myanmar images of hot air balloons drifting high above pagodas popped into our heads. We envisioned it being a country purely to visit for the temples and one legged fisherman of Inle Lake. We were fools to think that. Myanmar has some incredible waterfalls that need to be seen to be believed, but if you can’t make it to this magical spot then I hope you enjoy the photos I took of paradise.
We could have hired a motorbike to reach the waterfalls but it was a long way with some steep, windy sections so we decided a tuk tuk would be better for the 100km round trip. A local man in circular black framed glasses named Chalu approached us and offered a good price to visit Dee Dote waterfall, about 50km from Mandalay. We needed time to think about our other options and he said if we find a cheaper quote he would take us for free. He agreed to meet us at our hotel that evening for our decision.
An hour before we were due to meet him we walked around the block to get a quote from another tuktuk and just as we were stepping off the pavement and onto the road to approach a parked one, Chalu cut in front of us on his motorbike with a big grin on his face. “How lucky is this bumping into you now” he said. We just looked at each other thinking what are the bloody chances we bumped into him in such a big city. We never made it across to the other tuktuk driver so we agreed on $15 for a full day trip.
I saw photos of Dee Dote Waterfall before arriving in Myanmar and I was sceptical about how good they’d look in person. We were visiting in rainy season and I saw some pictures of the blue pools after rain and they turned into a brown mess. So I was expecting the worst to save disappointment. It took about an hour and a half to reach the falls, driving into the rolling green hills covered in dense forest. We pulled up in an empty car park where it was free entry for everyone and we set off on a 15 minute uphill walk along a muddy track. There were no signs in English but a few locals lived in basic huts along the route and they pointed us the way. We passed one family who had two incredibly friendly dogs who ran over with wagging tails so we spent awhile giving them lots of cuddles.
When we began the descent to reach the top pool we got our first glimpse down and I almost couldn’t believe my eyes. It was most definitely blue and not brown, in fact it was so blue that it didn’t even look real. We rushed down to reach the shore and it was even bluer up close. Craig couldn’t shut me up, I was absolutely gobsmacked by the unreal colour of the pool. It was a milky blue colour from minerals so it was very opaque and you couldn’t see through it. Much to our surprise we were the only people there, it was paradise and we had it to ourselves. We’ve seen pools like this before in Laos and the Philippines but these ones seemed so off the beaten track in comparison which made them even more special.
The edge was actually built up with sandbags so not totally natural but they’d been there for so long that the minerals had stuck onto them and it all blended in nicely. There was a small waterfall at the back and one just below us which led down into the next pool and they continue in that manner down the valley. I was sceptical about jumping in, I hate not knowing what’s in the water around me, or what my feet will feel when I touch the floor. It took awhile for me to pluck up the courage and just as I was about to jump Craig spotted a snake. It was over two meters long and swimming along the surface of the pool below us. Luckily it didn’t put me off too much and I took the plunge. The ground was gravelly and I could touch it instead of having to tread water which I’m terrible at. The temperature was just perfect to cool off but warm enough to want to stay in forever.
We swam across the pool to the small waterfall and found a rock we could step onto to reach a miniature pool which the falls crashed into. There wasn’t much space to move around and my leg slipped up to my thigh into a hidden hole, but once we stabilised ourselves we had a blast as the water pounded on our backs and gave us a free massage. I couldn’t see a damn thing as my eyes were filled with water but I remember laughing a lot. Craig went behind the falls into a cave area which I only saw in the photos afterwards, far too creepy for me.
Our tuk tuk driver also came for a well needed dip and then we headed back down to check out the lower pools. The access to them was a little trickier with extremely steep steps carved into the muddy hill almost like a mud-ladder. These pools had a few locals hanging about so it wasn’t as tranquil as the top one. Nor was it as blue or clean, we certainly started with the best, but they were still very pretty. We had a swim and attempted to climb up a slippery section to the higher pools but it was too tricky with our daypacks on and a risk of falling in.
Our plan after visiting Dee Dote was to head further north to Anisakan Falls, a waterfall that drops about 120m. It was at least an hour drive away plus a 45 minute walk down to the falls. We were told there would be enough time to get there but Chalu also arranged for our driver to take us to some other falls not far from Dee Dote. When we arrived at the car park a man charged us a pitiful fee and with our ticket we received a wet wipe which the entry fee probably didn’t cover the cost of. The man said it was a 20 minute walk to the top waterfall but in the sweltering heat it took us a lot longer.
We passed some small falls and followed the clear stream uphill to the main three waterfalls. Each one dropped about 10-15m into a clear but not milky-blue pool. They were pretty waterfalls but not wow ones. We went up to the top fall and took a swim in the refreshing water. The locals had slung a rope below the waterfalls which rested in the water and made for a great seat to cool off in the spray. Even after the well needed dip we became sweat covered on the walk back down and took any opportunity to dive into the other waterholes we passed.
By the time we left it was well past noon and we hadn’t even had lunch. We poked our wet faces out the side of the tuk tuk to get the cool breeze while searching for a place to eat. Chalu called our driver to see our plans and said we wouldn’t have enough time to reach Anisakan Falls which was a shame but maybe we’d seen enough waterfalls for one day. We were taken to a sunset viewpoint and then asked our driver to drop us off at an Indian restaurant for dinner and we said farewell. As we walked the 2km back to our hotel Chalu came running across the road. How the heck did he find us again? He said he was having a tea in the cafe and saw us walk by so he asked how our day was. He also said he liked Craig’s t-shirt and asked to swap it for his one to which we laughed and said no. We bid him farewell and he said “see you in our next life”. I kid you not the next evening the same damn thing happened, in a different area of the city he rolled past on a vintage rickshaw which he told us was passed down from his grandfather. This time he said he liked Craig’s shorts and asked if they could swap, to which we gave the same reaction as yesterday. Once again we said goodbye, wondering if it was for the last time, and I said “you know Chalu, with how you keep finding us in this big city it really would not surprise me if we do see you in our next life”.