Stepping off the plane in Yangon, I realized I was some place very different than KL. First, there was no haze blanketing the city (a huge bonus), and second, the airport is the size of a high school gym, yet it still feels bigger than it needs to be.
Taking the 30 minute cab ride to the hotel, I felt as though I was in many different places all at once. I saw India in the random and beautiful chaos, traffic and grime. I saw Sri Lanka in the lush greenery lining the streets and the dozens of Buddhist temples that seem to appear on every block. I saw Thailand in the friendly faces always willing to help, yet not interested in taking your money (not much of it, anyway).
And taken all together I got my first glimpse of Myanmar. A gorgeous and vast country with extremely hardworking, sweet people that are peering over a cliff of exponential development and change – which brings with it both great hope and great fear.
My initial thoughts didn’t change much after spending a week walking, flying, running, boating and biking around. It was an outstanding place to visit at an exciting time in its history. Oh yeah, and the beer’s cheap too. Here’s what our week looked like…
Shaun (and a bit of Trina)
The chaotic streets of Yangon are covered in the most red betel juice spit per capita.
It’s only $1.20 CAD for a big bottle of local beer (3 glasses), which is cleverly named I might add.
Reconnecting with friends from our VSO days in Sri Lanka was a definite highlight. They were all great guides making sure we were properly watered and fed at all times.
Food cooked in a banana leaf is somehow more delicious.
This is what 100,000 Myanmar kyats looks like. Unfortunately, it’s only worth about 80 bucks, so you need to have big pockets.
The Shwedagon Pagoda is the largest and most famous in the country. It’s also a place filled with good luck charms and rituals.
Shaun’s longyi in the picture cost $5 and makes him look extremely fashionable and manly.
Pouring water 36 times (1 more than my age) on a shrine to honour the day I was born (Monday) might bring good luck but it also brings a sore arm.
Banging this bell three times also brings good luck. Good luck for all.
After spending a couple days in Yangon, we took off for Inle Lake in the eastern part of the country. Our first order of business was an all-day boat ride visiting local villages and attractions.
We arrived to Inle Lake just as a large Buddha festival was beginning. This man is preparing for the party with a pre-smoke.
Delicious food is everywhere.
Stupas and temples are also everywhere.
The vegetation is so lush that it will grow anywhere – even right out of the top of stupa..
The anticipation builds as the procession approaches on the river. Think Santa’s Day Parade, but on the water and in +30 temps and with people wearing brightly coloured towels on their heads instead of toques.
The boats or floats arrive one by one with some great chanting and singing. Notice how the guys paddle with their legs.
We’re getting to the most important floats now!
There it is! Buddha’s boat! And the crowd goes wild.
During the boat ride we visited local shops including this cheroot rolling business. We sampled a couple of the local flavours.
On the lake they also have floating gardens – mostly tomatoes. The bamboo poles hold the earth in place and can be pulled up when it’s time to move the garden to another location. Very cool..
Here’s a fisherman showing off. We had to pay him $1 for this shot. Still very impressive balance.
The hills around Inle Lake are very green and while it is cooler than Yangon, the sun still gets hot.
We also found a winery in the area. It felt and looked a lot like the Okanagon Valley in B.C.
Trina enjoys a glass of the white, which is recommended. Take a pass on the red.
These little kids are happily taking a break from school to show off for the tourists.
These young monks are hard at work. One of our guides told us that there are over 1 million monks in Myanmar.
Enjoying a cheroot with our hiking guide CoCo.
Here’s the boys laughing at me when I was about to light the wrong end of my cheroot. Dicks. haha.
A very happy group of kids.
A look at Inle Lake from above as we head back to Yangon for one more night of fun with our buds.
One last hurrah with Paul and Katherine, which we started at the Bob Marley bar. Of course.