Day 10 – February 6, 2016
I had a layover in the Bangkok Airport and then was on my way to Myanmar. I was super nervous about getting into the country from everything I had read and all the double-checking of my documents in Sri Lanka. Thankfully, I was wrong about how the immigration experience was going to play out. The immigration workers were actually smiling! That hardly ever happens. I was bombarded with taxi requests, but picked one and was off to the ET Hotel in Mandalay. I was so tired after only getting a few hours of sleep that I didn’t realize that in Myanmar they drive on the right side of the road and the driver’s seat is on the right side instead of the left. Someone actually had to point this out to me later. At the ET Hotel I found out I was in a room on the roof, which was really cool, but also on the fourth floor. My legs were going to hate that after the end of a long day of walking. I immediately walked to the Mandalay Palace. There was only one entrance that was on the opposite side of the moat. The palace grounds were huge! What I thought was going to be a quick walk ended being 40 minutes. Once I finally got into the walls I paid the 10,000 Kyat Mandalay ticket and discovered that most of the grounds was a military base. In the middle of the military base was the palace. It was really big and was filled with more locals than foreigners/tourists. I sat for awhile and tried a Curry Chicken snack, it wasn’t too bad.
I had two options: go back to my hotel or see a marionette show. I opted for the show. I bought my ticket and reserved a seat. The next few hours I wasted at a coffee shop and then getting dinner. (I was failing miserably at tipping since I hadn’t done it for over a year.) By the time I reached the show I was so tired. The marionette show wasn’t bad, not great, but really neat how they were trying to keep the tradition alive in Myanmar. One of the marionettists (?) had been doing it for over 70 years!
I then made the walk home. It was not scary at all because there was no one else walking on the streets, mostly driving. This first night back at the hotel was a good indication of how I was going to come to resent the man across the hallway from me. He was loud and played his music loudly for the entire floor to hear. Sharing was NOT caring in that particular instance.
Day 11 – February 7, 2016
I woke up and prepared for a lot of walking. I was going to stay in the Mandalay Hill area that day. It was about an hour walk away which I didn’t mind. There are several temples that are right beside each other in that area. It was hard for me to tell when one temple had ended and one had begun. Some of the temples include: Kyauktawgyi Paya, Kuthodaw Paya, Sandamuni Paya, Atumushi Kyaung, and Shwenandaw Kyaung. In the middle of the temples I had a snack break and ate what I can only call a Samosa Salad. I have no idea what else to compare it too. (haha) In the Sandamuni Paya I was stopped by a monk that asked me where I was from and a few other things. He had actually stopped me because he was with women from the Kachin state (Northern Myanmar) who wanted to take a picture with me. They were so cute and short, which made me feel like a giant (which never happens for me). I had read about the Kachin people in books, so it was refreshing to actually see them in person.
Finishing my walk around the temples I found a restaurant and ate a late lunch. It was attached to a super nice hotel and everything was in USD. That should have been my first clue that it was going to be overpriced. Feeling way too out of place in a fancy restaurant I left and walked towards the beginning of Mandalay Hill. I had read that it was really popular to go there for the sunset. On my progression up the hill (barefoot I might add) a Burmese guy stopped me and asked if he could practice English. Apparently this is a popular thing for students to do during tourist season. I agreed and he walked with me up the hill. He asked what I do and I said I’m an English teacher. He said he was so lucky because he was talking to a teacher. I wanted to tell him how unlucky he was because I am on vacation and am in no mood to teach. Poor guy! He wasn’t too bad to talk to and after we watched the sunset and walked down the hill he asked me for my email. Whether he will email me or not we will see, but it was refreshing to see so many students wanting to practice their English and having the confidence to approach strangers and talk to them. (Update: He never did email me.) On my walk home I had another guy stop me to practice his English, but he was more like following me then anything. Eventually he buggered off so I didn’t have to pretend to go to a different hotel so he wouldn’t know where I was staying. I purchased some fruit and ate my dinner in the hotel.
Day 12 – February 8, 2016
My hotel provided motor-bicycle taxis for 15,000 Kyat a day. I set-up a plan with one of them (I don’t know how to spell his name for the life of me) and left around 9:15am. The first stop was The Maha Gandayon Monastery. It is famous for their 10:15am feeding of the monks. They allow the public to watch it. I found this both interesting and odd. There were so many people there to watch the monks line-up and be given their daily offering of food. I kind of felt like we were treating them like a viewing show at a zoo.
My driver took me to the next stop in Amarapura to see the U Bein’s Bridge. It is a 1.2km teak bridge and no part of me felt safe on it as I walked across it and back again.
Next, we went to Inwa where I ate lunch and then took a boat (we all know how I feel about boats) across to the Inwa village. At the docking point of the boat there were dozens of horse carts shouting out their services even though it was obvious what they were selling. I was not a fan of the horse carts and walked promptly by them even though I was being told that it would take me 4-5 hours to walk around Inwa. I believe it did not take me that long, but I also didn’t see everything. There are so many temples and monasteries in Myanmar that after awhile if I just got to the point where I was okay not seeing everyone of them.
I took the boat back to the other side and waited for my driver. I don’t think he was expecting me to get back so soon. The driver took me to the last stop, Sagaing Hill. After so much walking I was in no mood to climb up a hill, but I did it. It was a great view and I saw so many temples from the top. I swear I could count twenty just standing in one spot. I made my way back down where a monk stopped me. I am assuming that he wanted to practice his English, but it was so hard for me to understand him that I had to just say goodbye after a certain point.
Back in Mandalay I took a nap and then headed to the night market. It was right in the middle of the street so there were motorcycles still driving in-between the paths made. I ordered spicy noodles at a stall and I think the locals were absolutely shocked that I was eating there. Feeling pretty tired I headed back to my hotel.
Day 13 – February 9, 2016
My last day in Mandalay and I was going to make it a chill one. I had heard about a street that had gold leaf shops so I headed towards them. I walked into one shop and it was so awkward that after they gave me a piece of paper about how they make gold leaf I left. There were men there pounding the gold into sheets, but I still felt like I wasn’t supposed to be there. I left promptly and walked around to try to find a cafe. I eventually ended up in The Diamond Plaza where I ate some bread buns and drank an iced coffee. I continued to try to find a coffee shop with wifi and finally settled on The Mandalay Bistro. I always find it so ironic whenever there are signs with words like luxurious and modern or premium because chances are that the business is none of those things. I suppose that is just something to get used to while being in Myanmar. I wasn’t in the shopping mood so I didn’t go to the Zeygo Market. Instead I went back to my hotel and took a nap. This extended into the rest of the evening because I woke up with really hot skin, a terrible headache, and terrible stomach pains. All I could think about was how I didn’t know how I was going to survive a 5 hour bus ride in the morning. Eventually later in the evening I threw up and started feeling a little bit better. If it wasn’t for all of my noisy neighbors I am sure I would have fallen asleep at 9:00pm.
Day 14 – February 10, 2016
I woke up at 5:00am to get a taxi to the bus station at 5:30am. This bus station looked like a really run-down truck stop. I felt like if I was going to be kidnapped anywhere in Myanmar it would be at this bus stop. I went to the counter to check-in, but the man told me there was not a reservation for me. After I explained that I had made one online he told me that he doesn’t do online reservations. I tried to argue with the man but he didn’t seem to give two f*cks. Eventually, when I tried to pay for a ticket to get on the 7:00am bus he practically ignored me until I waved the money in his face. Normally, I don’t like being this rude but I was so frustrated by the bus situation and didn’t want to be at this run-down bus station at 6:00am. I went to the bathroom before I got on the bus. Now that is where I would have gotten kidnapped! The bus I was on was a small, dirty bus with no undercarriage so all of our bags had to be laid in the middle aisle. One kid thought it was fun to flick the shells of his quail eggs on my bag. He ended up puking later from how bouncy the bus was on the road. Karma much? There was also no air conditioning on the bus, so everything was coated with a layer of dust.
5 hours later, I was at the Bagan Bus Station and took a taxi into Nyaung-U where I checked into the Shwe Na Di Guesthouse. Right off the bat the receptionist was super friendly, which really made-up for the crap morning I had had with the bus situation. I dropped my bags off and rented an E-bike. I spent the afternoon driving it around to different temples and pagodas. There are so many freaking temples and pagodas in Bagan. I loved it! I ended my evening with a sunset viewing on the top of Shwe San Daw Pagoda. There were several other people on the pagoda, but I didn’t mind. I had another meal of rice (thanks a lot stomach) and then retired to my hotel. I had a feeling that I was going to love the next three days of temple touring.
Day 15 – February 11, 2016
Before I could even leave my hotel in the morning I heard noise coming from the street. It kind of sounded like a parade. I watched as a few floats, several people in groups walking while waving flags, and a couple marching bands went by. Myanmar’s government had recently been voted into a democratic government for the first time in years. I couldn’t tell if this parade was in support of a democratic or military leader. I was hoping democratic.
My plan was to tour Old Bagan but that didn’t keep me from stopping at a few temples on the way there. I even took a few dirt paths and ended up in the villages nearby Old Bagan. It is important for me to note that these villages, at least some of them, are not there by choice. When Myanmar opened its’ doors to tourists they kicked many residents out of Old Bagan to “preserve the tourist area”. The result of this eviction are New Bagan City and scattered villages located around Old Bagan and the temples. I took a look around the Thiri Zaya Bumi Bagan Golden Palace. It was large, beautiful, and (duh) golden.
The Ma Ha Bodhi Temple is where my day took a little bit of a surprising turn. I was about to leave the temple when a Burmese woman stopped me and asked me if I wanted to do thanaka. I jumped on the opportunity. Thanaka is a paste made of tree bark and it is used as the local sunscreen and is apart of the local wear along with longyis and sandals. She did a beautiful job and I felt so blessed to meet Pew Pew. (I ended up getting compliments the rest of the day on how beautiful I looked) Because she had been so gracious I decided I would buy a couple shirts from her. I was planning on buying things throughout the day, but it felt more meaningful to buy from someone I had made a connection with.
Throughout my visits to different temples I continued to make, what I would like to call, thoughtful purchases. The gentle sellers were the ones most luring to me. They weren’t loud or demanding; just calm and present. With each of these small moments they would slap my money and say, “this is my lucky money”. I took pride in the fact that they considered my business lucky. My favorite encounter was with a 12-year-old boy. He was asking questions, but he also answered mine. I don’t remember his name, but the cheeky fellow said, “how old are you?” and then proceeded to say, “oh no, no, no. Never mind. You never ask a lady that.” haha! I bought postcards from him without bargaining. What I wished more than anything though is that he was in school and not at that temple.
I had lunch and then retreated back to my hotel to get out of the heat. I wasn’t about to get sick from heat exhaustion again. I went back out to see more temples and then ate dinner at Star Beam in Old Bagan. Apparently, it is the best restaurant in Myanmar. My food was actually really good and I am sure it would have tasted even better if my stomach still hadn’t been feeling unwell. Since I had stayed out past sunset it was dark when I was driving back to Nyuang-U. I didn’t know the temples were lit up at night, so I got to see Htilominlo in all of its’ gloriousness in the evening.
Day 16 – Febrary 12, 2016
At breakfast I ended up sitting by the same French couple (at least I think they were French) as I had the previous morning. They gave us so much food at breakfast. I only liked part of it and the couple only liked part of their breakfast. I had given them my toast for the past two days so it became this joke that I get their toast ready for them. This day, I was headed to all the temples that weren’t on the direct road to Old Bagan. All of these temples had the old paintings and murals still in them. I am surprised at how they aren’t made more of a big deal. Then again I think if you have a tour guide they would make it a big deal whereas I was just looking at a general map. I ended up having lunch in New Bagan City. One thing that Myanmar has let me down on is its’ coffee. I ordered a latte in hopes of getting a legit one. *sigh* It just wasn’t the same.
My plan was to check-out the museum in Bagan. The building is huge so I am assuming that is has a lot of great information and details about Bagan and all its’ temples. It was closed. This was just what I needed to send me back to my hotel to take a nap. It is funny how at the beginning of my trip I was walking around all day non-stop. Then I regressed to doing something for half of the day and then resting the rest. It is vacation after all! What I really wished was that my stomach was back to normal and I could actually enjoy the food that I was eating. I went for a walk after my nap and ended up in the Manisithu Market. I finally got my longyi of choice. I had dinner and then read the rest of the evening.
Day 17 – February 13, 2016
It was my last full day in Bagan and I was tired. I never seem to realize how much I have done until I just feel exhausted. I had one last area of temples to tour. It was a small area between Old Bagan and New Bagan. It was a Saturday and everyone was out in their nice longyis. I got stopped three times to take pictures. (I’m only famous on Saturdays in Myanmar haha) I often wonder what the appeal of taking a picture with a foreigner is. Is it my super white skin? My blue eyes? Or my different haircut and dirty blonde hair? While none of this seems exotic to me because I have to look in the mirror every morning. To Burmese people maybe I do look like a rare bird that is only spotted once in awhile. I finished off my temple tour in New Bagan and treated myself to lunch at a brick-oven pizza place. I felt weird about ordering pizza in Myanmar, but I was craving it. Now to only fix my coffee needs. My last place to visit was the Bagan Archeological Museum. This museum was huge and unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take my camera or phone in with me. It had many descriptions of which kings or queens had built which pagoda or temple and why they built it. There were several pieces of artifacts or buddha images that had been moved to this museum from all the temples I had visited. It was quite amazing.
I once again retreated back to my hotel. I think I was on book number two or three of the week. Later, I spent some time in a “cafe” and had a latte that was decent with a fruit platter and then later on some chicken tikka. Reluctantly, I had to pack my bag. I had done such a terrible job packing it in Mandalay when I was sick that I had to take everything out and pack it up again. I went to bed early but thanks to the jerks that were sitting outside my window drinking and talking until 1:15am I did not get to sleep until it was quiet again.
Day 18 – February 14, 2016
The irony that on Valentine’s Day I would be sitting on a bus for hours being single as f*ck. Whatever! I woke up super early to get ready for my bus pick-up at 7:00am. They were almost an hour late which just made me very nervous that I was going to have another Mandalay bus experience. They picked me up at 8:00am and thankfully it was a clean bus. Besides stopping at noon for lunch, and a few pit stops along the way, we were on the bus until almost 5:00pm. That’s when we stopped at the Nyaung Shwe tourist entry check-point, paid our tourist entry fee and then were driven into town. A man was hanging out of our open bus door as he directed the bus driver towards our appointed hostels, hotels, and resorts. I had finally reached the May Haw Nann Resort. I instantly fell in love with this place when I looked at the pictures on Agoda, and I was not disappointed when I arrived. I had my own little cottage and the receptionist/host brought me a basket of fruit. With the day pretty much gone I rode a bicycle into town and had dinner. Real hummus for the first time in awhile! I booked a boat tour of the lake for the next day and settled down for what I hoped would be a good nights rest.
Day 19 – February 15, 2016
I am so glad that I booked at Maw Hay Nann! I had solid sleep for the first time in days. I was so reluctant to get out of bed and the coolness from the lake did not help. I actually put on extra layers because I was so cold. I ate breakfast and hopped onto the truck taxi. I had my own boat and while I felt awkward about it I soon got over it. My boat driver was very nice and helpful, and the lake was wonderful! After my boat incident in Taiwan and in Cambodia I am not really a fan of getting on boats. This boat was in good condition and the lake was super nice, so it put my mind at ease quickly. When we first got out on the lake we saw the fishermen out on the water for the day. Each fisherman uses his technique of choice. I was most fascinated with the ones that would be throwing out nets while holding an oar with their one leg and balancing on the other leg!
Throughout the day my boat driver took me to various villages around the lake and dropped me off at different shops. I saw lotus silk weaving, cigar rolling, boat making, and silversmiths. Each one was very interesting but I get really uncomfortable at the end when they take me to their shop. I have no desire to buy some of the things they have to sell so it makes me want to run away (mature I know). At lunch, I figured my stomach could finally handle a curry. I was sadly disappointed when I discovered that I was not a fan of Myanmar curry. Oh well!
We stopped at three different religious sites. The first was a temple where you could put gold leaf on a buddha figure, but only if you are a man! I was very disappointed by this. Does half of my hair being super short count me as half of a man? Haha! After going through a small canal we reached Indein. It took about 15-20 minutes to walk to the top. At the top was the temple and several small stupas surrounded the temple. Each of them had a different name on them and they all had a different style to attribute to each stupa. The last stop of the day was a very old monastery. I may have heard the words 100-years-old being thrown around to described this monastery on stilts above the lake. By this point I was beginning to think that the area of Inle Lake does not like women. At almost every religious spot I had been to that day there was a “Ladies are Prohibited” sign at the major prayer areas. What’s the deal? Why can’t I pray to Buddha like any other man? So strange.
With the sun lowering in the sky my driver took me back to Nyaung Shwe Port.
I then headed to the Pancake Kingdom. I had seen it on a map and I knew I needed to go. It was a small shop, but the banana strawberry chocolate crepe that I had was goooood. My walk back to May Haw topped off a very lovely day. I was looking forward to yet another relaxing day.
Day 20 – February 16, 2016
Despite my hardest efforts to sleep-in I woke up at 8:00am. That doesn’t mean I jumped out of bed. I was on my third book that week and was thoroughly enjoying all the reading I was getting done. I never feel like I read enough at home between work, exercise, and day-to-day chores. After breakfast, I got ready for the day and walked to a cave that was nearby. To get to the Hleit Cave I had to walk through the countryside past farms, a school, and a monastery. It was both beautiful and peaceful. A monk stopped me on my way to ask where I was going. I don’t think I had given the Burmese people enough credit for how nice they had been to me. I had so many people who walked by me or drove by me say “hello” and offered up a big smile. It gave me the wonderful sense of being welcomed and wanted into Myanmar. The cave was a bit of a surprise. I was offered a flashlight so that I could go all the way into the back. I didn’t spend too much time there because I did feel a little claustrophobic.
I walked back to my cottage and read for a bit before I decided to bicycle to the Red Mountain Winery that is close to Inle Lake. It was a nice bicycle ride through more of the countryside and then an awful climb up a hill. I was cursing myself and asking was it really worth it for the wine?!? I ordered the taster set which includes 4 different kinds of wine from their winery. They weren’t bad. I also ordered some food. The Shan noodles was the first Burmese dish that I actually really enjoyed. Along with a crepe for dessert I also ordered a glass of their Late Harvest wine, a semi-sweet white wine. It was lovely just sitting there drinking wine and reading with a view of the vineyard in front of me.
I paid and bicycled back to my cottage for my reading time. I followed that with dinner and get more time to read. Although I didn’t do much I had really enjoyed the day and wished I could have more days like it, but alas I needed to get some stuff done and head to another city.
Day 21 – February 17, 2016
Sadly, it was my last day in Nyaung Shwe and Inle Lake. I got up, ate breakfast, and checked out. I was going to wander around the small town until my bus pick-up at 6:00pm. I biked into NS and went to the Cultural Museum which used to be the Shan Palace back when they had kings and governors overlooking states in Myanmar. It wasn’t a very big museum, but it gave me a little bit of a better idea how the Shan state ran hundreds of years ago. After the museum I popped by the market and the pharmacy before I headed to a cafe called The French Touch. I thought it was kind of silly and the prices were a bit high. As soon as I started eating I retracted that thought. The food was delicious! I spent some time there before I thought I better leave and not overstay my welcome. I bicycled back to May Haw and still had time to waste. I read my book and went for a walk. I was walking around the farm area so all the locals were staring at me. They were probably wondering what the hell I was doing! I did not have a lot of energy for some reason so my walk didn’t last as long as I wish it would have. I waited for my taxi pick-up and then said goodbye to my hotel managers. Thankfully the overnight bus that I booked was a nice one. It was clean and we even got a little snack. It was freezing on the bus so I layered up and was very glad they gave us a blanket. My only hope was that the next 12 hours would go by quickly. Besides some weird stops for the bathroom it was a good bus. The first 3 hours were kind of painful because we were driving out of the mountains in a huge sleeper bus. Every time the driver went around a corner I held my breathe hoping I wouldn’t vomit. Once we were out of the mountains I immediately fell asleep.
Day 22 – February 18, 2016
I woke up to the bright light of the bus and the shouts of Yangon. Typical to all buses in Myanmar we were dropped off at a bus station in the middle of no where. I was immediately annoyed when I saw a bunch of taxi drivers crowding around the door of the bus. The last thing I wanted was for people to be grabbing at my bags and me. No one touched me and I was offered a ride at a ridiculous price, but tired and just wanting to get to my hostel, I agreed. The taxi driver put me in the taxi and then showed up with two other people that I had met on the bus. While that was fine I became even more annoyed. I just wanted to leave! In town, dropped off at the Traveller’s House Chinatown I walked up the stairs to my hostel to find that all the doors were locked. I kind of went into a panic mode because it was almost 7:00am and I had no way to call them. I kept pushing on what I hoped was the front door until one of the receptionists opened it. I then noticed that the reception desk and the big dorm were connected. It was a small hostel with a lot of people, but once I was switched to a bottom bunk later in the day I was much happier. On the plus side the hostel was clean and very nice! I changed and got ready for the day and immediately walked to The Rangoon Tea House for breakfast. I had a legit latte and delicious duck empanadas.
I walked around the colonial buildings in the area where the architecture was influenced by British colonialism. I made a stop by the Independence Monument and then went into Sule Paya. A guy asked me where I was from and we chatted about Seattle and then he was like can I tell you a little bit about the pagoda. I didn’t think anything of it until he had taken me halfway around the pagoda explaining every little detail. That’s when I started swearing inside my head. I knew he would want to be paid for his “services” whether they were wanted or not. I did find out more information about Burmese Buddhism and that since I was born on a Tuesday I need to go to the Tuesday Buddha because that is my Buddha. Apparently, because I was born on a Tuesday that is why I am smart and like to travel. Whether that is a bunch of crap or not is up for debate. Sure enough when he finished telling me about the pagoda he asked for a donation of 10,000kyats (almost 9USD). I laughed at his absurdness but didn’t have a really small bill so he gave me 5,000kyats back (about 4USD). I was really mad at myself for falling into his tourist trap but I had a nice long walk to try to find the Natural History Museum to forget about my anger.
Through enough walking around in the heat I discovered that you had to walk through the Yangon Zoo to get to the museum (that should have been my first sign that it wasn’t good). I paid to get into the zoo and saw some of the animals. I think it was the saddest zoo ever. Poor animals! Once I reached the museum I discovered that that museum was terrible too! It had a bunch of animals that had been killed and stuffed and displayed around the room and then a room full of rocks. It only took me a couple glances around the display rooms to know that this was not a history museum (or at least the version that I know).
I walked out of the zoo and headed towards the Bogyoke Scott Market. This market was huge with souvenir shops, jewelry stands, and so much more. Because there were so many shops I tried not to linger too long in front of them before the shop keeper tried to drag me in. The shopkeepers are pretty mellow in Myanmar and I really appreciate it. They are fair with their prices for the most part and not too demanding. I bought some things and then made my way back to my hostel for a rest. I had done a lot of walking! I headed out for dinner in hopes of finding a restaurant, but I passed so many good street food stalls that I gave up on that idea and ate on the street like a local. The food was gooood! I even had a real donut for the first time in forever. I know I was supposed to be focusing on losing weight, but it was vacation. I retreated to my hostel for an early evening. I wanted a much needed shower and some relaxation time.
Day 23 – February 19, 2016
My morning was off to an early start when I woke up at 6:30am! I tried for a little bit to get back to sleep but with no success. I ate breakfast and then walked to the Shwedagon Pagoda. This is one of the largest pagodas in Myanmar and it is beautiful. I would have stayed longer but it was so hot. At almost 10:00am I swear it was 90 degrees outside. I was also already hungry so I had an early lunch at the Grand Canyon Cafe. Getting out of the heat I spent the next few hours in the Yangon National Museum. This museum was a million times better than the one I was in the previous day. I would have taken so many pictures, but they have a technology ban throughout the museum. The museum contained a variety of items from clothing, Buddha images, art, artifacts, etc. The Lion Throne was the highlight of the museum. It was both large and intricate. It was obvious that former civilizations of Myanmar had put their kings on pedestals of honor.
The next place I wanted to go to was the Strand Hotel to make a reservation for afternoon tea, but as soon as I stepped outside I knew I couldn’t walk that far in the heat. I took a cab there instead, made a reservation, and walked to the Botahtaung Pagoda. Even that short walk was killing me in the heat. The Botahtaung Pagoda is a very special temple because you can actually go inside it. The interior is covered from floor to ceiling with gold plating and gold paint. People were taking pictures of the sacred relic that was inside the pagoda. I had no idea what I was looking at so I just followed the crowd and took a picture too. I walked around the rest of the temple area and then went back to the Strand Hotel.
Although afternoon tea at the hotel is a bit pricey, it is very good. I felt soooo out of place. As if the poor backpacker bus had just dropped me off in front of the hotel and I had begged to come in for “a spot of tea”. Despite feeling awkward I really enjoyed the afternoon tea treats and my Myanmar Organic Green Tea. Having enough of the heat I walked back to my hostel. I enjoyed the rest of the evening in the cool only stepping out for a little shopping and food.
Day 24 – February 20, 2016
This was my last full day in Myanmar. I didn’t have huge plans. I just wanted to check-out a few more things and then do the usual packing and last minute shopping. I left my hostel later than I wanted to. For some reason they took forever to give me my breakfast, so by the time I was out the door it was already getting really hot outside. I walked to the Yangon Central Train Station. I was going to attempt to get on the Circle Train headed towards a pagoda I wanted to see. I had heard about the Circle Train from some other backpackers. A quick Google search told me that it was Yangon’s equivalent to a subway system and it gets its’ name because the train makes a complete circle. I understood why Burmese people would use this train instead of a taxi. It was a mere 200 Kyats (20 cents in USD). I thought I had heard the admission person wrong because it was so cheap. The train was exactly what I had expected: dirty, full of locals and walk through vendors. I was not expecting the huge amount of swaying that the train made. Even the MRT in Taipei didn’t sway that much! While all of these things sound like it would make for a bad experience it was quite the opposite. I welcomed these, dirty, expectations with open arms as I took the train all the way around to Insein Station. I think the best part about the train was how the locals reacted to me. They seemed so surprised that a foreigner would take the train willingly and they laughed at all the things I was taking pictures of.
In Insein, I bought some fruit and walked to the Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda that is near-ish the station. This pagoda is special because it is the home of one of the largest marble Buddha figures in Myanmar. It also has an accompanying large, marble alms bowl that can hold a mass amount of rice for the monks. Since this temple is a little out of the way to get to all of the locals were looking at me as if I was lost. I wanted to say “I’m not lost, just a little crazy.” I finished my tour around the pagoda and hired a taxi to take me back to downtown Yangon. As much fun as the train was, haha!
I enjoyed a cake and strawberry banana juice before retreating to my hostel. I needed some serious rehydration and packing time. I spent the rest of the day re-packing and preparing for Thailand. For dinner I went to the markets for my last meal of street food.
Myanmar was not what I expected. It offered the least amount of Western amenities out of all the countries that I had been too in Asia. This was really good for me. It kind of came as a bit of a culture shock at first, but after the initial jolt I got used to it. I think I need to be reminded of what I have and enjoy in life, and to not take that for granted. In Taiwan, I can retreat into my American bubbles or pockets that I have created for myself. I couldn’t do that in Myanmar, which was rough, but necessary. It exposed me to more of the culture than I could have ever asked for. It wasn’t the most luxurious trip, but yet it was still amazing.