Unlike her neighbours, Myanmar has only recently started to attract tourists who speak of a beautiful and delightful country. I was fortunate to experience elements of the country during a unforgettable fortnight in November 2015. I didn't find this length of time long enough to do this country justice but this has provided me with another reason to return.
Flying from Bangkok to Yangon takes one hour and upon arrival I quickly caught a taxi. I felt uncomfortable on the journey as the driver regularly stopped the car to spit out his tobacco out the window. I was also overwhelmed by the noise of the traffic and beeping car horns. The taxi fare was €8 but for some reason I gave him €80! I later realised my mistake but the driver was long gone! I headed to bed upset that night and rather than sleep, I conducted more post mortems on the incident than a entire season of CSI!
I tell this story to encourage people who travel solo to be prepared in the event of things going wrong. Bring alternative payment methods and keep each of them in separate places!
Following a lengthy conversation with my parents and plenty of rest, I began exploring Yangon including Shwedagon Paya. It is a Buddhist temple and I was astounded by the beauty of the sun reflecting on the golden stupa. The smell of incense restored zen to my soul. Subsequently, I boarded the 'Circle Train' which assists travellers to get a insight into the life of the rural inhabitants of Myanmar. These people live in poverty and I felt like I was recording a video for Children in Need. Witnessing their lives and the number of pre-pubescent boys and girls working long hours in restaurants and hotels made me feel uneasy and shameful.
Bagan contains thousands of temples scattered around 26 square miles. My roommates Simon from Malaysia and Naoki from Japan whizzed around the area in electronically charged scooters. Witnessing the sunset over the structures was magical and the sight of the sun rising over them was captivating. I was returning to my hostel shortly after dawn one morning and realised that there were hundreds of people queueing to the side of the road. The reason suddenly entered into my mind. Today was the General Election. Aung San Suu Kyi was running for the second time since her release from house arrest after two decades. A landslide victory was had by her and her party, the National League for Democracy.
Kalaw is the place where many commence treks to Inle Lake. I opted for the most challenging 28 miles over there days. Our first day consisted of nine hours of walking during which we witnessed beautiful landscapes like ricefields, tea plantations and chilli farms. A bucket of cold water was the shower for the next few days! A delicious dinner including egg curry and morning glory salad concluded day one. The following day, we started with breakfast at 6 am and we started the 7.5 hours of a walk at 7am. Heavy rain made the road muddy and slimy. Upon arrival at the village in our homestay, we were warmly welcomed by the local community. After four hours of walking on the third day, we reached the lake. A boat trip to our hotel allowed us to see floating villages where inhabitants live in dwellings made from bamboo and are placed upon stills! Transport in the area involves boats of various shapes, sizes, and speed levels!
After resting, recharging and running water in Nyaungshwe, I returned to Yangon to catch the Bangkok bound flight. I hoped my ATM card awaited my arrival and if it had, I would be heading to Laos in the coming days!
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