There was something about Myanmar that we can’t put into words… From its authenticity to the kindness of people, the country stole our hearts! I hope this post can express at least a bit of what we experienced there.
Our 3-week adventure started off in Yangon, the former capital of the country and its most developed city. We were lucky to have our friend’s mum, Ginny, hosting us at her cosy flat with an amazing view over the Inya lake. After 4 months travelling, this felt like home! Thank you Tom and Ginny 🙂
A visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda was compulsory. As the main attraction in Yangon, we were expecting a place packed with tourists but, to our surprise, there were hardly any foreigners – the temple was crowded but with praying locals.
The very impressive pagoda, also known as the Golden Pagoda, is Burma’s most important Buddhist pilgrimage site. The main gold-plated dome is topped by a stupa containing over 7,000 diamonds, rubies, sapphires and a massive emerald positioned to reflect the last rays of the setting sun.
Walking around the temple
We paid a friendly price to a local who guided us through the massive complex and told us the history of the 2500 year old Pagoda. We also took the opportunity to get to know a bit more about Buddhism and Myanmar’s culture.
As we walked around the streets of Yangon we were shocked at the amount of betel nut that that people chewed continuously. They sure loved the high that it gave them!
Mass street production of Betel Nut – You can find on every corner of the city…
Local street food – ummm tasty pork tripe!
We spent some time getting to know the local culture and trying the local food in Yangon before we traveled north to discover other parts of the country.
After a long and uncomfortable 15h night bus we finally arrived in Bagan to celebrate new years eve.
Bagan at sunrise
We saw balloons flying over the city too.
Carlos contemplating the vast ancient city.
Between the 11th and 13th centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were built in Bagan – of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day. It’s impressive how they’ve survived after countless earthquakes.
The balloons rising in the early morning sun was incredibly peaceful and majestic
You staring at me? 🙂
Ruins of the ancient city – Some up to 1000 years old.
Amazing temples, amazing colours and amazing people. Bagan was impressing us!
Half-way through our explorations between endless temples we found a few local kids playing soccer next to an ancient temple, so we decided to join them.
Bonding with the local kids! Yeaaah!
Carlos tries to sell them some milk
The local market – Food, clothes, pretty much everything you could want.
We asked a local to take a photograph of us by the river. This was the best of his ten attempts.
After spending new years eve in Bagan we decided to head north to a place called Pyin U Lwin from where we wanted to take an early train to Hsipaw the following morning.
We couldn’t get upper class tickets for the 7h journey as we hoped so we had to go in ordinary class with all the local people which turned out to be quite an adventure.
Throughout the journey local women came aboard and shouted as they tried to sell their produce to the passengers.
Obviously we had to try some…
Carlos enjoying noodles with vegetables
And here was the reason why we made this trip…
Goteik Viaduct – This incredible bridge goes over the jungle canopy and through the mist. We’ve been told that it won’t be here for long because it is so unsafe.
Young buddhist monk passing through the local cemetery
The Betel nut smile (Betel nut rots your teeth)
Young boy taking his buffalo for a bath.
Little boy wrapped up for the cold (but it was really hot)
View over the valley of Hsipaw from a waterfall
And here’s the waterfall…
Woman washing clothes in the river from the waterfall.
Sunset over the valley
We were told that trekking in Hsipaw was one of the best in Myanmar so we decided to go on a one day trek the following morning.
We went through the farm fields…
And learned how some of the local produce is made
Almost got knocked down by a tuk-tuk while we took in the scenery…
Getting lost in the jungle
In the middle of nowhere we came across an infant school in wooden huts and went inside for a look around.
And of course the beautiful scenery…
We ended up at a hill top village…
The houses were made of wood with metal roofs, people were really friendly and welcoming. We had lunch at a typical family house where we had a traditional meal full of nutrients – Rice, vegetables and chicken curry. Delicious!
Almost everybody had their faces painted with a white paste which they used to protect them against the sun and as a beneficial skin cream.
On our last day in Hsipaw we went to the noodle “factory” which turned out to be a run-down little house. Nobody spoke any English so we had to figure out for ourselves what they were doing.
Next up, one more night bus to the famous and breathtaking Inle Lake. As soon as we got there we rushed to the local market for some food.
The food was really hot – look what it was doing to Carlos’ moustache!
We skipped the touristy boat tour and opted for a bike ride on our own along the lake, crossing it halfway on a local boat. We didn’t regret it as we got in touch with the local life around the lake.
They grew their crops on floating gardens.
Everything was done on rafts.
We found this temple just after crossing the lake
Our plan for the last day was to take a public boat all the way to Pekon, passing by the other two overlooked lakes in the region. After a few chats we realised that these were forbidden to tourists. As true Asians, there was always a way out! Not knowingly, we agreed to their plan and hopped on a boat with a local into the middle of the lake. After an hour under a boiling sun, a very small crowded boat approached us and rapidly we understood that was our lift!
This is what it looked like at the start…
And this is how it looked half an hour later!
The locals stared at us and the children laughed to see such funny scene – two foreigners squeezing into their boat.
Picking up more passengers from the lake side – goodbyes from Karen long-neck to her daughter who was leaving on our boat!
It was a very harsh 6 hour journey but rewarded with stunning views!
What we avoided – a tourist trap – “fishermen” posing for tourist boat tours to get money
So many temples along the way…
Our boat got stuck here in the water lilies for, at least, an hour so we had to get out and walk to the other side of the bridge.
From Pekon we took a bus to Loikaw where we spent the night. The following day, while wandering around, we passed by a school show and were invited in by the parents and teachers, who insisted we come and watch.
They insisted we sit in the VIP seats at the front with hundreds of people standing behind us and staring at us
Being in the spotlight, we had to sit through 30 of these performances…
City view from a temple
Next and final stop was Hpa-An, a countryside town south of Yangon and one of the top rated ones.
Kayauk Ka Lat Pagoda – defying gravity
Spot the Buddha
Exploring the cave…
And coming out on the other side for this amazing view!
Some children asked Carlos for a selfie – apparently it is also a popular thing around here
Where should I begin?
Views and more views… wow
Riding to our next adventure….