Nov 4, 2010

through the looking glass…

myanmar was a country the yielded no expectations for kurt and I and we really did go into the experience a little in the dark. apart from reading a few articles here and there about the political situation in the country and the chapter contained in our lonely planet guide, we didn’t know what was in store. however, it was truly one of the most shocking, absurd, different and insane two weeks of my life and an experience that will stay with me for life. we had minimal access to the internet so I kept a detailed journal each day, however as pictures are worth a thousand words, I will add more of these in.

day one to four – yangon

we are in the midst of visiting a country seldom people visit. its not high on peoples most ‘desired’ holiday destinations, which i think was one of the basis’s of appeals when we decided to come. we spent three days in yangon, the countries former capital, which was completely abandon by the government and left to ruin. yangon now resembles a decaying waste land with people living next to open sewers, buildings that are falling into themselves, streets that are so pot-holed it makes any kind of travel a literal nightmare. after spending a few days in this place it’s hard to imagine how the burmese people stay so seemingly optimistic and well natured. (pics. run down yangon and a typical taxi in myanmar)







day four to seven – inle lake

we took an overnight bus to inle lake and the journey was probably the scariest few hours of my life. the dirt roads were one way most of the way up and down the winding hills and mountains. that didn’t stop cars, trucks, scooters and horse and carts trying to pass on either side, both day and night. ngyshwye the small lake side village we stayed in saw us take a step back fifty years to where horse and cart or bicycle were the primary mode of transportation. this place is teeming with a vibrancy and energy that make it refreshing. the village is littered with fresh food markets, local tea shops and people tending to their farm animals.

we got up for sunrise over the lake which was magnificent in our old long tail boat. the pictures don’t quiet do it justice but i hope you get the gist. we decided to do a day trip as the villages in the area are all in high spirits due to the upcoming festival. the procession is in celebration of all the monks in the area spending time in each village around the lake. after ten straight hours on the lake we headed in after seeing an array of amazing things like floating villages, stupas and pagods that were well over 1000 years old, acres upon acres of tomato farms and restaurants. kurt and i really enjoyed our time at inle lake and it was by far my favorite place we visited in myanmar. we did become quiet obsessed with the food here and in particular the fresh tomato salads, guacamole and savory pancakes. (pics. a mixture of inle lake, the farmers and some of the local sites)















day eight to ten – mandalay

we pretty much spent our time in mandalay following the suggestions made by the lonely planet guide. after arriving in this dusty and difficult place, we found that nothing was easy, including finding restaurants. we did come across a few little gems in the the city, however on the hole, we werent that keen on mandalay. it was not quiet the picture poet rudyard kipling painted in his famous poem, the road to mandalay. we did however get the opportunity to go an visit the infamous moustache brothers, a comedic act that openly discusses and pays-out on the government. after doing some research, we thought it was one way we could help spread the message about how mush this country needs help from the outside world. (pics. views over mandalay, kurt eating a deep fried cricket, monks taking alms, moustache brothers and some more local sites)















day eleven to thirteen – bagan

we opted to travel a little differently to bagan. we took the slow boat down the irrawaddy river which saw us sit on a boat for over fifteen hours. once we arrived we had an inclining that bagan was going to be similar to inle lake but it was not to be. bagan seemed to be a bit of a tourist trap with child beggers and restaurants as far as the eye can see. we did a bicycle tour of the bagan plain and ended up illegally climbing to the top of one to the pagodas to get a view over the entire area. the highlight of our time on bagan would probably have to be meeting up with a fellow couple from australia, tim and kirsty who we were able to trade travel tales with over some cold beers. (pics. some pagodas, kurt in a budda and riding bikes)











myanmar was certainly interesting and will probably stand to be one of the most unique times of my life. i am not sure if i will in my time visit somewhere as third worldly, as travelers we met along the way compared the standard of living to that in ethopia.

some of the high points: the amazingly friendly and hospitable burmese people, the old-worldleness of inle lake, seeing the monks take their alms each moring, the return of rain was comforting, riding bicycles (great exercise), it was extremely cheap and having a wee little accident whilst cutting kurts head with his new shaver, homemade ice-cream parlors.

some of the low points: the locals chewing copious amounts of beetle nut turning their mouths red, aggressive children, the obvious lack of health care services, tea with condensed milk, the obvious oppression of peoples opinion, uneducated tourists visiting for the wrong reasons, fickle money regulations, the homeless and uncared for dogs, being watched when on the internet and the power being unexpectedly turned off.