Wow, I’m not sure where to start! Contrary to popular belief, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. My negligence is mostly due to the fact that we are currently traveling through Myanmar (aka Burma), and internet has proven to be somewhat scarce and sloooow! But luckily I now have a chance to fill you in on the last few weeks.
According to my last post, we were in India – boy does that seem like forever ago! Constant changes and movement is a sure way to warp your perception of time. We took a flight from Kolkata to Bangkok, where we spent about 10 days getting together everything we needed to travel to Myanmar. Between getting our visas and crisp USDs, we had time to relax, enjoy the rainy Bangkok weather, and meet up a few times with our good friends Neo and Mimi. Mimi was born and raised in Bangkok, so she was kind enough to take us to some delicious restaurants, a bird sanctuary south of the city, and to Ayutthaya, the old capitol of Thailand! I didn’t plan on visiting Ayutthaya, so it was great that it worked out with little planning on our parts 🙂
Ayutthaya proved to be a worthwhile visit. There were old temple ruins and countless Buddhas. Mimi mentioned that the reason all the Buddha heads were gone was because the Burmese invaded and chopped them all off. The city reminded me a lot of Sukhothai, where you just walk through the trees and ruins. It reminds me how grateful Jesse and I were to have a rainy, peaceful day in Sukhothai – Ayutthaya was bustling with people. Afterwards, Mimi took us to a Chinese temple and then to a riverfront restaurant. There we dined like royalty, feasting on giant river prawns, papaya salad, Tom Yum soup, garlic-smothered morning glory greens, and a delicious rice dish.
Our time in Bangkok quickly ended and we hopped a short flight to Yangon, Myanmar! At the Yangon airport we were greeted by a man from our guest house holding a sign with my name on it (I’ve always wanted to have that privilege!). Jesse and I, despite what research we had done about Myanmar, were not sure what to expect of this country. To put it shortly, Myanmar is proving to be one of my favorite places thus far!
In Yangon, Jesse and I walked to Shwedagon Paya, one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples we have seen! It is all gold, surrounded by hundreds of Buddha statues and candles and people praying. We met a nice Burmese man, Zsaw Zsaw, who insisted on giving us a tour. He showed us one spot around the temple where you can see the different colored gems shining at the top, and also showed us where to pray since Jesse and I were both born on a Thursday (the people pray to the certain animal or Buddha that signifies their day of birth). Our remaining days in Yangon brought us to a fortune teller, the famous Strand Hotel, and many yummy places to eat!
Observations on Myanmar:
- The people here are by far some of the most friendly, smiley, pleasant people we have ever encountered. Walking down the street people stop and stare (since tourism is just starting to flourish here, we are still a relatively rare sight!) and most try to hold back a shy smile; others can’t help but say hello and laugh! As soon as I smile at someone, they immediate smile back. It is a great feeling, and the Burmese people are the reason that this country seems so special.
- Most all of the men wear longyis. Longyis are a piece of cloth in a cylindrical shape, and the men wrap it around their waist similar to how you put on a sarong. Generally it looks like a long skirt. Women also wear a similar looking skirt, but its called something different.
- There are lots of streetside teahouses! On the sidewalks you notice the small plastic tables and the short stools you used to sit at at the kids table for Thanksgiving – this is the typical decor of the Burmese teahouses, and you see everyone squatting at them sipping on their tea! Once you’re used to it, it’s easy to enjoy the hot cup of sweet milk tea.
- Accommodation is expensive! Compared to other Southeast Asian countries, Myanmar has unusually high hotel prices. With the cheapest option being $25/night, we quickly realized that tourism is growing faster than their hotels are being built! The supply is not even close to meeting the demand, so not only are hotels more expensive, but they are quick to fill up. Traveling in Myanmar usually has to be planned out a few days (or more) in advance to make sure you have a bus ride and a place to stay!
Unfortunately, pictures will not be included in this post! After spending the last hour trying to upload them, I’m giving up and going to get some noodles and tea for breakfast 🙂