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Entries about myanmar

Bagan & Return To Yangon

sunny 38 °C

Bagan is what you could call a temple town and one of Myanmar's main regional attractions. Our six hour bus journey was uncomfortable and the best part was that it actually only took four hours. Thank god. I'm not sure what got lost in translation but it was a welcome relief given the comfort or lack thereof on the bus, not to mention the bumpy roads. Poor Alberto is not a huge fan of the 'food stops' where you should eat whatever surprise is on offer but I've been feeling adventurous since I've been feeling well and enjoying the thrill of lunch for two for less than €4. We have been spending more than that generally though to eat in nicer establishments but you're still talking about dinner and drinks only costing around €12. Can't complain. Early sickness aside, the last ten days in Myanmar have been great.

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We arrived to Bagan late afternoon and after the initial shock of being told we were booked into a six bed dorm room for three nights (my fault... soz Alberto) we were able to pay an extra €20 to move to a private room. Phew. When you're booking so many things in terms of flights, accom and transport etc. it's easy to make a mistake. Best to double check those flight details together before you accidentally end up in Outer Mongolia. Here's a photo of the two of us in our new jobs 'working'. I'm writing this blog post while Alberto uploads photos and researches one of our stops in India. I'm not sure who he's talking to on the phone though... The wifi has been painfully slow at times outside of the Capital but we were warned in advance and are remaining calm and patient. Most of the time.

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Bagan reminds me of a much quieter version of Siem Reap in Cambodia (which is adjacent to Ankor Wat). Most establishments are clustered together on one dirt road and are well set up for foreign visitors with international cuisine and even a cocktail bar on offer. We hired a Tuk Tuk driver for Thursday. He picked us up at 8am and we spent the morning and early afternoon visiting just some of the best temples, monasteries and historical settlements the region has the offer.

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There are more than 2,000 of them! Most were built between the 11th and 13th centuries and a few have been restored (albeit some better than others).

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The heat is stifling by lunch time, circa 38 degrees so as much as we enjoyed it by 2pm we had to call it a day and get indoors. The following morning we hired the same Tuk Tuk driver to collect us at 5.30am so we could head to a vantage spot to watch 15 hot air balloons ascend during sunrise. We'd have loved to go on one of ourselves but at US$300 each it was just too much to justify given that we're backpacking vs. being on a holiday. Still though, it was spectacular to watch and possibly my highlight so far.

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If you have the budget here's the view you would be able to see from one of the balloons. It's pretty spectacular.

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Today we flew back to Yangon for one final night, avoiding a twelve hour bus ride. We spent the day on foot exploring.

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We also visited the Sula Paya in the heart of the city, where traffic congestion shares the same space as a 2,000 year old golden temple. They have a ritual here where you can pour water over a buddha and a certain animal depending on the day you were born. It would have been rude not to. Fun fact, Alberto was born on a Monday and I was born on a Wednesday.

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Myanmar, it's been wonderful. If you've been to other countries in South East Asia before and you're looking for something a little bit different we'd highly recommend it. Tomorrow morning we take a flight to India via our one way ticket to Kolkata (aka Calcutta). I feel like the whole backpacking part of my life has been building up to this country and I hope we're ready for it...

Posted by mattld 04:43 Archived in Myanmar Tagged bagan yangon myanmar southeastasia Comments (0)

Into Myanmar - Yangon & Mandalay

sunny 34 °C

It was a difficult flight from Sydney. We found two very cheap airfares with Air Asia and thought we had found a bargain. Don't get me wrong, we got there safely but when the air con is on arctic blast and a blanket is not included it makes for an uncomfortable flight! On top of that it looks like I picked up some mild food poisoning on the plane. Today is the first time I'm actually feeling myself and am so thankful to the local doctor who gave me the right antibiotics.

So why visit Myanmar? South East Asia is filled with wonders and well, having both been to Thailand and factoring in my earlier visits to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos it felt more like the neighbouring unknown, which had us curious. It's been less than 10 years since the country was ruled with an iron fist by its military and closed off to the public. The chance to visit before it potentially becomes 'too touristy' was too good to miss.

A few interesting pointers:

  • Hello = Mingalabar (pronounced “Min-ga-la-ba”). The locals genuinely love it when you make an effort with their language.
  • Myanmar was formerly known as Burma and its capital Yangon as Rangoon.
  • A census taken a few years ago tells us there's a population here of more than 55 million! This not only shocked us but was a surprise to the country at the time at 7 million more than expected. 70% of the population live in rural areas.
  • Smoking is not very common here (good on them) but the men love to chew a red tobacco which makes it looks like they've blood in their mouth and their teeth are all cut up. Not the nicest of sights I'll be honest!
  • Technology can be a great leveller... walk into most shops or temples and you'll find teenagers and adults glued to their smart phones. This surprised and if I'm being honest somewhat saddened us. It turns out the developed and developing worlds could use a lesson in life without our precious phones.

Now, being conscious of the time it takes to both read and write these blogs rather than give you a day-by-day account of everything we're doing I'm just going to take you through some of the highlights of each stop. The jewel in Yangon's crown is the Shwedagan Paya. Completed in the 6th century, it is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, as it is believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas.

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We also paid a visit a 213 foot long reclining buddha.

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On Sunday we took a one hour flight north to Mandalay. The real highlight here was a full day tour around all of its various temples, palaces and treasures. This particular day really made me feel glad I took a bet on Myanmar. Historic sites aside, the real highlight of Myanmar has been its people. They are some of the friendliest you can find and you can tell they're excited to have tourists here.

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Many locals are curious about visitors and want a photograph. It would be rude not to exchange one back in return! Despite the language (and their English is not too bad) you can tell they have a good sense of humour.

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Today we take a six hour bus journey west to Bagan. We've got four days left in Myanmar, including one night back in Yangon.

Posted by mattld 20:17 Archived in Myanmar Tagged mandalay asia myanmar yagon Comments (2)

We're on the road again!

Wow, where did the last four years go? And just like that, our time has come to an end in Sydney. An initial two years abroad had turned into three and then suddenly four. I won't dwell too much on our time here (given it's our travel blog), but suffice to say life in Australia has been even better than we could have expected, and I couldn't recommend living abroad at least once in a lifetime highly enough. However, as with all major life choices there are trade offs and being so far away from family and friends you've grown up with is not easy. So it's time to slowly make our way back to Dublin for the next chapter.

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We had always intended to travel en route home and we've got some interesting countries lined up over the next four months... Myanmar, India, Nepal (including Everest Base Camp) and Japan. Alberto then spends his last few weeks in Spain with his family while I visit South America for the first time... most likely Peru, Argentina and Brazil. If earlier travels in Thailand and Vietnam felt like backpacking 101 this trip feels a little more like the road less travelled, at least in Asia.

We've had our vaccinations for typhoid, hepatitis A&C, yellow fever and three for rabies. We've got our Visas, insect spray, malaria and diarrhoea (!) tablets packed. We've genuinely been sad to say goodbye to Sydney and our friends here but we're excited to be unemployed again and feeling ready to explore. Hit the subscribe button if you're interested in these countries or would like to see how we get on, the highs and some inevitable lows!

First stop, Myanmar.

Posted by mattld 21:14 Archived in Australia Tagged sydney travel australia asia myanmar backpacking southamerica Comments (0)

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