Adventures through Myanmar: Part 1 – Yangon to Bagan
Myanmar has been an interesting experience. It wasn’t quite as different to the rest of South-East Asia as we had hoped however it was different enough that we experienced some new things and had a fun time.
On a side note, almost all of the pictures included in these posts about Myanmar were taken by James (I need to give his photography skills some recognition :P).
We started off in Yangon and spent a few days exploring the city, settling in and working out how to do important things such as cross the road and find food! Through our travels we have found that one very important thing that seems to change in every country we go to is how to cross a busy road. In Vietnam, you just walk and everyone goes around you whereas in Myanmar you actually have you wait for a break in the traffic!
We visited Shwedagon Paya, Sule Paya, Botataung Paya and the National Museum and had a walk around the downtown area of the city where there are some old important buildings. Unfortunately Shwedagon Paya was covered in scaffolding so it was still very cool but not as magnificent as it usually is L. We also spent a lot of time ‘people watching’ in the Mahabandoola Gardens where the Independence Monument sits (signifying independence from the British) where we learned that PDAs are okay, the children are absolutely adorable and that many young people are beginning to dress in western fashion (however still quite conservatively). Yangon is also where our ‘celebrity status’ began – lots of locals either asked to take a photo with us or took a sneaky picture!
We then headed up to Pyay, 6 hours north of Yangon where apparently not many white people go! We spent some time wandering around the town and seeing the sights, most notably Shwesandaw Paya. We spent a lot of time sitting and reading there as well as viewing the Giant Buddha and having our picture taken with locals (we even had a man video us reading for like a minute… ). Apart from the Pandaw Cruises tour group that came through for half an hour, we only saw 6 other white people in the town over the 2 days we were there which was very refreshing!
Next stop was Bagan, a 12 hour night-bus ride away getting us there around 5am (according to the guy at our hotel). Well… We arrived at 3am, were dropped in the middle of nowhere where a taxi was conveniently waiting, then charged $20 for a 15 minute taxi ride (which should have been around $5) – not the best introduction to a new town! However it did get better. We spent 3 days exploring many, many, many 11th to 13th century temples from the huge multi-storey temples to the small little ones. I’ll admit by the end of day 3 we were completely templed out but that doesn’t mean they weren’t impressive, they just all began to look the same.
We watched a beautiful sunrise and sunset from the top of Shwesandaw Paya and also got to watch the hot air balloons go up at sunrise which was pretty cool. Riding along on our e-bike (see photo below) was awesome as it gave us the independence to see what we wanted to see, even if it did run out of power a couple of times and massively struggled up the hills! The best part about Bagan though was being able to climb through the less visited temples and up the narrow passageways and staircases, oh and the super cute temple puppies!
The one thing I did get very annoyed at however was the vendors and the immense pressure to buy at Shwezigon Paya – I had my arm nearly torn off and bruised due to the grip the ladies had on my arm pulling and pushing me to their stalls. Apart from being incredibly annoying it made us a disappointed and worried that the vendors were already cottoning on to the rest of South-East Asia’s relentless selling techniques.
After Bagan things started to get interesting as we started to compile a lot of ‘spare days’. It turns out we had planned to spend way to long in almost every place! Stay tuned.
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