For exam break, instead of studying, Bryan, Maayke, and I headed to Myanmar. Why, you might ask? Thats a great question. I still don’t know. But it turned out great. The culture, people, Buddhist religion, and the country’s economic, political, and social situation were extremely interesting. Its an experience you would only truly appreciate if you visited, which I highly recommend.
We were in the Myan’s for 11 days, which was enough time to see the main tourist sites. We got to see Yangon- the biggest city containing 1 whole high rise, Mandalay- a more rural city in central Myanmar, Bagan- pagoda central, and Inle lake.
First stop was Yangon. It’s best attribute was the Shwedagon pagoda. It was 2500 years old, 100 meters tall, gold plated, and speckled with over 7000 jewels and rubies. The entrance and surrounding area were astonishing as well. Favorite man made site thus far.
We didn’t waste any time and left to Mandalay that night. The bus station in Mandalay was awesome. It was a dusty packed parking lot with screaming people everywhere. We hired a driver, Damien, to bring us to the sites that day. I decided to motor bike behind. We saw pagoda’s that were insignificant to Shwedagon.
Our tour bus…
After seeing a bunch of sites with the group, I decided to go on by myself. I biked to a more rural area of Mandalay. It was amazing how the standard of living dropped, even further, just minutes from the center of the city.
A typical dump found everywhere in the area
I then saw one of the most amazing sites I’ve seen in the last 3 months. I ended up on a road beside an inlet of the Ayeyarwady river that was built up on a plateau. Below me on one side were the slums of Mandalay. All that you could be seen was a sea of shanties made from sheet metal and tarps. The other side was surreal. A beautiful river and miles of pristine landscape. The juxtaposition of the slums next to the beautiful landscape was astounding. Complete opposites of each other separated by a small dirt road. It was truly amazing.
As I biked along the road, the river transformed. It started off as rice patties, then changed into a swamp filled with workers, then a fishing spot, till finally a small port connected to the mouth of the river. This added to the incredible experience.
A 5 foot wide bridge I biked over to see a secluded village
Mouth of the river
The next day, we hit up some sites just outside Mandalay. The only one worth seeing was the U Bein’s Bridge in Amarapura. There were some fantastic views.
A duck hearder, really? or is it pronounced hoarder, and yes he is.
We went to a couple other places afterwards. Meh
The next place we visited was Bagan. The area contained over 4400 Pagoda’s and Stupas. Many up to 1000 years old. It was crazy.
Before Bagan, we passed a town. Here is video of it.
The next day we hired a driver to bring us to Inle lake. On the way, we stopped at a extinct volcano. The best part of the Volcano were the MONKEYS. MONKEY TIME BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I call this one “But mooooooooooom”
”OOOOOOOO A PICKLE!!”
"Hide and Seek"
finally, my favorite monkey. “Horb” or, Hilarious Old Ratty Bastard
Last on our agenda was Inle lake. It’s claim to fame was the floating villages.
The bamboo stakes were used to anchor the floating farms.
The lake, mountains, and dry climate resembled the Okanagan
The best part of the lake was seeing a couple lizards. One was a foot long Tokay Gecko and the other was a Bearded Dragon.
We then headed back to Yangon. All three of us bought big paintings. You’ll have to wait to see them.
The final day, Bryan and I went to a city across Yangon river called Dalah. It was very poor and interesting. We rented motor bikes and drove around the marshes south of the city for the day. It was alot of fun.
The following day we headed back to Bangkok. We were set on hitting up a “Ping Pong” show that night. We made it, along with Maayka. :)
The show was mind boggling. A 25 foot ribbon, a 10 foot chain, razor blades on a string, ping pong balls into a cup, and an acrobatic duo were included in the freak show. Bangkok really is the ass hole of the world; Ugly, dirty with unfriendly people. A real cesspool. I don’t suggest it.
- It is not spoiled by tourism…yet. The sites were still relatively untouched and seeing other foreigners was a rarity. This alone made it better than other places in SE Asia.
-The Burmese people made the trip that much better. They were so friendly and most knew English so conversation was easy. They wouldn’t try to sell you anything and talked to you because they were genuinely interested and curious. The people were also extremely diverse coming from a wide range of ethnicities.
-There were Monks absolutely everywhere. I feel like half the people I saw in Myanmar were Monks.
-There were no western influences in the country. No 7-11 and no McDonalds. That was a nice change.
-The country may be run by the military but you wouldn’t necessarily know it. There were practically no signs of the regime throughout our stay.
-There were stray dogs everywhere. They were all shifty.
-Horses were still a big part of transportation.
-A common job for women was repairing roads. Crushing and spreading stones then applying asphalt, all by hand.
- Everyone chewed something called Betel Nut. It contained lime paste, cloves, coconut, Betel nut, tobacco, and other spices rapped up in a Betel Vine leaf. It is loved by Burmese men. It is the reason most people’s teeth are rotted out. I tried it out a couple times. My teeth are still off-white :)
- I am slowly gaining a hatred for lonely planet books. Your itinerary will be the same as thousands of other travelers just like yourself. Two of my favorite parts of the trip were not in these books. For serial, just go. its way more fun than planning. Learn from the locals. They know best. Just like you know your country best.
Politics in Myanmar
I had a talk with an owner of a hotel in Yangon. He eagerly but cautiously told me about the military rule. He really wanted me to spread the word to increase awareness overseas. So, these are for him.
I came back to my hotel one day and the power was off. I asked what was up and the owner explained that it was a normal occurrence. He told me how the government could care less about the power outages. Therefore, every business needed a gas generator to maintain power throughout these frequent blackouts. He explained if he or any owner complained, the government would make their life a living hell. If he were to complain, the following year when he wanted to renew his hotel license, the government would refuse unless he paid an exorbitant amount of money.
There has been conflict between the Monks and the government recently. Beatings and killings have been occurring as a result of demonstrations put on by Monks. This is what the juvenile government did to stick it to them. In Yangon, motor bikes are forbidden expect for government officials. Since the fighting, they painted all the bikes the color of the Munks robes. I got so pissed off. Extremely disrespectful and humiliating.
He told me how cunning the government has been in the past. One clever tactic was decentralizing the university to ensure no student protests could occur. When the government first gained power, Yangon’s central university was closed and 4 new universities were built all outside the city connected by bridges or single roads. How clever! Now students could not organize and protest in great numbers. Even if they did, the bridges and roads could easily be blocked.
He told me about Aung San Suu Kyi and her future in Burma. His opinion was she has lost all of her power she once had. He believed the government was now too strong for her to start any sort of revolution. He also explained how she will have government agents and spy’s following her for the rest of her life. He concluded with telling me that If myself or him went to talk to Aung San Suu Kyi, the police would be arresting him and deporting me.
An extremely interesting country!