A Travellerspoint blog

The way to Mandalay

sunny 95 °F
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We spent our last day in Bagan on scooters again. Those little things were a blast. And at $7usd for a whole day rental, one just can't go wrong. We managed to cover a fair amount of ground on them. Went into a little village and found a pharmacy for bug bites, sore muscles and the like. Kelsey found a barber and got a straight edge razor to the head. I want to get him a saffron robe to wear and he would fit right in as a monk.

The Irrawaddy river boat left at 5:30am yesterday morning for the trip upstream to Mandalay. It turns out it is only about 135 miles but took us 12 hours. The boat was pretty decent and had a nice deck on top with tables/chairs to sit and watch the countryside pass by. It is an incredibly busy river. Boats of all sizes - small fishing pangas, tugs pushing barges, big timber floats, etc. Got to see a lot of little villages along the way and countless stupas dotting the landscape. Fun way to spend the day but not so good for our hearing - the motor was so loud we ended up screaming at each other all day to be heard.

Got to our hotel around 6pm - it's not so much but we are just here for the one night so can't complain. Going to go see something (not sure what yet) here in a few and then we get on a bus tonight at 5pm for Inle Lake. This one is only six hours so should be in around 11pm or so and will have a real bed to sleep in. We will be at Inle Lake for four nights - will be nice to stay put for a bit and get some laundry done.

Can't really post any pictures this time as the wifi here is really bad. Maybe in a couple days. We are having a great time and are so glad we've come before it starts to change even more than it already has.

We are always pleasantly surprised at how friendly the people are everywhere we go. I suppose that has something to do with the fact people are mostly good - everywhere. We see so many negative images on TV anymore that it is easy for one be cynical and assume the worst in people. Despite the fact it seems we always remark on how friendly people have been on our travels, it turns out the Burmese take it to a whole new level. I have never been treated with so much casual, honest kindness in all our travels. Zero hassle. Honest dealings. Good stuff.

Posted by madpax 17:15 Archived in Myanmar Comments (2)

Bagan

sunny 92 °F
View Myanmar 2017 on madpax's travel map.

We left Yangon at 8pm on an overnight bus to Bagan that took 9 hours. The bus itself was pretty nice and stopped a couple of times along the way but 9 hours of sitting after so recently having sat on planes for so long was a little much.

The bus drops you outside of the main villages a few miles. We were lucky enough that a hotel nearby was almost open for brekky - just had to wait a little while. Crazy good food - not what we would consider traditional breakfast food. Mostly Chinese noodles and stir fry dishes.

Got to our hotel about 6am and of course they said we couldn't check in until 2pm which is understandable, although we held out hope for something earlier (that never happened). We rented a really small electric scooter and commenced to driving all over the place. The area is massive and we covered just a small fraction of it. Huge plain with almost 4000 temples scattered everywhere. We tried to stay on the little dirt roads so as to not get creamed by passing cars but as it turns out the drivers are pretty courteous so nothing to worry about I think. We finally got checked in at 2pm, took an immediate shower and went to bed. Woke up at 3am. Pretty exhausted we were!

Incredibly friendly people, genuinely helpful at every turn. The taxi ride from our hotel in Yangon to the bus station was about an hour ride and when we got there, he asked for our bus ticket so he could go inside and get us all sorted before he left us, showed us where to wait, etc. All for about $6USD.

Pretty hot in the sun during the days - trying to take it slow and stay in the shade. Below are a few pics. The first two are in Yangon in and around the Shwedagon Pagoda. The rest are here in Bagan. Thinking we'll rent some scooters around again today (getting two this time!). We leave early in the morning on a boat to Mandalay. :)

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Posted by madpax 14:19 Archived in Myanmar Comments (1)

We've arrived

80 °F
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Just a quick note to say we've arrived in Yangon and are at our hotel. It is just after midnight here. About 30 hours of airports is enough for a while. It's still about 80 degrees out - going to be hot during the days! Will post later when when know which way is up. Time for some sleep.

Posted by madpax 09:39 Archived in Myanmar Comments (1)

"Let's go to Myanmar" he said....

What started as a really vague idea spurred by "too cheap to pass up" airfare has turned into us leaving in about a week for Myanmar. Or Burma if you please.

Although it is hoped that democracy is emerging in this country ruled until recently by a heavy handed military dictatorship, recent events in the Northwest state of Rakhine have shown how fragile the balance of power is. The ruling National League for Democracy and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi, have been highly restrained during what appears to be an ethnic cleansing campaign executed by the military against Rohingya Muslims who although living there for generations, are seen as illegal immigrants. Hundreds have been killed since last fall and nearly 100,000 have been forced to flee as the military continues their crackdown. The events have illustrated that Aung San Suu Kyi may not have as much influence over shaping the future of the country as was once hoped. That and "someone" assassinated a prominent NLD lawyer at the airport last week. He was working on a draft of a new constitution that would limit the military's power.

Despite these recent and ongoing events, Myanmar has opened itself to tourism in the last few years. Although much of the country is off limits, there is a decently developed "triangle" of sights that we intend to see. Bagan, Mandalay, Inle Lake, Ngapali, Mrauk U, Yangon. Well away from trouble but hopefully close enough to gain some understanding of this amazing place. And maybe score some good street food :)

Rough map of our planned route:

Posted by madpax 09:18 Comments (1)

And home again

Long trip home on the flight that seemed to last for days and settled back into the routine. Went back to work the day after flying in which was a little shock to the system. Still a little jet-lagged but not too bad.

Was a busy trip....we calculated that between the two treks and everything else we walked about 50 miles. It is so hard to put into words the things we have seen....honestly, I think it takes a while just to process it all. So vastly different from our lives, it has once again put many things into perspective.

While Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, I fear for the growing gap between the wealthy and the poor. It is very difficult to accept a reality where children are still not getting basic sustenance nor will they have the chance or ever going to school. Contrasting some of the lives of the families we saw with what we take for granted every day......it's just not right.

We found Ethiopia to be very laid back (surprisingly so) and the people very friendly. We experienced close to no hassle whatsoever and found many people who were willing to help when needed. We learned that Kelsey's name means "sock" in Amharic so they thought that was pretty funny. My name is apparently a popular name for men.

I've posted the rest of the pics under the "Photography" section to the right.

Thank you Judy for staying with the kids while we were gone - we appreciate it more than you know!

Posted by madpax 13:02 Comments (2)

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