Here in Malaysia, there are too many holidays. The country has a mix of Chinese, Hindu and Muslim cultures, and with that mixtures all the holidays come along. Most of the holidays are between May and July, so when I arrived in May 2016 in KL I had days off almost every two weeks.
The longest holiday is in Ramadan, for which we get three days of a full week, and just asking two days off, you got a whole week of vacation. In that moment, my friends Naty and Marco (originally from Ecuador) and I were looking at places to travel: Indonesia to go trekking in Mount Rinjani, Cambodia, Thailand (for which I need to go to the embassy to get a visa, therefore reluctant to go jajaja)…And well, we finally decided to go to Myanmar, previously known as Burma (Birmania in spanish). It was such out of the blue place…but a place that I will never forget!
Here I go!
We started this mega adventure flying with Air Asia (cheap flights) from KL to Yangon. Yangon’s airport is really nice, brand new (to be honest didn’t expect that!). We went directly to the hotel, which was in downtown, really easy access and close to many attractions. However, the hotel is located in a very narrow street and was suuper dark!—At that moment Naty and I got a little worry about choosing that hotel, even thought “oh my, this might not be a good neighborhood!” :O … It was our perception, and mostly our “Latin Perception”, because next morning when we were going out, it looked all good around.
Our first stop was Shwedagon Pagoda.. it is just magnificent, grandiose. It’s thr most sacred pagoda in Myanmar, where you can find the four relics of Buddha. We spent approximately 4 hours here, and enjoyed every bit of it. It is really easy to access and at the entrance are different tourist guide – 100% recommended! They are super sweet and know the history, are well informed of the place. Moreover, they can give you tips of where to eat, where to go next, and if your tourist guide is as wonderful as ours (Tun Tun is his name), you can set up a half day trip around Yangon for later!
After having an amazing lunch at a restaurant recommended by Tun Tun , we went to see Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple. This temple houses the reclining Buddha, which measures 66 meters (217 ft.). It is a place of quietness, calmness, really nice place to go while in the city.
To go from there to the hotel we took a taxi, which is quite safe. But this taxi driver didn’t know which way to go!!! He just stop next to another taxi and started asking them—and the worst part is that they didn’t know either!! Jajajja They asked another taxi driver, and after like 15 minutes, he finally said “let’s go, I know the way!”. And he did! 🚕😜
We had to take a shower (it was reallyyy really hot!), a nap (so much heat makes you tired) and get all set to go to a traditional Burmese dance and buffet at Karaweik. Karaweik is a floating restaurant and it is really beautiful, had never seen something like that. There are even guards at the entrance of the Palace to lead you in—really cool! The beauty of its place just extent to the interior, and we were delight with a beautiful show…No regrets!
The next day with Tun Tun picked us up at our hotel. Our first stop was the Public Market. It was full of people, and you can find anything: chicken, fish, fruits; textiles, flowers (millions of them!), and that awesome vibe and energy that you could only sense in such place! Loved the experience!! After that, he took us to see the White Elephant (it’s not really white, but at some point I thought it was going to be), and to a Buddhist school for orphan girls in which my heart broke! They are all sooo beautiful, and they sang together before starting to eat.
From there, we had to pick up our bags, because we were going to take an 18-hour-train! Oh, yeah, you read that correctly, 18 hours by train from Yangon to Bagan! I think this is one of the highlights of this trip—18 hours in a train with no air conditioner, or beds, just enjoying the views (before it got dark), and I don’t regret a bit of it. It was fascinating to go through the different towns, to see the kids running next to the train, seeing locals and tourists together. I cannot say that it was easy, cause it was not, AT ALL! But I had my mind set to enjoy this opportunity, and I did… I read “The Girl on the Train”, the whole book! Finished it by midnight (started around 5pm) and I loved that book, never expected that outcome…and the main character, such a complex person…I won’t tell you more about the book so you guys read it 😉 Funny thing: a little mouse walking! Jajaja I just told Naty to pick up her shoes and that we were going to be fine jajaja She almost freaked out–and me too! but we had like 15 more hours to go so I couldn’t worry about a little mouse at this point.
I slept like 7 hours straight—made a pillow with a sweater and the shoes (the mouse could be still walking around) and put a blanket over my body—perfection!! We wake up and the train continued making stops along the way (that’s why it takes sooo long!). I brushed my teeth, change to a clean t-shirt, and started looking by the window and thinking “how amazing to be here, in Myanmar, in Asia, in the other side of the world,”.
We arrived in Bagan and I would totally recommended to get a taxi through the hotel—taxi drivers at not that nice! The Hotel was super nice, with all the things to make your stay really comfortable and clean. The hotel has electric bikes to rent, and that is the way to go around Bagan, it’s super cool! We rented one bike each and we just went around the Pagodas, and got into the Pagodas that would catched our eyes. There are so many pagodas–It just amazing, spectacular!! We set our way to one of the famous pagodas to see the sunset. It was cloudy and after a while we gave up and started to ride the bikes, and to our astonishment: a beautiful sunset in front of us!
We continued going around Bagan, there were so many Pagodas to choose from! There are about 2,000 pagodas right now, but in the reigning of the 11th century there were more than 10,000 pagodas, in an area of approximately 104 kms. The city grew and expand, and it was once an important religious study center.
The next day we wake up super early (4.15am) to see the sunset. We went to watch it from Buledi (name of the Pagoda) pretty famous between tourists for that. From the top you have a 360 degrees view– magnificent!!!
Later, we went to Phwa Saw Brick. It’s beautiful and really big, but after seeing the main pagoda in Yangon, I didn’t get that impress (and I was!).
On the way to the hotel, we made a stop to see the river. We had to get into a steep little street and I fall from the bike! Really hurt, and after that didn’t want to ride those bikes anymore jajaja.. So, when we decided to make a last pagoda stop before leaving to buy some souvenirs, I got in a bike with Marco and that was not that safe! Jajaja I thought I was gonna fall again. Because of all that, one of the locals gave me a ride to the hotel in a REAL bike! So much comfortable. My advice, be careful with those bikes!!!
We were picked up to take a bus to Inle Lake, which was going to be our last stop before going back to KL. The bus was amazing, super comfy, with blankets, bottle of water and snacks! It was a smooth ride 😊
When we arrived at the hotel in Inle Lake, looked like I was in a dream, speechless!
We took a boat to go around the Lake, first stop the Market. We also went to a silk textile in Inpawkhon Village, which pieces are beautiful and super delicate! We also went to the Floating Gardens and to meet the Kayan women. I felt like I was looking into a National Geographic magazine– those articles you read once and think you would never see that!
Myanmar is such a beautiful country, and its people have the most humble and caring hearts I have ever met. These memories will be with me forever.
I hope you had enjoyed this storie! Till the next entry.