Maingalarpar [meng la ba] from Myanmar (Burma)!
I was sad to leave Vietnam, but was told that if I liked Vietnam, I would love Myanmar. Which, turned out to be pretty dang true. Myanmar has been in the middle of political unrest for years, most recently holding their first true democratic election just in November (the State Department actually still has a travel warning issued based on this). Tourism has only been allowed again in this country for 5 years so they are at a weird place on the demand curve, where demand is a bit higher than supply, meaning prices are incomparable to Southeast Asia.
One thing you will see in every picture of mine with people in it is thanaka. This is a paste made from a root that is used, primarily by women and children, as a sunscreen, make up, cooling agent, skin cream combo. I think it looks cool and the Burmese LOVED that I was wearing it – I got such sweet compliments every day (even with #jessface).
Just over a week meant a lot of ground to cover to see the incredible temples and pagodas scattered across the pretty large country, and to get to infamous Inle Lake for some time near the water. Night busses to the rescue.
In Yangon, the capital, my standout activity was joining an English class. No, I wasn’t brushing up. The evening prior I met a monk who asked me to join so the students could practice. They passed a microphone around and practiced asking questions and interacting in conversation. Everyone laughed and laughed as we talked about my favorite food and how many siblings I have 30 times, and why they are each learning English.
From there, I headed to Bagan, which is just a stunning historic town. There are over 2000 temples and pagodas dotting the countryside and poking up above the horizon. In order to move the tourists around, they have electric scooters at barely any cost and environmental impact. Win all around.
The day I was scheduled to leave, I was about to head to the hostel to shower when I heard music. Naturally, I followed it. And I stumbled upon the end of a parade. A DANCE PARTY parade. I walked to the front of it, let it pass me, walked to the front of it, and repeat at least 10 times. I found out later they were celebrating Pagoda Festival, a one day event each year. Everyone was in the streets dancing and somehow not a tourist in sight. I understand the gravity of the statement I’m about to make, but it was probably the best thing that has happened all trip.
Here’s a sneak peek of the fun:
From Bagan to Inle Lake, which is a climate shock. The lake is STUNNING, surrounded by lush greens, rolling agriculture and beautiful mountains. It was nice to get out on a bike and cruise around. We circled up the others staying in the hostel and did a tour of the lake by boat, getting a chance to see the floating villages, markets, gardens, and all of the daily operations of the community, including lotus silk weaving and cigar rolling.
And then, just like that, it was over.
Myanmar, I’ll be back for trekking and a balloon ride, when my pockets are bursting with cash, but until then, it’s on to Thailand.
(when a monk wants to wear your shades and take a selfie, that’s what you do)