Burmese Days

Myanmar is the only country which is not an island and still belongs to my top favourite countries.
It is so peaceful and tranquil that every morning I would walk through the streets of Yangon and simply couldn’t deal with the emotions.
Burma is very captivating, that I have fallen utterly in love with the country and my life.
I’d be lying if I said I am not at a point in my life, where I am enjoying my life to the fullest. My god, how much did I grow from my solo travels.
But to leave my comfort zone was one of the best decisions I could have done. And yes, sometimes I feel drained from exploring and making friends with other people, but this is part of life.
With every second I was amazed by the beauty of this country, which has been rejoining the international community in 2011.
Between 1962 and 2010 Burma was ruled by two military regimes and only few tourists were allowed to enter this country. Gratefully, Myanmar is welcoming travelers again.
Burma is the country I was most excited for to visit and it could fulfill certainly all my expectations.

View Over Bagan
View Over Bagan

The feeling of unity with the rest of the world occurred in me while I traveled Myanmar.
I took the classical Banana Pancake Trail:
Yangon- Bagan- Kalaw- Inle-lake – Mandalay – Yangon – Bago – Yangon.

On the airplane I met two Australian guys who would share later a taxi ride with me. I don’t know why but somehow I made a lot of friendships on the airplane, perhaps because I look like a dumb petite girl who needs help.
Anyway, I was lucky to stay with a CouchSurfer who was living in one of the skyscrapers of Yangon and you would have this stunning night view.
I pressed my face for like 10 minutes on his window.
It wouldn’t surprise me if he thinks I am coming from the Stone Age.

On the next day I went to Shwedagon Pagoda, the renowned symbol of the former capital of Myanmar.
Burma is a multi-religious country, but the major religion is Buddhism. Nearly 90% of the population confess to Buddhism and it is practiced especially by the ethnicities Mon, Karen, Bamar people and Chinese groups.
Furthermore I poured some cups of water over the goddess of Wednesday.
I really hope I don’t write any bullshit information, but my friend Than told me that there were different temples of deities for each weekday.
Anyway, the day I came to the Shwedagon I praised my Asian looks again.
Yes, maybe you can guess it: I didn’t have to pay like other tourists the entrance fee of 8000 Kyat ( roughly 6$).
And it couldn’t get better but I saw two rainbows!! over the Pagoda.
Maybe one of the locals will read this blog post and laughing about my naivete because it might be ordinary, but I still think I was lucky.
The second temple I visited the next day: Chauk-htat-gyi Buddha Temple.
And another one: Nga-htat-gyi Buddha Temple with a Buddha of 9.1 m (30 feet) high.

Isn’t it gorgeous?

My favourite Pagoda of all time.
The days even got better!
Tremendous reclining Buddha at Chauk-htat-gyi Buddha Temple.
Ngahtatgyi Buddha Temple

Why the stupid busses always let me feel like I am in a cooling house.
For me two things have to be accomplished until a bus in Asia qualifies itself as an Asian bus.
First: Feeling of a cooling house in the bus.
Second: The bus drops me during the night for the most unfavourable hour in the middle of nowhere.
Congratulations, my bus fulfilled all of the requirements.
As soon as I got out of the bus I asked straight a foreign couple if they would like to share a taxi with me. I don’t know if someone would ever reply with a “no”.
We had to bargain for about 5 minutes with a taxi driver.
Gosh, the entrance fee for Bagan increased in 2016 from 20$ to 25$,
I paid for the ticket and no one would ever asked me again for this silly ticket!
Okay, Bagan is one of the best places I have traveled to.
Located on the banks of Irrawaddy River, Bagan has the vast and densest concentration of Buddhist temples, pagodas, stupas and ruins on our planet. Many temples and pagodas are dated back to the 11th and 12th centuries with a high spiritual meaning in Buddhism.

I shared my room with Sally and an English guy.
Sally and me met in this hostel and became immediately friends.
And the english guy crumbled Oreos on my mattress and I got the jackpot to be the ham in the sandwich. My room has only 3 mattresses which lied next to each other. And Sally to the left, the guy to the right, I’m in the middle.
I became his chaplain because he shared with me the break up with his girlfriend at our first encounter.
Do I look like I can listen to the problems until 2 am in the morning?
Nevertheless, I stayed in Bagan for four days and every day it got better and better. Okaaay, I admit I gave up on the third day to wake up at 5 am catching the sunrise over Bagan. The first two days were too cloudy.
We (Sally and I) shared an E-bike for 5$? per day, but the lady gave me a discount. I didn’t explore Bagan by bike, I would have sweated and perhaps would kill my roommates.
Soon we made friends with a lot of other people from different hostels and explored together in a big group Bagan. One day we ‘hired’ a guide who showed us temples off the beaten track.
Temples I visited: Htilominlo Pahto, deluxe sunset at Bulethi,
Manuha Temple, Sunset at Pya-Tha-Da Paya,
Phwa Saw Brick Monastery, Ananda Temple!,
Shwesandaw Pagoda for sunrise, Sulamani Guphaya Temple,
Dhammayangyi Temple and many more.
Try not to get a sensory overload from all the beauty and temples.
I stayed in Old Bagan, but if you want to save money it is cheaper to be in Nyaung U (disadvantage: It takes longer with the E-bike from there to Old Bagan).

The first temple Sally and I went to.

Some temples are under construction.

Sally, do you remember how I ordered for the first time a papaya salad you raved of?
We saw this guy prepare the papaya salad like he never did it in his life before.
Every time he would add a new ingredient he looked confused and asked me how much salt or whatever I want to put inside.
I mean I had no clue what to answer. The papaya salad slayed my sense of taste. It was so frigging spicy, you can’t imagine.

My first Papaya Salad was such a fail.

Hey Sally, you are so pretty!

Shades of Bagan

Sally determined to travel to Hpa An after Bagan.
Nick and I decided at the last moment to bring her to Pokkaku.
She planned catching a bus to Hpa An from Pokkaku.
Everything was perfect I even got to see the Irrawaddy River while crossing a large bridge to Pokkaku. We said goodbye, I was sad but I wanted to go back to Bagan.
After dusk our E-bikes were out of battery, we shoved the bikes part of our return and I am sure I ate some flies on my way back.
Man, it was freaking cold and none of the other tourists helped us, some even laughed!? Why do people laugh at other’s misery?
What a shitty end of a beautiful day. And the day before I ate for dinner a big plate of tea leaf salad and didn’t sleep the whole night.
My brain felt like I drank 5 cups of coffee and my body was about to run like a hamster in its hamster wheel.
But now while I am writing about this story I’m smirking :D.

I decided instead to travel to Kalaw and doing a trek to Inle-Lake.
The trek was easy and it looked somehow like in the south of France.
Trekking agencies in Kalaw are like an anthill, you’d have to blind not to find anything.

Temple in Kalaw
Watch out for these toys made in China on the street markets in Kalaw.
Kalaw Trek
Kalaw Trek
Kalaw Trek
What kind of insect is it?

You have to pay 10$ to enter Inle-Lake and Nyaung Shwe is the touristy gate to Inle-Lake.
My guide Johnny was super kind and suggested to resell my ticket,
he took my ticket and gave me 8$ back.
Inle-Lake is probably my favourite attraction in Burma.
If you don’t know it, I have a big weakness for water.
I could literally spend a week in Inle-lake, it is so magical but very touristy. Also met some travelers from Bagan in Inle-lake again, among them the British guy – Gosh, I am so lucky right?
But this will happen often to you if you decide to travel Myanmar, almost everyone takes the same trail.
A boat trip on the lake is a must-do, if not I don’t know how you want to explore Inle-Lake.
My personal highlights: The 5 days rotating market, swimming gardens,
the traditional one-legged Intha fishermen (I’ve never seen this unique technique before) and the Phaung Daw U Pagoda.
But there are more things to do and see.

Our boat.
The French couple.
Swimming gardens.
Boat ride on the lake.
One-legged fishermen of Inle-Lake.
Come on, isn’t it breathtaking?
A resort on the lake

Living houses.

At one of the attractions there are Kayan people sitting around, if you want to take a photo please ask them for permission!

I feel a little bit ashamed taking a picture of them, even though I asked for permission.
Silk weaving
Handmade cigars “cheroot” made from tobacco, honey, rice flour, banana, and anise etc.

Welcome to the next big city: Mandalay.
I don’t know why so many people didn’t favour Mandalay.
Okay, I had my friend Chan who drove me with the scooter around.
Chan, you are probably the best guide for Mandalay and its surrounding.
In the taxi on my way to the hotel I saw – I can’t believe it- Sally on the street!
We forgot to exchange Facebook but after I left Myanmar she found me on FB.
Mandalay hill provides you a great view over the city!
Kuthodaw Pagoda and the World’s Largest Book is worth a visit.

Kuthodaw Pagoda

A distinctive feature of Burmese culture is the usage of Thanaka promoting smooth skin. A yellowish cosmetic paste made from ground wood bark. The picture below shows me with Thanaka on my cheeks.

At Mandalay Hill

Had an amazing sunset at the U Bein Bridge in Amarapura, the bridge is considered to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world.

Sunset in Amarapura
Shades of U Bein Bridge.

Another day, another destination: Sagaing.
Roughly 25 km (16 miles) far away from Mandalay.
Here, too, pagodas and temples.
I got nearly to a point – I was tired of seeing pagodas and temples.

Kaunghmudaw Pagoda looks like a breast.
On the way to Sagaing

The gold leaf manufacturing was to be honest boring.

Gold leaf manufactory
Typical Asian wedding photo shooting in Mandalay
A little bit like my village in Vietnam

I came back to Yangon. Visited another famous Pagoda: Sule Pagoda.
Okay, at this point I was already drained to see pagodas.
You can feel it from the one picture I took of the pagoda compared to Shwedagon at the beginning.

Sule Pagoda by me. Amateur photograph.

But I had a relaxing ride for 1 1/2 hours with the Circular Train.


Retrospectively I was very exhausted when I came to Bago.
Shwethalyaung Buddha and Shwemawdaw Pagoda could be even World Heritage Sites, I just lost all the energy to take pictures from every temple and pagoda. I also didn’t know one day I would start writing about everything in my blog.
The capital Naypyidaw has no traffic flow, probably like the traffic in Pyongyang. I didn’t even consider to travel the capital of Burma.
After one day I came back to Yangon to leave the country.

My heart has been captured by this incredible country, now it’s your turn to decide whether to go. Or not. To jump into an adventure. Or not.
Good luck if you decided to go!

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