I have to admit, I got quite comfortable being back home in the UK over Christmas and New Year. The thought of getting on a long haul flight into a foreign land was not filling me with the same excitement that it usually does.
But the usual routine allows life to speed by, and yes, I could have stayed in London, but when I have this spaciousness, better to push my comfort levels, see more of the world and rustle around in my consciousness to discover where I want to be and decide exactly what I want to set my sights on in the next phase of my life.
I arrived in Yangon on Thai Airways, which I love! The planes are bright and light and I had three seats to myself. Result.
Yangon is home to the stunning Shwedagon Pagoda. I visited just before sunset, to watch the sky change from light to navy blue with the stunning golden temple shining brightly. The tiles were cool beneath my feet and I could appreciate all the sounds and smells of the surroundings. There was an overall feeling of calm and serenity.
Night one, I met up with guy friends from home, sank a lot of lager, smoked a pack of Marlboro lights and we agreed to meet the following day to jump on the ‘Yellow Circle Train’ that goes around the city. We attemped to meet on the train which turned out to be a disaster, I didn’t find them and I only ended up doing part of the sceneic loop.
Long story, but I ended up in Bogyoke market accompanied by a perfect stranger who helped me find my way there, buy some sunglasses because I left my Celine’s at the temple!! Then I went to find the boys for lunch at ShanNoodles999 – rated no. 1 on Trip Advisor 😉
NEXT STOP – Flight to Inlay Lake. Once we had settled into our rooms we sauntered down to reception and guess what, the boys bumped into old friends! Girl friends. Girls that greated me with a hello and then refused to brush eye contact with me for 24hours. Totally bizarre.
I am not going to lie, initially I did not feel comfortable. Girls like this are inseminated with a confidence and style that is literally the breeding of blue blood and it totally triggers my, I’m not cool, thin, stylish, beautiful as they are blah blah blah bullshit, that quite frankly, I thought I had shaken off years before. Anyhow, after a couple of days I chipped away and we found our common ground, mutual aquaintances, psychics, spiritual practice, DMT. But jesus, it was hard work.
Sorry, I digress (she says after 1000 words of shite)…. Inle Lake. We organised a boat trip and set off at 8am, speeding off into the lake to watch the fisherman. They have this fabulous manoeuvre with their legs on a paddle to move the boat and catch fish using what looks like giant shuttle cocks.
The fisherman posed perfectly, we got our snaps, then our boat shimmied up next to his and the gappy toothed dude picked up a dry old little fish and gave us his best grin. I couldn’t even face taking a picture it was all too contrived.
The next 5 – 6 hours we were ferried around various floating villages and taken into each of their ‘shops,’ Silver shops, cigarette making shops, boat making shops, lacquer bowl shops…
I can’t even count how many little shop drops off’s we went to until we eventually barked at the boat driver, NO MORE SHOPS TAKE US HOME!! I am not sure we were their most favoured tourists as there is definitely an older more lucrative customer travelling in Myanmar who no doubt pay $500 for a scarf or $1000 to ship a handmade Long Boat back home.
Hiking around Inle Lake is stunning. Seeing the traditional ways of living and farming the land without machines and enjoying the sunset 🙂
NEXT STOP – Flight to Bagan! This was the absolute highlight for me. I loved waking up early for sunrise, finding a spot to watch the orange sun burst through the horizon. I have never before seen the sun so bright and so bulbous. The scenery of hundreds of temples before your eyes is remarkable. But yes, there are bus loads, and I mean coaches FULL of tourists on package trips and they drown many of many the bigger temples, so whilst you see the beautiful photos I have taken, at times I am fighting off a Chinese woman for the best spot at the top of a pagoda.
I proudly learnt to ride an electric scooter! If you have been reading my blurb consistently over the last year, you will know that my history with two wheels is somewhat problematic.
It wouldn’t be me ofcourse without having my Bridget Jones moment on the electric bike. I had two feet on the ground and then accelerated instead of pulling the break. The bike roared off like a rearing horse, my natural reaction was to pull back, all happening fast and thankfully no injuries to report, only stiches from my audience Suzanna and Jackie laughing their heads off.
NEXT STOP – Flight to Mandalay! I had a couple of days exploring the city alone. Strange isn’t, but I really like wondering the streets and seeing who I’ll meet a long the way, because I always meet someone
I went to see this big gold Buddha (Mahuamuni Buddha Temple) and upon exiting I met a sweet looking man asking if I needed a taxi, ‘wait here!’ he said, expecting him to arrive with four wheels, it was a motorbike. Mmm, not what I was expecting, feels a little risky, but oh, whatever, when in Rome… So I got on the back of his motorbike and we set off to catch the sunset over the U Bein Bridge. It felt amazing speeding through the city with the wind against my skin, and a message came to me, its going to be a good year, I felt it on that bike.
Once we got to the destination he whipped out his phone and showed me a tonne of photos of his customers and his business card, ‘she’s an English!’ ‘she’s a Switzerland!’ A very good sales tactic I thought, trust was building. I’ll get him to take me to some sights tomorrow.
I wonder along the rickety bridge, worrying in my mind I might suddenly trip and fall off the side of the bridge and die alone in Mandalay. At least it sounds exotic, death off of Myanmars most photographed monument. I really should be wearing an identitiy tag as I wonder relativiely aimlessly around the world getting rides with strange men. Anyways, my Mum and Dad are in another dimension and they liked to be busy, so I keep them on their toes watching out for me wherever I might be. But seriously, what if I did die? It’s a good reminder to keep some ID on me at all times. God, perhaps im mildly OCD?
Oh, Mellow Myanmar, Beautiful Burma, it has such a peaceful vibe, you rarely hear music being played, statues of Buddha adorn the country everywhere you look and regular sightings of monks wondering around gave me this strong sense of spirit strongly in the ether.
The country is relatively untouched and traditional dress still prevails. Men and women wear the Longie, a sarong style long skirt. The fashion for girls is to wear face paint powder which also protect them from the sun. They are not used to tourists wearing scantily clad clothes and therefore I dressed respectfully covering my knee’s and shoulders.
This is a country that has experienced a great deal of civil unrest and a violent history, but the people are gentle and shy (unless they are behind the wheel of a vehicle.) The young people wanted to interact and the boys especially liked to talk about English football teams.
I barely touched the sides of this vast and varied country, I took the road well travelled and I know there would have been many more magical things to discover if I had been there longer. I was reminded returning to South East Asia of the gentle vibes, the feeling of serenity and safety after the edginess of Latin America. It felt good to be back in the land of Buddha!
Inle Heart View – amazing vegetarian dishes with home grown ingredients
Red Mountain Vineyard – stick to the white wine
Ostello Bello Hostel – Highly recommend
The Moon Restaurant – amazing vegetarian food. The one in new Bagan is much nicer, its a short walk from Ostello Bello
Mandalay City Hotel – I wanted to catch some sun, but there is literally no sun around this pool and for that reason I wouldn’t recommend it
Bistro @82nd – amazing