I went to Myanmar because of Aung San Suu Kyi. I really admired her. Of course, I didn’t get to see her but having the chance to visit the country and seeing the progress she had made to her country was a joy. She was also admired by her citizens too.
I contacted an expat in Myanmar who kindly took me around Yangon on my first day there. Her husband was working there and was offered an expat package with a car and a driver. I asked her if it was still dangerous to travel around Myanmar. She said not really but her husband’s company still gave them all these expat benefits. Her husband must have held a very senior position then. I didn’t ask.
It was very hot in Myanmar so touring around the capital city in an air conditioned car was very pleasant. I felt a bit uneasy first but she said she always hosted her friends in Yangon this way so it was absolutely fine. Her driver was also a very nice person. He didn’t say much but he was doing his duties very well. He sure knew where to take me.
Several years after this trip, I was given an opportunity to volunteer in Myanmar but something happened to that NGO so in the end, I didn’t go. A few years later, I volunteered in Cambodia. Considering the current situation in Myanmar, I don’t know when I’ll be able to volunteer there.
It actually took a while to travel from one place to another, not because the places were far away but because the traffic was very congested. After Aung San Suu Kyi started ruling the country, she brought many changes. One of them was to build more roads including highways. With more roads, people living in the villages could travel easily to the capital city to trade their goods. The intention was good but the villagers were too eager to go to the capital city so the roads became very busy. A 10-minute trip could now become a 30-minute trip. Drivers became grumpy. They could only wait in their cars. New roads were supposed to help the citizens but they now became an inconvenience. Back then, I thought to myself, Myanmar still had a long way to go before they could progress further. They needed skilled people to help them design good infrastructure, they needed good town planning and village development (maybe playing some town planning computer games may help? :P). As I always say, changes take time. Now that their government is controlled by the military force, I really don’t know how much longer they need to implement all these changes. I searched on Google as I started writing this blog and found that they are attempting to develop a digital currency. Going digital is considered as ‘hard ware’ but the ‘soft ware’ is the people. They need to train their own citizens. It’s not just the ‘hard skills’ but also the ‘soft skills’ like communication, problem solving skills. Solving a problem with a short term solution is not a real solution. It’s like some people invented a battery that can last for 100 years. That is just postponing the problem, not really solving the problem. 100 years later, that generation will curse us for inventing this kind of thing. It’s like us now criticizing those who invented cars centuries ago.
My new friend could only take me around on my first day which was good enough for me. She gave me many tips about travelling in the capital city like what I needed to do before I entered into the temples and all the other etiquettes, like taking off my shoes and socks (yes, socks as well) before going into the temples. She even dropped me off at Shwedagon Pagoda, the famous golden temple in Myanmar, in the evening. That was the best time to go to the pagoda. If you go there during the day, you will miss the lights at the temple. Check out the photos below.
So, that was Day 1 in Myanmar – Yangon within 1 day.
Day 2 – Mandalay
Actually, no. I spent the second day on the bus travelling from Yangon to Mandalay but for simplicity, I just put it this way. 🙂
Day 3 – From Mandalay to Bagan
I took the advice from the staff at the motel I stayed at on day 1 and took a ferry instead of a bus which gave me a different kind of experience.
Day 4 – Bagan
Did I wake up early in the morning to take a hot air balloon tour? No.
Did I wake up early in the morning to take photos of the hot air balloon? Neither. You can find those postcards easily. Instead, I walked around the town and checked out some temples.
I had a chat with one of the staff at the motel and I asked her about the little stage that they had in their restaurant. She told me it was for the traditional puppet show. She also said she could arrange one show especially for me tonight. Wow! That was so kind of her. But she said she needed to check with her boss.
Day 5 – Inle Lake
You may have seen some postcards where a fisherman poses on his boat while holding a big round net. That’s where you can find him. Inle Lake is a lake, apparently. Along the river, you can see wooden stilt houses, like the ones I saw in Chiloe in Chile except that they look very Asian. Actually, I should use Tai O in Hong Kong as a comparison. That’s more appropriate. The stilt houses along Inle Lake do look like those in Tai O.
Inle Lake is also called Nyaungshwe Township or just Nyaungshwe.
When I arrived there, I met a group of tourists at a tour company. They were asking about boat tours which I was also interested in. I understood the conversations between the tourists and the staff because they were speaking in English but I didn’t understand what the tourists said among themselves. The staff said their boat would only depart if the number of people reached the minimum. I forgot what the minimum was. While the tourists were discussing among themselves in their own language, I interrupted and asked if I could join them. Problem solved. The boat now had enough people. Puzzled solved too. It turned out they were from China and the reason why I couldn’t understand them was because they were speaking in Yunnanese, a dialect spoken in Yunnan. I was very shocked. The dialect sounded so different from Mandarin.
Let’s take a look at what Inle Lake offered when I was there back in 2013. 🙂
Just as we were cruising along the lake, something happened. 🙂
It looked like a boat parade.
We didn’t stay on that island for too long. It was getting cloudy as well.
So, that was the end of my slightly longer than one week trip in Myanmar and also my last trip in 2013.
Guess where I’d go next in 2014?
Stay tuned. 🙂
11 – 19 October, 2013
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