After saying a sad goodbye to my dad in Hong Kong, we headed to the airport for our flight to Myanmar (Burma). Our 20th country and one we were both very excited about.
At check-in we were delighted to find out, for the first time ever, that we had been upgraded. They must have been really short of space in economy to move two scruffy backpackers into business…The flight went by in a breeze of cocktails, champagne, dim sum and movies; and all too soon we were descending into Yangon.
Coming out of the airport, it reminded me of India with a familiar perfumed smell and the way all the men were wearing longyis (similar to sarongs). On our first day in the country, it was interesting noticing the similarities and differences between the county and its three big neighbours (India, Thailand and China) as well as the colonial influence, as the country only gained independence from Britain in 1948.
The next day we caught a ‘VIP’ nightbus to Bagan, an area famous for the thousands of temples strewn across the landscape. This was the site of the first Burmese kingdom with over 3,000 temples built between the 11th and 13th centuries.
We arrived at 5am in darkness and couldn’t check in so did the obvious thing and rented an e-bike (electric scooter) and drove around in the pitch black trying to find a temple to climb for sunrise. It was pretty difficult to find a spot but the sunrise was stunning. Made even more spectacular by the dozens of hot air balloons (a popular way to see the temples, but sadly above our budget at US$330 each) graciously floating in the orange sky.
As the sky lightened, you could see tonnes of temples in every direction dotted around the green countryside. It was unlike anything I have ever seen. It was spectacular.
On the way back to the hotel we could see the crazy route we had taken in the dark, across fields and along sandy tracks. After breakfast, a shower and a nap, we headed out again just picking a random direction and gawping at the stunning stupas and pretty pagodas everywhere.
That evening we were very excited to meet up with our friends from home Rachael and Guy, who would be travelling with us for the rest of our time in the country. It was lovely to catch up over (a few too many) cocktails and curry.
The next two days were spent in much the same way: sunrise or sunset temple viewing, biking around the countryside, cooling down in the pool, eating delicious food (we had read bad things before we arrived but they came to be unfounded) and spending time with our friends.
We are definitely falling for Myanmar…
Next stop: Kalaw and an overnight trek to Inle Lake