No Caviar in Myanmar

Titus Andromedon would be quite upset by that. But, there are lots of midsized cars, which makes up for it.

(If you don’t understand the joke check this out….

We had another early morning today as we were flying from Bagan to Mandalay. We debated taking the bus as it was much cheaper, but we didn’t feel like it was worth it (the fact that it wasn’t the a direct bus was the major factor).

We got into Mandalay at 8:10 am (probably the shortest flight Ive ever been on) and were out of the airport by 8:30. Thank god that flight was so short because my knees were pretty much in my ears the entire time. Oh the joys of Southeast Asia. We decided to save some money and take a shared taxi as it was $20 cheaper than taking a private one. We waited an hour for it to fill up and during that time we planned our few days here.

It took us an hour before we got to the hotel – which has WiFi in the room (it’s the little things that make me happy). We checked in and met the wonderful general manager who told us lots about the city .

As soon as we got to the room we both pulled out our laptops and posted pictures to Facebook (because, duh). We rested for a bit then decided we would head to the Mandalay Royal Palace (a reconstruction of the palace of the last Burmese King ) and then downtown.

The palace itself wasn’t too entertaining. It felt very eerie at times as we were the only ones visiting! After getting inside, I hope that they put my $10 fee towards building some English signs. We saw lots of amazing teak buildings but have no idea what they were. As we were heading out we decided to climb the old guard tower. It was an ok climb until we got to the top – the steps were quite loose and scared me a few times!

On the way downtown we met some other backpackers who invited us to go on a tour of the surrounding area tomorrow – so lets hope that pans out! After answering a few of their questions and then saying our goodbyes we headed off to the post office. It was way more difficult to find than we were expecting. Mandalay is laid out on a grid – but our maps are not the best.

We bought some stamps and were quite hungry. We stopped at a café that had been recommended by Lonely Planet but it missed the mark big time. Oh well, you win some and you lose some. We headed off to the Zow Gyi market, which was a mind blowing experience. It was amazing to see so many locals there (they got a kick out of seeing 2 white people wandering aimlessly through it too) and the goods they were selling were not what we were expecting. We saw TONS of Western brands of makeup and cosmetic products. There were also loads of fabric stalls in pretty much every colour of the rainbow.

On the way back to the hotel, we noticed that there was ANOTHER pagoda quite close and we headed there to check it out. This one was by far the sketchiest as the entrance was between two shops and was a gravel path. We entered the grounds and took a few pictures. But, as soon as I got close to the Stupa a dog started barking at me. I walked back towards Katelyn only to notice that the dog had found some friends and started chasing after us. WE RAN OUT OF THERE (the most running I’ve done since home) and some locals stopped the dogs from getting after us. We immediately deked into a mini mart to grab some snacks and return our heart rates to normal.

After that much adventure we decided it was time to head back to the hotel and rest up for the night. Which is much needed after the day we had!

Alrighty, time to constantly check my phone for notifications.

Getting mistaken for a Belgian is Fun and Exciting

Today was another long and exhausting day. Even though we’ve been doing typical Bagan Days (as the bloggers call them) – where we go out to explore the temples from 10 am – 2pm, head back to the hotel to about 4-4:30 then hit the temples again until sunset.

This morning was no exception. We got our e-bikes again this morning after breakfast and hit the trails again. First stop was Shwezigon Pagoda, another one of the larger temples in the area. As soon as we got there we were met by locals who followed us around. Katelyn and I immediately ducked off to avoid them – and carried our shoes with us (we just didn’t trust this lady). After we finished up there, we decided to head for the outlying pagodas as we felt that there would be fewer people there.

I left Katelyn in charge of the map as she knew where we were headed. We found the trail we needed with no problems. About half way down the trail, it turned into sand and man did we have fun trying to navigate that. We ended up having to push the e-bikes the rest of the way. I really underestimated how heavy they were – my arms are still sore (but that may be due to the fact that I haven’t been to the gym in a while… like 2 whole weeks). We got halfway to the viewing tower (which was about halfway to the temples we wanted to go to) before giving up. We ended up running into a bunch of swiss tourists – as we both bonded about how bad the “Trail” was. We got talking as we were biking, and one of the guys thought I was Belgian – which is new and fun. It made me super happy though – my French was pretty rusty and I though I sounded like Mr. Bean trying to speak French.

We found our way back out to the main road and decided we would head to Old Bagan and then explore the temples around there. We found one that seemed to be drawing a small crowd and decided to explore it. This was a great idea as we found a hidden staircase and were rewarded with an incredible view.  It was great to see the layout of the plain, and were able to pick out a spot for sunset.

We set off again and explored some more temples around Old Bagan (and also found an ATM because being broke was not a fun time). We ended up finding a temple down by the Ayerawaddy River. We later found out that the temple dated to the 3rd Century. Even though it was nice to see the water the stench coming off of it later changed our minds. As we were heading out to the main road we passed the Nuclear Catastrophe Overcome Pagoda (No, I didn’t change the name for comic effect), which happened to be closed (potentially due to a Nuclear Disaster). After that we went to the Gan Daw Palin Temple, which wasn’t built as a shrine to Sarah Palin (Ironic, with that name. I know).

It was getting hot out so we decided to get some shade and head to the Bagan Archeological Museum. It was amazing to learn about the history of the area and see some artifacts that had been found in the area. It was astounding to me to see the paintings from the 12th century that had been found. I found it incredibly interesting that they were able to generate such accurate pictures of Buddha in that time period. The thing that I found the most interesting is that the depictions of Buddha were more human-like than the blobs supposedly called “Jesus” by Christian artists from the 14th century.

We were both starving and decided to head back to the Starbeam café as we were both in dire need of some protein. We had an excellent lunch and within 5 minutes of being back at the hotel for our afternoon break I was out like a light. Our asses really needed the break – I don’t think mine has ever been this sore. Ever.

After the break, we headed back out to catch one last sunset. On the way we thought we would stop and see the largest temple in Bagan – only to find out that we had already been there yesterday. A+ for us. We decided to scope out a location for sunset, even though we had already decided upon one.

On the way to the temple in our minds eye, we stumbled upon another one that we thought might have an excellent view of the sunset. We went in to scope out a staircase, only to be met by hundreds of bats. Not our cup of tea. We walked out quickly and decided to walk around to see if there was anything else that we were missing. We went in the back entrance and looked to see if there were any bats. We didn’t see any so we tiptoed in. Instantly one swooped down at us and we booked it out.

We ran to our bikes and left very quickly. Almost as quickly as Mike Duffy after his trial. We found the path to the temple we had originally planned to go to, and as soon as we got on the path I wiped out. As soon as I had cleaned myself off and we were good to go, a Burmese guy appeared out of nowhere and “cleaned” my shorts off. We accelerated out of there, and he yelled at us. I thought I dropped/broke something which it turns out I didn’t. He just wanted some money for doing nothing. Ok.

We found the temple (nameless) and climbed up. We thought we were in for breathtaking sunset, only to have some clouds block our view. Oh well. It is what it is.

Alrighty, back to attempting to clean up the explosion that is my backpack.

Lay on MacDuff, and damned be he who dare say “Hold! Enough!”

Wow. I actually remembered something from Shakespeare. A+ me. Ok, well that might be because my dad says “Lay On, MacDuff” quite frequently. But thats beside the point.

Today was an incredible day. It was also VERY hot, about 42C. We got a bit of a late start, but it was much needed. The sun and the heat are incredibly draining. We rented bikes from the hotel again, but this time no one wiped out. Yay us. Side note: you should see my leg from yesterday. We set off to see some temples outside of Old Bagan. The ones we chose happened to be a bit more touristy but offered some incredible views. We visited Ananda first. This one was very touristy and had lots of people hawking their wares there. I was really interested in buying some Elephant pants (a South East Asia staple souvenir) but the long ones were too short for me (no surprise) and Katelyn got hers for $5 cheaper in Cambodia. Katelyn and I both decided that we’re going to wait until Siem Reap to buy most of our souvenirs as everything there is cheaper, and our bags will be emptier (we hope).

We crossed the street from Ananda to go to another bigger temple. On the way, I decided to try and make it look like I didn’t speak English as I was sick of people trying to shake me down for cash. I tried French, but the cunning little kids here spoke French. Oh well. We toured this temple with no problems, and headed off to a bigger one. Here my efforts paid off, the little bit of Swedish that I spoke managed to scare off everyone. Tack. However, Katelyn found the one lady in Bagan that speaks Italian and proceeded to show us around the temple. She passed us off to her daughter (we think), who showed around the top of the temple. It was so beautiful to see the major temples from a distance as we were fully able to take in their scale. We ended up buying postcards from the girl who showed us around as she was a helpful (as helpful as a 14 year old can be) guide, and took a bunch of pictures for Katelyn and I. We also got 20 postcards for $3, but the money wasn’t the main factor why we got them.

We headed off to New Bagan on our bikes, and ate a leisurely lunch there. After our longer lunch, we decided it was getting to hot to explore anything and wanted to head back to the hotel to do laundry and nap. On the way back we found a small path that lead to some smaller temples. These were amazing as they were very far away from anything else and one had the best frescoes we’ve seen in any temple. We also decided to climb one of the smaller ones and take in the view. It was truly amazing.

We decided to stop at a few larger temples on our way back. At the first one the local “guide” (aka painting seller) told us that it had the best frescoes in Bagan – liar. The ones we had just come from were infinitely better. We left there and headed for a last temple (Nagayon Gupaya). On the way in we noticed that it was devoid of anyone – including locals. Which was surprising, as it seemed like this one was a major one. We tried to go inside but it had been closed. We walked around, took a few pictures and were off back to the hotel.

It was so hot that we both needed a break as much like my GoPro we were on the way to over heating.

We rested for a bit then hit the dusty roads again. We had noticed a spot on a smaller temple near where we were yesterday and wanted to watch then sunset there. We got there early to get the best spot. We were the only ones there for a long time and scared quite a few people off because we stole their spot. It was incredibly peaceful and zen like for a long time and we just chatted while we waited for the sun to go down. Later on a couple joined us, but they went to the other side of the temple so we had the sun set all to ourselves. A few locals tried to get us to buy their postcards but a few “No Grazie”s sent them packing.

We noticed a restaurant beside the hotel, where the ATM that almost ate Katelyn’s debit card was. We were a little wary of the bat situation at night so decided that we would head there for diner. It was the best Italian food I’ve had outside of Italy. I think it even beats some of the restaurants I ate at there.

After a rough day yesterday, today was a much better day. I don’t know whether it was the better sleep I had, the better weather or a combination of the two. It might also be the fact that I decided to take it easy on the pictures today. Over the trip this is something I’ve been conscious of. While I love taking pictures, its important to experience the place you’re in with your own eyes as opposed to the viewfinder of your camera. That being said, I’m still taking pictures, its just not as many as I would be.

Ok – I’m off my soapbox now. I promise.

Sorry Mom and Dad, After Today Kids are a Forgone Conclusion

If anyone wants to permanently never have kids, riding an e-bike in Bagan will definitely help you with that. I mean, it wasn’t going to happen anyway so like I guess it’s a win/win situation.

We left Yangon very early this morning, but we found it surprisingly easy to grab a cab at 4am. We grabbed one, and upon getting in we noticed that it looked like it was a father/son team operating it, the dad was the driver and the son was the token English speaker. About half way through the ride, I noticed the son pull out his phone and naturally I looked to see what he was doing (#snooplyfe). Turns out he opened up the phone to the porn he was looking at last time he had his browser open … #oops. We made it to the airport and entered the domestic terminal and found NO ONE. The airline said to check in 2 hours prior, so we planned to arrive at the airport for 4am. We didn’t check in and drop our bags until closer to 4:30. We dropped our bags and made our way through security, only to be patted down when we didn’t even beep through the metal detector. I guess being the first ones through security has its perks… if you can call that a perk. Katelyn and I waited by the “gate” and noticed the airport start to come to life. At about 5:15 am the advertising screens turned on, and started playing commercials that had Burmese lyrics advertising things set to semi-famous western songs (eg. Brighter than the Sun, Down by Jay Sean, etc.).

We were supposed to board at 5:30 but didn’t end up boarding until closer to 5:45. We were bussed out to the plane (I have no idea what kind) and noticed that everyone else (maybe 12 people) were part of a Korean tour group, who took selfies with a selfie stick for the first 20 mins of the flight. This plane was probably the smallest I’ve been on (maybe 13 rows, one by one) and probably the coldest. We both tried to sleep but it was too cold. Stupid me packed the blanket I nicked from the flight to Bangkok and had to suffer.

We bumpily landed in Bagan to an airport that could have been lifted from somewhere in Africa. It was VERY tiny and very old. We grabbed a cab from airport to our hotel and upon arriving Katelyn grabbed some wifi and food while I grabbed some shuteye.

About 9 AM, we rented E-bikes from the hotel and I proceeded to fall off within the first 30 seconds (my leg looks great right now). After that little bit of hilarity for Katelyn and the Burmese staff of the hotel, we were off to the Bagan plain (a 26 mi2 archeological site filled with 2000+ temples) to explore some temples. In the 3 hours that we were out, we probably explored about 10 temples, but saw MANY more. Literally everywhere you look you can see some sort of temple. Its truly incredible. Most of the paths are sandy with many rocks (hence the no kids), but that also makes it super hard to drive the e-bikes. I thought driving in snow was hard but this is worse. There’s really no way to describe the feeling in your gut as you’re driving through this place. It is truly incredible. I felt like Lara Croft in like 50 years when she’s in a power chair.

We were getting close to Old Bagan so decided to head for lunch as we were both very hungry. We ate at the “Be Kind to Animals and the Moon” Restaurant which was amazing. I had a wonderful Tamarind curry with coconut rice and came home stuffed. After lunch we grabbed some water from a vendor and headed back to the hotel to blog and nap.

We woke up a little later than planned, grabbed our E-bikes and then headed for the Bagan Plain again. We decided to tackle an area that had a higher concentration of temples. But first, we stopped at a temple that we had visited earlier to buy some beautiful sand paintings. I’m kind of a sucker for this stuff because I can’t art. Period. We climbed a few temples and the view was incredible. Everywhere you look you can see the Stupa of another temple. Pictures really don’t do it justice. After a few temples we decided to see if we could find somewhere to view the sunset. We settled on one of the larger temples (Shwe san daw), with lots of tourists. Along the way, we saw a few kids playing soccer so stopped to join them for a bit. They were way better than me, which is an accurate description of my athletic ability.

We got to the temple and were in the middle of parking our bikes when we were accosted by kids selling things. We were really keen on getting a good view of the sunset so told them “maybe later” in hopes that that would turn them away for good (hint: it did not). We climbed to the top level of the temple and found a good spot to view the sunset. Katelyn made new friends while I took selfies (an accurate description of the entire trip). I decided to do a little climbing to get an even better view – an excellent idea. The sunset was spectacular. Even though it set behind literally the only cloud in the sky, the lighting and shadows that it cast over the entire plain were incredible. After the sunset, we climbed back down to grab our shoes and bikes. The same kids found us from earlier and kept harassing us. Its so disappointing to me to see these kids be so pushy to sell things at such a young age. I guess it comes down to a necessity to survive. Katelyn bought one (the kid she talked to was much nicer but I didn’t (I hate pulling stuff out of my bag in public and the kid harassing me was a bit of a prick) and the kids around us chased after us until we left. In hindsight, I guess I should have spent the $2 on a postcard but I don’t think rewarding behaviour like that does anyone any good.

As the sun was setting we drove back to Old Bagan for dinner. We ate at the Starbeam Bistro and I had an excellent Traditional Curry from the Bagan area. It kind of reminded me of a dish my dad makes at home. This really didn’t help the funk I’m in (SURPRISE I HAVE FEELINGS), but the dinner conversation was excellent. We drove back to the hotel with only our lights on the bikes to guide us. Note to self: bring flashlight. I took it slow as I had already wiped out earlier and the prospects of ending up in a hospital here didn’t enthrall me. It was incredible to hear the sounds of all the bats in the trees and temples (also horrifying at the same time. I hate bats. Sorry stellaluna). We made it back no worse for wear and decided it would be a quiet night.

Wow. Writing this was more exhausting that I expected. BRB passing out.