Arrived in Myanmar and although I was a bit worried about the online visa I'd applied for it was ridiculously simple getting through immigration. The military dude even had a little flirt with me. Cheeky.
I took a taxi to downtown Yangon and the hostel I was staying. I don't have too much time in Burma so I wanted to get the bus to Bagan the next night. I asked the hostel and they said sorry our bus is full. But if you go here, circle on map, you'll find a ticket. So off I go.
The streets of downtown yangon are so interesting. First, on the walk to the bus station ticket place I didn't see one westerner. We know this is not unusual as has happened before but not in such a big city. Secondly, apart from mobile phones, life on the street is pretty unaffected by western influence. There's no English anywhere. No western shops or restaurants. Everyone is wearing the burmese uniform of sarong 'longi' and shirt and some are red teethed from chewing betel nut. Women and children have clay painted on their faces, i think as a sunscreen but also a cultural stamp. There's spitting on the street and extreme offenses to the nose. There are a lot of people with Indian heritage and dancing dragons in Chinatown as it's still new year.
Sweating hard, I eventually made It to the bus ticket thingy with the help of a friendly local gent. Good job as I wouldn't have had a clue without him as it was essentially a row of market stalls.
On the way back I visited Sule Paya, a huge glittering gold pagoda in the middle of a roundabout.
Got back to the hostel and met Tobias, just finished his PhD and travelling for three months. We went to get some street food in Chinatown which was very good despite the huge rat under the table. Pretty sure my senses were dulled by that point by the 50p mojitos.
Tobias decided to come with me to Bagan so off we went the next day to the bloody ticket thing again. A man stopped us on the way to chat about his life and ours. He wants to ba a writer, 'like Herman Hesse or George Orwell' and was living in a monastery teaching the kids. We exchanged every possible method of contact after a half an hour conversation.
On to Shwedagon Paya, one of the most important Buddhist monuments, a spectacular towering gold pagoda on top of a hill. Some students called us over to sit with them and told us about the history of the paya and about their lives.
We took the night bus that evening to Bagan. No need to tell you how awful that was but the crowning glory was arriving in Bagan at 4.30 am... perfect to go see the sunrise!
We dropped our stuff at the hostel and rented some bikes. It was still pitch black and obvs the bikes dont have lights. We made it to a pagoda and climbed to the top. There were a couple of other people there but it was so quiet and peaceful watching the huge red sun rise over the misty plain of temples. I really felt the good vibes.
Bagan is a plain of about 3000 thousand pagodas most built from the eleventh to thirteenth centuries. Some are huge and some small. They all house Buddha's. It's mind blowing how big the site is and exhausted we continued to cycle around until it was too hot. There are tourists here but nothing like the numbers of angkor Wat and the well discussed line of it being on a tourist tipping point is true. It feels special but it's going to change for sure.
Today we saw the sunrise again and it was as magical as the first one. Later we got lost whilst exploring. A monk stopped us and we talked about Buddhism which was perfect as me and Tobias keep asking each other questions that neither knows the answers too. The monk explained the philosophy, meditation and the influence of Hinduism. So interesting and wonderful to have the opportunity to talk to him.
Tomorrow we are headed to Kalaw and then a three day trek to Inle Lake. Wifi is awful in Burma so will post again when I next get chance...who knows when that will be. All the big love.