Category Archives: Burma

From Yangon, we took an overnight bus to the ancient city of Bagan.  While less famous than the nearby Ankor Wat temples in Cambodia, the stupas of Bagan rival Ankor Wat in terms of impressive historic religious sites.

We spent two days biking by the stupas and often stopping to enter and explore the insides.  Though all stupas were of varying size, all that we visited had some significant similar features: generally square construction with an internal hallway (some were small and cramped and required bodily contortions to fit through and others had massive hallways) that had 4 buddha statues.  We respectively walked clockwise through any building we visited

Bagan was the capital of the Kingdom of Pagan.  During the height of the kingdom (11th to 13th centuries), over 10,00 Buddhist temples and pagodas were constructed.  Today, reports vary, but between 2,200 and 3,200 of these structures remain (in varying condition) and are scattered across the plains in and around Bagan.  After awhile, a temple is a temple, but Trish and I really enjoyed riding our rented bikes (my butt enjoyed it less so since it was hard to find a bike that a) fit a tall person and b) had tires that didn’t deflate mid-ride) through the countryside, with a seemingly endless supply of beautiful temples as our backdrop.

Once we tired from biking, we climbed Shewsandaw Pagoda’s steep and narrow steps to wait at the top for the world to turn so that we could enjoy a breathtaking sunset from one of the highest points in Bagan

Trish, climbing the steep and narrow stairs on Shewsandaw Pagoda

The views were stunning:

 

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Bangkok and Yangon

With a new job offer in hand, I racked my brain for my next impromtu trip, as I think that job transitions should always incorporate some personal time off (if possible).  I had been weighing my options and was leaning towards a trip to Colombia when my high school friend, Trish, told me she was going to Myanmar for exactly the same two weeks I was heading out of the country.  After a few minutes of G-chatting, I was on Kayak.com and bought my ticket to Bangkok and onto Yangon!

First, Trish and I flew into Bangkok and spent 2 days together there while we got our Burmese visas.  It was a great opportunity for me to get two custom made suits.  I paid $171 per suit and had custom made suits 24 hours after walking into the tailor’s shop.

My father had warned against the political protests in Bangkok, sending me email after email about the “situation in Bangkok”.  Upon arrival, we learned that there were 8 sanctioned protest sites.  Unbeknownst to us, we chanced on a protest site on Sukhumvit Street and found the street lined with tents, vendors selling t-shirts that said “Shutdown Bangkok, Restart Thailand”.  There was a stage with performers, but there was no violence.

Tents line Sukhumvit, part of the political protest

After our brief stint in Bangkok, we boarded an AirAsia flight to Yangon, went to bed immediately as we knew we had a full day the next day.

On our first full day in Yangon, we visited the Shewdagon Pagoda in Yangon, which is the most important religious site for Burmese.

Entrance to Shewdagon Pagoda
Shewdagon Pagoda

In the afternoon, we took the Circle Train, which goes through the Yangon “suburbs”.  It was interesting to watch life come and go, to pass by markets set up at the train station, to see the houses change from sturdy structures to huts, to see the hawkers selling fruit and corn, and to see the women farmers enter and exit the train with 6 cumbersome bundles of cauliflower, tomatoes, and other vegetables.

Locals on the Circle Line train around Yangon’s “suburbs”

Watching boys as young as 12 with rotten, red-stained teeth from months or years of chewing on the addicting betel nut and spitting the juice out the door of the train was sad.  Yet, seeing the locals sit on the train for an hour or more, content to watch life go by, with nary a book, or a smartphone to entertain them, was an important reminder that life – without distractions of the modern world – is enough to content us.

A prisoner laughs while handcuffed and accompanied on the train.