I know I know I am still not up to date with the “Trip so far” blog post and I should do it first but I really want to talk about Myanmar right now and also I think I’ll never be able to be up to date so I might as well talk about what I want. If you want to read my trip in the good order, just wait a couple of weeks…
So, Myanmar (or Burma), here we are. The very first thing I want to express is that as of now, the whole country now occupies my top 5 of favorite countries ever visited (over 33) and its people are now my favorite ever. Yes, I’ll be sad leaving this place.
It’s been at the very top of my list ever since the magnificent images of the movie Samsara. With a rather unusual political situation, I must admit I did not know what to expect in general but I only knew that with the borders opening and the tourists getting in, the country would change a lot (has already changed in fact) over the next few years and that the more I waited the more I would regret it. It was also possible for Shoot to Help to find a Burmese NGO to cover here and as soon as we had the confirmation from the extremely nice NEED Burma (from where I am writing this post at the very moment) the tickets were booked and the adventure began!
I was under the impression that getting the visa and getting in would pose some difficulties but not at all. You just have to apply online, pay a little fee and show a printed piece of paper at the airport, no question asked. I do encourage you to do your visa in person at the embassy before if you want a printed visa in your passport rather than a simple stamp.
Another thing that made this country very special are the unusual circumstances and coincidences that took place. We had the opportunity to meet and travel with two other girls from Quebec by sheer luck and minimum organization. Raphaelle whom we’ve met during our Shoot to Help report on Social Justice Connexion and Amelie who is the best friend of one of my best friends had been traveling for more than three years both were in Myanmar around the same dates. It was a lucky coincidence that turned out to be an incredible trip!
Yangon, Myanmar’s capital still feels like a relatively small city and it felt so good after India to see different people, eat different things and just be in a more relax atmosphere. The highlight of the city is without a doubt the amazing Shwedagon Pagoda, with its huge golden domes, hundreds of stupas and small temples, monks everywhere, tourists also and sadly construction and covers on most of the pagoda…This kind of restricts photo opportunity but it means you need to be even more creative trying to show the spirit of the place differently. Little hint; stay there for sunset and wait until it gets dark!
A funny thing about transportation in Myanmar that I still do not understand is that night buses all leave around 6:00 pm and usually take around 10 hours, meaning you always arrive at your destination in the middle of the night…So that’s how we’ve arrived in legendary Bagan, at 4:00 in the morning, an easy and sleepy prey for the dozens of taxi drivers waiting for us outside the bus.
The temples cover such a huge area that you really can’t go by foot, you need to rent at least a bicycle but hmm I do not enjoy cycling in the intense sun and heat that much so I went for a pink electric bike that we’ve named The Pink Rabbit. Yup people were laughing, nope I did not care. The idea with the temples is to go see them at sunrise and at sunset, when the light is good but the first day we went for a little tour in the afternoon for some exploration in order to know where to go and not get (too) lost arriving for sunset. I usually do not like routines but the one we had in Bagan will always bring dear memories to me. Waking up at 4h45 in the morning, getting the electric scooter and heading out in the dark to climb a temple in order to see the sunrise over a 4 000 bhuddist temples valley and after that getting to the hotel to eat, rest, talk, read, take it easy until 4h in the afternoon to hop up on the scooters once more to chase the setting sun. There was something so incredible about just wandering around in this marvelous place, driving on my little blue scooter. Disappointments? Sure, I wish there was less tourists but at the same time, it’s still not as bad as it will be in 5 years, get there quickly! Another disappointment? I did not have my beloved 70-200mm to get close up shots of the temples…next time… Another hint about Bagan; stay in the backpacker area; Nyaung-U and just get a bike.
There also was that one time the morning routine was broken for me due to a particularly good reason; my balloon ride over Bagan with the appropriately named Balloons Over Bagan (yeah try to guess what’s their business) company. They take you at your hotel in an old revamped 1960’s bus and bring you to the launch area where all those half inflated balloons lay on the ground like a kind of weird mushroom field. As it was my first ride ever I must admit I was pretty impressed by all those huge flames inflating the balloons. A mix of skills and luck for the good winds decide what exactly you will see in your 45 minutes ride over the area. It is even possible to go quite low, enough to see the temples from up close and to touch the trees! Sadly, I was not able to see my friends on one of the temples, I once more wished I had my 70-200mm….
I’ve already spoken written too much and I’ll leave the rest of the trip for the next post; Inle Lake and also why I can now say that Burmese are the most awesome people I have ever met while traveling, stay tuned!