It's our last day in Myanmar and we are both pretty exhausted. We just got off another over-night bus (11 hours) and have checked in to our hotel. We're tired but have had such a wonderful experience seeing what we did of this beautiful country.
Our trip was the very typical tourist loop, starting in Yangon and ending in Yangon. We went clockwise and travelled Yangon-Bagan-Mandalay-Inle Lake- Yangon.
We started slowly in Yangon and visited the Shwedagon Pagoda and the city's downtown area. Shwedagon Pagoda is considered the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in the country and it is where many Burmese make a pilgrimage. The downtown area captivated us and we loved strolling through the many streets with run down colonial buildings and imagining what it must have once been like... the good and the bad.
Our next destination involved taking an over-night bus to Bagan. The journey didn't take us too long (10 hours) and luckily the bus was very comfortable. Bagan is an archeological zone where over 2,200 religious monuments from the 11th to 13th-century remain standing. Originally over 10,000 temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed at the height of the Pagan Kingdom and after spending 2 days exploring the ancient area, it's just awe-inspiring to try to imagine the original 10,000 monuments! We then spent our last day in a car and visited Mount Popa.
Another bus journey (what was supposed to take 4.5 hours turned into 7.5 hours due to flooded roads) took us to Mandalay which is the second largest city in Myanmar and the economic centre of Upper Burma. The past twenty years has seen an influx of Chinese immigrants, mainly from Yunnan, which has reshaped the city's ethnic make-up greatly. It is nevertheless a melting pot of Burmese, Indians, Muslims and Chinese cultures. Here we visited the famous U-Bein Bridge, the sights around Mandalay Hill and the ancient city of Inwa.
From Mandalay to Inle Lake, we splurged and flew! We were on a plane which Christoph deemed was an unsafe aircraft, but we survived and the actual flying time was only 35 minutes! Inle Lake was very special because we happened to be there during the annual 10 day Phaung Daw U Festival. This is a buddhist festival that carries 4 images of Buddha to the all the villages surrounding the lake. The procession takes 18 days to complete with the finale being the arrival of the images at Nyaung Shwe town. Thousands of people converge for this event; they came from the mountains, villages, all over and it was so colourful! Everyone were wearing their best outfits and so we got to see the many ethnic tribes people at the temple and markets. A really great experience.
We've had 2 weeks in Myanmar and from what we've seen, Linh and I are keen to revisit and venture to the areas that we didn't get to this time round. The people have consistently been overly helpful, friendly and hospitable. Staying at guesthouses, you are really taken care of and can feel the genuine desire to make sure you are enjoying your stay. Tourism is definitely bringing in much needed funds to the economy and we can only hope that the people benefit from all the development that is happening as well.
A photo album is coming soon..