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travel + culture

on the road and what's out there.

 

out of office (round 4) - Myanmar

Caitlin Surakitbanharn

up until 2011, travel into Myanmar (Burma) was strictly limited/prohibited for most American passport holders.  since then, most travel sanctions on the formerly junta-ruled country have been lifted, President Obama went for a visit, and Myanmar is topping every "must travel to" list on the internet.  even thought Jao and I hate aggro-tourists and backpackers, we couldn't help ourselves....we had some time during our trip to Thailand set aside for some travel, and the chance at visiting Myanmar was too exciting to pass up.

we went to the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok to get our visas, which was a surprisingly painless experience, and shortly thereafter, we were off to Yangon.  as soon as we stepped out of the airport, we were acutely aware that we'd basically just stepped into a time machine, set back 30 years.  Yangon, despite being one of the most developed (if not THE most developed) cities of the country, was surprisingly undeveloped.  cars were a mismosh of asian produced and western produced, traffic was an absolute free-for-all, road conditions were sub-par...but then our hotel for the night was surprisingly nice... air conditioning and chic decorations...but then there was no hot water in the shower and the power would cut frequently.  that tended to be our overall experience in the country... a bizarre mix of modern updates like air conditioned hotel rooms and wifi and everyone having cell phones...and then power outages and no hot water and taxis that were literally us sitting in the back of a pick-up truck.

our trip took us from Yangon to Bagan (via overnight 16-hour train) and then to Mandalay... it was quite a ride.

a pagoda in Yangon

buying our train ticket.


our train ticket to Bagan...

walking into Shwedagon Pagoda.

some Burmese girls... they were oddly fascinated with me... i think young white girls are kind of a rare sight for them at this time in the country, and they would follow Jao and I around, smiling at me and watching me.  it was very entertaining.

visiting the Shwedagon Pagoda.  it was stunningly beautiful.







out shopping in the markets in Yangon.

waiting at the train station. i love this picture more than anything.

getting on the train.


nine minutes into the trip.  oy.

we spent 16 hours in this little "first class sleeper car."

beautiful Burmese country side.

we survived!

this was our taxi in Bagan...

rode bikes around Old Bagan.

bought traditional Burmese umbrellas. they're gorgeous.


the next day in Bagan, we took a horse cart out to see all of the beautiful old pagodas....

this was our chariot!



the view was amazing (white girl staying out of the sun with her umbrella, fyi)

giant Buddha

massive lunch!

the shop we bought some lacquerware from.

rest stop on the way to Mandalay.


this was our bus. on board the bus, they BLASTED Burmese pop songs the entire 6 hour ride.  the ENTIRE six hour ride. and i'm not talking like..background music. i'm talking BLASTING that shit.

arrived in Mandalay..took a cab with our chinese friends from the bus. pollution was so awful.

Mandalay was aggressive - it was our last night of the trip and we were tired and tired of kind of feeling all the aggression... so we went to this nice teak bridge - U Bein Bridge.  it is the largest teak bridge in the world, just outside Mandalay.  it was beautiful, and there is a massive monastery just across the road and the monks came for an evening walk...so it was very peaceful.

i did a bridge...at the bridge.

some burmese girls up on the bridge were watching jao do this little... "dance?" and they were laughing at him.  i loved it.

last night - great view.

perfect final Myanmar sunset over the water.

so the trip was legitimately incredible.  it was so beautiful and so strange...exhilarating and exhausting, all at the same time.  we got up on the last morning we were there, and we were ready to GTFO.  we couldn't get to the airport and back to Bangkok fast enough...but we love looking back at all these pictures and remembering how much fun we actually had.  i remember before we left, jao kept telling me "i only have one goal for this trip...our only goal is to get on the plane and get back to Bangkok." .... and when i got there, i realized what he meant.  Myanmar is definitely the kind of the country that for a week long trip...you can really only have 1 goal.  to get out of the country alive.  and we did it!!!

and a little bonus...here is a video from our trip!!!  enjoy :-)