A beautiful and culturally rich country but one still shrouded in mystery due to its political regime, here our guest blogger Paula Carvalho from While You Stay Home reveals why she completely fell for the extraordinary South East Asian country once known as Burma…
There are not many places now you can call truly unique and special but Myanmar is the exception is overall very relaxing and it teaches you a lot while you are in contact with the locals. They have the biggest smiles on their faces although they don’t have much. They learned to be happy with the things they have without feeling that you need more and more to be a happy person. That is truly a life lesson. Then they are so caring and gentle, there isn’t a chance you feel unhappy there. I have also made an amazing train ride from Inle Lake to Thazi that was one of the best experiences in 4 months. I was the only foreigner in that train, so I could watch the Burmese lifestyle exactly as it is. There is an exciting hustle and bustle going around this train. Train sellers are always coming in and out, and watching the weird things they are selling is fun and touches your curiosity. Unfortunately, I’m not brave enough to try those unknown foods.
Everyone I know is completely amazed by Myanmar although I haven’t met many people that have been there, which makes this places even more special as you feel a privileged you had the chance to enjoy it fully. I ended up my Myanmar tour in Yangon where I visited the most impressive complex of pagodas: Shwedagon pagoda that has pure gold in its structure, diamonds and other precious stones on the tip top. This place is a wonderful spot to watch the Burmese lifestyle and some religious rituals they perform in this sacred area.
Myanmar is a journey through time. It shows you how a simple life can be so happy and it teaches you to enjoy life to its full, without judgments. Burma is my second destination in Asia after India. This is the country I’m most curious to know about in my trip of about 4 months in Southeast Asia. Burma is open to tourism not so long ago, and I believe that’s the main factor why this country is so unique and special. I’m pretty sure there isn’t another place like Burma on Earth.
Burma has some really unique features
- Men don’t use trousers. They use Longhi, an article of typical clothing from Myanmar that resembles a skirt.
- There are red spots on the floor all over, but I didn’t know what that might be. Burmese chew some kind of mixture with tobacco leaves and then they spit it to the ground. So it’s a frequent sight to see men spitting red to the floor. This fact leads men in Myanmar to have truly red teeth.
- While riding trains, it’s usual that all windows become doors for all kind of vegetables and fruits.
- Burma has the most swinging trains ever. From side to side, up to down, it’s a challenge walking on those corridors and you don’t even imagine going to the toilet… It’s normal to see mice running from side to side.
- They build streets by hand. I saw women distributing the tar by hand on jars.
- Some buses don’t stop on the road tolls. Instead, they were throwing the money through the window and then the guy at the road toll was running after it to catch it.
- There are no marked bus stops, no signs on buses, anything.
- There is always an extra seat on the bus. The corridor on the bus isn’t made to walk. It is to place small benches so someone else can sit there.
I have spent 26 days in the country and I visited Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake, Bago, Kyaikhtiyo and Yangon. Mandalay was my first stop. It is my first contact with the yellow paint in Burmese faces and the men wearing Longhi. The way to the city centre is so calm and almost deserted that I’m sure I will like this country just by the 1st hours there. There are so many pagodas to visit in Mandalay and I was getting excited with every golden tip top I could see far away. The places I like the most in Mandalay were Kuthodaw Pagoda, a place full of white small pagodas with bustling tops as the wind shake them.
The sound of this place is magical and super chilled out. It’s you, the silence and the sound of the bells. What a magnificent place. I also loved Mandalay Hill because the view of the city is wonderful as soon as you are climbing the stairs up. I climbed from the very bottom so it took me more than 30 minutes to reach the top! The top is a cheerful place with lots of monks. I didn’t resist to ask for a picture. There I also met with some students that asked for my help in their English homework and even invited me to their school. Very close to Mandalay is U-Bein Bridge, a very touristic place. I enjoyed the way there because I went on the top of a Burmese bus. I had never ridden any transport that way so it was super fun! On the way back I hitchhiked with a friend as a Burmese offered us a ride to the city centre because the bus wasn’t showing up.
After Mandalay, I’m visiting Bagan, my favorite place. I was super excited to visit it as the pictures from the more than 2000 temples in that city was fascinating to me. That’s why I decided to ride the balloon as I have no idea if I will ever come back. Riding a balloon was an amazing experience. We depart for the sunrise and the view of the city with temples until your eyes have no more reach is incredible. We land on the river side which turns things even more exciting! There are so many unique temples to discover that you feel like an explorer. I love that feeling.
And the best way to do it is riding a bicycle in Bagan. It is so relaxing and amazing… It’s the closest feeling of freedom I experienced because I was seeing very few people while exploring all the temples and I felt like have had that whole place just for me and I could do whatever I want. It’s you, the sound of nature and a feeling that you are back in time in a forgotten city.
Then I visited Inle Lake that was also one of the highlights of the trip. It’s such a peaceful place with so many unique things that it’s definitely worth a visit. You get to see how Burmese live among the water and getting in touch with this reality is magical. I went to visit the long neck women, pagodas with trees growing on the top… it also looks like a place lost in time.
All words and images by Paula Carvalho from While You Stay Home