The journey from Myanmar to Cambodia felt more like a marathon of doing nothing when in reality we were going to be flying into and out of three countries that day. As a tip never plan for a 9 hour layover, it’s boring and airport food is expensive and nasty! I was way too close to eating some McDonald’s gold!
We are currently in the latter end of our visit to Siem Reap, the booming little town in Cambodia known around the world as the place to stay whilst you explore the nearby Angkor Wat. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves on this one, but overall it was not one if my favorite places so far. The shift from Myanmar, which was very genuine and not very touristy, to Siem Reap where there is literally a hostel or hotel every 5 feet, has been tiring to say the least. The temples were fun to explore though and are built in a really cool style. The heat and our laziness, as well as the daily $20 entrance fee, kept us from walking through every major temple but we rented bikes for a day and bopped around exploring the sites and finding some hidden gems!
Tomorrow we are going to try and hitch to a town called Battambang. We here there are some rad coconuts and that is neat. What more reason do we need?
Kevin and I ended up staying 3 days in Inle Lake. For the first day we were convinced to by the German we met on the train to rent a boat for the day to tour around the lake. Usually a touristy thing like this wouldn’t be on our hit list but it turned out to be a cheap and exciting way to see much of the area that could only be accessed by boat.
The boat tour took pretty much all day. For a lot if it we were ferried around to different people selling various wares, again very touristy. I wasn’t into a lot of what we were shuttled too except for a few craft places. My favorites were the weavers, that were busy making silk and lotus cloth and the local blacksmith. The boat ride gave us a front row seat to the beauty of Inle Lake and for the equivalent of $2 I recommend it to anyone coming to the area!
It seems like our trip to Inle was heavily influenced by those we met on the way their. For day number two a Frenchman that we had also met on the train suggested we cook a meal. Kevin and I were both very into the idea of some good ol’ French home cooking! We rented bikes and headed for the local market, a 7km ride out of town along the edge of the lake. Their we stocked up in al sorts of veggies, said bye to our German friend and then decided to keep riding around the lake. We ended up hearing about a winery across the lake and their was a Frenchman in our midst so naturally we had to go. Plus, wine would make for a tasty stew later! The journey to the winery turned out to be an arduous one and the wine as palatable as one would expect but I felt a since of accomplishment as we ride away with a bottle even though we were all dehydrated and probably a little case of heat exhaustion.
The Frenchman turned out to be a professional chef and it was amazing to watch him work. He ended up making a beef stew which was out of this world. I think the best art of it was that we had collected all of the ingredients from local markets or businesses that we had physically ride to by bike that day!
I had big expectations for Bagan. I had seen the photos and had perused many Instagram feeds of Nat Geo photographers that had been there. However, I also had the expectation that Bagan was going to be a biiiiig tourist trap. I was happy to find that although Bagan was touristy, it was nowhere near the level of the big tourist trail locations we experienced in Thailand. Bagan very much has a soul, and a very beautiful soul at that!
After trying to find the best sites to visit by surfing the web I quickly realized that going about Bagan in that way was going to make my brain hurt too much and probably lessen the adventure aspect of the place. There are way too many temples here (that frankly have names that are hard to remember and distinguish from one another) to be very deliberate about your exploration of the area. I decided that the far more effective strategy was to just merely wander! We rented some silly little e-bikes and hit the road!
Navigating through Bagan on e-bike was quite a fun time. Most if the roads are dirt or loose sand, making controlling the steel battery clad behemoths quite a fun chore! They turned out to be a fun way to explore. We would just ride and if a dirt road or temple caught my eye I would go to it. Simple as that!
On our first day this led us to a temple off the main road with no tourists in sight. Yes! Selling paintings outside of the temple was a man by the name of HSJSKDJDK and his brother. After chatting with them for much longer than expected we ended up purchasing some of their paintings. One thing led to another and we somehow managed to get the guy to come watch sunset with us on a monastery that he suggested was a good spot. We actually made fast friends and continued hanging with our new Burmese friend for the majority of our trip. He led us too all sorts if cool temples during the day until sunset where we then usually ended the day with a meal from a restaurant of his recommendation. It was the perfect way to get around and learn about the area as well as get an insight into the real people of Bagan.
I have never been a morning person but in Bagan there are great rewards for the early birds so I decided to change my ways for the time being. My favorite time of day in Bagan was sunrise. They are perfect and amazing. Kevin and I watched the sunrise from the same monastery that we watched sunset from on our first night. We knew the temples and the smoke from the cooking fires in town would make for an awesome sight but we were pleasantly surprised when we turned around and saw inflating hot air balloons popping up from within the town limits. It was honestly one of the most beautiful spectacles I have seen watching the balloons float over the temples that were lit be the newly risen sun!
Our visit to Bagan was short and sweet. After three days or so it was time to get back on the road as we needed to head south for Yangon and a flight back to good ol’ Bangkok! I will definitely be returning to this country as there is still much to be explored, even I’m the areas that I visited during the two weeks here!
Surprise! We are in Myanmar! After tossing around the idea of whether or not to go to Myanmar Kevin and I decided to go after we saw that plane tickets into and out of the country were fairly cheap. We arrived in Mandalay eager to explore the new country and hopefully experience something different and man is this country different!
Even though we are only two days into our Myanmar experience it has already proven much different than Thailand. Most of the difference I think stems from the fact that tourism has not spread to Myanmar as much as it has in Thailand. Most of this difference we feel manifests itself in our interactions between people. For the most part I think people here are not yet accustomed to seeing westerners. During even a normal walk down the street we get stares from every passing pedestrian and driver. When we enter a restaurant or convenience stores the owners always seem to be as confused as we are, wondering why we would be in their shop and what they should do about it.
However mystified the people are about are presence here the people, of Mandalay at least, are the kindest people I have ever met! I have never received as many “hellos” or “good days” as I have here in this country. Also people enjoy coming up and striking conversation with us. There is not a lot of English spoken here but those who know a little love practicing with foreigners.
During our stay in Mandalay we did a lot of walking. Partly because we are cheapos and partly because their isn’t really a system for public transportation in the city. My favorite place that we visited was Mandalay Hill. It involved a rather long and strenuous walk up concrete stairs without shoes on. At the top we were rewarded with awesome views of the Mandalay area from a temple and these adorable little kittens.
Another favorite spot of mine was a temple the name of which I accidentally don’t remember. We stumbled upon it while we were strolling throughout the city It apparently contains 1776 of these stupas, each of which contains a granite page of writing. These essentially make the temple into one enormous book, the biggest book in the world!
Our stay in Mandalay was reallllllyyy short but it was time to head to Inke Lake forms more laid back environment.