Tagged: pagoda

Mandalay, Myanmar

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We arrived in Mandalay and went straight to our local’s cousins restaurant for lunch. Italy and I ate fried chicken with a bunch of little side dishes. We then went to our accommodation to change for the night.

I stayed at Yoe Yoe Lay Guesthouse which I saw on many blogs. The hostel was amazing. Mama started the hostel out of her home ten years ago to learn English. The girls that work there come from families that couldn’t afford them so Mama took them in. A few years back the government found out about Mama’s home hostel, which was apparently illegal, so she bought another building around the corner and expanded. The hostel is now the place to be for backpackers. The breakfasts are huge (eggs, toast, a hot side dish, fruit plate, coffee, tea, juice) and she’ll feed you until your stuffed. You get complimentary water bottles everyday and free refills. Free packaged snacks when you buy beer and every night there’s free peanuts and watermelon to snack on. She treats you like family, the way your grandmother would. Every single night she’s overbooked and if anyone shows up and there’s no space she’ll let you sleep on her floor. The place really feels like a home in the best way.

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After setting in our local picked us up with his cousin and we drove to Mahamuni Pagoda to see the large golden sitting Buddha. Like most temples women are not allowed in the front near the Buddha so I stood back and observed all the praying women while the men went up.

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We then drove to U Bein Wooden Bridge. It’s made from timber and is the longest wooden bridge in the world. Our local and his cousin sat behind while Italy and I walked the bridge. If you walked regularly it would probably take about 20 minutes to get from one end to the other, but we stopped continuously along the way to watch the fisherman. There were local fisherman fully dressed (some with helmets) standing in the middle of the lake with fishing rods not making a single move. The better fisherman had a string of alive fish attached next to them. Apparently they stand there from sunrise to sunset daily.

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After our stroll we headed back to the boys. I got a coconut and tried the dried mutton that was already on the table. When our local paid the restaurant didn’t have enough change so they offered him a cigarette instead.

After the bridge we went to a liquor store and the local bought a bottle of Johnnie Walker Platinum, which apparently was released in 2015. We then drove to Mandalay White House Hotel for a “pool party.” A DJ party next to a pool. There were two other older westerners there who were guests of the hotel but Italy and I were definitely the ones the locals were looking at. We went through a few bottles of Johnnie Walker that night.

The next morning Italy left for Bangkok and our local picked me up at noon for a day outside the city with his cousin and dj friend tagging along. We drove to a local restaurant outside of the city. The restaurant is known for serving different types of meats and that day they had mountain goat, rabbit, hog, mountain cat, deer, and snake. We got dried goat, rabbit, hog and fried eel. We also got Myanmar beer’s of course.

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After lunch we drove on winding mountain roads to Pyin Oo Lwin city. We went to the small waterfall, which was more like a multi-level babbling brook. However there was a old wooden bridge there that was fun to run across.

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We then went to the national park, to the botanical gardens. We walked around a massive landscaped park area that had a pond. There were musicians playing on one side and local tourists lounging around. We went to a coffee shop inside the park and I had a cappuccino which almost tasted legit- too much milk and cold.

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Later that night I went to see the Moustache Brothers with a guy from my hostel. The brothers became famous in the 90s as comedians who repeatedly made fun of the Myanmar government which led them to prison more than once. The main brother passed away last year but the second brother still runs the show from their house downtown. He’s the MC, his cousin (the third “brother”) is a clown, and his wife and sisters are traditional dancers. The show itself wasn’t that amazing but the brothers personality shines. It was great seeing locals go against the government and risk their lives to do so.

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Fyi. The locals here love Obama. He’s visited twice since being in office and whenever someone finds out I’m from America they just scream Obama in my face in a jolly way.

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The next day I bicycled to Mandalay Hill with a guy from southern France. We drove throughout all the temples near the hill (didn’t actually go inside any) then parked our bikes and made the long walking journey up. The walkway stairs had multiple levels of temples. Every time we thought we were at the top we weren’t. When we did eventually reach the top we thought the view was terrible. All I could see was pollution in the air. I decided to take my photographs halfway down when I could actually see what was in the city.

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We then biked to Amaravarti Spa to get massages. I got a Thai massage which was incredible. Along the way we saw a group of about ten cows walking in the middle of the Main Street. They were completely on their own and stopped at a local deli to try and break open the pastry wrappers sitting in the front. It was absolutely hilarious. We had to stop just to laugh as the store women came running and screaming down to the street.

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The next day I just chilled around at the hostel with a few other people who were also leaving later that night. We drank some beers and feasted of free peanuts and watermelon.

I splurged on the VIP bus to Yangon. The bus had reclining seats and mini-tv’s like an airplane; however, the movies were all bootleg AVI films most of them completely un-watchable. When the bus started the stewardess handed out orange soda and pastries then sang a song in a soothing voice.

I got to Yangon at 6am and headed straight for the airport. The cabbie took a short cut and drove through Okkalarpa village on the way which was especially rural and cute. I left the airport terminal since I couldn’t check in for another 10 hours and headed across the street to Food Center and camped out there for a couple of hours, then I went to the airport hotel to see if they rented rooms hourly. The receptionist was incredibly rude to me and tried to charge me $50 for 5 hours, which is a rip off and I did not do. I later asked if I could use the wifi and she said $5 for an hour, which is also insane. I didn’t pay for anything but chose to camp out in that lobby versus the airport for a few hours. Later I caught a flight to Kuala Lumpur at 7pm that landed at 11pm. I was planning to sleep in KL’s airport in terminal 2 but I was forced through immigration and couldn’t get back in. I ended up renting a Capsule bed in the airport for $30 for 12 hours. It was expensive but I just had to. And the hotel was actually really cool. Storage containers are transformed into double decker capsule beds, and bathrooms are also in containers. The color scheme was turquoise, yellow, black and teak, which made the whole thing look modern and relaxing.

I woke up and caught a flight to Penang at 1:30pm the next day.

Bagan, Myanmar

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I arrived at Bagan around 2am. This time I pre-searched hostels and their prices, although I was still unable to make a reservation in advance. I ended up staying at Paan Cherry in Nyaung-U, sharing a double room with an Australian freelance writer I met on the bus. Our room was just two twin metal beds again but the beds were comfortable and it only cost $14 between two of us.

I woke up the next morning and rented a bicycle from the hostel. Worst mistake. I didn’t notice until I pulled out into the road that the bicycle was designed for small Asians. My knees and back were in terrible pain the entire time I rode it- it felt like a children’s bike. Nonetheless I rented it and therefore I rode it.

In Bagan pagodas are scattered throughout the city, or rather the city is now scattered throughout the old pagodas. The city consists of Nyaung-U, Old Bagan in the middle, and New Bagan. Nyaung-U is cheaper accommodation, Old Bagan is the heart of the pagodas, and New Bagan is more expensive hotels and resorts.

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I biked through Old Bagan and into New Bagan to have lunch at Be Kind The Animals The Moon. A bizarre name but recommended by a friend and written up about. I however was not impressed. I ordered the Garden Veg curry and not only was the portion almost non-existent but the curry had absolutely not flavor. The restaurant was Western in a nice garden in the middle of dusty brown Bagan so I knew it would be overpriced, but I at least expected it to be good.

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For sunset I walked to Shwezigon Paya, the big temple near my hostel. I spent an hour wandering the temple then walked down to the river for the sunset. There were locals playing in the water and fishermen floating about. I walked closer towards the sun and stopped where a bunch of young boys were playing soccer. Their mom was preparing dinner at their house on top of the hill. The sunset was spectacular. The sun was a solid ball of deep orange and the colors reflected evenly onto the river below. In the distance there were mountains on the right and pagodas on the left. A perfect sunset before spending the whole next day looking at the pagodas throughout the city.

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I went to dinner at the local spot next door to my motel. Perfect Cafe with the big Jewish star in front. The menu was Chinese and cheap, which was perfect. I ordered a noodle soup and then saw that they had dim sum (can you believe it?) so I ordered steamed shrimp dumplings as well. They weren’t as good as home but I can’t be choosy here when finding dumplings.

The next day I hired an ebike and set out for a day of pagodas. I got to Hti-lo-min-lo and a guard asked me to show my ticket. I didn’t have it on me and freaked out so the guy let me in anyway. Afterwards I scooted back home and ripped apart my room and discovered I lost the ticket already. I wasn’t about to buy another $20 entrance ticket so I set out for a second time this time planning to cry my way through all the entrances. Right away on the road I ran into a guy I met on the bus to Bagan, he’s Italian now living in Spain. We ended up spending the whole day together. First we went to Gaw-daw-palin, then
Bu Paya on the water, then Manuha with the big Buddha and largest sleeping Buddha, then Shin-bin-tha-hylaung with the oldest sleeping Buddha in Bagan (and second largest sleeping one at 18m.) Finally before lunch we went to Dhamma-yan-gyi Pahto, the biggest and oldest temple in Bagan. The temple was dark inside, the ceilings filled with bats.

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We then headed to a local restaurant. Before ordering we went out back to the toilet, which ended up being a raised shack with a floor hole toilet. The bathroom even had a security guard who kept it locked when not in use. On my short walk back a local girl painted my face with the natural bark sunscreen that all the locals wear.

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For lunch we ordered as the locals did and we each ended up with a bunch of little dishes (chicken curry, rice, lentils, eggplant, soup) for $2. We also got coconuts which they later cut up for us and we ended up snacking on for the next day. After eating we moved to bamboo lounge chairs and rested up avoiding the afternoon heat. We watched them repeatedly make sugar cane juice, which Italy eventually ordered and it was surprisingly refreshing and not too sweet. We also observed a local tour group arrive in a 1960s retro bus.

After a three hour siesta (do as the Europeans do) we headed back to the pagoda’s. We went to Ananda, the only active pagoda. We then ebiked off road and checked out a few others before heading back to Shin-bin-tha-hylaung for sunset. It’s the most touristy temple for sunset because it’s the tallest, which made it worth it. We got their relatively early (45min to wait) and got great spots sitting on stones on the top level facing the sun. The sunset was incredible. Another massive orange ball in the sky, this time with a massive pagoda in the forefront.

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While we waited the 45min we started chatting to a local sitting next to us. He’s 25 years old from Yangon now living in Bagan and owns Hotel Blazing, a three star hotel in Nyaung-U. We hit it off and decided to go to dinner after. He picked us each up in his modern minivan and we ate BBQ at Shwe Yar Su Restaurant. We had grilled quail eggs, okra and pork, and of course Myanmar beer served with complimentary soup. After dinner we went back to his hotel to check it out and use the wifi.

The next day the local picked us up at 8am to take us to breakfast at his hotel, and then to drive us to Mandalay where he was also going. We took the new private highway road which apparently is less bumpy than the old one- it was practically one rough lane and I cannot imagine what the old road is like. We learned that the locals father is heavily involved in politics even though he’s a businessman, and his mother’s father was once mayor of Yangon. His family owns 5 companies in Myanmar including the hotel and the new private highway, and the local is planning to open at least one more establishment, a social hostel in Bagan.

The ride was three hours, two hours less than the bus.

Inle Lake, Myanmar

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I arrived nearby Inle Lake at 4:30am and got a cab with fellow passengers to town. After paying the $10 entrance fee into the lake area I spent over an hour driving around looking for cheap accommodation that apparently does not exists. All the single rooms were fully booked and I ended up at Gypsy Inn for $15 a night, the cheapest I could find. Located on the bottom floor behind the main structure, my room had pink walls and was empty except for two metal single beds. The shared bathroom was outdoors.

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On top of Inle Lake lays the small town of Nguangshwe, where all the guesthouses, restaurants and life is. The town is brown and dusty with local businesses and a central market. I woke up late after my early arrival and took a walk through town. I had lunch inside the market- fish curry which she spent thirty minutes making fresh in front of me. The fish was like a tilapia and the curry wasn’t curry at all. After lunch I bought a papaya (which ended up being the best one I’ve had in SE Asia so far) and then I walked back to the guesthouse. There is absolutely nothing to do in town. Nearby town there’s a winery, hot springs and pagodas but that’s a day trip in itself that no one has raved about.

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The next morning I took my Inle Lake boat tour with two older Dutch men and one young Malaysian boy, whom I met on my bus from Bago (and who stayed in my hostel.) Our boat pulled out of the town at 6am just in time to see the sunrise on the lake. The first two hours of the tour were the best. It was before the other tourists were out and we were able to see the lake in its true nature. Moving down the inlet we saw local women doing laundry and washing dishes in the lake. In the main lake area we saw fisherman retrieving their nets, and others changing their fish traps. However, they didn’t seem to be retrieving much of anything- one fish here and there.

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We circled around local water villages on the west side of the lake. All the houses were on stilts in the water which reminded me of our Fire Island houses. Long small boats are the method of transportation here. We saw kids being taking to school and adults working in their home. Many of the homes had attached farms (also piles in water) with pigs and chickens. We then stopped at a lotus textile shop, a silver smith shop, a boat making shop, and a blacksmith shop to watch the locals at work. The experience was very touristy as expected.

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We were dropped off for lunch at one of the many tourist restaurants on the water. I had the Inle Special Fish, which was decent but not nearly as good as the grilled fish I get on the street. The dish was oily and overpriced.

The bonus stop on our tour was Indein. The town is famous for it’s market and pagodas. The market was all tourist shops; however, the Shwe Inn Tain pagoda’s were beautiful and plentiful. Handfuls of old ruins and handfuls of new pagodas standing right next to each other. The old crumbling clay next to new fresh clay, cement and gold. The old ones are very detailed while the new ones are more simple. I wandered through trying to capture images of all the different types in one shot.

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On the way back we stopped at a floating garden. Here rows and rows of crops lay floating on the water. Our boat guide jumped onto them so we could see them move and they truly were floating. It’s winter so we didn’t see much growing but it was cool to float by patches of grass that waved with the water.

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After the garden we stopped at a monastery for a few minutes. I ended up spending most of my time there watching locals eat different foods from banana leafs. A group let me try whatever it was they were eating- it was pickled spinach in some type of dough. Acidic but not bad.

Then we headed home. There was a boat zooming next to us that had about 20 seagulls flying on top of it for at least 10 minutes. The people on the boat were throwing pieces of bread into the air. One of the Dutch men on my boat decided to throw pieces of banana into the air and soon all the seagulls were on top of us. It felt surreal but I was also terrified they were all going to poop on me.

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We saw the sunset just as we were pulling back into town. A full day on the boat- sunrise to sunset. I left an hour later on an overnight bus to Bagan.

Mt. Kyaikhteeyoe, Myanmar – Golden Rock

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The next morning I left for the Golden Rock at Mount Kyaikhteeyoe. The Golden Rock is Myanmar’s most sacred place. The gold leaf plated rock sits on the edge of a cliff and for some reason doesn’t roll off. On top of the rock is a stupa containing one of Buddha’s hair. Buddhist pilgrims flock to the site regularly and usually stay overnight.
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Little did I realize it was about to be the worst 24 hours of my entire trip so far. I woke up stomach sick. I was able to control myself but going to the bathroom constantly. My hostel insisted I leave for the bus station three hours early so I did. A few minutes into the taxi I realized my bus ticket was missing so I had the cabbie go back to my hostel. It took fifteen minutes for them to handwrite a new one, and another $2 that I gave the cabbie for waiting (I had originally haggled down that $2.)

I ended waiting at the bus station for over two hours where there was only one tiny hole in the ground bathroom with no window. The smell inside was so bad that every time I went in (which was frequent) I vomited a little too. I knew I looked green when the bus attendant asked me if I was ok.

A lady on the bus sat next to me who first piled her bags on top of me (she refused to put them in the overhead) and then later on she begged me for money. I put earplugs in and tried to sleep but that was almost impossible. The TV in the bus played music videos (American songs re-created to be Burmese,) a Burmese soap opera for teenagers, and a Burmese pageant. The entire bus was glued to the TV; the four seats across were full as well as the folding seats in the middle. Thankfully the bus was only 5 hours.

I got to town, bought a bus ticket to Bago for the next day, and found a hotel. I ended up at Sea Sar Hotel, which I saw in lonely planet but there was also a representative at the bus station. I got one of the nicest rooms, $25 (on sale from $35) for a private room with air con. Kinpun, which is the town below the mountain, is full of outdoor shops and local restaurants but no western tourists or hangouts. I wanted a decent spot to hang out in and relax after seeing the Golden Rock.

I checked in then headed straight for the pick-up truck area to go up the mountain. The truck station looked like a trailer truck gas station on the side of a major highway. The trucks we rode to the mountain were massive. Six to ten rows of metal open air seats. As soon as one filled it left. It cost $2.5 or $3 to take the truck up; a 45 minute trip.

It turns out a 45 minute trip really meant an almost 2 hour trip. The truck didn’t pull out for over 30 minutes and then it stopped repeatedly for half an hour at a time to collect donations and other nonsense. There was a metal bar sticking into the side of my leg and as usual the seats in front were too close and my knees we’re squished against metal too. The truck drove at full speed which would have ordinarily been fun since it was a winding bumpy road, but in this case I was in serious pain. I spent the whole ride talking to a 20 year old Myanmar boy who spoke great English and works at a hotel in Yangon. He works 6 days a week and makes $200 a month; he’s one of three kids who still lives at home making that kind of money. His dream is to travel the world except he can’t afford to.

We reached the peak after sunset at 6:30pm. It was then that the boy asked me where I was staying and I told him the village below. He then informed me that apparently trucks only run from 6am-6pm. No where was this written at the station below. I immediately ran to the ticket office, and then the fancy hotel on the peak, and both places informed me that I was stuck up there for the night. I was stuck with the masses of Myanmar Buddhists who apparently came to the rock to sleep overnight on the concrete ground. I begged multiple people to drive me down the hill but all refused. It was Saturday night and the Rock was packed with visitors.

There was only one hotel that had rooms available and I had no choice but to go there, Yoe Yoe Lay Hotel. The hotel is located on the opposite side of the Golden Rock so I bought my admission ticket and headed that way. Past security I felt like I stepped into a carnival. Loud voices and music, colorful eclectic clothing, colorful LED lights everywhere, and gold accents.

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The cheapest room at the hotel was $60 for two single beds. It said satellite TV and wifi, which meant 4 local Burmese stations and no wifi. The security guard, Steven, who checked me in, said he’d give me the room for $50 since he felt bad for me but when we got there he straight forward asked for a large tip. There were no room prices anywhere so I assume as usual I got taken advantage of as a tourist.

After checking in I headed to see the Golden Rock. There were thousands of tourists in family groups squatting on the floor eating dinner and socializing. It’s tradition to come with your whole family. Everyone was staring at me and I ended up taking pictures with a bunch of teenage girls and boys who waited on line to stand next to me.

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The Golden Rock is incredible if it’s true that it’s holding on by itself. However, the site was incredibly disappointing because they’ve modernized it. The tiny gold stupa on top of the rock has an interchanging colorful spot light on it, which makes the religious symbol seem more like an attraction than sacred grounds. Also, the restaurants, shops, statues, trees and shelter areas near the rock are lite up with colorful LED lights.

There were a handful of people praying below the rock but for the most part people were there to socialize and take pictures of it. There was someone on a loudspeaker all through the evening and then at dawn his loud powerful voice came back. It was impossible to sleep through even with earplugs.

There was absolutely no tourists there my age. There were a few older tourists and I quickly realized that this is the type of site I’d see on a Yale trip with Bob. I ended up spending $80 on two hotel rooms, $5 on the truck, $6 on the entrance fee, plus a good night sleep. That’s an extra $90 that I will honestly say wasn’t worth it for me.

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The next morning I eventually peeled myself out of bed and into the madness outside. I had breakfast then headed straight for the trucks after snapping a few shots of the rock during daylight. The truck was even rougher on the way down because it never stopped and I just constantly flew into metal bars. I made it back to my original hotel at 10am and had three hours to relax before my next bus.

My bus to Bago was uneventful, just cramped and hot. Just before 4pm the bus made one of it’s many stops on the side of a road and a big man got on asking for me. He drove me on his motorbike to the center of town where my next bus would get me in a few hours. He offered to take me around to all three pagodas for $5 but I politely declined. He then asked if I wanted to go to a coffee shop and I said yes. He drove me to a local spot where I tried Myanmar coffee for the first time. It’s similar to Vietnamese coffee, tea with condensed milk and sweet milk. Much too sweet but he suggested I add some of the table Chinese tea to dilute it. He insisted I taste a pastry, which he promised wasn’t sweet. The pastry looked like an empanada and was filled with chicken and sautéed onions. I learned that he’s from Bago and is a school teacher who has three kids, all of which finished university. He’s never been outside of the country because it’s too difficult to get a passport and visa. When the tea was finished he blatantly asked who should pay the bill (in a tone that meant I should) so of course I said me. Little did I realize all the little cigars he’d been smoking were from the restaurant. Duped again by a local but worth it to not wait an extra hour at the “bus station.”

My 12 hour bus for Inle Lake left at 6pm. I hadn’t been able to get on the Internet for a few days so I had absolutely nothing to watch and only a paperback book, but there were no overhead lights. I also found out that the bus ticket should only have been $13 and I was charged $18.

Yangon, Myanmar

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I flew into Yangon airport with Vietnam Airlines. I got an eVisa online, and contrary to what it says it requires you do not need to have a return ticket booked to enter Myanmar. I stayed at Sleep In Hostel downtown near Chinatown. I paid $12 a night for a 8 bed dorm. It’s pricier than I’m used to but Myanmar hostels are just starting to open and there is no competition yet.

Yangon is nothing like Thailand, Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam, which is what I was hoping for. There are a few western tourists but the city streets are local still. The locals are also very polite and traditional- all the men wear long wrap skirts daily. What surprised me the most is how many locals speak English, more so than in Vietnam or Thailand.

I went to 19th street (the heart of downtown) my first night and had a few beers with a Australian dorm mate. The street food is incredible. Rows of vendors selling fresh fruit and vegetables, pasta dishes, grilled meats, snacks, etc. There are push carts selling a corn and black bean concoction that I refer to as the Mexican stand. 19th street is full of street restaurants with stands where you can choose your protein and raw vegetables that you want cooked. There were random westerners but for the most part the city was packed with locals having a night out.

One thing that caught me by complete surprise is that when you want to grab a waiters attention you make a kissing sound. This is throughout the whole country and hard to get used to. I kept thinking rude men were trying to get my attention.

We met a London taxi driver who gave us tips on Myanmar. He travels the world for three months every year when business is slow.

My first day Australia and I went for breakfast. Prices are not on the menus so you just hope for the best. He ordered noodles and I ordered Mala Curry. First we were served tiny bowls of broth which tasted like Chinese wonton broth. Then the dishes were served- his in a tiny bowl and mine was a massive main course. The curry was different from Thai, Indian or Vietnamese curry. It’s brown with peanuts and sesames. It doesn’t have the traditional curry taste I am used to, but it was delicious. The plate was different noodles, different mushrooms, cauliflower, green beans, snap peas, sprouts, scallions, other vegetables I didn’t recognize, chicken, tofu, pork and a few hard boiled quail eggs. His ended up costing $1.20 and mine was $1.50. I couldn’t believe it.

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After breakfast we parted ways and I walked two miles, past the People’s Park, to the famous Shwedagon Pagoda. Like all famous monuments I see the pagoda was being restored and the bottom was completely covered in scaffolding. Nonetheless the gold shined through and the entire site was spectacular. Shwedagon is completely plated in gold and adorned with real jewels including diamonds. It stands tall in the middle of the site and it’s surrounded by tons of other pagodas and temples. Buddha’s are sitting and lying all throughout. Some temples are more decked out that others with mirror paneling, shiny tiles, detailed tile work, etc. One Buddha has LED lights halo-ing around it. The entire site is gold and combined with the bright sunshine it appeared fake, but I assure you it is not.

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After the pagoda I walked towards the big lake, Kan Daw Gyi Lake. On the way I stopped in at Happy World, a small outdoor amusement center in the middle of Kandaw Mingalar Garden, a manicured park that looks like it belongs in the SIMS. Lollipop trees and a small pond with duck peddle boats. I had a ice coffee at the cafe near the entrance before continuing my journey. I read the price on the Burmese menu before ordering and it said 80 cents but when I tried to pay that the waiter said no and brought me over the English menu where coffee is $2. Yet another place that rips tourists off.

Kan Daw Gyi Lake is massive to say the least. There is a $2 entrance fee which I did not expect but it was worth it. I chose to walk the lake via a boardwalk that winds and goes straight down it. There are fountains and lily pads in the lake, and random small islands of gardens and praying areas. It was 90 degrees out so a great day to be outdoors. At the east end of the lake is a massive dock- a restaurant with two gold plated ducks in the waterfront.

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From here I walked south then west along downtown. I randomly ran into the government square which had City Hall, the Supreme Court, and the Sule Pagoda. Next to the pagoda were a bunch of pigeons with women selling corn to feed them, which turns out is common here.

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I was walking along Maha Bandoola Road which is the Main Street downtown for street markets. The main sidewalk was crowded for over thirty blocks with stands selling everything from soap to do-it-yourself fried meat stations. Side streets were packed with street restaurants.

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I was planning to take it easy but ended up going out with a German bunk mate and a local who he met earlier that day. We shared a taxi to the locals house where we waited for him and his wife to get ready. The local man was 34, and his wife was 26. He’s a tour guide for a living and although he spoke some English I’m actually surprised he’s able to be an English tour guide. He was very friendly and took us to his house without any questions. He lives in an apartment building in the east end of downtown. Walking up the stairs we past a few dead cockroaches. His apartment was a lot bigger than I expected. We walked into one large open room with three leather chairs on the left, a shrine, a old TV, and a woman playing with a baby on the floor. The apartment was home-y but barren. The ceiling had beautiful molding and two chandeliers. Past the living room was a small room with a double bed, and past that was a big kitchen with a twin sized bed. Our local shares the twin bed with his wife. Eight people live in the apartment and I only saw the two beds. I met his brother, his brothers wife and their baby daughter.

His wife stepped out in a short tight red sequined dress and heels, not at all what I expected or was dressed for. The four of us took a taxi to a local night club area. Before going to the club we sat at a street restaurant and drank whiskey with beer, and tried a few local dishes. Steamed chicken, friend chicken, fish salad, fried mutton, and fried broccoli. I wasn’t that hungry and only ordered the steamed chicken but they kept encouraging me to try the local dishes so I did. At the end the bill came and they just handed it to us. I have no problem splitting a $12 bill with my mate for a local experience but I did not like the way they just handed us the bill. The local and his wife were the ones who kept ordering food, and they drank half the alcohol. It was another situation that really put me off about being taken advantage of as a tourist.

From there we took the elevator to the top floor night club. There was a security check then we entered into a real club, but we were the only ones there. The local said it will get busy, that apparently it does every night. Two hours later there were less than 10 of us on the dance floor. I’m not sure if that’s crowded for a Myanmar club. There were multiple security guards standing in the middle of the dance floor (about one guard per person.) There was also a lady security guard in the bathroom. Me and the wife were the only girls dancing with “the crowd;” all the boys were conservative and enjoyed dancing more with each other. Separately there were three local girls dancing, one of which was a ladyboy. The local girls wore tiny outfits and 6″ platform stilettos.

The next day I went back for more curry and spent a day planning Myanmar, which I should have done when I had real wifi. Later I went out with a friend of a friend from home who just moved to Yangon. We went back to 19th street and had the grilled food station. The waitress carries a plastic carton and places whatever you choose inside. We got a whole fish, squid, broccoli, asparagus, mushrooms and okra. The food was simply grilled and delicious. After dinner we went to 50th Bar, an expat spot. It was the first truly American looking place I’ve seen since being away. It was a fancy pub with shiny wooden walls, a bar with leather seating, and a huge circular staircase in the middle.