Nyaungshwe, and Touring Inle Lake By Boat

Nyaungshwe, and Touring Inle Lake By Boat

After a miserable and brutal overnight bus ride with no air conditioning, windows open, dust blowing in, loud music, and broken seats (tourist infrastructure is still in development through most of Myanmar), we arrived early in the morning in Nyaungshwe, the jumping off point for touring Inle Lake. We were hooked up in Inle – we were introduced to someone who knows the area, could act as a tour guide, and help us in every way possible, Sandra.  Sandra made our almost week long stay entirely enjoyable – to the point that we were looking for business and investment ideas before we even left . . .  The Village on Inle Lake Nyaungshwe is about an hour away from the capital of the Shan State, which borders Thailand on the east.  The Shan are an ethnic minority in Myanmar, whose ethnic majority are Burmese.  The Shan people traditionally had numerous kings, their own traditions, food, and ways of dress.   The village itself focuses on tourism – hotels and restaurants abound, as well as souvenir stands and plenty of stores selling handmade painted parasols and traditional Shan clothing.   We enjoyed Shan specialities, like Shan noodles, fried spring onion with pork, tomato salad, and fermented tea leaf salad.  We drank too many Myanmar beer, having fun with a little contest on the bottle cap enabling us to win a few free beers here and there.   We dabbled in a little whisky popular in Myanmar, High Commissioner.  We found a Nepalese restaurant, which satisfied our curry cravings, and a Thai restaurant, Green Chillies, owned by a friend of a...
Mandalay Myanmar – A Hot and Dusty Trip

Mandalay Myanmar – A Hot and Dusty Trip

There really was not much to see in Mandalay Myanmar, one of the former royal capitals of the country.  It is a dusty city, the second largest in Myanmar, and other than a fort surrounded by a moat and a hill with a view over the city, it is more of a commercial center hawking Chinese goods. Other than finding a decent Burmese BBQ joint with cold draft beer (and old Jackie Chan Kung Fu movies), called Rainbow, which we frequented, we made our way to Mandalay to flee the city. Why Travel to Mandalay Myanmar? The big draw to Mandalay are the three additional former royal capitals on the outskirts of the city – Amarapura, Sagaing, and Inwa.  We booked a driver for the day and set out to see everything at one shot.  Generally, we don’t enjoy cramming a mess of sights into one day, but in this case, its the norm – a tourist circuit of foreigners traipsing across a bridge, up a hill, and through ancient temples.  Our driver suggested a few stops on the way out of town, the first to see an old teak monastery, Shwe In Bin Kyaung.  It was quite peaceful, but due to the time it appeared the monks were out collecting their alms.  So, after walking around barefoot through the finely sifted dirt, we put our sandals back on and returned to the car.  A Gold Leaf Buddha in Mandalay Myanmar The second site was the Mahamuni Paya, one of the most famous in the Mandalay area.  The temple contained a 13 foot high seated Buddha, most famous I...
Getting Templed Out – Myanmar Temples

Getting Templed Out – Myanmar Temples

We often get templed out in Asia.  I do, truly, love it here, but after numerous months over many trips traveling through Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, etc., I just got templed out.  A similar thing happens in Europe – I easily become “cathedralled” out.  When you have seen one church with statues and stain glass, you have seen them all. With Myanmar being one the most religious of the Southeast Asian nations, loaded north to south with beautiful Buddhist temples, pagodas, and stupas.  I was praying, pun intended, that because we had not been in Asia for a year, that I would not get templed out so quickly.  I wanted to savor it. Climbing Shwedagon Paya As we approached the south entrance of Shwedagon Paya in Yangon, this desire was strong – I felt as though I had never laid eyes on a Buddhist temple before.  It was all new for me.  Like I was a temple virgin.  We took our shoes off, attached them to our bag, and started the slow journey up the covered walk way, fairly unique to Burmese Buddhist temples.  Along the way, we saw some souvenir stands, but most sellers offered Buddha statues, prayer beads, and other paraphernalia for devotees to buy on their way to pray.  I tried not to stop to buy a Buddha statue, which was hard for me to do.  We emerged at the top and stared straight up at the golden stupa, or zedi, reaching over 300 feet high.  It was surrounded on all sides by additional stupas, buddhas, shrines, and worshippers everywhere I turned.  We walked barefoot on the...
Yangon and Tea in Myanmar

Yangon and Tea in Myanmar

We emerged from our friend’s apartment in to find breakfast and tea in Myanmar, realizing how new the city was to us.  Max directed us to a noodle stall across the street.  We had no idea what to order, and, unfortunately no one else was eating there to show us what to eat and how to eat it.  We communicated with the woman using hand signals to demonstrate 2 orders.  Her neighbor seemed to understand us a bit more, and helped her along the way.   Not only was I unsure what we would be eating, how to eat it, and how much it would cost, but I also had no understanding how to communicate with her.  We had yet to master even simple words like thank you, which is a complicated 5 syllable phrase.  My gut reaction twice was to speak in some foreign language.  At one point, I uttered thank you in Vietnamese (the fact that I could remember the phrase in the first place astonished me), then I responded to her with “si si si” at one point.  Embarrassed, I tried to communicate from that point on with nothing more than nods, smiles, and thank you in English. The breakfast was quite good.  A mixture of noodles, cabbage, tofu, and spring roll, with a side of a hot soup to pour on top.  The two orders totaled 1000 kyat, or about $1.15.   We sat on tiny plastic stools, with people staring at us as they walked by.  We were used to feeling this way – teetering on a stool in hopes that we would not...