Myanmar on the Rise

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

One of the most vivid images I have of Myanmar is a wide-eyed smiling boy in a red robe jumping towards me against the background of a white stupa. 

We had been visiting some temples in Mandalay when we saw these boisterous children. They were playing and took an interest in our group. I had a 50mm lens on my camera that couldn't auto focus so I walked around without taking a single photo. As I turned my back to leave, this child monk jumped out of nowhere. By instinct, I aimed and clicked. I knew it would be a blurred shot anyway. He was simply too fast!

It took me a few hours later to see the image in my viewfinder- a crisp, clear shot of the child monk with the happiest expression in his face. It was a beautiful surprise.

Myanmar Series- temple in Banmaw

Myanmar was a beautiful surprise.

Something that was totally unexpected that jumped out of nowhere. For starters, it was not part of our itinerary on our 6 month Southeast Asian backpacking trip last year. But by a series of happy accidents, we met a crazy group of couchsurfers in Thailand. They had been waiting for their visa to Myanmar and were trying to convince us to join them.

And just like that, we decided to postpone our trip to Kuala Lumpur for a chance at adventure in Myanmar. 2 Germans, 2 Indonesians and 2 Filipinos who did not know what to expect about a country they knew very little about. Throw in a few more people from Singapore and the Netherlands en route and we looked like a bunch of Nowherians from a Gap ad.

Myanmar Series- overlooking Mt. Poppa

We landed in Yangon very early in the morning after missing our flight from Bangkok. But we were not grumpy or annoyed at the slight delay. We walked past tea sellers, fruit vendors and money changers just starting to set up shop.

Myanmar Series- food sellers in Yangon
Photo Credit: Susan Stephanie

The first thing that shocks you about Myanmar is how some streets are stained with red. It looked like a blood bath after a violent brawl! But we later realized that these red stains were from paan, a mixture of betel leaf filled with powdered tobacco and spices that the Burmese chew before spitting out. I tried it and it gave me a rush and a lightheaded feeling afterwards- like a caffeine jolt with a punch!

Myanmar Series- paan (betel leaf)
Photo Credit: Susan Stephanie

The next thing you notice is how every local’s face is covered with a yellow coat of powder. They call this thanaka, made from the bark of a tree and is supposed to do wonders for your skin. I believe them- mostly everyone we met looked young and fresh faced!

Myanmar Series- thanaka and local kids in Mandalay

Travel Magazine Volume 6 2012
We met our friends who had arrived a day before at the Okinawa Hotel, one of the nicer places in Yangon. We decided to leave Yangon for last and went directly on a train to Mandalay.

More Myanmar adventures coming up,
Sole Sister Lois

Author's Note: This is an account of a trip we've made to Myanmar in May 2011. Parts of this article first appeared in Travel Magazine Volume Six 2012. This is only the first of a 3 part series on Myanmar.

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1 sole trails

  1. I still remember this trip of yours (you were not online for a month-I think), while following your Asian backpacking trip. Now its my turn to be excited for our trip to Myanmar this march :)


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