MYANMAR (Part 1) - Into the SHWE
We traveled through Myanmar for two weeks and there is so much to say about our trip, but first - can you believe that Spencer actually took this picture? It's incredible. Last year we were talking about our goals for 2017 and he said that he really wanted to become a better photographer. I think that he totally succeeded.
a long flight across the water
I don't especially love to fly. Actually, that's an understatement. Two days before a big trip I start to get nervous about what might happen while we are in the air. Will there be bumps? Where would we land if we are over water? Has the pilot ever made an emergency landing before, and if not, how will he really know what to do? My dad was a pilot in the Marines for 20 years and has explained exactly how an airplane works and that no, they cannot fall out of the sky, even in really heavy turbulence. That sort of helped, but I still like to sit by the window to make sure that everything is going according to plan. It makes me feel better to know that I would be one of the first people to notice if a wing fell off.
We flew Denver --> Tokyo --> Bangkok --> Yangon. The only reason that I am mentioning all of the stops that we made is because the Narita Airport in Tokyo was almost too wonderful to leave. Yes, that is correct. Not only can you buy every flavor of Pocky Sticks that have ever been introduced on this earth, but all of the bathrooms have heated toilet seats! And three different water temperatures for the bidet! Who cares about a public airport bathroom, right? Wrong. After sitting for 12 hours on a plane you deserve a noise canceling option to ensure privacy and a warm stream of water in the bathroom when you land. Ok, enough, enough. I love the airport in Tokyo, that's all I'm saying. On to Thailand...
Temples, Markets, and Tofu in Thailand
Some genius (who I married) decided that we should spend one day in Bangkok on either end of our trip. This was a surprisingly brilliant move. It allowed us to take a break from a million hours of traveling and actually relax and adjust to the new time zone and check out some of the incredible spots around Thailand for a minute. Three things were especially wonderful in Thailand:
SHWE (GOLD) All Day
And then we went to Myanmar...is a great way to start explaining the strange, magical, overwhelming, tranquil at times, insanely hectic at times journey though this country. Honestly, I still don't know what to say about this experience as a whole. It feels like too much to actually describe. I was telling my brother how I had never been to a city like Yangon before. There were so many people, so many cars driving in every direction, bikes, carts, trucks, animals - you had to just jump in and be absorbed into the pace of it all. You certainly could not attempt to change the flow of the direction or go your own speed. David had this great analogy. He said "I felt like that in Cairo. It's like jumping into a revolving door that doesn't stop moving." That was it precisely. If you jumped in at the right moment, you'd be ok.
The Shwedagon (Golden) Pagoda sits on top of a hill in Yangon. This is considered the most sacred Buddhist place in Myanmar, and is thought to contain relics of the Buddha himself, most notably - eight strands of the Buddha's hair. When you enter through one of the four gates the volunteers guarding the entrance will make sure that you are dressed appropriately (shoulders covered, long pants or skirt below your calves) and remove your shoes before you enter. This is a sign of dignity and respect, it sets the tone for true appreciation of this magnetic place. When you walk around the Shwedagon, your direction will always be clockwise, keeping the pagoda on your right side.
Our good friend Carl (who Spencer served with in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia) is currently working and living in Yangon, which is one of the main reasons that we booked this trip. He put together an incredible itinerary that allowed us start our travel individually and then meet up after a few days. Carl is a total pro at navigating Yangon and seems totally un-phased by the chaos. He's found all of these amazing places, and took us to many of them. A personal favorite was the BBQ restaurant with "pig dog." I wish I had a picture of this dog! He is a street dog (I think) who just hangs out at this Burmese BBQ joint and every one feeds him. Hence, the name "pig dog." He is super duper chunky, and always looks like he has a big smile on his face.
Stay tuned for Part Two...Inle Lake, Bagan & Secret Beaches
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