Now’s the time to go to Myanmar. Number one reason for us to go to Myanmar is Bagan and it’s beautiful sunrise with balloons. The problem is that the balloons only fly during the dry season, from October to mid-April. We don’t want to miss the balloons so we decide to go to Myanmar right now to make dreams come true. After four weeks in Bangkok, we fly to Yangon, where our Myanmar adventure starts.
At the airport in Bangkok, we meet Koen & Yvette, two Dutchies who are also travelling to Yangon. We don’t take the same flight but we are sure we see them again in Myanmar. Especially because we “stalk them” and book the same hostel in Yangon – which we asked for of course ;). We have one full day to explore the city. In our deep search into the web, we read something about an abandoned theme park. Of course, we need to go there!! We spend the whole afternoon there and go to the most sacred place in Myanmar afterwards. The Schwedagon Pagoda is a 99 meters tall gold pagoda that contains relics of four previous Buddhas. Together with Koen & Yvette we watch the sunset and eat our first shan noodles (super delicious).
We leave Yangon by train and go to Bago. Travelling by train is super cheap in Myanmar (since tourists pay the same price as locals) and it’s quite an experience – shaky, cold, but reasonably comfortable seats. Bago is quite an experience as well, we notice not many tourists go to Bago for more than a day trip, surely not by train. It’s an authentic little city. From inside the ticket office (tourists privileges), we buy tickets for the next day, but the system is old school – it’s a handwritten system – so they have to call Yangon the day after to see if there are seats available.
We feel unwell the whole day, we probably ate something wrong, so we take it easy for the day (especially with Burmese food, which we like a lot, but only our stomach not so much). By bicycle, we see the highlights of Bago and afterwards, hop on a night train to Mandalay. Everybody has told us the train in Myanmar is the worst with all the shaking (they say it can feel like going by horse), but we like it, we sleep most part of the night.
In Mandalay, we meet up with our Dutch friends again and do some sightseeing together. We don’t like the atmosphere in Mandalay that much, but wow there are so many beautiful things to see in and around Mandalay. There are so many beautiful temples and pagodas. Especially the white ones are breath-taking. The next day, we travel by boat to Mingun, hop on a bike with a guided motorbike tour and go to Inwa and to the U-Bein bridge for sunset. And guess who we meet at the bridge again?! It’s Gretka & Nico, we already meet them for the fifth time in Asia, so much fun!
After Mandalay, it’s finally time to see Bagan. We are already looking forward to this city for such a long time. For sure, we are going to take our time in Bagan, so we book 5 nights at a hotel in New Bagan. We see so many beautiful temples and crazy stunning sunrises and sunsets. Together with Gretka, Nico, Koen & Yvette we explore the amazing area. We like it a lot: you can drive around for a long time without seeing anyone. It feels so peaceful and magical. Our routine becomes waking up early, see the sunrise, go back, eat breakfast, take a nap, do some work, see the sunset, eat with (new) friends, go to sleep.
Sometimes you see pictures of places and in real life they disappoint, Bagan is not like that. It’s truly like the pictures. What does disappoint us a little, is that they are closing lots of temples, in front of our noses! In the morning a temple is open, in the evening they have closed it already. We hear multiple reasons for this. They want to be a UNESCO heritage site, and therefore the temples need to be restored. Also, recently an American girl died after falling from a temple, of course, they don’t want that again.
In addition, multiple earthquakes damaged many temples, especially the one in 2016, therefore they are not strong enough anymore to host crowds. We understand all the reasons but we hope Bagan works on proper restoration because the magic of Bagan is driving around and finding beautiful temples to climb up and see sunrise or sunset! They need to put more money in the maintenance of the temples but instead 90% of the money from the tickets goes to the government.
After magical moments in Bagan, we go to the beach! Beach in Myanmar?! Yes, there are some pretty nice beaches in Myanmar. From Bagan, we go to Pyay and from Pyay we travel further to Ngapali beach. At Ngapali beach we enjoy our time at Hilton Ngapali. We have the best breakfast we have had all year, enjoy the amazing infinity pool and take a dip in the sea. Thank you for having us Hilton Ngapali!
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The beginning of March we want to be at a specific place in Thailand, therefore we need to hurry up and cross all of Myanmar. Hpa-an is our last stop in Myanmar, it is a small town surrounded by crazy pretty nature. By bike, we drive around and enjoy our last hours in this beautiful country. We know, we will come back since we are not done with Myanmar yet!
For Valentine’s Day, we travel to Northern Thailand to experience something VERY special. You will read about it in our next travel journal.
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