Yangon was really big. I think everyone has to fly into Yangon to get into Myanmar. We did two things that were great. The train ride around the city and the Shwedagon Pagoda.
The train ride was a great view of everyday life in the city and the Shwedagon was spectacular. I took a picture of it at night. I was reading (watching) a National Geographic magazine and saw “my” picture. It was perfect. It was a night shot and it is really amazing. The ground is so hot during the day you have to run between shade. There are no shoes allowed in any of the temples or pagodas, which brings me to Rule #8. Always bring flip flops everywhere. Our driver’s first stop was a store to get me a pair of flip flops. It was twelve dollars for a nice pair of leather flip flops that I have to this day.
Around the Shwedagon Pagoda there were hundreds of smaller temples and pagodas. There was a mat that enabled you to get around, but running to shaded areas was mandatory. Once the sun went down the tile or marble cooled enough to walk on it. This will one day be a seventh wonder of the world. It is that beautiful. Go see it.
Not to be out done, we next went to Bagan. How do you describe 2200 temples and pagodas in a 26 square mile area? Every direction you look there are temples to the horizon. Some are small and some are HUGH. They are Buckingham Palace Hugh (not that I have been there, but I imagine). Some you can climb on and some you cannot. It takes days to get a grasp. We spent five days there. We had two guides, one on the first day and the last day. We took an electric bike for a day, a trip to Mount Popa and we did the Balloons over Bagan. There are thousands of Temples and Pagodas to see. It was really outstanding to see them from the air. I could not have been more impressed. We spent more on the balloon ride than we did the entire week in Bagan. Sadly, it was worth it. The company does provide jobs for the set up and take down of the balloons, but I would rather spend the money locally when I have the option.
Mt Popa was really cool too. There is a monastery on top of a high rocky peak right next to Mt Popa. It is 777 monkey filled steps (Rhesus macaques) to the top and the views are fantastic. And, as usual so are the people. This is a destination for locals and people from all over Myanmar. Although there were some tourists, we really stood out. From fellow visitors who wanted to talk and the hundreds of school kids walking home, everyone was looking at us. Sally has blonde hair and she was the attraction.
I have read a couple things about the monkeys being aggressive, but mostly they are entertaining. I did have a young one, 10 inches tall, try to intimidate me. I had moved a little closer to him and his Mom than he liked and he ran towards me on the ledge we were on. I backed up a couple feet and he seemed to be okay with that. The older monkeys did not care one iota where we were. They would walk right by or not move when you walked by them. The adolescents were trying to get food. You could purchase a food for them – corn wrapped in paper or bananas and they will feed them on the way up the steps. We did see a bright blue hat get taken off a tourist head and despite the offer to trade for food he kept the hat.
There are also locals that clean the monkey poop off the steps. Remember, you are not wearing shoes and there are 777 steps. This is a nice thing to have done and they are not paid. They work for tips. You cannot tip all of them but do bring some cash to help keep the steps clean.
There is so much more to see in Myanmar. As the country has just opened up to Tourism in the past 5 years, it is not overrun with too much “selling” that you can encounter in some places. The people were friendly. You could spend months there to see everything. We wanted to see Bagan and spent a week there. Always spend more time in a place then you need to. Mandalay, Inle Lake or an Irrawaddy river trip would all be great. We are heading there in 2016 again and I will tell you more of what we see. Instead of a week, we will have a month and much more of the country to see.
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