The week has flown by with a whirlwind of craziness throughout Myanmar. Last week feels like the distant past, but now I fly home tomorrow…
On my first day in Yangon (last Tuesday), I took advantage of an early morning start and visited a pagoda near my hotel. I got chai from a tea room that was WAY too caffeinated before meeting my airport friends for lunch (at the restaurant that had been closed the night before – and ended up having AMAZING pot stickers) even though I was basically high and jittery after drinking the entire glass of tea. I tried to relax as much as possible while getting a foot massage but that was kind of difficult in my state. After that I walked down the street to meet my SF friend Rebecca’s aunt for dinner.
Rebecca put me in touch with her aunt, Ann, who has been living in Yangon for the past two years since her husband works for the US Embassy. She kindly invited us to dinner with her and her friends Tuesday evening, so when Taylor finally! arrived she met us all at the restaurant. The 6 of us ladies all had a great time laughing and drinking wine and eating delicious Burmese food. One of Ann’s friends, Ellen, a true New Yorker Jew, decided to come out with me and Tay after dinner to visit the Chinatown street market. We bought some cheap pants, ate some crickets, and hung out for a beer. It was really fun.
The next morning (Taylor’s first official day in Myanmar), we went to Shwedagon Pagoda, the most famous pagoda in Myanmar. It’s pretty big, and you have to go early morning time or else the floors get too hot and it’s hard to walk around. We now like to fondly refer to it now as Sweat-agon.
Taylor got her palms read, we walked a bit around the lake, had a blind foot massage (it was weird and not very good), got a drink at a rooftop hotel bar, and then had to catch our night bus to Bagan.
Night buses are officially the weirdest thing. I think I basically blacked out and couldn’t figure out what day it was after arriving in Bagan. I kept thinking we’d been there for a whole day but we actually arrived at 5AM. The experience itself wasn’t bad though – besides the fact that the movies they played were the worst American action films of all time (Maxtrix 1 and 2, R.I.P.D. with Ryan Reynolds – wtf even is that?!) In the bus station in Bagan we met these two lovely Italian fellows and had our taxi driver take us to a temple (no clue which one – there’s like 726353) to watch the sunrise. It was beautiful and we were basically alone at the top of the temple for an hour. We quickly became friends with ze Italians and made plans for later.
Bagan. Was. HOT. I’ve never experienced 107F before, and I really hope I don’t again for a long time. The heat really wipes you out, and we mostly couldn’t do anything besides spend time in the pool from 11-4PM, which wasn’t so bad. However, our A/C stopped working in the afternoon and we had to switch rooms. I felt high maintenance for half a second but then was thankful for not getting heatstroke.
We napped, met some people from a hostel nearby and got lunch and rented our e-bikes for later. In Myanmar, motorbikes aren’t as common (like they are in Vietnam) and foreigners aren’t allowed to rent them so they rent us electric ones instead. They’re absolute shit. For 5,000 kyat (about $5) you can have it for the whole day, but if it’s one like mine and Taylor’s the tire will pop and you’ll be stranded on the side of the road after sundown. True story.
After our Asian friends “fixed” our bike (aka shoving toilet paper where the tube on the flat tire flew out), we took a different bike back to town and finally sat down for some dinner. As we were eating I saw some of the hostel friends from Yangon walking by and invited them to come join us. We ended up playing quite a few rounds of Exploding Kittens (this has been a BIG hit our whole trip) and invited them to our pool the next day.
The next morning we were supposed to go to Mount Popa with the Italians, but I was exhausted and slept until 10:30 while Taylor went. I have no regrets; it was nice finally sleeping in one morning. I hung out at the pool with our friends for the afternoon then we met back up with the Italians and went around in a shared taxi to a bunch of temples before hopping on a boat to watch the sunset.
For some reason puppet shows are kind of a thing in Myanmar, and our hotel put on a free one every night and Taylor really wanted to see it. I was really craving pizza for some reason that night, and even though I love Asian food, I just needed one night of western food. It was wood fired and actually so tasty. We brought my pizza back and watched the VERY mediocre puppet performance before commencing some intense rounds of Exploding Kittens.
We paid a reasonably decent amount to stay at a “nice” hotel in Bagan, but the second day we were there the Wifi decided to completely stop working. It’s really common for the power to go in and out throughout Myanmar for no reason during the day, but we basically never had Wifi again during our stay in Bagan. It proved to be kind of difficult in terms of planning because we needed to coordinate meeting our host of the cooking class we were taking.
The last day in Bagan, we got to do a cooking class. Sidebar: if you ever need to get me a present for anything (hint, hint), cooking classes are the way to go. Anyways, we somehow managed to find May and go with her to a local “market.” This was the dodgiest market I’ve ever seen. The meat was appalling with flies everywhere, stray dogs licking up whatever they could find, and the vegetable selection was slim pickins. We did get some stuff though although I was quite skeptical.
May took us to a tea shop (just a local spot to get breakfast), where we had more Burmese tea (man, do they like it STRONG) and these donut things that basically changed my life. I thought the meal could only go downhill from there but I was totally wrong. We proceeded to make chicken curry, pumpkin curry, tofu with tomato and onion, tamarind leaf salad, and cucumber salad. She also served us soup, okra, and rice. It was amaaazing. So much good food. We had this weird sugar cane/rice noodle/tapioca thing for dessert that I couldn’t eat but besides that it was the best $20 and 4 hours I spent during my whole trip.
The last afternoon in Bagan I napped, hung at the pool with the Italians, and tried to teach them how to shuffle cards like a real pro and play the Sommer traditional game of SET. We had to part ways because our buds had to head to Inle Lake as we were going to take the bus to Kinpun (by way of Yangon). It was sad saying bye to them but now I have friends to go visit in Italy! Yay!
I’ll leave you with that to digest for awhile, but the epic adventure continued over the next few days. Now to enjoy my last few hours of Southeast Asia vacation!