I'm gonna take you back when it all started in November. Sianpei joined me in Yangon on the 28th of October before we began our 2-month...

Where it all began: Myanmar (Part 1)

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I'm gonna take you back when it all started in November. Sianpei joined me in Yangon on the 28th of October before we began our 2-month SEA journey on the 2nd of November 2015.

To make it easier for you to track us along the way as I tell you stories of our epic trail, I've created a map. The one below marks the entire 2-month journey.



The countries we visited were: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia.
All overland - which means either by bus or train. It can also mean walking or motorbiking, but I suppose we'll leave that adventure for another day haha.

As you can see from the map, the red location tags mark the "START" and "END" destinations. The dark green location tags mark how we travelled within one country to get to the border crossing areas. You can follow the black lines for that. The blue lines were where we crossed the borders of one country to another. To make it easier to read, I have highlighted the names of the places where we crossed in pink above the blue lines, for example from "Chiangrai - Luang Prabang", which is Thailand to Laos.

I thought this was an excellent route because I was already in Myanmar and to make our way around the region, we started from the top and made our way down to the bottom. Brilliant if I must say so myself! I'll have this picture above to start every post so that you can easily refer which post is dedicated to which area.

Without further ado, LET US BEGIN!

Map of our trail in the Myanmar region:



The region of Myanmar is actually way bigger than this. It stretches further north and south. But most of the places of attraction are in the middle of the country, hence the magnified image of the center.

Our main mode of transport in Myanmar was the railway train. In fact, the only mode of transport. The only anomaly was to and from Taunngyi, which was out of the way.

From the map, you can see that we started from the bottom at Yangon and made our way round, first with Bagan. It is one of Sianpei's favourite places! And mine too.
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[ BAGAN ] - 3 Days 3 Nights

To get there, we opted for the overnight train to Bagan so off to Yangon railway station we went!

Train was considerably empty

All our barang-barang. I was excited coz we had the entire carriage to ourselves!

Sunset...

One of the reasons why I love sitting on trains and watching the scenery pass me by.
This was our first overnight train ride and it was one of the most magical...
With our windows open, we could see many many twinkling stars in the night sky. 
I would love to recapture the moment again.

Dinnerrrrr. Bought when a man came asking for our orders. Considerably expensive but necessary haha.

The next morning:


Made friends with the kids next door.
Sianpei took a video of me talking to them hahaha "Sister, Sister"
This is what I like best about the Myanmar trains coz they're really old school and everyone enjoys sticking their heads out.


After we got out of the train, we got whisked away by people who wanted to fetch us. The girl whom we made friends with offered to fetch us, unfortunately, our hotel was in New Bagan while theirs was in the Old. So we had to settle for a driver. Tried to bargain for the price but to no avail. So I think we settled for $15 for a ride. Bagan is actually quite expensive!

Once we got ourselves checked into our hotels, we rented an electric-bike and OFF WE WENT!

Bagan, the land of many many temples.
My Burmese friend once told us, "When you get there, close your eyes and point somewhere, anywhere. And sure enough, once you open your eyes, you'll be pointing at a temple" Haha.




We could afford this vantage point because we climbed one of the most popular temples.. no wait, THE Most popular temple, which is the Shwesandaw temple.

Teehee!

Spectacularrrr

This place is also popular for sunrises and sunsets. We caught both of them, and the sunrise was undoubtedly, the most spectacular we've seen on this trip! Will show you guys later ;) Let's continue our temple journey first.

Bagan is mostly temple-hopping but I'll save you from all of them by showing you just the special ones, and the special moments : )

Buying George Orwell's book from these smart kids.
The girl was especially smart. So cute.

Buddhas of course, everywhere.

Secret passageways here and there.

I always love the light that plays with the architectural design of these historical buildings!


Day One wasn't much because we had just arrived but we managed to catch a little bit of the sunset at a temple.





That's us! and our electric bike, which I must say helped with my practice before using an actual motorbike in the other countries to come.


Day Two was a short hike up Mount Popa. I had seen pictures before and I was very much looking forward to it since it's a temple on top of a mountain. Looked pretty amazing.



Unfortunately, it was only nice to look from afar. There was nothing spectacular at the top.
So if anyone wants to go there, I say save the money and time.
Though, ya know, there was still a need to make sure all of it was well-spent so mandatory shots were needed hahaha.


What was most memorable at Mount Popa was the buying of thanaka - it's the yellow pasty thing that Burmese like to apply on their cheeks to prevent sunburn.
These ladies were so aggressive with selling thanaka, but of course not the same kind of aggression as the Vietnamese.


Our skin were still a little too fair for the thanaka.
Note: Sianpei was much fairer than me at the start. You'll see her grow darker as we travel.

For a hot day


We didn't do much after that, because renting another e-bike for just the second half of the day would be a waste so we saved our energy for our last day in Bagan.


Day Three was well, my favourite because of what you're about to see...

We woke up real early at 5am for a sunrise at Shwesandaw pagoda.

Skies filled with pastel colours as we waited for dawn to break...

Along with quite a few others

Then came the first peeks of the sun...


And soon, hot air balloons came wafting in to dot the skies...



Ready for the most beautiful capture of all?


Looking back on all these pictures, I can even feel myself wanting to tear... So so beautiful and a bit hard to believe I was there just two months ago. I remember getting so excited when the sun's yolk started to appear. It was truly a magical moment.


And magical moments are shared with good friends!!!!

When dawn broke and light filled the skies,



This family was so cute, twisting for my camera.
I miss the innocence of Myanmar... Even at touristy places such as Bagan, their people are still so lovely. 



 After that, we continued with temple-hopping!


Lunch at one of our favourite food stops. We came here twice!
Their fried rice and steamed rice are so goooood.
Mi San Restaurant. For keep's sake so that if ever I go back, I can revisit this very nice and quiet family restaurant.

After our tummies were happy, we made our way to see the sunset at the same Shwesandaw Pagoda.

Filled with even more people than sunrise...



When darkness threatened to envelope the sky, we quickly made our way down the pagoda for one last temple visit. It proved to be worthwhile because it was the prettiest temple of all!




Really liked how these "windows" lined the temple walls.


You can see Sianpei running as we tried a self-timer shot hahahah. 
Then a young Burmese boy about our age or younger came to help us. And he chatted with us for a bit and asked for our email addresses so that he could write to us to improve his English since he was training to be a tour guide.

Sigh, looking back, I really really miss the Burmese people. They've the purest of hearts! And I dunno what the hell is gonna happen when tourism spikes in the coming years. I hope that their hearts will still be filled with pure innocent enthusiasm.



Next up is...

[ MANDALAY ] - 3 Days 2 Nights

Scroll up to track our trail. Mandalay is right next to Bagan so it was just a short three-hour train ride.


Hopping on just in time!

This train was designed for the Japanese railways and donated to Myanmar, therefore the seat layout.

Also a communal dining area haha!

Mandalay's biggest and busiest market that sells everything you can possibly think of: Zegyo Market

Sepak takraw! I forgot the Burmese name for it...
We wandered into a temple and a friendly man chatted with us and invited us to watch a game or two. 

I found the folks at Mandalay PARTICULARLY friendly. I liked Mandalay even though many Burmese themselves dislike it because of the hot weather haha.

That was Day One.

Day Two was visiting everything we possibly could in the surrounding areas of Mandalay - Royal Palace, Mandalay Hill and U Bein bridge (MY ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE SUNSET SPOT in the whole wide world so stay tuned)

We rented an automatic motorbike for $15 a day and drove around. I was so excited wheee hooo. Even though traffic was intense like in Vietnam, I very much preferred riding on the roads where there was solid ground, unlike our time in Bagan when we kept falling coz of grass and sand haha!

Royal Palace in the morning at 10am~


Climbing the tower...

For an overview of the Palace's grounds,

We could see Mandalay Hill from here~

I remember from the clock tower, I dropped my umbrella HAHHAHA and we had to do a search and rescue because I had to get into a deep crevice but couldn't get out. Only with the help of an uncle selling snacks and drinks, did I make it out alive. My hero. We of course repaid his kindness by getting some chips and water haha.


Fooling around on palace grounds and the two boys on the right kept staring and smiling hahahaha.
Well, my instagram account is 'firstconcubine' and it was only natural for me in my element.

Restoration works for the palace underway..
Apparently the palace experienced a fire of some sort and this entire place was built from the ground up. Sorta like a mock-up.

I guessed it as well because I thought it was quite shoddy lah, coz the painting and wood are not of standard for a Royal Palace? I expected way better resources back in the day. 

Drinking water because damn the heat!!


We soon moved on to Mandalay Hill, after popping by a few other temples around the area.
Myanmar is 90% Buddhist, which is why temples are everywhere... I think one of the most Buddhist societies left?



Oh Mandalay Hill was challenging. 
Not only was it high, but it was deceiving because almost every single time that we thought we had already reached the top, there were yet more stages to go!!! It was quite hilarious. But of course not so hilarious when the sun is blazing and you're parched lol.

Nevertheless, of course, with our absolute strong will and determination, we reached a beautiful temple at the top. It was decorated with tiny mirrors everywhere...



Tired but never too tired for a peekcha!

Apparently it was also the location of a battle by the Brits in WWII...

This stretch of river reminded me so much of Europe and I was quite awe-struck by it.

Monks everywhere.
Boys in Myanmar are encouraged to be ordained as monks at least once in their lifetime.

Speaking of Buddhism, here was a temple we visited after that and I am often amazed by the dedication of people when it comes to faith and religion... Ceaseless bowing and kneeling to a figure they believe in. And so many of them...



What annoys me however, is the gender discrimination that is so often taught in religion.
As you can see in the above picture, only men were allowed to enter that sacred part of the temple and are allowed to paste gold paper on to the statue of Buddha.

Geez, why can't a woman do it too?

And it applies across the board to almost every temple we've stepped into. "Women not allowed to..."
But of course, it is not my prerogative to encroach upon other people's cultures. So I can only grumble and mumble to myself and walk away haha.


After chilling and staying away from the hot hot hot day by snacking on sunflower seeds, we proceeded to our final destination in Mandalay...

U Bein Bridge - the longest teakwood bridge in the world

and one my favouritest places in the whole wide worldddd.
Definitely one of my most memorable destinations throughout the two-months :')

This tree that you see was also the centre of my attention and I couldn't help but let it be the focus of my pictures. Its branches provide a really nice silhouette to the backdrop and it's kinda hauntingly beautiful...


Sharing the sunset with many others...

Hello!
Where people stood to take pictures of the bridge...

Then the sun started to set at the horizon..



And it vanished just as quickly as its magnificent orange rays appeared.
So difficult to savour it slowly...

A Burmese man told us to come back in the morning to see the sunrise, which was just as or even more beautiful. And also possible to see locals going about their daily routine. Alas, we didn't have the time to stick around longer.

Even after the sun set, it left a sense of tranquil that was too hard to forget....









I left, a piece of my heart there...



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