Hello Friends and Family!
It’s been a long time since we caught up! We are writing this post so obviously we made it back to Bangkok and survived our trip to Myanmar. When we say survived, we literally mean it! It is going to be difficult to explain all that we have experienced in Myanmar over the past 21 days but we will give it our best shot. We were unable to post to our blog while traveling in Myanmar because the government takes screen shots of Internet pages every 5 minutes. Just to be on the safe side we waited until we left the country to post our blogs. We don’t think we have anything too profound to add to the situation in Myanmar but you never know what goes on in the mind of a military dictatorship. We will be posting two separate blogs to cover all of our travels. Here’s the first post!
Our flight touched down in Myanmar and we exited the plane with our crisp 100 USD bills carefully stored in a billfold that we purchased in Bangkok. Since we were uncertain as to what we should expect upon arriving at the Yangon airport, we booked a room at a guesthouse for the night that provided free transportation from the airport. We were greeted with a sign as we left immigration. Josh would now be referred to as “Joshlia” and Leanne was his “+ 1”. It felt like we were on some kind of blind date. Leanne hasn’t been referred to as a “+ 1” since our days of dating.
It was a 45-minute drive to the guesthouse so we were grateful we had free transportation. Well, we were grateful until we saw our transportation. It was a bus circa 1960. We welcomed its vintage appearance but it broke down at every light. On the plus side, we did get to stop and snap a night picture of Shwedagon as they added more water to the radiator.
Myanmar is amazing…like stepping into the past. The taxis and cars were from the early to mid 1980s and traffic zoomed in all directions. We couldn’t wait to see what the city looked like in daylight.
Myanmar has quite the history and peering into the streets of Yangon in the daylight was something neither of us had ever witnessed before. It was poverty mixed with culture, mixed with tradition and beauty in its own way. The traditional garment of the Burmese is called a longyi, a sarong worn by both men and women.
We had to move to another guesthouse because the one we stayed in the first night was completely full. After calling 4 guesthouses we finally found one that could accommodate us. He told us we needed to be there in an hour and made us promise we would come. It was a strange request but we later found out that the owner received many requests for rooms and countless no shows on a daily basis. The White House Inn was level upon level of tiled floors and ceilings and quirky twists and turns.
Although it smelled musky and our entire floor had no natural light, its character made up for what it lacked. However, we were a bit confused by the switches because our room didn’t even have a fan?
Since we could only handle a limited amount of time in our room we ventured out into the streets for some sightseeing.
As we walked through the city streets, we were in awe of the danger that surrounded us. From broken sidewalks, to falling scaffolding, to massive flash floods, to men welding with no masks or gloves, this place was unreal. We even stumbled upon this random guy with a cobra!
We have discussed countless times how we should bring up the next topic. We will preface this next section with "Josh is okay." We were headed out for what was supposed to be a great dinner of local cuisine. We made our way down the dark sidewalk to catch a taxi. Remember how we said the city was filled with danger? The next thing we knew, the concrete sidewalk broke beneath Josh's feet. He fell through a hole in the sidewalk and luckily reacted quick enough to catch himself before he fell all the way through to the sewer. He scampered out of the hole and screamed "Whoa, I just fell through the sidewalk but I think I am okay!" Leanne took one glance at Josh's hand and knew it was split open. It was off to the emergency clinic for us. Primitive is an understatement to describe the facilities. We were sent to the doctor immediately which consisted of climbing old wooden steps and entering the smallest room any grown man has ever stepped foot in. Literally, Josh had to curl up in a ball in order to lay on the hospital bed (board with a sheet over it). The doctor said to Josh "You are too big for this city." Josh replied "Really, is that your professional opinion?" She did not laugh at that joke because she did not understand with the language barrier. She wrote in a small medical book thingy "38 year old man fall on ground." To which Josh responded, " I did not fall on the ground. I fell through the ground. The sidewalk broke!" He was adamant on making sure everyone knew that he did not just fall on the ground but that the dangerous streets of Yangon almost swallowed him whole. After at least 10 stitches (3 doctors have told us different numbers for the amount of stitches so we are not certain at the exact number) and NO numbing medication, Josh was out the door with a $32 tab and his new Myanmar tattoo. We would like to mention that despite the situation the doctor and staff took very good care of us and treated us with nothing but kindness.
We weren't going to let a small wound that exposed bone set us back so we headed out the next morning. Plus, we never got that dinner so we were starving! You know what makes you feel better? Crab Rangoons in the city that was formerly called Rangoon. Although crab was not the main ingredient, it still brought the tiniest smile to Josh's face.
Schwedagon Paya is the defining image of Yangon and a symbol of Burmese identity. It was absolutely amazing! We did have to purchase umbrellas because the rain in Yangon is relentless. Still, rain or no rain this place is beautiful.
There are so few tourists because the borders just opened up. Everywhere we went we were greeted with inquisitive stares and curious smiles. Neither one of us have been to a country with such generous and friendly people. This was a recurring theme throughout our entire trip to Myanmar.
Check out the stares:
We did not let the continuous rain dampen our mood.
We exchanged some wonderful conversation with a monk and his novice. We wound up talking for over an hour. He even offered a place to stay in his monastery for the night but we kindly declined as we had already bought a bus ticket to Bagan for the next day. He stated that no matter what religion you are the two most important things in life are peacefulness and happiness. We will go along with that!
After a rainy but rewarding day, we hit the sack early because we had a 6:30 am taxi departure to the bus station the next morning. That's right, more long bus trips! We were the only Western passengers on the bus to Bagan. We spent the next 9 1/2 hours making our way through the soggy land to the dry land.
Randomly, the bus would stop for "bathroom breaks." This entailed simply pulling off to the side of the road for 2 minutes. Leanne decided to wait it out until we actually stopped at a real bathroom. We stopped here for our real bathroom break. Oh well, when in Myanmar...
We finally made it to Bagan, the land of over 4, 000 temples and dry weather! Most of the temples date back almost 1,000 years. We stayed there for a week for Josh's hand to heal and his doctor's visit. This was not a bad place to stay for a week and we tried our best to see all 4, 000 temples. Not sure what the final count was but we think we may have come close. Yeah, right! We are sure that every single person reading this post has said at least once in their lifetime that pictures don't do it justice. That was certainly the case for our pictures here. Bagan was one of the most unbelievable places we have ever laid eyes on.
Because of Josh's hand injury, we were not able to rent bicycles, the main form of transportation in Bagan. We had to rely on our own legs and the legs of a horse to get us around town.
Some of the highlights of Bagan:
Doh Doh Kahn is a 12 year old boy that approached us with a flashlight while we were exploring on foot. Although he did not speak any words to us because he did not speak much English, he motioned to us to follow him. Both of us were a little leary but we knew if he had a flashlight he was going to show us something interesting so we put our concerns aside and followed. He lead us to a temple and shined his flashlight up some narrow stairs. Rats scattered everywhere! He then motioned for us to go up the stairs.
Josh was scared he would not be able to fit...
And Leanne was scared of all the rats!
We climbed to the top of the temple and sat there for over 2 hours taking in the surroundings and all its beauty until the sun finally set.
Doh Doh Kahn and his family are the key masters for a locked temple. His family has been the key master for generations. We felt very fortunate that he unlocked the temple for us. Although we did not exchange many words, we will always remember Doh Doh Kahn and his kindness.
Pyu Pyu was our horse cart driver on the days we used a horse cart as transportation.
Josh started out sitting in the back with Leanne. After an hour into our all-day trip, the horse fell in a hole and we had to jump off the back of the inclined cart. We couldn't believe our luck and swore we had some sort of black cloud following us. Pyu Pyu said that had never happened in all of his horse cart driving days. Fortunately, the horse and passengers were all okay. Pyu Pyu jimmy-rigged the broken cart with sticks and bungee chords in true Myanmar fashion! Josh rode in the front of the cart for the remainder of the ride.
Pyu Pyu's sister-in-law and cute kiddos. She is a key master as well. She let us into her family's temple and we able to take a photo.
We visited a 1,000-year-old monastery and were able to hold scriptures that dated over 700 years.
No shoes were allowed in the temples. When we returned from exploring one of the temples a dog had run off with one of Josh's socks. Seriously?! If you recall from our last post we lit a good luck lantern in Thailand. What the hell happened?
Countless Buddha statues
Placing gold leaves on one the oldest Buddha statues in the world.
Taking time to "reflect" at the reflection pool.
We actually saw long-neck weavers at one of the temples.
Ending the days with beautiful sunsets
After one week, Josh finally allowed Leanne to take a picture of his hand. We know many of you are wondering what it looked like so here's to your sick curiosity!
We will continue our Myanmar adventures in another update in a few days. See you then!
Leanne & Josh