1. Travel

Burma (Day 12)

Last full day in Burma! I can’t believe the time has gone by so quickly. It’s crazy how much we’ve seen in the last two weeks here.

We spent the morning visiting my dad’s childhood house in Yangon. It was similar to my mom’s childhood house in the sense that it’s a small house for a lot of people.

One note about people in Burma: people are generally really open and trusting. When my dad and Auntie Linda wanted to go visit and look inside their old home, even though they don’t know the people who live there anymore, the rest of us kind of laughed it off. If someone knocked on my door today, and said “hey I used to live here 40 years ago, can I come in and look around” I’d close the door on them and probably call 911. Not in Burma!!! We were let in by an elderly woman and her daughter, and we got to look inside. (I felt bad about taking pictures inside because I felt uncomfortable pulling out my camera/phone in the middle of a rando’s house.)

The street that my dad's childhood house is on
The street that my dad’s childhood house is on
People eating breakfast and drinking their morning tea/coffee on the sidewalk
People eating breakfast and drinking their morning tea/coffee on the sidewalk

We don’t have much planned for the rest of the day. We’re going to get massages (WOOO) and pack. Our relatives gave us an entire luggage full of dried food to take back to America. Plus all our souvenirs. It looks like we’re going to need to buy another luggage today…

One more definite stop though. The cafe where we had snacks yesterday was so good, we had to come back again. I’ve reached nirvana.

Avocado smoothie, Domino, durian ice cream, and falooda
Avocado smoothie, Domino, durian ice cream, and falooda
Look how happy we are about our dessert!
Look how happy we are about our dessert!

Since it’s our last full day here, I thought I’d do a bit of reflection on this trip. This has definitely been the most cultural thing I’ve experienced in a while. It’s also the most humbling experience I’ve had, probably in my entire life. Burma is so different from anywhere I’ve ever been before, in so many ways. Going from suburban Los Angeles to the middle of a third world country has made me realize how much I take for granted, and has taught me to appreciate the little things a little bit more – having a loving and supportive family, never having to think about what my next meal will be, and never having to worry about where my next dollar will come from.

All in all, I had an awesome time on this trip. I’d love to come back again someday, though not for at least 3-5 years.

My favorite parts: Shwedagon Pagoda (at night), Bagan, and Inle. And of course, the food!!!

Shwedagon
Shwedagon
Main pagoda of Shwedagon - under construction
Main pagoda of Shwedagon – under construction
No filter on this sunrise pic from Bagan. How can you beat watching the sunrise over a sea of pagodas from the top of a pagoda?
No filter on this sunrise pic from Bagan. How can you beat watching the sunrise over a sea of pagodas from the top of a pagoda?
How is this real.
How is this real.
Boating through Inle
Boating through Inle
Best sunset of this trip
Best sunset of this trip
FALOOOOODA
FALOOOOODA

My least favorite parts: having to put on mosquito repellent every few hours (worth it though because I got 0 mosquito bites! HAH!), going to the bathroom in not-toilets (though my thighs are probably a lot stronger now from all the squatting), and the walk up to Kyaiktiyo on the wet, dirty floors.

I’ve gotten to brush up on my Burmese speaking and Burmese singing (lol, hours and hours and hours of karaoke in the van), and I’ve gotten to put my Burmese reading to good use! I’ve learned a lot of things about Burma, including but not limited to: 1) having a little bit of money will get you very far; 2) people love foreigners, and are shameless about taking pictures of them; 3) people in Burma look younger than I do, which is really saying something; 4) people really really really appreciate and make the most of what they have; 5) no one really cares about material possessions; 6) a lot of people put their money into pagodas via donations… the pagodas are all beautiful.

There are so many beautiful parts to Burma, in addition to the rundown buildings and the bustling cities. Ending my series of blog posts with a couple of pictures that I think represent Burma and everything we saw on this trip.

Typical street in downtown Yangon
Typical street in downtown Yangon
There's a reason Shwedagon is the most famous pagoda out there. This one little shrine is revered by 1/8 of Burma's population!
There’s a reason Shwedagon is the most famous pagoda out there. This one little shrine is revered by 1/8 of Burma’s population!
#blessed
#blessed
Kyaiktiyo!
Kyaiktiyo!
There IS green in Burma!
There IS green in Burma!
Most memorable family vacation to date. Happy happy happy 2015 from the Chin family!!!
Most memorable family vacation to date. Happy happy happy 2015 from the Chin family!!!
1. Travel

Burma (Day 11)

Today is another full day in Yangon. More time to hang out with some relatives. But first, and most important, breakfast.

This is the ultimate Burmese breakfast. မုန့်ဟင်းခါး (fish soup) and Burmese tea.
This is the ultimate Burmese breakfast. မုန့်ဟင်းခါး (fish soup) and Burmese tea.

After lots of comfort food for breakfast, we headed out of our hotel. Today we’re trying to get souvenirs. I don’t think the Burmese souvenirs are typical touristy souvenirs (like magnets and keychains and things) but instead more like little gold pagodas and jade jewelry. How much more will my boss love me when I get him a little jade trinket hah

We first started at Yangon’s Chinatown since there’s a lot to see there: tons of street vendors and corner stores.
Side note: Chinatown is also prime real estate – buying an apartment here starts at over $1 million US dollars. And that’s for a couple of rooms, no garage, and neighbors all up in your space. What on earth. Even renting a place in Yangon’s Chinatown is more than twice what I pay in rent at home…

A building on this street costs $2 million. Holy cow.
A building on this street costs $2 million. Holy cow.
Meat vendor in Chinatown. I don't think I'd ever eat meat off the streets like this...
Meat vendor in Chinatown. I don’t think I’d ever eat meat off the streets like this…
Vegetable vendor in Chinatown
Vegetable vendor in Chinatown
gurl, u mad?
gurl, u mad?
Broom vendor in Chinatown
Broom vendor in Chinatown

Anyway, we stopped by Chinatown to pick up one of our relatives, who’s a gold merchant. He’ll be able to help us pick out good quality jewelry!

We hopped in a taxi over to Scott Market, which we’ve passed many times in Yangon. It’s the main bazaar here. There are tons of stores that sell just about anything – clothes, food, jewelry, artwork, jade bracelets and figurines, Buddha statues, you name it.

Side note about taking taxis here: there’s no concept of a maximum number of passengers. In the US, if you’ve got more than 4 people, they’ll make you take 2 taxis because of seatbelts and whatnot. This doesn’t happen in Burma.
If you’ve got 5 people, then you either squeeze 4 in the backseat and 1 in the front with the driver, OR! you let 3 people sit in the back and have 2 in the passenger seat in front. Desmond and I did this yesterday… it was not comfortable in that passenger seat.
If you’ve got 6 people, then guess what – 2 people can sit in the trunk! The taxis here are mostly stationwagon types, so 2 people can just hop in the trunk. We’ve done this at least 3 different times in Yangon.

Jade shopping at Scott Market hehe
Jade shopping at Scott Market hehe

Anyway, we spent such a long time at Scott Market trying to pick out souvenirs – so long that we actually missed lunch time. Instead, we walked around and looked at all of the different exotic fruits, street vendors, and corner shops.

Rambutan!!!!! do we have these in America idk
Rambutan!!!!! do we have these in America idk
Apparently "melon king" is not the same as "cantaloupe"
Apparently “melon king” is not the same as “cantaloupe”
Still not even sure what this fruit is. It was called a "super melon"
Still not even sure what this fruit is. It was called a “super melon”

We decided to walk back to our hotel. One last look around Yangon’s bustling Chinatown.

One more look around Chinatown
One more look around Chinatown

Tonight’s dinner is our family’s treat to our relatives. We reserved 4 tables at a restaurant by Yangon Harbor – lots of relatives are coming into town, even from outside Yangon, to see us!

Note: meals are always slightly awkward since this is our (mine, Desmond’s, and my dad’s) first time meeting these relatives. Regardless, it’s comforting to know that we have some family abroad. Everyone’s really nice, and the little kids love us!

1. Travel

Burma (Day 10)

Back in Yangon! Wow. Didn’t realize the climate change between Yangon and Mandalay was so drastic. Right when the bus doors opened in Yangon, we could feel all the hot sticky air rushing at us. mmmmm lovely.

Since we got back here early (6 AM), we went back to our hotel in Yangon, changed and freshened up a bit, and then headed out. We are constantly on the move here… there hasn’t been a bunch of time for cleanliness. meh.

Quickish breakfast at Feel (of course), and then Shwedagon Pagoda again!

All mine. Feel has amazing bean parathas (that's the thing at the bottom) and naan with malai (that's the thing in the top right).
All mine. Feel has amazing bean parathas (that’s the thing at the bottom) and naan with malai (that’s the thing in the top right).
Fried everything aww yisss
Fried everything aww yisss

It turns out my hunch last week was correct: Shwedagon Pagoda looks a lot better at night. But I think that might be a temporary thing – the main stupa is under construction right now, and during the day you can see all the construction on the outside. At night you can’t see all the scaffolding and stuff, you just see the gold shining through.

Shwedagon Pagoda during the day. Boo construction. You can kiiind of see the gold peaking through at the top.
Shwedagon Pagoda during the day. Boo construction. You can kiiind of see the gold peaking through at the top.
Inside one of the many temples at Shwedagon
Inside one of the many temples at Shwedagon
The smaller temples and stupas in Shwedagon still look as beautiful as ever
The smaller temples and stupas in Shwedagon still look as beautiful as ever
#blessed at my Friday shrine!
#blessed at my Friday shrine!
Had to get a picture of this little guy... I think it's safe to say I love guinea pigs now, thanks to my Burmese zodiac
Had to get a picture of this little guy… I think it’s safe to say I love guinea pigs now, thanks to my Burmese zodiac
My dad's born on Wednesday morning, and the Wednesday morning animal is an elephant. I'm not the only one who loves their zodiac animal :)
My dad’s born on Wednesday morning, and the Wednesday morning animal is an elephant. I’m not the only one who loves their zodiac animal 🙂
View of Shwedagon's biggest stupa from the Wednesday shrine
View of Shwedagon’s biggest stupa from the Wednesday shrine
In case you ever wondered, monks also have cell phones, and they take a lot of pictures
In case you ever wondered, monks also have cell phones, and they take a lot of pictures
Samantha and I were the only ones who were in a good mood after a red eye bus and no shower
Samantha and I were the only ones who were in a good mood after a red eye bus and no shower
Maybe we're too happy for this
Maybe we’re too happy for this
derp construction
derp construction

After a couple of hours here (even though we’d already been here before, Shwedagon is so massive that it still takes that long to see everything), we were finally able to go back to our hotel and shower. The amount of stickiness and sweatiness and general feeling of meh does not need to be made public on my blog.

We parted ways with Samantha’s family for the rest of the day. Now that we’re back in Yangon, we’re meeting up with my grandma and our distant relatives here. Next stop: lunch with all of the relatives.

This was our transportation. Note my grandma's cousins getting into the back of this truck. 8 of us sat back here. No big deal.
This was our transportation. Note my grandma’s cousins getting into the back of this truck. 8 of us sat back here. No big deal.

After lunch, we headed to one of my relatives’ house so that my mom could socialize and catch up with all of the relatives after over 35 years. It was so nice to be sitting around in an air conditioned room, doing nothing for an afternoon – I feel like we’ve spent the last nine days constantly on the move.

Spent the afternoon in a $500 chair in my relative's house. $500 should get me a big squishy chair...
Spent the afternoon in a $500 chair in my relative’s house. $500 should get me a big squishy chair…

A few hours before dinner (with the same relatives), we headed back out into the city again – this time, to do some exploration and walking around on our own. We walked by the giant Karaweik, which is a huge palace on Kandawgyi Lake in the middle of the city. A Karaweik is some sort of mythical bird, almost like a phoenix.

Karaweik from the other side of Kandawgyi Lake
Karaweik from the other side of Kandawgyi Lake
Walking along Kandawgyi Lake. This was the first place we saw people running in Yangon.
Walking along Kandawgyi Lake. This was the first place we saw people running in Yangon.

We also decided to walk to dinner instead of taking a taxi. Not sure if this was the best idea, since the streets of Yangon aren’t the best – there aren’t sidewalks on any of the smaller streets, and we just don’t know the area at all. But somehow we found our way to the restaurant.

One of the main roundabouts in the city. Thankfully we didn't have to cross over to another side because WHERE ARE THE CROSSWALKS
One of the main roundabouts in the city. Thankfully we didn’t have to cross over to another side because WHERE ARE THE CROSSWALKS
A better view of the sunset as we were walking to dinner. Not nearly as pretty as the sunsets from Bagan or Inle, but I'll take it. On the right you can see Sule Pagoda (we were here on the 3rd day) - its main stupa stands out over the Yangon skyline.
A better view of the sunset as we were walking to dinner. Not nearly as pretty as the sunsets from Bagan or Inle, but I’ll take it. On the right you can see Sule Pagoda (we were here on the 3rd day) – its main stupa stands out over the Yangon skyline.
Western Park Royal is a very famous restaurant and hotel in Yangon - our relatives made special reservations way in advance for us!
Western Park Royal is a very famous restaurant and hotel in Yangon – our relatives made special reservations way in advance for us!

We’re all kind of tired tonight, even though we didn’t do much. It must yesterday’s red eye bus. Can’t wait to get my first night of sleep in Burma without setting an alarm for tomorrow morning!

1. Travel

Burma (Day 9)

Today’s a traveling day: we’re driving back to Mandalay from Inle (which is probably another 5-6 hour trip), and then we’re taking the red eye bus back to Yangon.

All this time in the van is no good. Desmond’s a little sick 😦 the roads are bumpy, we’re pretty dehydrated, and our biological clocks are all sorts of messed up. Hopefully he gets better by the time we get back to Yangon.

Breakfast in the hotel. I think we've eaten fried rice almost every day.
Breakfast in the hotel. I think we’ve eaten fried rice almost every day.

There is one little attraction we stopped at on our way back to Mandalay: a pagoda/cave in the town of Kalaw. This was like a smaller version of the caves at Pindaya, so we didn’t stay here for too long.

At the outside of the caves
At the outside of the caves
We love the patterned pants.
We love the patterned pants.

Other than the pagoda at Kalaw, we made a stop for Burmese tea at a roadside cafe. Burmese tea is to die for, and we haven’t had nearly enough of it. It’s so good because the Burmese drink their tea with condensed milk (the way you should drink tea… cream and sugar does not cut it).

Note to self: buy Burmese tea leaves in Yangon and bring back to America.

All this tea just for us
All this tea just for us
This cow was walking next to the van so we all had to have a picture of it
This cow was walking next to the van so we all had to have a picture of it

Our next stop was for lunch. Surprise, surprise, Feel again. There are Feel restaurants everywhere we go, and we’ve definitely stopped at a Feel close to 10 times now. We’re all gonna thank Auntie Ee so much we get back to Yangon.

The security guard at the restaurant thought my dad was a huge hotshot, and walked him to the van with an umbrella. My dad has never been so amused.
The security guard at the restaurant thought my dad was a huge hotshot, and walked him to the van with an umbrella. My dad has never been so amused.

The rest of the afternoon was spent in the van. zzzzz.

We got back to Mandalay around 5 and headed over to Auntie Wa Wa’s house. She’s my favorite! She and her cooks made dinner for all of us before we had to leave to the bus station. Her specialty is Yunnan cuisine, which is great, because I think we’re all a liiitttle bit tired of Burmese food now.

Auntie Wa Wa's home cooked dinner. YUM EVERYTHING
Auntie Wa Wa’s home cooked dinner. YUM EVERYTHING

That’s all for today. On the red eye bus back to Yangon now – be back in the morning!

1. Travel

Burma (Day 8)

Yesterday we spent so much time in the van. We didn’t get to Pindaya until past dinnertime, but none of us were hungry, so we just checked into our hotel and called it a night.

Sunrise from our hotel in Pindaya
Sunrise from our hotel in Pindaya
A type of ရှမ်းခေါက်ဆွဲ (Shan noodles) for breakfast
A type of ရှမ်းခေါက်ဆွဲ (Shan noodles) for breakfast

After breakfast in our hotel, we set off for Pindaya’s most famous attraction: the Pindaya Caves. These caves have maybe a million Buddha statues. They are actually in every nook and cranny of the caves. It’s a bit overwhelming.

On the up side, not nearly as wet or claustrophobic feeling as the caves we went to in Maymyo. On the down side, I always happen to wear ထဘီ on the days we go to caves -__-

Walking up the entrance. You have to go up a big flight of stairs (or alternatively, take the elevator, which we did not do) before you enter the caves.
Walking up the entrance. You have to go up a big flight of stairs (or alternatively, take the elevator, which we did not do) before you enter the caves.
Buddhas. Everywhere.
Buddhas. Everywhere.
EVERYWHERE
EVERYWHERE
Saw this on the way back toward the car. These guys are 100% not scared of heights...
Saw this on the way back toward the car. These guys are 100% not scared of heights…

After Pindaya, we drove off for Inle! Other than Bagan, Inle is what I’m looking forward to most. Inle’s a pretty big lake in the middle of Burma, and there’s a bunch of stuff that happens on the lake itself. People live in houses on the lake (free standing wooden houses!!! not attached to land or anything!), people have floating markets on the lake, people do leg-rowing on the lake… etc. Lots of culture at the lake.

A pretty cool part about Inle is that you must take a boat to get places. The boats are wooden and powered by engines. Somehow it works.

View from our boat. This is very common - people sell flowers, jewelry, and snacks on boats.
View from our boat. This is very common – people sell flowers, jewelry, and snacks on boats.
Here's the parents' boat with the boat driver in the back. All of us kids are taking pictures of all of the parents taking pictures of us.
Here’s the parents’ boat with the boat driver in the back. All of us kids are taking pictures of all of the parents taking pictures of us.
One legged rowing
One legged rowing
This is a house in the middle of the lake. This is definitely the one that's most on land.
This is a house in the middle of the lake. This is definitely the one that’s most on land.
After 45 minutes, our boat dropped us off here. This is the restaurant where we had lunch! Eating completely over the water.
After 45 minutes, our boat dropped us off here. This is the restaurant where we had lunch! Eating completely over the water.
Typical Shan lunch
Typical Shan lunch

After lunch, we set off in our boat again. We stopped at a couple of touristy looking huts that sold jewelry and gold, a hut where we met some women of the Kayan tribe (they wear the brass neck rings), a hut where we saw silver being forged into jewelry, and of course, a pagoda.

Tons of specialized merchants on Inle - the most common ones sell jewelry, gold, or other trinkets
Tons of specialized merchants on Inle – the most common ones sell jewelry, gold, or other trinkets
There are a few Kayan huts on Inle, and we stopped in one to learn about the Kayan culture
There are a few Kayan huts on Inle, and we stopped in one to learn about the Kayan culture
A Kayan woman at work
A Kayan woman at work
Next stop: pagoda on the lake
Next stop: pagoda on the lake
Family photo at Hpaung Daw U Pagoda
Family photo at Hpaung Daw U Pagoda
We only posed like this because locals were taking pictures of us on the side so we thought we'd stand nicely for them
We only posed like this because locals were taking pictures of us on the side so we thought we’d stand nicely for them

One more stop before we head back to solid land: a lotus weaving hut!

This woman was showing us how to weave using lotus thread - if you look closely you can see the thin white thread. HOW COOL IS THAT
This woman was showing us how to weave using lotus thread – if you look closely you can see the thin white thread. HOW COOL IS THAT
Believe it or not, these robes are all handmade at this hut from the different threads. AMAZING.
Believe it or not, these robes are all handmade at this hut from the different threads. AMAZING.

After the lotus weaving hut, we started our hour-long journey back to land. It was cold in the boat, but! the sun started setting as we set off, so not only did we catch an amazing sunset over the water, we got see the lake during my favorite part of the day: dusk! You could actually see the sun on one side of the sky and the moon on the other. It was beautiful.

Fishermen. Apparently sunset is an awesome time to fish because we saw a bunch of fishermen on our trip back to land.
Fishermen. Apparently sunset is an awesome time to fish because we saw a bunch of fishermen on our trip back to land.
THIS IS A REAL PHOTO when I get home I'm gonna print this on nice photo cardstock and send it to people as a postcard
THIS IS A REAL PHOTO when I get home I’m gonna print this on nice photo cardstock and send it to people as a postcard
bye bye sun
bye bye sun
My favorite part of the day :)
My favorite part of the day 🙂

This trip has made me such a sucker for sunrises and sunsets. When I get home, I’m gonna chase down every sunset I possibly can.

1. Travel

Burma (Day 7)

ERRRRRMAHGERRRD

We woke up at 4 AM to climb the Shwe San Daw Pagoda in the middle of the dark and watch the sunrise. And it was worth every moment. (for us, maybe not so much for our driver who had to get up in the middle of the night to drive us…)

We actually got there early, so we kind of waited around in the dark for a while. But it was probably better that we got there when we did, because the upper terraces of Shwe San Daw were PACKED by the time the sun came up, filled with tourists and locals alike. We started seeing light around 5, and the sky slowly slowly slowly started turning orange. But the sun didn’t actually come up until 6 something! We were in the same spots for over 2 hours.

I myself have almost 100 photos from this Bagan sunrise, but I’ll limit myself to about 10 pics here. My parents and Desmond also took at least 100 each. Ridiculous. Desmond also took an AMAZING timelapse on his phone but I don’t think I can post it on here 😦

One of the main attractions at Bagan is the hot air balloons. Apparently you need to make reservations to ride them months in advance, because space fills up fast. Imagine flying over a sea of thousands of pagodas in a hot air balloon as the sun rises. I bet Beyonce did that when she was here. Hmph. Hot air balloons are definitely on the agenda the next time I come to Bagan.

This is a real thing.
This is a real thing.
How is this real.
How is this real.
The pagoda that looks like it's glowing on the left is Ananda Pagoda (for later this morning). The lights are on at night, so in the dark, it's a beautiful gold glow.
The pagoda that looks like it’s glowing on the left is Ananda Pagoda (for later this morning). The lights are on at night, so in the dark, it’s a beautiful gold glow.
First glimpse of the sun! So orange. Also, pagodas literally everywhere.
First glimpse of the sun! So orange. Also, pagodas literally everywhere.
HOT AIR BALLOONS
HOT AIR BALLOONS
The silhouette of the hot air balloons and the pagodas is unreal
The silhouette of the hot air balloons and the pagodas is unreal
*__*
*__*
*cue opening song of The Lion King*
*cue opening song of The Lion King*
A view of Thatbyinnyu Temple from another side of the terrace (also for later today)
A view of Thatbyinnyu Temple from another side of the terrace (also for later today)
This is the only picture I have of Shwesandaw, and it's only of the very top. It was actually a pretty pagoda, we were all just too preoccupied with the hot air balloons and the sunrise.
This is the only picture I have of Shwe San Daw, and it’s only of the very top. It was actually a pretty pagoda, we were all just too preoccupied with the hot air balloons and the sunrise.
Bye bye balloon
Bye bye balloon

After much satisfaction (and difficulty weaving through the remaining sunrise-watchers), we drove back to the hotel and had breakfast, then got back on the road for a few more pagodas.

Lawkananda Pagoda (Melanie’s pronunciation: Lakwonda Pagoda) is another gold pagoda on the bank of the Irrawaddy River.

Lawkananda Pagoda
Lawkananda Pagoda

We also stopped in at Manuha Pagoda, which has a huge reclining Buddha (except I didn’t get any pictures of it, woops).

The time we all bought patterned flowy pants and wore them to Manuha Pagoda together. Things like this are probably why we stand out as tourists everywhere...
The time we all bought patterned flowy pants and wore them to Manuha Pagoda together. Things like this are probably why we stand out as tourists everywhere…

Thatbyinnyu Pagoda was next. It looks so much like Gawdawpalin Pagoda from yesterday, I thought we were there again. Thatbyinnyu Pagoda has a bunch of hallways that you can walk through, and a bunch of Buddha statues in each hallway.

Thatbyinnyu Pagoda. We saw this one from the top of Shwe San Daw this morning.
Thatbyinnyu Pagoda. We saw this one from the top of Shwe San Daw this morning.

Next up: Ananda Pagoda, which I think might be the biggest pagoda in Bagan. It was definitely the most packed. There are four HUGE Buddhas inside, each standing in a different state of nirvana. There are hallways between the Buddhas, and in each hallway are hundreds (thousands?) of paintings and frescoes, each with their own statues of Buddha.

The outside of Ananda Pagoda
The outside of Ananda Pagoda
Frescoes inside Ananda Pagoda
Frescoes inside Ananda Pagoda

And last, Alodaw Pyi Pagoda. I got yelled at here for trying to take a picture on the steps of the pagoda… adding this to the list of places that women aren’t allowed to be -__-

Alodaw Pyi Pagoda (alo daw pyi means fulfilling all wishes!)
Alodaw Pyi Pagoda (alo daw pyi means fulfilling all wishes!)

aaaaand with that, our time in Bagan is done 😦 Originally we were supposed to be here for two nights, but our plans changed. I definitely need to come back here. Of the thousands of pagodas in Bagan, there are about 20 that are famous, must-see ones, and we only got to about 10! Boo. Next time I’ll come back and rent a little scooter and go see as many of the pagodas as I can.

We’re going to stop in for lunch somewhere, but we’re now on the road for the rest of the day. It’s a 6 hour drive to our next destination, Pindaya, so once we get there, it’ll be time for hotel and sleep.

For now, 6 hours of reading, napping, looking at photos, and singing Burmese karaoke in the van. WOOOOO

1. Travel

Burma (Day 6)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

Started the new year with ပလာတာ (palatha – like Indian paratha) and နံပြား (nambia – like Indian naan) for breakfast – lalalalala so good.

ပလာတာ (paratha)!! The one on the left is with sugar, and the one on the right is with bean. Both amaze. Both also were for me.
ပလာတာ (paratha)!! The one on the left is with sugar, and the one on the right is with bean. Both amaze. Both also were for me.
Men making အီကြာ‌ကွေး (Chinese fried dough) muahahaha yum
Men making အီကြာ‌ကွေး (Chinese fried dough) muahahaha yum

In good spirits, we set off for Mount Popa, which is a volcano that’s full of monkeys. This place was cool. Also heartracing… lots of little monkeys jumping on everything and stealing flowers and food. It was a bit of a trek to the top (shoeless once again, sigh my dirty feet) but the view at the top was well worth it.

Mt. Popa is the weirdly shaped hill on the right. We're going all the way to the top to - yup you guessed it - the pagoda up there.
Mt. Popa is the weirdly shaped hill on the right. We’re going all the way to the top to – yup you guessed it – the pagoda up there.
Monkeys hanging out by our car. Completely normal behavior.
Monkeys hanging out by our car. Completely normal behavior.
This little dude just stole these flowers from a little girl on the side...
This little dude just stole these flowers from a little girl on the side…
View from the top! This isn't the pretty side
View from the top! This isn’t the pretty side
THIS is the pretty side
THIS is the pretty side
Desmond channeling his inner Rose... too bad he ain't got no Jack
Desmond channeling his inner Rose… too bad he ain’t got no Jack
The standard Burmese model pose
The standard Burmese model pose
Happy new year from the Chin cousins!
Happy new year from the Chin cousins!
Caught.
Caught.
Scratching that ass.
Scratching that ass.

After a bit of time at Mt. Popa, we set off for the part of the trip I’ve been looking forward to the most! Bagan has been on my list of places to visit for…ever. Every single picture I’ve seen of Bagan is BEAUTIFUL – ancient pagodas as far as the eye can see. Side note: it turns out Beyoncé was in Bagan yesterday hnnnggg how did we miss her -__-

On the hour-long drive to Bagan, we stopped for some fruits.

bouta get all fruit ninja up in here
bouta get all fruit ninja up in here
LOOK HOW TINY THIS BANANA IS
LOOK HOW TINY THIS BANANA IS
This is the real reason we stopped at this fruit stand. The parents all LOVE this stuff. We don't have this fruit in America! It's called a custard apple and it rocks. Too bad you can't bring fruits back to the US...
This is the real reason we stopped at this fruit stand. The parents all LOVE this stuff. We don’t have this fruit in America! It’s called a custard apple and it rocks. Too bad you can’t bring fruits back to the US…

We have arrived in Bagan!!! The first pagoda we visited was the Shwezigon Pagoda, which is so pretty. One of my favorites so far. It’s got a huge gold stupa in the center (unlike most of Bagan’s other pagodas, which are brick) and a bunch of smaller gold stupas. My favorite part is this cool little area where you can see the reflection of the entire pagoda from a puddle.

Shwezigon is BEAUTIFUL. Note: the little shrine in the front of this corner is the shrine for Tuesday. All 8 days are arranged around the pagoda like this.
Shwezigon is BEAUTIFUL. Note: the little shrine in the front of this corner is the shrine for Tuesday. All 8 days are arranged around the pagoda like this.
This is at the shrine for my day of the week, Friday. I definitely have the cutest animal in the Burmese zodiac. LOOK HOW LOVABLE THIS GUINEA PIG IS.
This is at the shrine for my day of the week, Friday. I definitely have the cutest animal in the Burmese zodiac. LOOK HOW LOVABLE THIS GUINEA PIG IS.
These gold leaf trees were surrounding the entire pagoda
These gold leaf trees were surrounding the entire pagoda
how. awesome. is this. reflection.
how. awesome. is this. reflection.
The puddle is actually really small! It's probably about 6 inches wide.
The puddle is actually really small! It’s probably about 6 inches wide.
I can't get over how beautiful this pagoda is. Here's another corner - check the guardian ခြင်္သေ့ in the corner.
I can’t get over how beautiful this pagoda is. Here’s another side – check the guardian ခြင်္သေ့ in the corner.
Lone monk praying in another part of the pagoda
Lone monk praying in another part of the pagoda

We visited a couple more: Htilominlo Pagoda and Gawdawpalin Pagoda. We didn’t stay too long at either of these, but they’re both huge attractions in Bagan.

Htilominlo Pagoda - classic Bagan brick pagoda
Htilominlo Pagoda – classic Bagan brick pagoda
Vendors at the entrance of Htilominlo
Vendors at the entrance of Htilominlo
Gawdawpalin Pagoda
Gawdawpalin Pagoda
So much symmetry at Gawdawpalin it's so beautiful
So much symmetry at Gawdawpalin it’s so beautiful

To close off our new year: watching the sun set over the Irrawaddy River from the top of another pagoda.

Bupaya Pagoda. It's so cute!
Bupaya Pagoda. It’s so cute!
Climbed down to the terrace below Bupaya for the sunset. Happy New Year from the Chins!
Climbed down to the terrace below Bupaya for the sunset. Happy New Year from the Chins!
wao
wao sunset at Bupaya over the Irrawaddy River

Grabbed a quick dinner and checked in to our hotel for the night – early rise tomorrow morning.

This is the extent of our New Years turn up
This is the extent of our New Years turn up

Today has been so different from my past few New Years – lots and lots of culture and history and beauty!