Myanmar, monks and mingala

The god of small things, buddhas of gold and wide open smiles, Burma is beautiful.

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On Inle lake in central Myanmar bamboo speed bumps on river inlets slow you down past monasteries, reeds of mud create dams instead of locks, with space for your long boat to speed slightly uphill or waterfall downwards. Stupas in various stages of age, repair, decoration and hues mingle together forming a landscape somewhere between Indiana Jones and Star Wars. whilst monks smile, watch and sometimes even play football, in their orange robes.

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Placid and well behaved dogs and cats reign the streets, and I wonder if their behaviour reflects their pack leader locals, who are so calm and easy going, they are certainly the least aggressive street dogs I’ve seen on my travels. Betel nut is still a major thing, not the best of habits, but then neither is smoking, each to their own I guess. Rum sour is my tipple of choice, fresh local limes, Myanmar rum and a bit of soda/lemonade, delicious and about $1.50, and better for me than a chards I’m sure!!

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Rangon is in a traffic snarled, pavement ripping early stage of redevelopment with hopes for heritage and a need for town planning. The day we arrived was a public holiday and luckily emptied the city of major traffic; an exception. Our usual walking was still possible, a little chaotic through markets, uneven pavements, gutters, building sites and random 5 lane highways.

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Watching the sunset on the terrace of ‘Junior Duck’ chinese restaurant, right on the Ayerwaddy river, was spectacular, and the prawns wrapped in crisps were pretty tasty too. Friday happy hour at the posh strand hotel with a view of the Australian embassy from our bar seats was the closest we managed to Kiplingesque.

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The tourist industry is easy for the independent traveller around the usual spots and does not have to be expensive. Someone caught onto the need for ATMs and they are now literally everywhere, I quite often expect to see one in a bathroom when washing my hands. Cash is very much the go unless you stay in posh places so they are pretty useful to have around, card payments are rare. This is peak season and there are still rooms spare, walking up to book is easy, and the last version of Lonely Planet is so out of date, there’s always somewhere new, so despite what I read about having to book in advance, I think it really only applies to high end places generally.

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After a night sleeping next to what sounded like a waterfall combined with a laundromat in our local hotel, we’ve moved rooms, hired electric bikes, caffeine and are starting to settle into the wonder that is Bagan.

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We chose the slow meander with e-bikes over 3 full days without a map and it worked for us, early morning sunrises and sunset rush hours were spectacular. We weren’t organised enough to get onto a balloon however looking at them all set off from the top of a temple was awesome.

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On the road to Mandalay we were lucky enough to get a stunning boat with only 10 of us, fabulous feeds, space all to ourselves on the upper deck and lovely sunrise views. It’s a long journey and reading in a deckchair watching the Ayarwaddy roll by is wonderful.

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We finished our journey around Myanmar in Mandalay by climbing thousands of steps up the hill passing many gold and disco encased buddhas on the way up and white stupas on the way down, just mitico.

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