I am often asked to name my favourite place out of everywhere I have travelled to. And it never gets any easier. I have loved pretty much every place for wildly different reasons. And yet, if pushed, I would have to say that it’s a toss up between two places. Thailand – the place that stole my heart. And Burma – the place that nearly stole it back.
My obsession with Burma started years ago. Way back when I got my very first smartphone. I downloaded a free National Geographic app called ‘Dreams of Burma’, which contained a very long and beautiful collection of photographs from around the country (unfortunately not available anymore). At that time I knew nothing of Burma, its history, its culture or even its location. And yet, after seeing just a few photos, I desperately wanted to go. It seemed so exotic to me. So untouched and different from anywhere else I had seen or heard of. Burma was immediately promoted to the very top of my bucket list.
These days Burma is not quite so untouched. It is, in fact, very firmly on the travel radar. Whilst I was in Yangon, I even *sob* saw a KFC being built. But its pretty much as close to untouched as you will get in this part of the World.
My first stop was Mandalay, a city in the Northern part of the country. As cities go, this one is about as uninspiring as they get – hot dusty streets, lined with rows of small square buildings. And yet, from the second I touched down I was already captivated. The food was unexpectedly delicious, the locals more than outnumbered tourists and everybody was so unbelievably friendly and curious about where I was from and why I wanted to visit their country.
Over the next couple of weeks I would travel from Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw to Bagan to Inle Lake and finally, to Yangon. And my love for Burma would never falter. It truly is an amazing country. And seeing as I have only had chance to see such a small portion of it, I have a feeling that it will be back on the travel list at some point very soon 😉
Until then, here are my absolute favourite photos from my two weeks spent travelling around that incredible country. Hopefully these will inspire you to add Burma to your list too.
The climb up Mandalay Hill is a beautiful one, past large halls filled with inscriptions like these
Every hostel and tour operator in Mandalay will try to sell you the ‘three ancient cities’ tour, which includes a trip around Amarapura, Sagaing and Inwa. My favourite part of the day was visiting this monastery in Amarapura, just as the monks and novices were lining up for lunch.
The temples in Myanmar are a bit different to those found in other parts of Southeast Asia. They are all bathed in gold and a bit more garish. But still beautiful.
This waterfall in Pyin Oo Lwin could only be reached by a very steep climb down and another steep climb back up again. But it was well worth it (although the water was a bit cold). The tiny people you can see there are monks, bathing in the pools at the bottom of the waterfall.
Taken at the train station in Pyin Oo Lwin whilst I was waiting to board for the seven hour train journey to Hsipaw.
I barely noticed how long the train journey was with views like this going on outside the window.
And it wasn’t just spectacular views – the train from Pyin Oo Lwin to Hsipaw took us through small villages and past farms full of people working in the fields.
Hsipaw was a gorgeous little town – small but busy and full of character
This beautiful monastery in Hsipaw was entirely made from teak
This temple was in Hsipaw, in an area aptly named ‘Little Bagan’
One of the things I loved the most about Burma was how friendly and welcoming the people were. This is one of my favourite photos because it reminds me of that. Whilst I was walking around Hsipaw one day a little girl saw me and ran up to me just to give me this flower.
This photo was taken from the top of the tower in Bagan. Its a bit controversial as its the only viewing point in Bagan that you have to pay to enter and the money goes to the Government and not the locals. For that reason I was reluctant to go. However, one of the guys in our group really wanted to visit so I agreed to go along. I must admit, the views were incredible. But I’m not sure how I felt about this five star resort that had just opened up next door.
I was so pleased when these two monks agreed to pose for my photo
Cattle being herded through the plains of Bagan
Inle Lake was my next stop. A quaint and relaxing place where entire lives are lived out on water in floating villages, markets, temples and schools
On one of our boat trips around Inle Lake we stopped at a gift shop. This woman was a member of the ‘long-necked’ community where the women place heavy brass rings around their necks to push down their collarbones and make their necks appear elongated. If you look closely you can see a few rings around this young girl’s neck.
This was a cigar ‘factory’ and these two women were making cigars with surprising speed
Another stop on our boat tour – an umbrella workshop.
The famous Shewadagon Pagoda in Yangon
My lasting memory of Yangon was – RAIN! Lots of it. Although it was rainy season, I hadn’t quite expected it to pour with the ferocity and intensity that it actually did. Long, heavy downpours at regular intervals throughout the day.
I leave you with the very last photo I ever took in Burma. Yangon of course – you can tell by the rain!
What’s coming up?
I’m currently in the process of writing my first of many road trip series to come. This one is about my road trip around Borneo’s Sabah state and will be spread over a number of weeks. Stay tuned for tales of long deserted roads, getting lost, nearly running out of petrol in the middle of nowhere and seeing Orangutans, Crocodiles and Pygmy Elephants. And many more gorgeous photos.
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