Wednesday, February 26, 2014


In Myanmar, Ace and I went to Mandalay and Bagan before heading back to Yangon for Tom and Yupar's Wedding. After, we went to the Beach in Ngapali. 

Things in Myanmar were pretty cheap and affordable. Yangon has undergone a large amount of rapid development in the past 3 years. According to Tom, many of the roads were newly paved and many of the cars were recently imported from mostly Japan. Many people can understand some bit of English so it made the travel easier.
To start our mini tour of Myanmar, we took an 8 hr bus ride to Mandalay in a luxury brand new coach bus called JJ Express a private company. It was quite affordable and cheaper than the train. Like most developing countries, we had some taxi drama. To get downtown from the bus station, we needed a taxi. Of course when we finally got one, the driver drives a few feet, parks on the side and then disappears for a good 5 minutes. Ace is wondering what happened, I'm thinking he probably went for a newspaper or tea. In actuality, he comes back with a trainee driver who takes us about 1/4 of the way, before they stop and switch because the newer driver can't quite how to handle city level traffic. That's how new traffic is here in Myanmar... Many people did not have cars or motorbikes prior to 2011!

Mandalay is dusty and developing. Compared to Yangon, most people transit in Mandalay by motorbike and trucks and not cars. This busy city in the north has far fewer lights at night and has a way to go before matching Yangon's level of modernization. Internet is everywhere albeit slow.

In Mandalay, we were treated like royalty by the owner of the Smart Hotel; he provided a private driver which took us around to the sights for only 37 USD for entire day. Places we visited included a gold foil making shop, a jade marketplace, a marble cutting workshop, an antique shop and the longest Teak bridge in the world.

We took the overnight train from Mandalay to Bagan, which was owned and operated by the government. It was actually more expensive and slower than the JJ Express luxury bus. The train appeared not to have been updated since the 1940s (British Era, when Burma was formerly known as East India). Seats were made of green steel and the windows were perforated steel shutters. It was an exceptionally bouncy ride with the windows open for most of the night. It was truly an experience but definitely not worth repeating. The good part is that we got the local experience and shared seats with a few nice ladies carting their goods intercity. 

In Bagan, we visited the many temples and pagodas, as well as temple on the top of a hill. We stayed in Nyang-u which is actually not very developed, and was more rural than either Mandalay or Yangon. Despite being a tourist trap, the streets actually felt more authentic and covered with greenery. Since we were self guided for most of the time, we found joy in learning from our local guides who were children hanging around the temples selling post cards. There are nearly 4000 temples and pagodas here and a person can spend a lifetime exploring. One amazing temple was build in 7 months and 7 days and dated back to the year 1141AD. The original teak wood doors for some of the buildings were still intact. The engineering and architectural ability of the people at the time was quite amazing.

In Ngapali, we spent our time at the very nice white sandy beach and turquoise waters with plenty of small colorful fish. There was hardly anybody on the beach and it was quite undiscovered, unlikely Thailand where many of the beaches are overcrowded with tourists. There are many resorts that are being built nearby and so we think it will become crowded with tourists within the next 5 years.

I am sure Bill and Aryn will have plenty of stories and photos to share about Tom and Yupar's wedding, which was very lovely indeed. Aunt Diana was missing a complete outfit the day before so I went shopping with her in the local markets. She really wanted something peach and nothing quite looked right, but I spotted an excellent tailor in the Scott's Market and encouraged her to have a custom tailored dress made. We were in luck - the tailor girl not only had expertise in making dresses but she was also a sewing teacher. She designed and made a well fit lace dress for Aunt Diana within 18 hrs, just in the nick of time for the wedding. 

Since we last saw Bill and Aryn in Myanmar, we've been in Hong Kong, recovering from the Burmese food poisoning and a bit of fever. Myanmar has a very hot tropical climate, and can be quite uncomfortable. Ace liked Hong Kong for its cooler weather, very much like San Francisco, and for the high quality international cuisine, the first class comfort, and the hiking (lots of small mountains) immediately outside the city. 

Now we are in Shanghai for a few days. We are staying near East Nanjing Lu (the Shanghai equivalent to Times Square in NYC but much cleaner) in a lovely hotel that has a giant goldfish tank. Today we went on a dumpling food tour. Tomorrow we are going to see the Acrobatics show. On Friday, Ace flies to Osaka to visit Jen for a week while I go back to Hong Kong and to the office for a bit of work.

More Photos here:

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