It’s been more than 1 year since I first came to Myanmar, but until now, I still have not yet escaped from the drunk got from the tour. I love Burma in a selfish way that I want that love, that feeling, that impression and memories are kept for myself without revealing to anyone. Sometimes, in a quiet day, I will find a peaceful corner to sit and enjoy those feelings again, alone and feel the peace in my trip to Myanmar.
Yangon – the city of contrast colored patches and accidental encounters in trip to Myanmar
I arrived in Yangon in a sleepy feeling after one night in the airport of Bangkok, waiting for the transferring flight to Yangon. Getting off from the plane, Yangon welcomed me with the harsh heat of sunshine. Burma is in its peak hot season in April and May with the average temperature of 45 degrees Celsius, sometimes, it may reach the number of 48 degrees. The heat in this country is also strange which comes into the body and burn out from inside in a constrained way.
I booked a room at Motherland Inn in advance through the internet and the hostel sent a little old bus which cannot be shabbier than that to pick up visitors at the airport. Leaving the airport, the bus turned into a small dirt trail with lots of gravels which makes the bus travel with very interesting sounds from the loosing crews and bolts.
Yangon is one of the rare places I have been to with the very contrast pieces of colors. In this city, motorbike is banned to use, so the very rich people have their luxury cars, the average people can be affluent enough to have an old car which can be found only at the car landfill like the one picking me up at the airport. The other people have to cram in the crowded public bus in an unbelievable way every day.
In Yangon, you may walk across the area of ancient department buildings with their walls in black with soot and the dirty children faces seen from the dark windows one minute before. You then will be surprised by the majestic villas and palaces with pretty surrounding fences and green garden with lush trees.
In Yangon, electricity is a luxury item which can be available only around 6 hours every day from evening to night. The hostel I stayed has an electricity generator, but is not capable enough to run the fridge, but just the little fan to operate weakly. The common experience for tourists at night is to find a chair to sit on the roadsides to talk to each other with some bottles of famous Mandalay beer which are just a bit cold after a days of marinated in ice. And that first night in Yangon, I met James, a British friend who decided to go with me for the next journey in the 10 – day – tour discovering the further areas of Burma after some talks between us.
2. Bagan – the new dawn horse hoof and the serene prayer words in morning in trip to Myanmar
After the 12 hours journey from Yangon, I and James arrived in Bagan in the early morning the next day. The unique mean of transport at the park is not bus, taxi or motorbike driver but horse wagon. Get on the wagon, we moved to the hostel with a bunch of luggage and made an appointment with the horse wagon boy to pick us up later.
My first thing to do was asking James to go with me to the market to buy a longyi, which is the traditional cloth of the people in Burma. I chose carefully 1 set and James also imitated to buy one. We dressed up with longyi and get on the horse wagon to visit the temples. James was so excited and said to me that was the very first time she wear a dress without being joked or cheated by others.
The horse wagon boy took us to the first temple where we met with a family of the artists specializing in painting by sand on the thin white fabric. Saw that we are coming, the family stood up to get the road for us. One of them also helped us to light all the corners so that we can see everything clearly.
The temples in Bagan are often made of red clay brick where large Buddhist statues are worshiped inside. After helping us to watch for the temple, the family invited us to sit down and started to explain about the meanings of these sacred temples. They invited us with the fragrance cups of tea and also a special dish of the Burma which is the salad mixed between peanut and different kinds of vegetable. They were so friendly and enthusiastic that made me shy whenever I think of my first suspicion on them.
At 5 am the next morning, the horse wagon boy was waiting for us in front of my room to wake us up to admire the sunset. Without him, I might miss the chance to see the sunset due to the dreams. The morning in Bagan was so gorgeous with wonderful fresh and cool climate. The single sound of horse hoof taking us back to the vast and sacred temple area. More special, the sound of the prayer resounded from the speaker hung on the high trees make the space more sacred and peaceful. On the ground, the quiet ancient temples have not yet waken up in the layer of dew. It is true to say that I have never found so much peace on the surrounding space like that in my life.
3. Inle Lake – release the life to the water currents in my trip to Myanmar
Inle Lake is located inside Shan Hill which is the living place for many different ethnic groups. Arrive in the attraction, we decided to hire a boat to visit around the lake. The boat port is not far from our hostel which takes just 10 minutes to walk where hundreds of boats scattered along the shores in low season. At 12.00 a.m, the sunshine is strong which shine to the water creating the giant silver mirror. The water of Inle Lake is so translucent that we can see bunches of seaweed in green under water. The deeper we moved to the lake, the more little wooden boats can we see on the lake as well as the local fishermen with their unique ways of rowing the boat on 1 foot while their two hands releasing the net.
We begged our boat rower to take us to buy cigar on Inle Lake Myanmar as I’ve heard that it is a famous product here. We then paid a visit to a local cigar making workshop on the lake where I was overwhelmed by the fragrance of the cigar. The host of the house was so friendly to greet us and invite us with a cigar and help us to fire the cigar. While we were enjoying the cigar, she introduced and explained about the cigar of Inle Lake. A cigar is as large as a normal cigarette which is the mixture of tobacco, tamarind, honey, banana, wine, salt, and sugar rolled by tobacco leave grown on the mountain nearby. Having this cigar, you will find the pleasant fragrance and the sweet taste on your tongue.
After a talk, we were then invited to have a cup of tea. The lake is airy and cool in the evening. I sat there admiring the boats travelling on the lake and talking to the host family. They have a shy son who are so timid that just stealthily looked at the visitors and turned his eyes away immediately. That moment shall be the great time that I will never forget when I was immersed into the simple and rustic stories of the local, the smiles, the fragrance of tea, the smoke of sweet cigar.
The next day, we hired 2 bikes to freely discover the land on our own. After more than 1 hour of riding, walking and relaxing, we got lost into a village where the red color of costumes appeared everywhere. The village is the living place of the old monks and also the place where young monks are learning and practicing. There are two large caves located deeply in the mountain which is the worshiping place foe Buddhist.
We walked along the trail winding through the hillside to find the cave. At the entrance of the cave, we met with an old monk living on the little house on the side of the cave. Saw us from a distance, he got his flashlight and guided us to the cave. The rock cave is dark which we could not move without the flashlight. The cold feelings appeared from the dark and the rocks that made us nervous but excited. After the interesting trip discovering the cave, he asked us to visit his house for cups of tea. He said nothing when we arrived his house, but asked us to have foods and drinks while he stared outside to the hills in a distance. We also did not talk so much but sitting side by side and felt the time passing. It was such a special evening which left me with various feelings.
On the flight leaving Burma, while seeing the smaller and smaller land lots under the wings of the plane, I was thinking about the words I need to talk about Burma, about my trip to Myanmar to my friends; about the emaciated trails full of dirt along the country; about the sound of prayer every morning resounded from the quiet space of Bagan in a new dawn or the yellow sunshine on the ancient temples in the evening; the sound of horse hoof on the small roads taking me to see the sunrise on a new morning. How can I talk to you about the kind, gentle and friendly locals with their intimate greeting of “Mingalabar”; the people who are pretty in longyi with the charming smiles? In the last night, I dreamed of Burma once again.