Burma (Myanmar): First Impressions

travel to myanmar
Shwedaggon Pagoda in Yangon

After 19 days in Myanmar, I’ve managed to access my site at an internet cafe in Bagan. Blogger-hosted sites are firmly blocked throughout the country, and ironically my ability to update now is the direct result of routing access to the net via Saudi Arabia.

Initial Thoughts about Travel to Myanmar

Truthfully, I’m not quite sure where to start with travel to Myanmar. I’ve got a huge, swirling mass of memories to sift through, and more to be added in the remainder of my time here. Without question, my weeks in this country have been more than magical.

I’ve taken a rickety, bumpy overnight train to the northern city of Myitkyina to attend a huge Kachin State Fair (in attendance: thousands and thousands of Kachin from around the world, and approximately 2 dozen tourists), where professional photographers took pictures of us tourists with the locals, for the locals to purchase later. A reverse-fishbowl experience!

From there, a leisurely boat ride down the Ayeyarwaddy to Sinbo, and then a more adventurous leg to Bhamo where our boat broke down (twice) and we ended up stranded on the river at dusk, with no boats in sight to rescue us. Bonus: I now know the Burmese word for help.

For optimal solar-eclipse viewage, I then took a 2 night slow-ferry back to Mandalay that included a serious karaoke-off with the captain (in English and Burmese!) and shots of bamboo whiskey with the crew.

And I’m presently living glorious, bicycle-and-temple filled days exploring the thousands of stupas nestled into Myanmar’s central plains. I am overwhelmed by the beauty of Bagan’s ruins, with each turn yielding a new temple with its own colourful frescos, gilded Buddhas and crumbling stones to discover. These events are merely highlights, and the time and distance between them is replete with even more adventures, tasty food (and, sadly, food poisoning) and smile-inducing thoughts.

In my months of travel, I’ve met several people who urged me to visit this country, with an urgency that was somewhat alarming. I had to go and I had to stay as long as possible. When asked why, the response was always the same: I cannot explain it, you just need to go. And they were right. Two days into my trip here, I already knew that I would be overstaying my visa. 19 days in, I’ve extended my time by two weeks to stay through February 14th.

While I hoped to upload some pictures in lieu of using words – words do not adequately do justice to this amazing place – my connection is too slow and Blogger refuses to cooperate. So words it is! I will try and access the blog again from Yangon, but if it remains blocked, this might be the last post for the next few weeks.

Thanks for all the comments, tweets and enthusiasm. Much more to come later on in February.


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