Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Creepy" trucks (by L.)

These are what we call 'creepy trucks'. They are trucks without hoods, with tractor engines. They are noisy and very common in Nyaung Shwe, Myanmar.

Bagan: some oohing and aahing and just a few travel tips

On the plains of Bagan, Myanmar, in an area almost exactly the same size as the island of Saipan, are the ruins of over 10,000 Buddhist temples constructed during the heyday of the Kingdom of Pagan of the 11th to 13th century.  Numbers vary, but it is estimated that several thousand of the original structures are still standing, in varying states of integrity.  The area is still under consideration for classification as one of UNESCO's World Heritage sites

As seen from the air, it is just spectacular [click on that link--my photo just doesn't do it justice]: 

Tourists are not allowed to operate motorcycles there so the transportation options are to rent a private car and driver for a few hours (we did that one morning--3hrs for 15,000K), to rent bicycles (we did that too: 1,000K/day), or to rent Chinese-made electric bikes called "E-bikes", which are one step down from a scooter in vroom (=less power and much less noise---12,000K for two for 8 hrs).  

It turned out that all five of us could fit on two of them so that's what we did most of the time.

[this is so safe]
fresh-squeezed juices and lassis available everywhere you go,
 just one more thing to love about Bagan

you can't go anywhere without catching glimpses of temples through
the foliage

Once the rainy season is past, it is very dry and dusty in Bagan in November.  The sand is deep on the unpaved roads, and on some of the paved ones, too.  We figured it was better than mud, though, as far as vehicles are concerned.  And personally, I loved the dryness.  It made for cool evenings and mornings (almost chilly in the morning!) and not-too-warm days where you feel just fine in the shade.  My favorite.  

The colder mornings also provide ideal conditions for hot air ballooning and for a mere $350/person, you can do that.  We passed, and went to a tall viewing tower by the golf course instead ($5), but later some fellow tourists told us that they felt it had been worth every penny.

sunset on the Ayaryawaddy river

you can climb all over some of the ruins, as long as you remove your shoes first--
the kids LOVED this part

We stayed at the Thante Hotel in Nyaung U which was wonderful.  I would highly recommend it, if only for the breakfast in the garden (included in the price) and the pool.  But the service was excellent there, too, and we had not found that to be the case everywhere we stayed.

And now for the mandatory sunset shots:

We ended up sticking around and staying an extra two nights in Bagan because it was just so much fun, and so beautiful and relaxing, and because we just thought it was so cool to be there.

This place is definitely worth traveling across the planet to visit.  For sure.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Animals in Chiang Mai

We went to the Chiang Mai Zoo
we, along with a few hundred other people, all crammed in to
watch the sea lion show

the zoo is extremely pleasant to walk around,
very shaded and not too hot
feeding the coi with a baby bottle
Look!  The cat has a purse!  And a mustache!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

Taking a look around from a cab in Yangon, there are moments when you have to remind yourself that you are not in India.  The traffic flows and roadside food stalls are reminiscent (though not nearly as crowded) as are the remnants of the British colonial era. 

Like the "Strand Hotel" which is a nice place to go for a cool drink,
even if the rooms are too far out of range of one's travel budget
The street-side food and tea stalls have miniature plastic tables and chairs.  

Probably the site that is most worth visiting in the city is Shwedagon Pagoda which is no doubt as magnificent at night as in the daytime...IF it weren't under scaffolding.
That was awfully disappointing for us.  We hear that usually it is just about impossible to walk around the complex without sunglasses on a bright day like the one we had for our visit.

so much gold!!


Some monks on their day off showed us around the Pagoda, and then we visited over lunch later
BR really got into the map thing.  

he took charge and led the way
Later we found this park (also a remnant of the days of British rule) which offers a beautiful sunset view of the Pagoda across a lake.

floating pagoda at Kandawgyi Lake

just how old is this bus, do you think??
The Cathedral in Yangon was revving up for a "500 year Jubilee celebration."  The building itself was built in the early 1900's so presumably it was 500 years of Christian presence in Myanmar that were being celebrated (though they claim that there are frescoes of crosses in Bagan from the 12th or 13th century and so the legacy is perhaps even longer). 

St. Mary's Cathedral

They didn't allow photography inside the church which is a shame: the colored brick pattern was uniquely eye-popping and unlike any I have ever seen.  They used forest green, orange, turquoise, yellow and white!


We took the kids to a little amusement park one afternoon.  At first I thought this was a spelling error and they meant "drink" house, but was one of the attractions:

glow-in-the-dark spiral patterns, sloping floors and just plain odd decor
 seemed to be the uniting theme of the Drunk House

(Obama might have shown up in the drunk house,
but Jesus was in their "house of horrors.")