I kicked off my SE Asia trip with THE country that I’ve always always always wanted to go to: MYANMAR! It took two long layovers in Beijing and Thailand before getting there and basically 48 hours of ZERO sleep but when I finally landed in Mandalay, I was happy as could be!
Mid-July, we arrived in Mandalay from Bangkok with AirAsia. The first thing we noticed when we got off the plane was how fricken HOT it was. Coming from Vancouver where temperatures rarely ever exceed 30 degrees C, this was a huge shock to my system. Honestly, for the first couple hours, I was soooo overheated that my body had a hard time adapting to release the heat through sweat.
Since it was our first time being there, we were extra cautious and took our sweet ass time choosing trustworthy looking currency exchangers and taxi drivers. I don’t know about the others but I was definitely a bit nervous about it all! It was a combo of inexperience, how simple and out-dated the airport was, and the constant chatter of people trying to get me to buy their stuff or use their service. But I grew accustomed to all those things pretty quickly. That is their premium tourist treatment 🙂 And obvs, I look like a tourist so that is what I got!
From the airport, we negotiated a fair price (or what we think is fair anyway, we have nothing to base it off of!) with a taxi driver to take our party of 5 to our hotel located in central Mandalay. My eyes were peeled open the whole ride even though I haven’t slept in days. I soaked in the landscape, the architecture, infrastructure, colours, sounds and anything else I could. I also had my camera attached to my hand and out the window. First stop of my trip, I was allowed to be overly picture-happy.
Entering our hotel was a godsend!!! Seeing how things were along the way, I was not expecting such a nice place. A cool rush of AC greeted us from the moment we got in which was lifesaving because we were all cooking in the taxi. I think my sister even got a little heatstroke.
For the rest of our (short) time there, we rented bikes and explored the city going from temple to temple, eating good food, chugging gallons of water, avoiding the splotches of bright red tobacco, and navigating the crazy traffic. In Mandalay, there are no rules of the road, you just go whenever it’s clear and lanes are just a suggestion. It was chaotic but it was synchronized.
The city was a blend of dilapidated and modern, grey and gold. On one corner I’ll see the faded posters on a shutdown traveller’s cheque exchange center. And on the next, I’ll see a newly installed ATM cemented to the cracked and crooked sidewalk that looks like it was dropped off at the wrong place. I think that these changes are a reflection of the country’s fast growth due to the surge of tourism (Myanmar only opened their doors to tourism a couple years earlier) that it’s experiencing.
Overall, I really really enjoyed my time in Myanmar. My favourite aspect is definitely the beauty of their temples and their people. Everyone was SO kind and said Mingalaba (hello) to us as we zipped by on our bikes. I’m already hoping to come back soon.