Sunrise and sunset over Bagan, City of Temples
Inside the temple, men press gold leaf on miniature Buddhas while women pray just outside
Finally uploaded my pictures of Myanmar! After a month of yoga teacher training in Bali I finally got a night to sort through all of my photos. We spent about two weeks in Myanmar and visited Mandalay, Inle Lake, Bagan, and Yangon. It was a lot of traveling for two weeks but we wanted to squeeze it all in and see the cities while their culture was somewhat preserved (it’s borders only opened to the public a couple years ago) and before the Ministry of Tourism lines every block with bars and souvenir shops (don’t get me wrong, I love souvenir shops!). Each city was so unique in its own way. In Mandalay, the heat was unbearable so we tried to get out early and come back by mid afternoon for some AC and a nap. The city is built around the Royal Palace, and I found the most exciting part of being there was the beautiful longyi shops. While Mandalay was a sleepy city, Inle Lake and Bagan had a sort of untouched beauty about them. In Inle we woke up to the sounds of river boats and hawkers selling fruit to the locals while in Bagan we rode our bikes in the early morning hours to sit atop a temple and watch the sunrise seep through the dust of the ancient city. Our trip ended in Yangon, a city with beautiful European architecture, although now crumbling and abandoned. It will be so interesting to see how Myanmar changes over the next ten years…
Bamboo rafting in Lod’s Cave, Pai, Thailand
Children dressed in traditional clothes sit on the steps leading up to Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai, Thailand
We landed in Chiang Mai in the middle of the Songkran Festival and although it hadn’t rained for weeks the streets were drenched and teeming with locals and foreigners celebrating the traditional Thai holiday. For three days, the traffic in the city center crept while locals piled into truckbeds armed with buckets of ice water that they unloaded on passing motorcyclists and pedestrians heads. We bought water guns to defend ourselves but they were no match for Songkran’s arsenal. As we ducked and weaved through the cars and behind shop fronts, our clothes got wetter and our cheap guns gave out, so we settled for being moving targets.
A few hours later, we tucked ourselves away in a cafe with a “no water guns inside please” sign and watched the chaos from a safe distance. Traditionally, the Songkran Festival is when locals celebrate the new year and when young Thai’s pay respects to their elders by sprinkling their hands with water. Today, hundreds of years later, it has turned into a full blown spectacle with foam parties, dance performances, colorful parades and lots and lots of water. In other parts of Thailand, towns that experienced a drought still managed to celebrate for at least an afternoon or a few hours. In Chiang Mai, the festival went on until sunset where any trace of the mayhem from the day vanished in the bustle of the city’s nightlife. As we piled into a tuk-tuk to head home, exhausted and tipsy, the faint scent of moat water on our clothes served as our only reminder of an unforgettable day.
We have left China. I know it’s three months early and before you say, “Oh…why? What happened?” or “I knew it. See you soon.” let me explain: when we came here in July we had a plan. Granted, it wasn’t a very good one, but it was a solid-ish plan nonetheless. I would use my work-sponsored visa to stay in China for the year and Pete would just keep renewing his tourist visa until we left. Up until January this worked out well, until we realized that in September all the visa rules changed and renewing his tourist visa, or even getting a new one, was no longer an option. With the recommendation of the exit-entry administration of Zhuhai we got on a ferry to try our luck with a Hong Kong visa run. Usually, if you arrive in Hong Kong in need of a Chinese Visa they can issue you a 30-day tourist visa without any issues. However, in Pete’s case, the embassy found that a six-month stay on a tourist visa seemed “questionable” and he was given two choices: 14 days in China or the boot. I know that the strict regulations were put in place to limit illegal foreigners but what about English teachers? Educators? Those that wore Santa suits to class during the holidays and saved children from a lifetime of misfortune associated with naming themselves Hamburger or Wiwi?