Around the World with Jan

I've spent a lifetime travelling the world and I have no intention of ever stopping. There are so many amazing places to see.
Living in: Sydney, Australia
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  • Day27

    Yangon

    November 26, 2017 in Myanmar ⋅ ⛅ 31 °C

    Back in the capital and ready to go home. 28 days is nowhere near enough to see all of this beautiful country.

    The people of Myanmar are so friendly and I felt safe all the time I was here. I'd love to come back and spend more time in the north. There's just so much to see.

  • Day24

    Inle Lake

    November 23, 2017 in Myanmar

    The final few days of my trip. It's been an amazing experience.

    The Inle Resort is tucked along the edge of the lake, quite isolated from any villages or other resorts which makes it a great place to have a rest before I head home.

    It was an early start and a very cool ride across the lake to see the villages that sit along the shore, catering to tourists as well as providing organic produce for the area.

    Our first stop was Shwe Inn Thein Paya, which has 1054 weather beaten zedi (stupas) dating from the 17th and 18th centuries (according to Lonely Planet anyway). Some of the structures were very well preserved. Inthein village is also one of the places for the five day rotating market which is the biggest. Once you get past the tourists and find where the locals shop, it's a colourful place full of strange looking food and interesting people.

    I spent the rest of the day visiting craft workshops - silk and lotus flower weavers, cigar makers, boat builders and silversmiths. Some workshops were full of tourists while others were quite empty. We managed to dodge a huge storm while I had lunch and kept relatively dry.

    Of course no day would be complete without a pagoda to visit. Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda sits in Tha Lay village and is the holiest religious site in Southern Shan State. It has a couple of golden barges which are used for special ceremonies which are worth a look as is the pagoda compound itself.

    On the way back we saw the floating gardens, rows and rows of tomatoes which looked like they were growing on the water. And, we had to make a stop to take photos of the fisherman, rowing with one leg while they cast off their nets - one of the most famous images from Myanmar.

    Sunset by the lake, mojito in hand finished off a really fantastic day. More sunset pictures!
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  • Day23

    Mandalay

    November 22, 2017 in Myanmar

    I had no idea just how much there was to see in Mandalay. Sadly, I didn't have nearly enough time but I had good go at seeing as much as possible.

    I arrived quite early in the morning and was met by my driver David. He knew all the places I wanted to go and made sure we did them in a way that meant we could maximise the day. One tip, don't try to walk up Sagaing Hill in the heat - 350 steps doesn't sound like a lot but when it's hot and humid, it's a lot!

    There were so many beautiful temples to visit - my favourites were the old teak ones - the craftsmanship of the carvings inside and out were just stunning. Some of the new temples are so garish and over the top and yet they still were beautiful in their own way. At least they are used and people visit often.

    There were pink-robed nuns lining up for lunch and the world’s Biggest Book, Kuthodaw Paya, - 729 inscribed marble slabs, each one in a small stupa of its own. The sight was incredible, row upon row of similar structures, lined up as far as you could see. TThey were impressive – you only realise the scale when you see the model that shows how they are laid out.

    Of course, there are two things that mustn't be missed in Mandalay - sunset on Mandalay Hill (be ready for lots of tourists) and Ubien Bridge at sunset (ditto). It's worth paying to go out on a boat to watch the sunset - the bridge was completely packed with locals and tourists. Make sure you book ahead for a boat - if you turn up on the day you may not get a seat.

    Of course a visit to the ancient capital of Inwa (Ava) and a bone-jarring ride on a horse-drawn carriage is a must. It's a stunning place full of ancient ruins and really bad dirt roads.

    The royal palace is a replica, having been bombed mercilessly by the British, but it is definitely worth visiting to see how the royal family lived. The small museum is exquisite and includes a glass four poster bed from France commissioned by King Thibaw.

    This is only a small sample of what I managed to pack into two days - I only wish I had longer to savour this amazing city and all it's treasures.
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  • Day21

    Bagan

    November 20, 2017 in Myanmar

    As if the temples of Bagan were not enough to blow your mind, try an early morning balloon flight. For me this was one of the highlights of the trip. To see the plain of Bagan and its thousands of temples in the early morning light just left me dumbstruck.

    A small group of intrepid travellers huddled together at reception in the pitch dark waiting to be picked up at our designated time. Our transport was a World War II Chevrolet bus partly made of teak which seemed a fitting vehicle to transport us to such a unique experience.

    Our pilot turned out to be a very charismatic Italian who told us stories and kept us safe. I was glad that I opted for the premium experience. With only 8 people in the basket, we all had great views and could take heaps of photos (and we did). Landing was perfect and breakfast with champagne was special. It's an experience I know I'll never forget.

    I spent my extra days in Bagan in the hands of a local guide and driver who took me to all the places I wanted to see. It was a worthwhile investment and not expensive by any means. I visited Mt Popa, to see how people still pay their respects to the Nats (just in case) and spent time at more of the temples than I probably would have managed on my own.

    The unique frescoes and amazing architecture had me snapping many more photos than I normally would - all of it was so photogenic. I couldn't help myself. While the insides of the temples were spectacular, so were the beautiful exteriors – stone carvings and intricate towers – each one with its own unique and special beauty.

    Staying at the Hotel at Tharabar Gate was also worthwhile - it gave me a little bit of luxury after those homestays and tent and the hike and I found an amazing inexpensive vegetarian restaurant, The Moon, just across the road. What an amazing few days.
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  • Day17

    Mt Victoria

    November 16, 2017 in Myanmar

    This trek has offered us so many different experiences with accommodation ranging from local homes to a guest house with no doors with a hot bucket shower and flushing loos outside. Our last night was spent in a tent in the howling wind, freezing cold with no facilities except Mother Nature.

    The summit of Mt Victoria at 3000 metres was cold and when we arrived it was wet and miserable too. The Buddha crouched on the summit was shrouded in mist - great for photos but not conducive to staying out in the weather.

    The next morning we awoke to mist and fog our fingers crossed that we would get the spectacular sunrise that we had hoped for. Just when we had almost given up in despair, the skies cleared and we were treated to another stunning Myanmar sunrise. Our Buddha was bathed in the beautiful light and we just kept on taking pictures. It was worth the hike up there just for that.

    As we headed back to Bagan the weather cleared and as we descended into the valley below it was hot and humid once more. We passed through Kampathet a British hill station where ex-pats escaped from the heat in Bagan and saw a hundred year old oilfield also part of the British legacy.

    Once we got back to Bagan, a really hot shower and a foot massage were the minimum we were going to accept as our reward for a great trek. Wine and pizza finished the day, my last one with the group before going solo once more.
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  • Day14

    Mindat & Beyond

    November 13, 2017 in Myanmar

    Each morning of the trek we started the day with a symphony of sounds - rooster, pig and the odd duck. We were never quite sure what time this cacophony would start, it was always early!

    The scenery we walked through was stunning, lush and green through tiny villages growing amazing vegetables, beautiful flowers and loads of children. Families here often have 10 or more.

    What surprised us was the churches - most of this area is Christian with an animist twist. They haven't quite relinquished the old superstitions but they've embrace the teachings of the Church so it wasn't unusual to see sacrificial stakes and animal skulls alongside Christian crosses.

    People are always curious and always friendly. We felt safe as we negotiated the slippery pathways and creek crossings on our way to the 3,000m summit of Mt Victoria. The people may be poor but we were always welcomed with a smile.

    At one of the villages we were treated as honoured guests with singing and dancing. The ladies wore colourful outfits and many of them had the traditional tattoos on their faces. The men discharged their rifles and started dancing. The whole village turned out to watch, making it a special highlight of our trek.
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  • Day11

    Bagan

    November 10, 2017 in Myanmar

    You think you know what to expect when you reach Bagan but the scale of this place is overwhelming. As we flew in we could see the pagodas nestling in the trees, the golden spires glittering in the morning light.

    Built in the 11th and 12th centuries, these ancient brick pieces of art have survived the ravages of earthquakes and man and to me are more beautiful than the rich ornate stupas in the city.

    To see the sunrise the next morning took my breath away. Jostling for space on the steps of one of the few pagodas where you are allowed to climb up, then realising just how high we really were, all added to an amazing experience. Then came the balloons. They slowly emerged from the trees to gracefully float above us - they weren't just spectators, they have become part of the experience for those of us on the ground.

    By time we left Bagan to head to Mindat and the start of our trek, we were eagerly anticipating what would come next.
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  • Day9

    Yangon

    November 8, 2017 in Myanmar

    Today I met my group for the Exodus part of my trip. 5 of us adventurous souls heading off to Bagan and beyond to experience life in the rural area around Mt Victoria.

    I sampled a Mohinga breakfast and watched monks in the early morning with their food bowls walking the streets in bare feet. There is so many contrasts and contradictions in this amazing place. I can't wait to see the rest of the country.

    Yangon remains hot and humid. A visit to the national museum to see the Lion Throne and a sunrise trip back to Shwedagon Paya made the day pass quickly. Myanmar has such a rich and varied history with stunning artwork and beautiful artifacts.

    I sampled a Mohinga breakfast and watched monks in the early morning with their food bowls walking the streets in bare feet. There is so many contrasts and contradictions in this amazing place. I can't wait to see the rest.
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  • Day3

    Mawlamyine

    November 2, 2017 in Myanmar

    The last few days have been eventful to say the least. I found myself continually swept along with a tide of humanity as I made my way south of the capital.

    It began with the insanity of the bus station in Yangon with cars and people everywhere and music booming out of giant speakers then moved to the pilgrims at Mt Kyaiktiyo all jostling to board trucks to get to the Golden Rock.

    The Golden Rock is an amazing place to visit, best viewed at sunrise and sunset and definitely worth staying up there for a night. Getting back down was a case of pushing and shoving like a local to board one of the trucks to take me to the town below.

    One of the highlights of this part of Myanmar for me was a full day spent near Hpa An with a fabulous local guide who was informative and friendly. He took me kayaking through the most stunning scenery, watching local people go about their daily lives. We also spent time in some amazing caves full of locals because it was a public holiday.

    The journey south to Mawlamyine was made on a small open boat cruising languidly down the Irrawaddy, watching the scenery float by, visiting a beautiful old monastery on the way and then seeing on of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen.

    The old colonial buildings here range from beautifully restored to almost ruins. I’m sure it was quite different when George Orwell lived here. In contrast, the pagodas and mosques sparkled and shimmered in the sun, obviously well loved and cared for.
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