Sorry it’s taken me so long to get a blog up and running, and for my general lack of keeping in touch. Wifi has been pretty spotty and the time difference is a killer. I’ll use this first post to do some catch up on my first two stops (Bangkok, Thailand and Yangon, Myanmar), but I’ll more or less gloss over these two as I was really feeling the culture shock and not much of interest happened.. Besides me falling down the stairs at a train station in Bangkok and earning myself a messed up elbow and a bruise on my butt the size of Jupiter (;
I will say my favorite part of Bangkok was Wat Arun, one of the more famous temples in the city. To get there from my hostel, I took a train and a water ferry up the river. It was on the opposite side of the river from the other major tourist attractions (the palace, Wat Pho, etc.) and was much quieter. It was a gorgeous temple and all I had to do was pay 50 baht and I got to walk around and drool all I wanted. It’s interesting being allowed in such a beautiful space with no supervision. Outside the temple complex was a nice little coffee shop with thai iced tea and fans that misted water… It’s been in the mid- to high-90’s with heat indexes up to 115 since I’ve been here.
So far the things I’ve been most thankful for include offline maps, picture menus, and fans/air con in public spaces.
I spent a lot of my time in Bangkok in my hostel’s common area rethinking and rebooking a lot of the rest of my trip to avoid big cities and focus on places involving less reliance on public transportation and more time enjoying the actual culture and feel of a place without the added stress and wasted time (I since realized both Bangkok and Yangon have Uber, which has been a game changer, but it’s illegal in both places so the drivers tend to be a bit weird).
I started feeling more comfortable (as well as more sweaty) once I got to Yangon. Bangkok probably just isn’t the city for me, and I’m glad it was my first stop so I could learn all the lessons I did early on without ruining a good city for myself.
Yangon is crazier (in my opinion) and more difficult to navigate, but I’ve enjoyed getting lost in the chaos. There are apparently 6 million people living in this city, and the busiest time of day is early morning before the heat hits, and in the evening when the heat starts to die off. Each street is absolutely PACKED with street food stalls and vendors, and the traffic is unreal. Instead of using blinkers, cars indicate their intentions by honking at one another: one honk means “move” or “I’m coming into your lane,” two honks means “i’m about to pass you, move over,” and aggressive, repeated honks means what any honk means in the U.S. It took me awhile to figure this out and I spent a few days thinking drivers here were just really, really rude to each other. Lanes are more of a formality here, and drivers are constantly weaving and driving in different lanes – I could NEVER drive here, and even being in a taxi or uber is pretty terrifying (but fun).
The other thing about traffic in Yangon is that pedestrians are just as much a chaotic mess as the cars. Crosswalks are few and far between, sidewalks are often impossible to walk on due to food stalls or.. cars being parked on them.. So people just walk down the middle of the streets, non-chalantly moving over when they hear one or two short honks behind them. As for crossing the busy streets, I had to watch awhile before executing. The busier streets are four lanes of traffic that varies from a constant flow to bumper-to-bumper. Getting across is like a game of Frogger – you just go for it, one lane at a time, and hope the cars don’t hit you as you’re standing between lanes of moving traffic waiting for your next opportunity to move through another lane.
Some other highlights from Yangon: the architecture, Kandawgyi Lake and Nature Park, and Bogyoke Aung San Market.
I love ugly, run-down buildings for some reason – the wear and tear that every day life has on places is beautiful to me. So for me, the run-down buildings of Yangon with their old British architecture is straight out of a dream. I had to pick up a train ticket from an
office on Bogolay Zay Street and just walked around drooling. I eventually made a stop in a pub for some air con and cold beer and my server told me this street is actually famous
for its architecture among tourists and locals alike.
After having lunch at that pub, I went over to the city’s biggest flea market, Bogyoke Aung San Market. It was a lot of vendors selling goods for locals (textiles, every day necesseties, etc.), but it was still interesting to walk around and see how everything worked.
The following day, before catching my train to Bagan, I went to Kandawgyi Lake. It’s right in the city, with a good view of one of the pagodas as well as boardwalks that allow you to walk all around the lake. There are lots of little restaurants and tea rooms around the lake as well.
I’ll wrap this up. I promise the posts will be more interesting from here on – Bagan (my third stop) was absolutely wonderful and gave me my travel mojo back, so I’ll be more up for adventure and exploring.. Especially since my itinerary now includes some smaller towns that I’m more excited about than my original plans. You can check the side bar for my most up to date itinerary as well as my most recent photos on Instagram (aka my favorite photos of the trip thus far). There’s a link at the bottom to “follow” my blog if you want to receive email updates when new posts are added.