Sunday, 12 November 2017

Burma / Myanmar

Burma / Myanmar

I wanted to see Myanmar (Burma) and experience its culture and wonderful sights before it is spoiled by commercialism and tourism. It had been in the news in few years ago, following the release of the Nobel Peace Prize Winner – Aung San Suu Kyi; the daughter of Aung San, the leader of Burma’s Independent Army. After she began campaigning for Democracy in 1990, she was placed under house arrest for almost 21 years and in all that time, (despite being separated from her English husband and two sons), she continued to fight for democracy and freedom for the people of Burma - she is now known as “The Lady”. Burma is situated next to Thailand, China, has footsteps that lead into Tibet and the Himalayas and a coast on the Indian Ocean. In the 13th century, Marco Polo described it as a vast jungle teeming with elephants, unicorns, and other wild beasts!  And Rudyard Kipling wrote the iconic poem about it – The Road to Mandalay – although the road is actually The Irrawaddy river. As I flew into Mandalay, I could see remains of recent storms – there was so much water about with gold temples dotted about in the fields; and even the clouds looked like temples. It was an hour’s drive to the hotel, through rice fields, past straw and bamboo shacks, with people washing, eating and sleeping everywhere and anywhere. Mandalay sits on the bank of the Irrawaddy River, it is the second-largest city and was the last royal capital, founded in 1857 when it  was officially named Yadanabon, meaning "The City of Gems”.

After a quick change, we headed off to Royal Mandalay Palace, a magnificent complex which was originally destroyed by fire in World War II.

It was reconstructed in 1994 and the entire area is now a military encampment; although the new Palace buildings are there for tourists to explore.

The incredible square outer palace walls, the city gates with their wooden pavilions and the surrounding 4 km moat are such an impressive sight; especially with Mandalay Hill as its backdrop.

The sun was shining, and I enjoyed wandering around the different buildings - I would never have known they were reconstructed if I hadn’t been told. We still had time for another visit - at the foot of Mandalay Hill, to see the Golden Palace Monastery containing Kuthodaw Pagoda, which houses the World's Largest Book.

Built by King Mindon in 1857, this pagoda is surrounded by 730 upright stone/marble slabs on which are inscribed the entire Buddhist Scriptures. Each leaf is in its own white stupa, and they are arranged around a central golden pagoda.

Work began on 14 October 1860 in a large shed near Mandalay Palace. The text had been meticulously edited by senior monks, and scribes carefully copied the text onto marble for stonemasons.

Each stone has 80 to 100 lines of inscription on each side, chiselled out and originally filled in with gold ink and all the tablets were completed and opened to the public on 4 May 1868.

We had to walk along a colourful open walkway which had so many colourful paintings along its ceiling.

The sun was beginning to set, casting a magnificent light onto the white buildings and making the golden temple in the centre, shine with a bronze glow.

Everywhere I looked there was something else to behold, more gold, more ornate buildings; it was so impressive and totally unexpected.

What a start to the trip!

Next morning, feeling refreshed, we were all ready for a day of sightseeing. Our journey took us around the Palace Moat, and what a beautiful sight it looked, the water was so still and from the corners the reflections were really impressive.

After a quick walk around a local market, that was so crammed with stalls it hardly left any room for you to walk between them; we headed off to Mahagandhayon Monastery.

This is the largest Buddhist monastery in Myanmar, accommodating more than 1000 young student monks with their disciplined way of life. We arrived in time to have a look around their kitchen before seeing them all queuing silently, in two lines, with their food containers, for their last meal of the day – and it was only 10:30am.

As well as the monks in the darker robes, there were many small boys in white robes – these were novices. They receive food from donors, and volunteers distribute it to them; it is so organised, just like clockwork.

Not far from here was U Bein Bridge that spans Taungthaman Lake The 1.2 km bridge was built around 1850 and is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world, named after the mayor who had it built.

It is an important passageway for local people and has also become a tourist attraction and a significant source of income for souvenir sellers and I was surprised at the number of beggars there. It was a delightful setting (although I would like to have been there for the sunset), but it was a rickety structure with no handrails and I didn’t feel very safe on it. There were men fishing in the lake below, with rods – but they were standing up to their necks in the water!

Our next stop was to visit a Silk and cotton making workshop; here young girls were sitting at looms for up to 8 hours a day - it reminded me of how children were treated in Victorian times and I couldn’t wait to leave. We had a lesson in Burmese cooking next, which was far more interesting than it sounded. We all had to help make lunch, which was 6 separate courses; the only problem was that it took 2 hours and we were all starving, but it was a delightful meal in the end.

Our next stop was Maha Muni Pagoda, the most sacred image in the country, and the holiest pagoda in Mandalay; said to have been cast in the life-time of the Gautama Buddha (over 2000 years ago) and that the Buddha embraced it 7 times thereby bringing it to life.

The early morning ritual of washing or polishing the Face of Buddha Image draws a large crowd every day. The Pagoda is a complex of structures, with a long arcade leading to the main shrine, with many kiosks, selling religious paraphernalia such as incense, candles, rosaries, flowers, robes, sandals etc.

The inner sanctum, where the 12 feet 7 inches of the sitting Mahamuni image is, in a small chamber and women (who are not allowed inside, have to watch on TV screens outside) men placing gold leaf onto the image, which is now over 30cm thick in places, distorting the original image.

The structures around were very impressive, but the ground was so hot – it burnt the soles of your feet; I did see a statue that has been bought over from Ankar Wat, that is being restored, before being lead back to the coach.

We stopped at a wood carving workshop next, where young men were making all sorts of wooden items, but I especially loved the huge puppets; and then we visited a Gold leaf workshop.

I found that rather upsetting, as young men constantly hammer or pound the gold, for up to 6 hours a day, until the gold ends up so thin you can hardly pick it up.

The last stop of the day, and my favourite, was getting a local Tuk-tuk up to the top of Mandalay Hill, to see the sun go down. We had to take our shoes and socks off as soon as we arrived (which was normal by now), but this time we had to go up a high escalator bare footed! At the top we were met by such a marvellous sight; the view of the city below; especially the Palace surrounded by its square moat, the Irrawaddy River in the distance, and fields leading to the mountains in the distance. It was breath taking!

In the Pagoda there were so many gold temples and statues, all around a central golden stupa; and as the sun started falling, the colours were enhanced making everything glow more brightly. It was one of those moments when you feel incredibly lucky to be part of something incredibly special. The floor was smooth, shiny tiles – a pleasure to walk on, especially as is wasn’t too hot this late in the day – not like earlier!

Our day ended with a Thai dinner before packing up ready for the next day. Our first stop next morning was Shwe Nan daw Kyaung, a monastery known for its many teak carvings depicting Buddhist myths, and it is the only remaining major original structure surviving from the original Royal Palace.

In 1878 King Thibaw Min had it dismantled and moved from the Royal Palace because he believed it was haunted by his dead father King Mindon Min. Moving on from there we drove along the river bank, seeing bamboo shacks that so many people live in, before a quick boat ride across the river to the ancient city of Ava (Inwa).

This area is famous for its religious structures dating back to when it was founded as the nation’s capital in 1364 AD; but the kingdom grew weaker and was eventually destroyed by an earthquake in 1838. We travelled around this area by pony and cart, passing small villages, paddy fields, peaceful lakes with egrets and many archaeological sites.

The first one was Yadana Hse Mee, which has several stone images of Buddha that were still intact, inside a crumbling complex; next we entered Bagaya Kyaung, a 19th Century teak monastery with huge columns, that had just been painted with creosote to try to preserve them.

It was really hot now, and I could hardly bear to walk bare footed on the shiny wooden floor. Before leaving here, I saw the most beautiful reflection of a stupa in the nearby lake – one of my favourite photos of the day. 

After seeing the old Observation Tower (that you can’t go into since last year’s earthquake made it unsafe), we walked around Maha Aungmye Bonzan, a large ochre coloured brick monastery built by Queen Me Nu in 1838 – totally different to any other monastery we had seen.

The entrance to it has 2 large Chinthes (Burmese mythological lions), and the central building, which is decorated with intricate sculptures, is surrounded by well-kept lawns although there were cattle grazing on them too.   

Back in the cart for a while, then we headed back across the river, that was so calm and flat, and headed over the bridge to Sagaing Hills. 

I had no idea what to expect here and was absolutely blown away by what we experienced after our lunch. Sagaing is home to more than 1600 pagodas and monasteries – the exact number is not known; there is just so much gold dotted about amongst the forest.

Our coach was too big for the small roads, so we had to transfer into a smaller tuk-tuk; and our first stop was a children’s monastery. There were little nuns and novices there as well as local children, who were being taught at the local school.

All the children were very excited to see our little group, their little faces waving from the windows, and running to us wanting to hold our hands – it did make me feel quite sad for them although at least they were being fed, clothed and having an education.

We carried on up the hill, next calling at Umin Thone Se Pagoda, again taking our shoes off and walking up the many steps to find the most amazing ornate Crescent overlooking the mountainside.

There were many doorways around this crescent and inside are 45 gold and white buddhas – it is one of the most beautiful, original and peaceful places I have ever been to - an absolute gem.

We continued further up to the top of the mountain, finally arriving at Soon u Ponya Shin Pagoda, which was originally built in 1312. This is the most famous shrine in the area and the panoramic views from up there were fabulous; you could see the mountainside dotted with gold and white all the way back down to the river.

The pagoda itself had a huge, ornate gold buddha as you walked in, a gold stupa in the centre that was surrounded by colourful walkways where you could admire the views. Sagaing Hills was a real surprise, no one was expecting all we had seen.

We returned to our coach and our final stop was at a remote village to see a lady making clay pots on a hand pottery wheel outside her home, and another lady showed us how she carried up to 6 of these heavy pots - usually full of water.

Our day was still not over, we went to the airport next for our short flight to Bagan. Once we arrived there, we went straight to the restaurant for dinner and to watch a traditional Puppet show, before being driven to our hotel, past ancient pagodas that were lit up in the total blackness of the night. We were all eager to see what they would look like in the daylight. It had been a very long day, crammed full of amazing sights, and I was so ready for my bed.

I was woken early by a thunder storm and torrential rain, and when it was time to go out for the day, there was at least 6 inches of water everywhere – so we opted to wear the hotel’s flipflops. Bagan is one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia, it was the site of the first Burmese Kingdom dating back to the 11th Century. From 1901 it has been a protected site, but it cannot be a UNESCO site due to the few modern hotels that have been built there.  It is an enchanting place with over 3,000 pagodas, temples and monasteries scattered over 26 square miles, and today’s first stop was Shwezigon Pagoda, which was built for the new King Anawarahta in the 11th century.

As we walked around the pagoda, and paddled in several inches of water, I was astounded by the size of the golden stupa in the centre. Apparently, all other stupas have been copied from the style of this one, it was absolutely beautiful; and the reflection of it in the murky rain water was magical. I would never have believed that a rain storm would have made my photographs look quite so spectacular.

After this, we went to some of the less ornate temples; a 13th century one with murals on its ceiling and walls – many of which had been stolen in the 20th century, and we weren’t allowed to take photographs inside.

Then we stopped at Shwe Gu Gui (which means The Golden Cave), it was built in 11th century in front of the Palace (giving it its other name of Nandaw Oo Paya – Pagoda in front of palace). We had to climb up very steep, narrow steps to the upper levels, to see the most amazing view of the Plains of Bagan.

We walked all the way around the parapet walls, through a type of doorway on each corner, that looked like it was a dead end. I was surprised how green everywhere was, I was expecting a far more arid view; but there had been a lot of rain. Going back down the stairs was rather harrowing, and we were all glad to be down safely.

Our last Pagoda of the morning was Ananda Pagoda; which is described as the finest, largest and most well-preserved pagoda in Bagan. We had to walk down a long corridor where people were selling all sorts of religious objects, before arriving at the official entrance. This pagoda was built in 1090AD and has Turkish arches and windows that shone light on specific objects.

There were numerous paintings, some under glass, built into the walls, depicting various scenes of the life of Buddha. Although there are several copies of the 9-metre-high statue of the Buddha, only one is original; it was made from wood in the 11th century and has been covered in gold.

Depending where you stand to look at this image, the expression on its face changes! A quick walk around the outside of the temple revealed more reflective shots in the water that was quickly drying up in the heat of the day.

Before our lunch break, we stopped at a lacquerware workshop that was quite fascinating. We were shown how they make pots and plates from basic pieces of bamboo, and how, over many months, they are transformed into the ornate shiny black pieces that we all admire today. There was no pressure to buy anything from here, but most people just had to have a little something – everything was so beautiful; and we were given tea and biscuits, which was a bonus. We had lunch overlooking the river, a delightful setting; and then had a few hours to relax back at the hotel before heading off out for the evening.

We had a cruise with drinks and nibbles, watching other boats on the Irrawaddy, whilst the sun was gently setting – I loved the silhouettes of the temples on the banks of the shore.

Then as an extra treat we were taken out to see some of the temples lit up in the evening; they looked so different at night time.

There are no street lights at all, so to suddenly come across one of these glowing monuments was quite something. It certainly gave a completely different perspective to the buildings. Finally, it was time for dinner, then back to the hotel to repack.

Next morning, after a short plane journey to Heho; we were now in the Shan area, surrounded by high mountains, everywhere was so very green and there was a fresher feel in the air.

We drove past fields of rice, beans, sugar cane (which are home to deadly cobras) and rubber trees; many of the dwellings here were brick built and didn’t look so poor. We made a brief stop at the Shan Paper and Umbrella workshop and watched girls make paper from the bark of a mulberry tree, with poinsettia leaves added to it, to give it a Christmas feel; and saw an umbrella being made from strips of bamboo. 

We continued around many winding roads, over the mountains, finally coming to flatter ground where there were men in a fishing match, due to the recent heavy rains it was a very good time to catch fish – one man was up to his neck in the water. We couldn’t pass a monastery without popping in for a look (we hadn’t seen one all day), this one was built in 1802 and had unusual oval windows.

Finally, we arrived at Nyaung Shwe, the town that serves as a marina for the many long canoes that carry tourists (as well as the locals) into Inle Lake.

There were 3 or 4 of us in each boat, and we sped along a type of wide canal for 30 minutes, before coming to the Lake itself. I honestly didn’t know what to expect at Inle Lake, apart from the famous local Leg Rowing Fishermen who practice their distinctive rowing style, which involves them standing at the stern, on one leg, and wrapping the other leg around the oar.

This unique style evolved because as the lake is covered by reeds and floating plants, it is difficult to see the fish while sitting - standing provides a view beyond the reeds. The whole area was so beautiful, the villages on stilts, the floating gardens, the views, the reflections, the sunshine – it was the most perfect day.

Inle Lake is the 2nd largest freshwater lake in Myanmar and its people are called Intha, approximately 70,000 of them, mostly devout Buddhists, who live in simple houses of wood and woven bamboo on stilts and are largely self-sufficient farmers.

In addition to fishing, locals grow vegetables and fruit in their large gardens that float on the surface of the lake. They gather up lake-bottom weeds from the deeper parts of the lake, bring them back in boats and make them into floating beds, anchored by bamboo poles.

These gardens rise and fall with changes in the water level, and are resistant to flooding and incredibly fertile. A local daily market, which rotates through 5 different sites, serves most shopping needs and is conducted from small boats.

We had lunch in restaurant on stilts overlooking the still waters; before visiting several workshops where hand made goods are produced for selling and trading with. 

Firstly, we saw ladies making Cheroots (a type of flavoured cigar), then a canoe building workshop that also sold some lovely wooden figures and then we went to a “Lotus flower and silk weaving factory”.

It was fascinating to see the young women breaking pieces of the lotus stems and extracting a thread from them, and then it was hand woven into a unique fabric that is used for Buddha’s ceremonial garments. There was an old lady still working in one of the rooms, she was over 70 years old, sitting spinning cotton – she had the brightest smile ever. 

Needless to say, we all had to buy some items and support this cottage (on stilts) industry. We continued through the villages, down various waterways, just looking at how lovely the area was; it was so much cleaner that I expected, in the village areas I saw very little rubbish.

Underneath some of the houses were blue nets, these were where fish are kept in a “growing-pen” until they are big enough to eat; and attached to some of the houses was a separate little room – that was where a pig was kept! There are 39 villages on the lake with floating gardens; these floating platforms have taken years to make and are immaculately maintained.

We saw the villagers tying tomatoes to sticks, collecting weeds, gathering various crops, and taking compost out to put on their allotments. They were in straight lines, so neat and tidy and although there were no signs, everyone knew exactly where their section started and ended. Our hotel was at the far side of the lake and as we arrived, the staff were there to welcome us, on the jetty - we felt like royalty.

The views from this hotel were so picturesque, the dark mountains that surround the lake, the dense forest that could contain anything or anyone, with the occasional temple standing out; and of course, the lake itself – the calm, reflective serene waters. What a delightful, peaceful place.

The hotel complex could not have been any more perfect – except for the occasional power cut!   Next morning, we were all eager to get back in our canoes and see more of the area; the sun was shining, and the first port of call was the holiest site in the area, Phaung Daw Oo Paya, a huge tiered pagoda with 5 ancient Buddha images. 

As we arrived there was a festival, and people from all the local tribes were dressed in their native costumes dancing and singing – it was such a colourful spectacle.

There were different types of cultural music being played and it was so funny to see a local man dancing about with a speaker on his back - blaring out songs.

The main dances were a type of self-defence ritual that both ladies and men performed. We were so lucky to have arrived when we did and to experience this joyous festival.

We had originally come to see the pagoda with its temple, containing these ancient Buddha images, which have now been covered in gold leaf to the point that their original forms cannot be seen, and are described as amorphous gold blobs. Next we had a brief visit to a Kayan workshop, where we saw ladies with copper hoops around their necks and around their knees. 

It is supposed to be a sign of beauty, but I felt such pity for these women and young ladies. Girls as young as 9 wear the bands around their necks, weighing anything from 4kg to 10kg for mature women; as well as bands that are put around their legs. The pain this causes at the beginning as supposed to be excruciating and the girls are given strong liquor for a week to kill the pain, but then they can’t bend their legs anymore – I found it all rather distressing and was so glad to be under way again.

After almost an hour of travelling up Inn Thein Creek, passing schools, shops, monasteries, under primitive bamboo draw-bridges; we reached our destination – Shwe Indein or Inthein Pagoda.

When we got out of the canoes, we were bombarded with young Pa Oh girls trying to sell us scarves, they were dressed so colourfully and had such smiling faces, that we all bought something at the end of our visit. 

After paying a small camera fee, we went up a 700-metre walkway lined with stalls selling local goods. The village of Indein is best known for its many ancient pagodas in different sizes and shapes, in various states of preservation and deterioration – some even had banyan trees growing out of them or completely encircling them – they were in a sorry state.

There is no money to restore these, which is such a pity as the earliest dates to the 14th century. It was quite a walk up to the top of the hill where there was a wonderful sight of the Shwe Inn Thein pagodas, some painted, a few gold ones, as well as many that were crumbling.  We had lunch in the local village overlooking the river, before heading back towards the centre of the Lake.

It wasn’t touristy at all, and it was very special to see some local shops and to see women collecting their children from school in little dugout canoes. The last stop of the day was Nga Phe Chaung monastery, which was built of teak in the early 1800’s and at one time, was famous for its meditating monks teaching cats to jump.

We raced black clouds all the way back to the hotel, and got completely drenched in a torrential storm – but at least it was at the end of our day exploring.

We left early next morning, having an hour in the canoe, a further hour on a coach, then an hour’s plane journey to reach our final destination – Yangon (Rangoon), the former capital and the country’s largest and most important commercial city.

As soon as we arrived it was all go, we had a quick walk around Kalaywatawya Monastery which is home to over 1,000 instructors, nuns and students. Some stay here for only several weeks whilst others stay for a lifetime; the novices are mostly orphans who are being cared for by the monastery and given an education. It was early afternoon and the place was very quiet, everyone was having their own special peaceful time – so we didn’t stay very long.

We had an orientation tour of the city, passing more temples, the exclusive properties in the neighbourhood close to Inya Lake, and had a photo stop outside the house where Aung San Suu Kyi was imprisoned for 15 years – there is a photo of her father General Aung San on the gate.

Then we had a couple of free hours, so I opted to have a walk around some of Kandawgyi Lake, which was opposite our hotel. There are many restaurants and cafes close to the entrance and I found it difficult to get about due to muddy paths. I did enjoy seeing Karaweik Hall, a concrete barge which is a replica of a Burmese royal barge, but today it is a restaurant.

Having stretched my legs, I headed back to the hotel for a quick shower and change, before being collected for our early evening adventure – which I was so excited about – this was why I had wanted to visit Myanmar.  The first stop was to see Chaukhtatgyi, The Amazing Reclining Buddha, which is housed in a large metal roofed shed described as a railway station. It is one of the country’s most beautiful reclining Buddhas and I found it absolutely breath-taking.

At the first sight of this enormous structure, I was completely taken by surprise; its features were so feminine, so placid, so lifelike and so beautiful; especially with its crown encrusted with diamonds and other precious stones. It felt as if you were being watched by those huge eyes, as you walked around its 150-foot body. Then it was on to the amazing Shwedagon Pagoda. There were thousands of people visiting here, tourists as well as locals; and the security was very tight at the entrance – which you don’t mind with how things are in the world these days. The pagoda is built on Singuttara Hill and is visible from everywhere in the city, even as we approached it in the coach, we could see more and more gold statues and temples – it was as if the whole of the hill was Shwedagon Pagoda.

The central stupa is 99 metres tall, plated with 40 tons of gold and topped with 4531 diamonds, the largest being a single 76 carat diamond. These precious stones have been donated by the Burmese people – who give up to 50% of everything they have, to their religion.

It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda and has existed for more than 2600 years. The stupa fell into disrepair in 14th century and was rebuilt to a height of 18 metres, and after a series of earthquakes in 18th century, it was rebuilt to its existing 99 metres; even as recently as 1970 an earthquake caused damaged to the top of the structure. 

Once inside we removed our shoes and took the lift to the upper level, then crossed a bridge to arrive at the southern entrance. Our guide walked us clockwise around the enormous stupa (as you are supposed to), giving us so much information and pointing out its many incredible features.

There are so many individual shrines and separate parts to this complex, it was hard to take it all in - and I just couldn’t stop taking photos. There are white painted structures with Buddha images inside, depicting each day of the week (with 2 for Wednesday – morning and afternoon), and devotees offer flowers and gifts to the one representing the day on which they were born.

There were a group of women with sweeping brushes, they were all born on a Friday (that is when we were there) and they were doing homage to “earn merits” for themselves. 

There is a small building showing some of the history of the pagoda, photographs of how it looked many years ago and of the jewels that were donated to make the incredible ornamental finial (hti) on the top. 

As the sun sank lower in the sky, the colours of the stupa changed from a light gold to a burnt crimson; it glowed so brightly – it was amazing. I didn’t want to stop capturing every single moment – I wanted to remember this forever. Shwedagon certainly lived up to its reputation and I was as thrilled with it, as I could have been.

It was one of those “Beaming Smiles” moments – hours actually! But we did have to leave as dinner was booked at the colonial “House of Memories”, which was at one time the office of General Aung San; so, as well as having a lovely meal, we had the chance to see more history of this famous man. What an end to the day, it was hard to believe we had started it on the peaceful shores of Inle Lake.
Next morning, we went to the National Museum to see special exhibits and demonstrations about Myanmar’s history, and I particularly loved the Lion Throne Chair. But I didn’t find the cultural exhibits that impressive after experiencing real rural life so close, earlier in the trip.

We drove past Sule Pagoda in the heart of downtown Yangon, which occupies a traffic island, and is described as Yangon’s Piccadilly Circus, surrounded by government buildings and shops. We didn’t go inside this pagoda, which wasn’t a problem; after seeing Shwedagon – that was the culmination of my “Pagoda Trip”.

Instead we went on a walking tour of Old Yangon; past old colonial buildings and being told of their turbulent history. We walked to the docks and saw queues of people waiting to catch boats over the river, as there is no bridge over it yet. I didn’t really enjoy the walk around, it was nothing like walking around other places we had been, the buildings were blackened, the streets were dirty and smelly and for me there was nothing much to see.

It started raining, so we were taken to Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scott’s Market) for an hour to buy some very reasonably priced souvenirs and shelter from the rain, before having our farewell dinner together.

The next day, as my flight wasn’t until later, I had the chance to walk around the Lake in the opposite direction and I was so glad I did! As well as climbing up a rock tower (with cafes inside), I had an excellent view of the city (but not of Shwedagon); so, I continued further around the lake and came to the most perfect spot – there was Shwedagon in the distance reflecting on the water.

It felt an apt end to my trip – there had been so many fantastic pagodas and so many incredible reflections; I have never walked on so many shiny floors or bare foot for so long, or seen so many smiling people in the most colourful clothing – which to me was astounding when they lived in basic bamboo huts.

Although one of the poorest countries in the world, I found Myanmar to be so rich in beauty and diversity; there is so much more to it than I had ever expected, and I had enjoyed my trip immensely. I couldn’t even think of my favourite part – there were too many! 

I hope you have enjoyed my adventure.


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