My favorite destination in South East Asia

1. The other side of Myanmar (part 1)

It has been 3 years since I arrived in Kuala Lumpur and my favorite trip so far out of many extraordinary adventures was the spontaneous travel I did with a friend to Myanmar.
All the magazines, articles and blogposts write about the fact you must see Myanmar now before the development sets in.
But all of them talk about going to Yangon, Mandalay, the temples of Bagan and Inle lake, which according to many travelers I met there a year ago and elsewhere around SE Asia, is already firmly on the tourist trail and therefor not for me.

We booked a flight, arranged visas in a day and there we went to Yangon without a proper plan or idea where to go and what to do.

We arrived on friday and decided to spent the afternoon in the old harbour to see all the activity unfold and watch the sun go down over the river…

Sunset in the harbour of Yangon, Myanmar

(1/200, f5.6, iso200, 28mm)

…from a terrace where the locals started there weekend with another pretty good Asian beer, aptly named Myanmar.

Myanmar beer on a terrace in the old harbour of Yangon

(1/125, F54 ISO125, 29mm)

Although my phone camera saw double in the photo above we were doing ok and had some local snacks from a foodstall near the river…

Everything you can ever fry from a chicken in Yangon, Burma

(1/160, f4, iso125, 54mm)

…before we wandered off and took a tuk-tuk to the main attraction in town, the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Everything shines gold at the Shwedagon Pagoda on a hill outside Yangon city centre.
(1/1250, f2, iso500, 12mm)

Although there were enough tourists, experiencing the candles being lit, the monks making their rounds in prayer while the sun was setting, was magical.
Everything around us was shining bright gold and even the moon decided to make an entrance in between the many small pagodas.

A dissapearing moon shines through the golden pagados of Shwedagon, Myanmar.
(1/15, f4, iso800, 10mm)

We spent some hours visiting all the surrounding temples and experiencing the atmosphere to the fullest before heading into town to find the famous BBQ-street, where we stayed til closing time at another famous joint, the 80-cent mojito bar Kosan.

End of the night on 19th street aka barbeque street in Yangon, Burma

(1/640, 4, iso100, 10mm)

Next day we took a long stroll in the old quarter with its dilapitated British colonial buildings.

Finding shade among the old buildings in downtown Yangon, Myanmar
(1/100, f6.3, iso200, 17mm)

I was interesting to see the people from Yangon and the way they used those old buildings, even making fires inside…
(the bird on the doorstep seems surprised too!)

Making fire inside the old British colonial building in Yangon, Burma
(1/640, f9, iso200 ,12mm)

After another night strolling around the old centre and ending up in the mojito bar, we took the train to Bago early next morning.
The train took about 2 hours doing the 40km distance, but with that speed it was perfect to watch all the ricefields, pagodas everywhere and locals in their daily routines.
Walking to school…

A Burmese kid walking to school along the tracks near Yangon

(1/50, f8, iso200, 17mm)

…or commuting to work.

Portrait from a commuter on the train between Yangon and Bago, Myanmar

(1/320, f8, iso200, 35mm)

We arrived in Bago, where most people on the train would went to Mandalay, we got off and spent one afternoon biking around the rural landscape visiting many reclining buddhas, monasteries, pagodas and seeing the unbelievably friendly locals waving and (trying) talking to us.

One of the many huge reclining Buddhas surrounding Bago, Myanmar.

(1/640, f9, iso200, 10mm)

Just before sunset we ended up at the biggest pagoda in Yangon, the Swemawdaw pagoda, which stands even 16 meters taller than the famous Swegadon in Yangon.

The biggest pagoda in Myanmar standing 114m high in Bago.

(1/640, f6.3, iso400, 34mm)

We talked to an elder man there and watched the bats come out of the pagoda at dawn. The people of Bago protect them and they have a sacred place here.

At that point we were about a 5 km bikeride away from the only guesthouse in town and decided to challenge the Lonely planet´s mention of non-existing nightlife. We biked back and stopped at every place with a beer-sign, which got us into some interesting places. We played some sort of snooker in a wooden shack on the river against betel nut chewing locals and when we arrived at our guesthouse at 5am in the morning our host was anxiously waiting, cuz she didn´t even know it was possible to stay out so late on a monday eve…

I think we won that challenge!

Sorry to say I have to interrupt this broadcast to go on a trip to number 3 on this list and explore some more, but will post the second part when I come back.
Not a cliffhanger, just out of time and I think this post is long enough as it is.

To be continued…

38 thoughts on “My favorite destination in South East Asia

  1. Pingback: My favorite destination in South East Asia | El Bueno, El Feo y El Malo

  2. Fantastic series, Ron. Great light with the umbrella and guys in the alley, the moon shot is wonderful, the textures in the columns. Your images tell a wonderful story.

  3. Great photos. I would certainly put Yangon in my top 3 in Southeast Asia, probably along with Luang Prabang and Komodo National Park in Indonesia. Yangon is such a friendly and interesting city. It is one of those places that really must be experienced to appreciate.

  4. Hello Rondje!
    I’m from Zaragoza (Spain), and we will travel next summer for Myanmar with my girlfriend like a backpackers in our first travel to asia. Someone who knows you, says me this blog when I asked for some information for a travel like that in a forum of my town. So, I´ll read carefully all of your posts about this, and I’ll take especially care for your tips. Thank you very much, and sorry for my english!

    • Hi Chabi, that must have been Sara who told you to have a look, please feel free to mail me about stuff, just did the 8-day travel there, but heard a lot of stories from other travelers too, my email is! Gonna be a great adventure, you will love it! Your English is very good, no worries, and in Myanmar they hardly speak English, so that won´t be a problem! Warm greetings, Ron

    • Thanks very much, YC, really was fascinating and although SE Asia is filled with amazingly friendly people, the Burmese were really something else 😉
      I was as astonished to see the open fire in the middle of the house, even looked like there was a chimney in the room too, but they prefer in the middle, I guess!
      Warm greetings, Ron.

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