I just spent a week in Myanmar, my second trip there in less than a year. This time around I was on assignment and was fortunate to take a luxurious ride through the country with Road to Mandalay, a river cruise by Orient Express. As my first trip last May was about as “backpacker” as it gets, I’d say I’ve seen both extremes of the difficult to easy travel scale there. As I play catch up on work, I post these two photos from a couple of excursions. [See the story of my Myanmar river cruise at The Mad Traveler home site.]
The first is from Bagan. Last year I spent three days here in 111 F/44 C heat, pedaling a dollar-a-day bicycle through the sun-baked plain in Bagan where there are over 3,000 temples and pagodas spread throughout. It’s a lot easier with a guide, an air-conditioned van and a cooler of bottled water. However, some things may be worth struggling for. Either way, the place is one of my favorites of the archaeological types, right up there with Tikal in Guatemala. (Despite being hundreds of years old and crumbling in some instances, many of these temples are still active, so it might not be your typical archaeological site.) Sunset from one of the temple heights is a must.
It’s startling to see little boys taking on the Buddhist monastic life, though not all of them do so for life necessarily. But though fewer in numbers, the girls get in on the practice as well. These young Buddhist nuns are studying in a convent near Mandalay. Life is strict, to say the least. But after getting over my presence, one of the girls asked me some cautious questions. “Where are you from? Do you like Myanmar?” Yes, I like it very much. The people are wonderful. Giggles all around for a moment, then back to studying Buddhist teachings.