Reasons to love Myanmar


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The clouds cleared as I peered outside the plane window, revealing patches of green. Golden stupas stand tall, scattered intermittently in the green mesh. I have travelled to Myanmar in a lush green morning of the year 1104.

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Aerial view of Mandalay

Welcome to the land of Golden pagoda”,  the foreigner beside me whispers.
She is visibly excited. So am I.
I am flying over a country I never thought I would visit.

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Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon, Myanmar

A country I knew very little about and a country that isn’t on many bucket lists.

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Bagan, the quintessential Myanmar

The air hostess winks as she bids good bye.
Mingalaba Myanmar. ( Hello Myanmar!)
Intense reading about the country tells me that messy, crumpled US dollars are worthless in the country and smiles are priceless.

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A Burmese kid at the Shwedagon pagoda, Myanmar

And as I fervently try to exchange a folded note at the exchange counter and when I meet Mr. Minn, our guide at Mandalay, and see his tiny eyes disappearing in a wide toothed grin, I know exactly why it was said so.

Myanmar grows onto you. It doesn’t wow you or spellbind you at the first instant, but weaves its magic slowly but surely.

inle-lake-fisherwoman

Here’s how:

  • Omnipresent pagodas:
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The pagodas in Bagan

“Throw a stone and find a pagoda” I thought it was a hyperbole by Mr.Minn till I actually lost count of the pagodas that whizzed by as we drove past them.

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Shwedagon Pagoda, yangon

From glistening golden to earthy brown to withered white, the pagodas came in all sizes. When you actually give up counting, you will start noticing the architectural brilliance of these structures, built meticulously with faith and more.

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Dhammayangyi Temple Bagan
  • Tea and conversations:
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A tea house in Myanmar

Small, cozy tea houses and locals huddled together over cups of piping hot Laiphet yeh ( black tea with condensed milk) is a common sight in Myanmar.

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Tea made with condensed milk

Walk through the by lanes of a Burmese suburb and find yourself amidst a bustling tea- house. Marvel at the swiftness of the lady making tea in tiny cups with condensed milk, dishing out cup after cup.

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A lady making tea in a Burmese tea house

Tea houses are where conversations are struck, politics is discussed and hours are spent mulling over little somethings with endless cups of Burmese tea.

Hop in for a conversation, a tiny white cup filled till the brim , served with pancakes and love of course.

  • People and warmth:
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A lady from the Poah tribe, Myanmar

I stand at the jetty at Inle lake, unaware of a mosquito that is happily chewing my leg. A local Shan woman, slaps my leg and as I jump in shock, she signals it’s all okay and washes my leg with the lake water, as I shake my head saying “No!”

Complete strangers will get out of their way and help you.

Local ladies at Bagan insisted they deck me up in their local attire ( lyongyi). Their excitement in dolling me up was infectious!

Mingalaba and a smile is all it takes to instantly make a Burmese smile.

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A woman from the Long necked tribe

The kids love to be photographed. Point a camera and they will startle you with their poses and poise.

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A burmerse cutie at Pwin oo Lwin

Retire to your hotel room after a long day and find cute messages and bunches of flowers left behind by the local staff.

The people of Myanmar will melt your hearts with their simplicity and hospitality.

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  •  Vibrant markets :
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A colourful market outside a pagoda in Myanmar

From local markets outside pagodas or the maze called Scott’s in Yangon, the markets in Myanmar are a shopper’s delight.

The Burmese arts and crafts are authentic and truly innovative.

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Lacquer ware in Bagan
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An artist’s palette

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A girl selling jade at Amarapura

Colourful Burmese umbrellas, hand woven shawls, vibrant puppets and dolls, intricate lacquerware, precious and semi precious jewellery, souvenirs, lyongyis :the list is endless.

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Postcards from Myanmar

While I flunked the bargaining tests big time, I don’t regret any shopping experience of Myanmar. Small factories and workshops nestled on water in Inle Lake have their own quintessential old world charm.

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A silk factory at Lake Inle

Don’t like shopping? Fret not. The markets will provide ample frames for your camera.

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A lacquer ware shop in Yangon
  • Picturesque landscapes:
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A farmer at Heho

While the first impressions of Myanmar are that it is unpretentious, raw and undeveloped, certain rural landscapes are too dainty to be missed.

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The rustic landscapes of Myanmar

Drive from Heho to Pindaya and you won’t rest your camera or your eyes even for a tad bit.

Carpets of yellow mingling with swaying wheat and lush greenery, kissing the clouds in a bright blue sky.

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It was all Yellow!

For a moment it looked Tuscany without the vineyards. Of all the things I had read about Myanmar, this was a surprise package.

Houses dotted this rural landscape making it picture postcard worthy.

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A rainbow over the fields

The landscapes of Bagan are ethereal too. With thousands of pagodas and absolutely no concrete disturbances, Bagan takes you back in time.

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Stupas amidst the fields
  •  The mystical Lake Inle : 

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Floating vegetation, one legged rowers, quaint wooden houses and all of this engulfed within mountains of the Shan state.

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Narrow speed boats will ferry you around as you witness how an entire city dwells in the lake. If I had to go back to Myanmar and visit just one place again, I’d choose Inle any day.

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A day at Lake Inle , Myanmar

It is massive, it is untouched and it gives you a glimpse of their local life like no other place. High on local arts and crafts and with an array of cultural dances, Inle is quaint, serene and and truly mystical.

  • In search of the perfect vegetarian meal:

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Armed with my list of survival words: Tathaloo ( lifeless) , Atha ma sa bu ( I don’t eat meat), ta tha loo shi la ( do you have vegetarian food?), I try to survive in a predominantly fish loving country. I come back enlightened.

1. The food is fresh. Salads will never disappoint.

2. It’s either rice or noodles. Say goodbye to anything remotely similar to chapatis.

3. If everything fails, fresh fruits will always come to your rescue.

4. Local street food has plenty of options. Being experimental helps.

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Street food at Pwin oo Lwin

 

  • An infectious old world charm:
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U Bein bridge at Amarapura

The right time to visit Myanmar is now. Modernisation hasn’t crept in and most places have a quintessential old world charm.

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Pindaya caves Myanmar

Yangon and Mandalay are slowly developing and you will find concrete labyrinths here( barring the colonial parts of Yangon and Amarapura in Mandalay ) but Bagan and Inle make you time travel.

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Burmese Shepherd

Devoid of fast food culture and MNCs, local life is rich and unadulterated and markets still have a distinct flavour. If you want to experience the country in its truest form, this is the best time to go.

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Irrawaddy River cruise Bagan

Yangon reminds me of Mumbai but it has its own charm. Here is a list of tips I read before visiting Yangon.

I see blinkering lights below as the flight kicks off from Yangon. Dotted lines glimmer in the dark as I rest my head and recollect how the land of the golden pagoda had a calming effect. Is it because of seeing innumerable smiling Buddhas over the past few days or maybe I am just sleepy.

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Buddhist nuns at Scott’s Market

There is gold everywhere. In glimmering pagodas, gleaming Buddhas and gold flakes. But the gold in people’s hearts glitters too and that is what is abundantly magnetic.

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I haven’t mastered the art of tying a lyongyi or bargaining with a shop keeper, (big deal!) I have mastered mingalaba and jesuba ( thank you) and they have sailed me through.

Through taxi rides, river cruises, pagoda visits, photo sessions, city explorations and local interactions.

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For all this and more, I look back at the last visible bit of Myanmar and mutter “Jesubeh” as I plunge into sleep and travel back to 2016.

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Here’s a travel video shot at Myanmar, giving you a glimpse into the country and its culture.

Stay tuned for more.

53 thoughts on “Reasons to love Myanmar

  1. You captured some amazing pictures here, the kid smiling is adorable. You are right Myanmar is not on many bucketlists but it is on mine for sure. I would love to visit and even more since I saw your experiences there

  2. Oh wow! 🙂 Myanmar has been high up on my bucketlist, at first I wasn’t quite sure what attracted me to want to visit, perhaps it was all the other travellers I met in South East Asia who insisted I don’t miss it. And your post has cemented that longing, it looks and sounds so authentic and beautiful! You write beautifully and now to plan that trip to Myanmar! 😉

  3. I was considering visiting Myanmar last year but gave up in the end as it didn’t fit into our schedule. Now you make me want to visit there this year. That Shwedagon Pagoda looks gorgeous! It is nice that you got to meet the people from the tribe. Love the smiles on their face!

  4. The people seem so lovely and open-minded. Must be super interesting to talk to them and listen to their stories. Especially those about nature and their heritage.

  5. I love those portrait shots. It reveals the simplicity, the kindness and the hospital life of the people in Myanmar. It truly is a great place made of simple beauty and the simple life. I bet you are glad you made a decision to visit Myanmar even its not on your bucketlist.,

  6. Myanmar looks stunning. Your photographs really bring the place to life, they’re so colourful. How did you find travelling in the country? Were they welcoming to travellers?

  7. Divsi, I am absolutely speechless! This post was simply brilliant! You actually have brought out the soul of Myanmar through your wonderful images and beautiful words. I haven’t seen anything more picturesque! Tea with condensed milk? Hmm have to try that! Thhat tea house, the shopping trails, the pagodas, the cheerful smiles, the vivid skies, the culture, the food…and yes the rainbow over the fields….love, love them all!

  8. Stunning captures and your commentary explains what a wonderful trip you had. The women look so pretty! Reminds me of the northeast of India. 🙂 You’ve captures the landscapes and twinkle in little kids’ eyes so beautifully. Love it! Wanted to visit Myanmar. Thanks for taking me there! 🙂 Have a happy New Year, Divyakshi! Here’s to many more travels. Your new blog looks amazing. 🙂

  9. If anyone thought Myanmar was not worth a visit – ever; trust me they just need to read this post and it will change their mind. Lovely clicks 😀

  10. Okay, I knew I wanted to go there. Now your post and of course the beautiful pictures have ignited the urge even more. I thought for long as what would be that one thing I would like to see there first. I still can’t figure out. Everything about Myanmar is so enticing! Please tag me whenever you write future posts, I don’t want to miss anything.

  11. I am totally sold on the smiles, Divsi! Such a beautifully written travelogue, Myanmar looks every bit charming through your lens – the calming pagodas to the colorful markets to the picturesque ladscapes – it looks like a country stuck in time and one that I would surely love to see and savour myself someday. The glimmer of the golden hearts shining through your pictures made my day that much more brighter today! 🙂

  12. Welcome back . Have been waiting for your blogpost for a long time . This has been a perfect referral point for planning a trip to Myanmar. Halfway through the post I was wondering whether you have captured the doors and windows or not ? Then I see you have done. Great post

    1. Thanks so much Anin! Missed blogging and reading blogs in this past month:) feels so good to be back. Oh yes, lots of rustic windows in Inle and ornate doors in pagodas 🙂

  13. Wow. After a long time, I have seen a blog which I will read again and again. The pictures are so lively that it makes me want to pack my bags now and head to Myanmar. I long to see this place. Your blog also points out some gems I did not know about such as Pindaya caves. It’s my dream to see Bagan temples. Kudos for this wonderful blog!

  14. It would appear that despite not being in your Top Five list, Myanmar still manage to captivate you in parts. Photographs are lovely as usual – but your write up seems to have become more shorter 🙂
    Welcome back, btw!

  15. Wonderful piece of writing. I am contemplating Myanmar in 2017. Your blog just had a catalytic effect on my penchant for the land so near yet so far hidden from the mass tourism. When(month) did you visit?

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