Though the rains have cooled up the place, Myanmar is typically hot and humid, so I am told.
Though locals do understand and speak a bit of English, some of the intended jokes fly over my head and I just laughed because I did not want to be rude. I hope they were not calling me a fool and I was proving it by laughing at it ;-). (I am writing this while waiting for my flight in Yangon). Burmese folks were helpful in general. Life is obviously tough for the majority in Myanmar.
A quick thought on plastic: Mark my words … There will come a time when all our pristine sights are awash with plastic waste. Cleaning it around the clock is NOT the solution. We all have to stop trashing in the first place. For example, the train food vendor was throwing away (through the window) a plastic bag a minute!
Bagan – In case you are not aware, is the largest and densest concentration of Buddhist temples in the World, most of them from 11th century period.
Bagan Archieological Museum: I really enjoyed my 2hr there. Stone carvings, depictions of village life, Bagan palace miniatures, Bagan village miniatures, ancient paintings, Buddha statues galore, Bagan weapons, ancient stone inscriptions, 50+ hair style displays, Bagan traditional dresses, Bagan area paintings, toddy palm details (how they use all parts of the palm), Bagan brick making details, Bagan village life, Bagnlan love for dance and music, Bagan empire maps, various temple miniatures and history, Bagan dam building techniques, Golden and Silver Buddha statues (in ultra safe enclosures 🙂 Etc. The staff was very helpful. No photos were allowed inside. The museum was very well maintained except for an area where there was a roof leak (Hmmm … Considering the rains over the past few days).
While standing on the top of Shwesandaw temple and I was looking around, I got a feeling that I had stumbled into the “Baahubali” set :-). The entire landscape was filled with a sea of Buddhist temples, of varying sizes.
I came across no coins in Myanmar. It was only notes of the following denominations (Kyat): 5000/1000/500/200/100/50. There is 10000 Kyat which I saw but did not ask for as carrying smaller change is best.
In Bagan, the Ayeryarwadi river was and is an obvious lifeline for the locals. You can actually take a 8hr boat ride from Mandalay to Bagan. The Archaeological Museum did mention a lot about the river.
As in a lot of countries, US Dollar is very powerful in this part of the World. Any shop will take USD, though you are at their mercy for the exchange rate :-). The notes have to be pristine. Tear, markings Etc. are No-No. I got landed up with a 20USD note which had a violet marking. When I paid off my taxi guy after he dropped me off at the overnight return bus station, I tried to slip him the bill, along with other notes. The dude went away and then returned 30min later, claiming he is unable to exchange it. I had to pay him 100 INR to have him grudgingly keep the 20$ bill. My total payment to him was in Myanmar Kyat + US Dollar + Indian Rupee. Global economy!
I saw very few Indians while in Myanmar. One was a businessman in the Bagan hotel. Rest were 3-4 folks in the Yangon airport. I cannot see why more folks are not coming over. The many places of Myanmar I have not been to (mountains, lakes, beaches Etc.) should keep it on par with other South-East countries.
We reached outskirts of Yangon by 5.30AM. Me and a Swiss couple shared a taxi from the highway to the airport. They were on their way to Thailand and Indonesia.
Souvenirs: At Bagan, I bought some sand paintings. The vendor and his family (wife/children) were so eager and having read that common man does not get to make much money in a controlled system (that is still opening up), I did not have the heart to “bargain”. I liked the paintings, the prices sounded reasonable and I just went for it. From the child, I bought a set of postcards. Later on, I also bought some gems from a store in town.
And now to the next country, which is … Cambodia.