After a hiatus of 4 years, here I am blogging again. And it’s because I am truly inspired by all the lovely things I’d been seeing and experiencing lately, and my heart is bursting with an overwhelming urge to tell you. Let’s start with Myanmar, shall we?
Our trip over the school holidays was a wonderful hybrid of free & easy and assisted tour, and luckily we had one sorted out with our travel agent, Green Wood Tourism. They were pretty top notch in my opinion, very easy to talk to and had very good people helping us with our needs, being a family of 5 with 2 young children and a teen.
We had arranged for a private car to pick us up at the airport and drive us around Yangon for the day then transport us to the bus station. The drive from downtown Yangon to the bus station took approximately 1.5 hours due to very heavy traffic, which our driver Aye Min said was normal and to be expected.
We spent our first night in Myanmar on the express bus from about 8 p.m. to our arrival at the Bagan bus station around 5 a.m. Getting there that early meant there was no time to be lost looking for a place to have breakfast at, or even to put our bags down at the hotel and freshen up. Because sunrise at the pagodas was the thing to do.
From all the blogs about the Yangon-Bagan overnight VIP express bus that I read before our trip, I worried about how tortuous it would be for me and my family (especially the kids). I was very concerned about the radio blasting local pop music at full volume overnight; not being able to get to a toilet pit stop soon enough; and about the temperature being unbearably frigid (we come from Asian tropical countries and are not acclimatized to very cold temps). So I packed winter beanies, light jackets, fluffy sleeping socks and made sure they were within reach (in the backpack right on the floor of my bus seat).
Turned out we were very lucky. Our bus: (1) had its own toilet on board; (2) the pit stop was about 2 hours from leaving the station, at a well-lit restaurant with reasonably clean toilets and choices of meals and snacks; (3) the bus music was at a fairly toned down volume and they turned it off completely at around midnight, as well as dimmed the lights inside the bus; (4) the bus company provided water bottles, packed bread snacks, and a blanket for each passenger; (5) air conditioning was cool but not too cold nor hot; and (6) the ride was smooth and surprisingly quite comfortable.
My packed supplies, though, saved me from a lot of worry and hand-wringing for any “just in case” scenarios.
Personally, I’m not much into established religious practices; my interest is due to their profound influence in the way people live, and the reasons why they do what they do and don’t what they don’t. I myself grew up very Catholic (like many Filipinos) and went to a convent school, and a major part of my family as an adult practice Buddhism, and several of my friends are Muslim, some Hindu. Even my own young kids have varying degrees and schools of belief, and their lives are seasoned with sundry others. If they ever ask (and none of them have) what to believe in I might say “Whatever gives you peace.”
I found the Bagan sites oddly reassuring, supremely calming, particularly in my time of internal undefined turmoil, as if quietly saying that all will be all right. Maybe it’s because these centuries-old temples are standing very solemnly in the midst of grass and trees, up in the highlands, and far, far away from all the numbing chaos of everyday.
Have a Peaceful New Year, friends!
See you again,