|A quick hop and a skip, and here I am. Worlds away from the madness of Bangkok. Actually, it's just a madness of another sort. The local, everyday sort instead of the tourist trap of Thailand. A refreshing change, to say the least.
Being my usual, slightly unorganized self, I hadn't made any hotel arrangements, so when I got off the plane,,,, "Now what?". A lady from the local YMCA was there to pick up some other guests so I said What the hell?, and jumped in. If nothing else, it was a free ride into town. It turned out to be a free ride and much more. What a superb introduction to Myanmar. The staff was friendly, room was good and clean, and they went out of their way to make sure you had everything you needed. Breakfast in bed, and they even lent me a blanket for the cold 14 hour bus rides and chilly mountain nights! Even better, all the profit goes to help the needy. I'de recomend it to anyone.
Most of the foreigners hang out in the downtown core, so I bumped into all the people I'de met waiting in the line at the embassay and then some. Us tourists sure stand out in the crowd. You can see us coming for blocks, and the people with something to see have eagle eyes.
The Shwe Dagon Pagoda is a huge religious site that every good Myanmar buddhist will pilgrimage to at least once in their life, them and every tourist in town. It was awe inspiring. They sure take religion seriously. A nice monk took us under his wing and showed us around. His english wasn't perfect, but you could tell he got a kick out of practising. It was a great afternoon, and an amazing sunset. The colors reflected off the 98m golden stupa are intense, and if you stand in the perfect "secret" spots, stand in que with the rest of them, the gemstones up top dazzle. Worth the wait.
A few days into it and I'de seen the sights. It was time for my first Myanmar bus experience. 14 hours of blasting air-con + seats made for wee little asians = DREAD.