Beyond Yangon!

Posted by on February 13, 2012

BeforeI hadn’t realized until the night before we left for Myanmar how traumatic it had been when I’d dislocated my elbow a little under a year ago in Guilin. I couldn’t sleep the night before and it wasn’t because I was excited. I tossed and turned all night, was sick to my stomach and I was really shaky. The next morning as we headed to the Beijing airport at 5:30am had me feeling the same way. It wasn’t for about two more days, when we got to Bagan that I was able I relax and feel good about traveling in Asia again.  This trip we came prepared though with medicine to deal with all kids of aches and pains incase anything bad happened again. That small knowledge gave me comfort.

We arrived in Yangon (the only city with an International airport but that’s said kind of loosely) in the late afternoon. It was close to dinnertime and the kids were tired of flying all day. Little did they know we were getting up again the next morning to fly to Bagan on the 6:30am flight?  Some of us went to see the biggest temple in Myanmar and some of us stayed back at the hotel to eat dinner and relax.

Shwezigon PagodaThe next morning came very early as we headed to the airport again. We got into Bagan around 9am, took our stuff to our hotel (the Amazing Bagan Resort), let the kids run around a little and then head out with our tour guide to see some temples (temples you can inside of and stupas you cannot, just a little fyi for you to know) and stupas and then have a local Myanmar lunch. The first temple we saw is named Shweizegan.
It holds bones of a Buddha. We spent about 2 hrs. walking around, seeing all the amazing statues, hearing stories about Buddha from our guide and letting the kids run and play.

Heading to LunchOne thing that I really loved about all the temples and stupas we saw is that you have to remove your shoes before entering them or the area around them. It made me think of when Moses saw the burning bush and God told him to remove his shoes because he stood on holy ground. The temples were very spiritual and I cannot imagine walking through them without taking off my shoes. We had been told before to take flip-flops or shoes that are easy to remove because we would be constantly taking them off. It was the best advice.


That day we had a local lunch (not my favorite, except for the chick peas, those were delicious) and then went back to the hotel to let the kids swim. That night we went to a temple that had the steepest  (and narrowest) steps going up to the roof, which we climbed to see the sunset. The Golden Girls I literally crawled up the stairs while a local woman held a flashlight for me so that I could see. The whole time in her broken English she kept saying “ watch the head, watch the head”. It sounds really lame but those steps to me were as scary to climb as it is for me to ride a roller coaster (which I never do btw). It was a major feat for me,mainly because of how narrow it was and I have claustrophobia. Ha ha. The sunset was amazing. We stayed up on the roof taking amazing photos, talking to some locals and also our guide and watching Miles and Eli run around down below scouting out other small temples and stupas.  Later they would try and convince us they heard a cobra or some large animal growl at them. I had no idea that cobras growled.

The rest of our time in Bagan was spent seeing more amazing temples and stupas (there are more than 4000 in Bagan), riding in horse The Explorersbuggies to see them, eating yummy Thai food, swimming at the hotel, going to some markets, and also visiting a monastery where a bunch of little monks were studying. These monks were orphans and destined to be monks because of that. I loved all the red soil in Bagan, it made me think of southern Utah, I loved seeing all the termite hills (as weird as that sounds) around the town (I’ve seen them in magazines before and then here I was seeing them in person, very cool), I loved the people and all their smiling faces and how their eyes would sparkle and scrunch up when they said hello and smiled. I loved the children, who were very inquisitive of us and I loved the care and respect the people have of the temples.

The next morning we flew to Heho, then took a van ride for about an hour (very windy). The night before Austin had been sick and throwing up. During the very bumpy and windy road he kept throwing up. I’m quite prone to gagging when someone else is sick and this ride was no exception. In fact, when we arrived at Inle lake (you have to take a boat because it is the only way to get to any hotel on the lake) I was the last one in the van to try and get out but Austin was in front of me practically losing a lung and I couldn’t get out. I sat in the back closed my eyes and plugged my ears until he was finished. It seemed to go on for about 5 minutes.  Poor Austin. Throughout the trip everyone in his family got sick and was throwing up. Our family got colds but nothing else, thank goodness.

Paddling Inle LakeOur boat ride was fun and the scenery in that area is breathtaking. After checking into our hotel, we unpacked, ate some lunch (which was amazing) and then we took a boat down the lake with Lesley, Finn and Eli. We saw a silver making factory, a floating tomato garden (actually everything is floating, the villages, some of the hotels and a lot of monasteries).  We even saw a small cat swimming from one piece of ground to another. That was very strange to see. We then went to a monastery to see cats that the monks have trained to jump through hoops and do tricks. While at the monastery Mark told me I could walk up on this platform to see a bunch of really cool Buddha statues but then was pretty much scolded by a Burmese guide for being up there. Come to find out, only men can walk up there and women cannot. I felt so bad and apologized to a monk that was walking past as I stepped back down. He looked at me with a huge smile on his face which I took to mean that it was ok, not to do it again but that it was ok.

I think that Inle Lake, next to Zion National Park has to be one of the most peaceful natural surroundings that I’ve been to. I hope to go back there again someday. While sitting out on the deck of the hotel eating lunch one day, Miles kept telling me all the people we know that he thought would love to be there. They were Kiah and Ramon, my parents and our good friend Shari. It was very cute. He said to me “don’t you think grandma and grandpa would think this was so pretty?” I told him that they would love it. Then he said, “They wouldn’t be able to handle getting in and out of the boat though.”

I loved the peaceful feeling of the lake and the people, I loved how they created villages that floated on the water and how even in a little village you would see a piece of ground about 12 feet by 12 feet where kids were playing volleyball. I also loved gliding along on the lake watching the fisherman pull in their nets, net after net. I loved seeing Monks and Nuns who always had a smile for us. I loved the food that was made with great care and presented in such a beautiful manner.  I was very sad to leave Inle and could’ve stayed there for a week.

After leaving Inle Lake we flew to Ngapali. What a great place to end our trip. We took a bus ride from the airport to our hotel (the Amata), which took us about 25 minutes. Every time we’d get a glimpse of the ocean to our right, we’d all sigh. We got to the hotel, checked in and headed straight to the beach. Mark and I watched Miles and Sofi as they swam in the water, splashed and enjoy being in the warmth of the ocean and away from the cold weather of Beijing. We ate at the hotel that night, which was really expensive and not that great. That was the only time we ate there, the rest of the time we walked across the street to local places and had the best (and cheapest) seafood.

Boats of Ngapali BeachWe spent all of our time at the beach, laying out soaking up some sun, swimming in the ocean, playing in the sand and just relaxing. We needed it after the past couple months that we’ve had. The hotel had a really beautiful pool but no one ever swam in it, why would you with the ocean right there? Our hotel was right on the beach of the Bay of Bengal. It was amazing. There were so many French and German older couples staying in Ngapali, I’d say that was the majority of foreigners visiting that area. There was a little area at the hotel with books and magazines that had been left by past guests and you could take them anytime to read and then return later. I was so excited on our first day to go check out a book. All the books were either in German or French and some I think were Swedish. None were in English. My German is not good enough for me to read a book. Thank goodness for the Kindle.

I loved being able to sit on a lounge chair and relax while the kids swam, I loved the women that walked up and down the beach with a platter rested on their heads full of coconuts and pineapple that you could buy for very cheap and they’d cut it and bag it for you. I loved the seafood, especially the red snapper and shrimp. I loved that my kids had so much fun and had this wide-open playground to get all their energy out on and then fall asleep early at night. I loved having time with Mark, sitting and talking and not worrying about the kids being bored. I loved talking with other foreign families (I’ve noticed how living abroad that people are more apt to just start talking to you and ask where you are from, where you live and so on) who were in Myanmar during Chinese New Year with their families.

It was an amazing trip. It ended on a semi bad note though, but nothing awful. We flew from Ngapali back to Yangon to spend one night and fly out on a Sunday. Mark read the departure time incorrectly. It was in military time (as everything here is) and said 14:15pm. He read it as 4:15pm. We got to the airport at 2:30 (the plane was already boarded and the door were shut) and realized our mistake. I say “Our” because it shouldn’t have just been up to Mark to know when our flight took off. I should have checked myself. Yangon “international” airport isn’t very big and there are only so many flights leaving daily and even weekly from Yangon back to China. Actually there are only flights two days a week from Yangon to Kunming to Beijing. The next day would be Thursday. We ended up staying overnight in a scary motel (probably at one time very luxurious but now kind of a sty) and flying the next day to Bangkok. We had an 8 hr layover and then got into Beijing around 2am and home by 3:45am. The kids were suppose to have started school that day but obviously missed it. I can laugh now about the ending to our magical trip but the day we missed the flight was not so funny.

The Look

I hope we get back to Myanmar again one day.I’d love to take Kiah and Ramon. I hope that the countries tourism continues to grow (but not too quickly) and that it helps them financially. It’s a beautiful country, amazing and spiritual people and full of such wonderful history.

Golden Bagan


6 Responses to Beyond Yangon!

  1. Mark Griffith

    Good stuff Stac, I enjoyed your perspective on the trip. It will always have special memories for me and I look forward to returning to Inle Lake to you when we are old and gray.

  2. stacey griffith

    and we are one of those old couples lounging in the boat with our hats and big sunglasses?

  3. Teresa

    Oh, Stacey! Such a wonderful post! I really REALLY enjoy getting both perspectives from you and Mark and, actually, wish you would post more often! Great photos….great words…and SO obvious that you really enjoyed your time in Myanmar! Kudos for a GREAT post! 🙂

  4. stacey griffith

    Thanks T.

  5. Austin

    Awesome post, Stac! So sorry about my sound effects on the van ride to Inle … ! Ah, I wish I were back there now!

  6. stacey griffith

    I’d go through that whole throwing up scene just to be back in Myanmar again! ha ha. No worries Austin.

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