|a bunch of buddhas, bagan, myanmar|
first morning, taxi to downtown yangon with very cool taxi driver cranking burmese covers of the black crows and singing along while pointing at things out the window. this so called "taxi" was a torn up old toyota wagon with half the floorboard missing and a couple of woofer speakers bungee-corded down in the back. our first thought was "this is easily the worst taxi we've ever ridden in." we would end up revising our opinion nearly every day.
|disco buddha, silly papaya,|
|shwedagon pagoda, yangon, myanmar|
after a couple of days in yangon and on our way next to bagan, the old capital of burma, an american hands us a card of a guide in bagan. "just ask for kyaw, it sounds like 'joe,' everyone knows him. by the way, everyone is called kyaw." oh, thanks. we then land in bagan, taxi guy asks what we're doing tomorrow, i hand him kyaw's card and say "i'm looking for this guy." he says "OH KYAW! he's my best friend! i will call him for you right now." and we learn quickly, this is how myanmar works.
|temples of the central plain, bagan, myanmar|
we drove an hour across those very same plains to climb mount popa, a volcanic crag that juts out of the landscape straight up for hundreds of feet. a series of 777 steps to the top that is the home of 37 "nats," animist spirits that have been "kinda-sorta" integrated into buddhism, particularly in the rural areas of myanmar. monkeys everywhere, including one that steals our water bottle. he wins this battle. but then he tries to eat it. hard to say who wins now.
|water stealing monkey, mt popa, myanmar|
4:30am wake up for a 5:15am taxi to the boat that will take us to mandalay, a trip we have long dreamed of. a boat up the irra-freaking-waddy river! unreal. the boat is scheduled to leave at 6:00am. 5:30am arrives. 5:45am arrives and even our hotel manager is looking worried on our behalf. screeching out of the dark comes a pair of headlights and a van we've never seen before. he skids to a stop. shouts "jump in!" and we jam through nyuang u with horn screaming and monks scattering in the dark to reach the boat. turns out, the guy's car ran out of gas on his way to pick us up and he had to jog around town at 5:15am to find someone's car to borrow so he could fulfill his promise to us.
|temples of ancient burma, bagan, myanmar|
|ubein bridge, amarapura (old capital of burma), mandalay, myanmar|
i crossed the road in the dark with a policeman who, after i put my hand to my head imitating a phone call, walked me to a makeshift counter with an old g&e phone sitting on it and a phone cord disappearing up the palm tree above and into the dark. showing the phone number of our guesthouse to the girl, and the little boy hugging my leg, she dialed the number and i was connected with our guesthouse who had promised to send a taxi. "oh! we were told the ferry was late. it's on time? that means it's early."
we walked back across the road to michelle, our baggage, and a gaggle of trishaw drivers. the policeman mumbled something in burmese essentially saying "they have a ride," and all the drivers suddenly disappeared. welcome to burma.
myanmar is a wonderfully baffling, and unbelievably generous, country making do with what they have. it's a challenge to travel here as one can't pull money after entering. there are no ATMs. the preparation for arriving was a guess in the dark as to how much cash we would need without knowing the day to day cost. u.s. dollars, oddly, are the preferred currency and to get the best rate of exchange, they need to be pristine. which means the banks of myanmar must have the largest supply of the cleanest, most beautiful $100 bills in all the world.
it's been a great nine days so far and we're looking forward to another week. next stop, inle lake in the shan hills, a legendary area. and with that, we leave you with this... you're welcome.
|parts of this guy are strewn all over this country. mandalay, myanmar.|