Ooopsss….I’m about 3 weeks overdue in posting. I blame the internet. I mean the wi-fi connection. But really it’s also not finding quiet times to sit down and write. LAZY-bones.
To recap on our route since the last post, we’ve since visited Myanmar (pronounced Mee-yan-mar, not Mayan-mar as I had erroneously assumed) and Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand and are now in Luang Prabang in Laos.
Myanmar was wonderful. We arrived in Yangon (formally Rangoon) and then visited Lake Inlay, Bagan and Mandalay. I have come to the conclusion that I am not a big-city fan. This is contrary to Ben’s opinion of a metropolis – he likes hussle and bustle and feeling the vibe of a city. I feel overwhelmed by vast cityscapes when travelling (excluding NYC – I am a huge fan of that place) and I found Yangon quite full on.
That said, it’s full of beautiful colonial buildings, the most awe inspiring complex of glistening temples, stupas and pagodas that I have ever seen. Shwedagon Pagoda dominates the downtown Yangon skyline and is a pilgrimage site for Buddhists worldwide. It stands as a stark contrast to its poorer, dustier and overcrowded neighbourhoods. Yangon is a rapidly growing city and there are pockets of wealth juxtaposed next to extreme poverty, and from what I understand, there has been lots of infrastructure support and planning pledged from developed nations, so there are bright skies ahead for this intriguing nation. By luck, we arrived at the pagaoda just after sunset and saw it lit up against the night sky. It was just beautiful. There were a group of young monks (aged 5 – 15 perhaps) sitting on the floor there and praying and chanting. Zaki watched them for a while and then went to sit by them (probably because they were kids and were the only kids there) and he just sat there with them. And seemed to enjoy it. And they welcomed him. We stood back to watch this wonderful sight of our son sitting and praying (he held his hands together in prayer) with young Burmese monks. It was beautiful.
In terms of visitors, we found that for once, as “backpackers” (if that’s what we are), we were not in the majority. There were plenty of ex-pats, aid workers, NGO staff, phenomenal amount of Chinese tourists, but not so many travellers, and even less of them with children. Zakir was a fascination and a delight. He quickly how to say hello in Burmese, and would sing out “min-gaa-baa-laa” wherever we went. Cue much hilarity, lots of smiles from everyone and a very popular 2.5 year old.