Day 7: The Plains of Bagan, Inle Lake and Mandalay

Day 7: Thursday, 23 April 2020 – Yangon, Myanmar (16.8409° N, 96.1735° E) (123 Covid-19 cases & 5 deaths, as of today)

To paraphrase a Beatles song, I read the news today, oh boy…even the funny pages were sad: 50,000 Americans dead in a month, 900,000+ cases, 26+ million unemployed, over $4 trillion allocated to relieve the pain…and yet…he’s still there and telling people to inject disinfectant into their lungs! WTF folks!? (Sorry, some days are easier than others…allow for my brief outburst, please. Chalk it up to cabin fever, or stark rationality, pick ’em?)

But in another world, far, far away from reality…today we come to the edge of the Indian subcontinent that straddles Southeast Asia and China too…Myanmar. Another amazing travel destination. But not for the faint of heart…

Myanmar was the destination I took Pamela to on her Road Test. What’s a Road Test? you ask. Well, it is when you are getting serious about someone and you want to know first hand what type of travelers they are. Especially when traveling is such a big part of my life. It is a make or break proposition in the best of times: on a lush resort weekend trip or a week dining in Italy; but traveling to a lesser developed country (aka Lower-middle income nation, what some in the olden days before PCism, called the Third World) for an extended duration, that is a toughie. Not a lot can be hidden there. Needless to say, despite all the hurdles I put in front of her, on a rather short 10-day notice too, Pamela passed with flying colors. She remains frankly (love you kids, really!) the only person I prefer to travel with other than going it solo as I still so often do. And she is much more fun than going solo…if you know what I mean. But I regress…

We have brought our adventure here twice now: Once after President Obama opened it up for legal US tourists in 2011, and then again last year. Both visits were breathtaking. It is a Thumbs Up, Bucket List, and Go Visit Now destination. (Well, maybe not right now.) The place is so rich on so many levels it is impossible to describe, so we will let three of our alum’s memories speak for themselves.

First up…Tom and Paula are an interesting husband/wife team of adventurers; Paula contacted us way back in 2003 wanting to join in on the fun of The Global Scavenger Hunt  that she obviously saw, but it took her over a decade to finally talk stubborn old Tom into finally going. Hooked now, they have traveled with us several times, with this memory from team SLO Folks 2019 lap around the world …that was just 11-short months and yet a thousand years ago!:

“Visiting Myanmar was an eye opening experience for us in 2019. It’s a large country with so much to see. We could have stayed in Yangon, the capital city, but chose instead to go out into the countryside. It’s an exotic place, with a multitude of temples, pagodas, and stupas. It was hot and sticky but so worthwhile. Some of the temples in Bagan are over 2,500 years old and even Marco Polo commented on their beauty. One of the most memorable attractions was a long drive from Inle Lake, where houses are built on stilts to the Kakku Pagodas. There are over 2,000 pagodas constructed thousands of years ago, all remarkably preserved. In Yangon, we visited the biggest, most famous and sacred pagoda of all, the Shwedagon Buddhist Pagoda. It eclipses the city and takes about an hour to circumnavigate.  We would have to say that Myanmar was one of our favorite countries to visit. The people and the sights were overwhelming wonderful.”
 
Tom & Paula @ Kakku Pagodas                          Shewedagon

Then there’s team Order & Chaos (a long story), who’s real names are Sal & Vivian–both doctors fighting currently to save us all!–and this memory of theirs, also from 2019, but it takes place in Mandalay:

“Well, here we are a year later in a very different world wishing we could go back in time and relive 2019 for a variety of reasons. The beauty of keeping a log is that we have access to all sorts of memories, but what’s more interesting is the memories that get referenced without having to go back and review anything. For us, a very recent reference was the roti we found in Mandalay. It wasn’t that it was dark, or that we were in an unfamiliar city, or that the location of the clue was wrong (the only time in the history of the GSH in which a clue was somewhat obtuse bordering on downright incorrect), all of those things are just icing on the cake. If the GSH teaches you anything it is that if you have to work for something you’ll appreciate it even more. So we worked for a couple blocks in every direction until we found it…an Indian woman and her sons making roti on a street side grill. This was early enough in the trip that we still had antibiotics in the case of food poisoning and this was 2019 so we still had access to toilet paper. Of course, we recognize that a place with no apparent water supply can only mean that they thoroughly washed every ingredient and their hands before setting up for the evening, right? Fears aside, that was the best roti we ever had. We split one and immediately realized we needed a second. And here’s why you should never go on The Global Scavenger Hunt, because once you’ve searched out and found the world’s best roti, everywhere you go and try to recreate the experience…it doesn’t live up to it, like roller coasters or weddings. Hmm, I might be wrong about that…but later that same trip we did go on world’s fastest roller coaster in Abu Dhabi three times in a row and it kept getting better. Okay, maybe I didn’t learn any life lessons the way Bill hoped, but we did have some awesome Indian food in Myanmar of all places.”

The BEST roti, ever!

Stylish as ever!

Finally today, we have half of the Young Gunz team from 2012, with Angel sharing his memory of a long night and sublime morning:

“One of my most memorable adventures on The Global Scavenger Hunt was when we were in Myanmar. We went and found someone to drive us overnight to Inle Lake from Bagan. (About seven hours and 340-kilometers) I remember not being able to sleep because of how bumpy the road was. (Or maybe it was just the car we were in?) I would look out the window and you could see just how close the other cars would speed by us. After a long night of no sleep we finally arrive to the most beautiful view. The sunrise at Inle Lake! You could see the silhouettes of fisherman on their boats holding and steering themselves with the paddle using one leg, balancing with the other, then throwing their casting nets. It was definitely one of the most amazing experiences in my life.”

Reasons to still smile…team Young Gunz

Morning has broken…

Angel motivating the lads…

Boating on Inle Lake…

My view at the Residence…

My view at Bagan…

And more memories than we can hold in…
  
  

The End…or is it? So, last year, we are home in Sonoma County for about four or five days (mid-May) before I get to unloading my backpack. About an hour later, I hear Pamela calling me, “Honey, there is something wiggling on the hallway floor.” I come to check it out. And yes, there indeed is something wiggling on the hallway floor. It is a small, and I must say, rather emaciated looking Montblanc fountain-pen sized snake. It was not a Wine Country indigenous snake either. It was a brightly-colored red and yellow exotic snake of unknown origin, clearly not found in these parts. And the slithering critter was worse for it’s travels too…wherever it came from. An involuntary hitchhiker. I immediately escorted it outside. Yet, minutes later I was profoundly sorry for doing that. I should have killed the scalley slimey deadly mother#@! And now I know I may have inadvertently unleashed an invasive species into our front yard and Wine Country’s backyard. I later took notice that Lonely Planet mentions that Myanmar has one of the highest incidences of death from snakebite in the world (Who knew? Travelers, I wish to amend my previous opening remarks…) …I reckon it wasn’t a Burmese python (not the right colors or size)…but may have been an Banded krait or a Mangrove snake (most likely)…and as we stayed in a riverfront hotel with dock-like see-through floors over the water adjacent to the swampy reeds of Lake Inle for a night, it could have easily slithered into the bag then? That’s my best guess.

Whew, our cup runneth over…hard to leave Myanmar. Always an exceptional destination.

Our memory lane stops over tomorrow in Nepal.

Stay safe and well. Till tomorrow…

Please send any memories you want us to post to ringmaster (at) globalscavengerhunt (dot) com

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