On the Road to Burma (Myanmar) Part I – Yangon

Rainy Yangon St.

Rainy Yangon St.

I was relieved as we approached the the International Terminal at Yangon airport. We could see from the taxi that our overloaded luggage cart was still there. After a busy, stimulating, inspiring, beautiful week-long visit to Burma (Myanmar), we hastily had left our baggage out in the open at the airport security desk in Yangon for more than four hours. We had planned to check our bags at the airport and go to dinner at our guide, and now friend’s, flat about 12 miles away. Our flight did not leave until 1:00 a.m. and we arrived from Began at 6:30 p.m. fully loaded down with bags.The Dragaonair ticket counter did not accept checked luggage before two hours from departure. We had done our very best to spread our money around in Burma and we had a lot to lug and show for it, too much to haul across town in a taxi.  At the assurance of two well-meaning English-speaking travelers, we left our baggage cart and headed for a taxi. Airport security had agreed, through our volunteer translators, to watch our bags. Not thinking twice about it, we jumped in a taxi and sped away. Only after we were in the taxi a few silent minutes did it sink in what we had just done. We left our bags without a ticket or a name or anything but a nod and smile. Oh well, worst case scenario would be that it was all gone when we returned. I could live with that.

Found safe and sound in the Yagon International Airport

Found safe and sound in the Yagon International Airport

So ended a fantastic trip to Burma (I will continue to call it Burma at the behest of Aung San Suu Kyi). It is a wonderland for those wanting to see an authentic and emerging country. Tourists are finding their way to Burma, and it will change dramatically and quickly. The Burmese people are anxiously awaiting the changes and hoping for all good things ahead. After the visit of President Obama and Hillary Clinton, the Burmese are eager to welcome American travelers of which there are very few compared to other nations. Never did we feel unsafe  and the Burmese people are welcoming and genuine. Obviously we felt this safety and friendliness as we did not hesitate to leave our belongings so easily.

We started our time in Yangon. We had a recommendation for a guide that had worked with other Americans traveling from Hong Kong. Mr Han (mr.han1000@gmail.com) is a treasure. He works for a local tour company, but is on the cusp of operating his own operation independently. He is well organized and plans well and he uniquely tailors your visit with your interest and considers safety in food and lodging above all else.

Swedagon Paya, The Strand Hotel, Feel Myanmar Food, the ferry to Dalah, Chaukhtatgyi Buddha, National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters, Aung San Suu Kyi’s home, Inya Lake were some of the many destinations in Yangon.

Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon, Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda Yangon, Myanmar

Inside the Shwedagon Pagoda

Inside the Shwedagon Pagoda

Monks on the way to meal break in Yangon.

Monks on the way to meal break in Yangon.

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Chaukhtatgyi Pagoda Reclining Buddha in Yangon

One of the many roadside stalls for tea or meals in Yangon.

One of the many roadside stalls for tea or meals in Yangon.

Chili, sesame, pickled tea leaves, ginger, peanuts at Feel in Yangon

Chili, sesame, pickled tea leaves, ginger, peanuts at Feel in Yangon

 

 

The crowing event, and one of the most exciting and humbling moments of my life, was when we were present at NLD headquarters when Daw Anug San Suu Kyi, appeared. Being in her presence was palpable. She exudes grace, determination and peace. I was totally unprepared when she stopped and made eye contact with me directly and asked me “Where are you from?” Tongue tied, I managed to say the USA and how much of an inspiration she was to me and the world. She then extended her hand to me and replied, “Welcome to Burma.” With that, she was whisked down the stairs and into a waiting car. Wow……..my brush with greatness, I will never forget it.

Mr. Han managed to capture the moment. At National League for Democracy Headquarters, Yangon

Mr. Han managed to capture the moment. At National League for Democracy Headquarters, Yangon

Visitors II – Good Friends Make Shopping Kind of Special

Our great friend of many, many years, Andrea arrived in Hong Kong for fun, shopping, site seeing and a trip to Burma. She, just like Jim and Marcia, filled a grocery list of items to make our time here more like home. Thank you for that.

 Great time at Sugar located in the Hotel East. Hong Kong

Great time at Sugar located in the Hotel East. Hong Kong

 

We filled the two weeks with: Ten Thousand Buddhas, subway rides, plane rides, shopping, Macau, temples, Cat Street, Hong Kong Mailboxes, shopping, dinner at Feast, gin and tonics,hydro ferries, shopping, martinis, horse and buggy rides, wine, shopping, woks, photographing cats on the street,BLACK flag rain storms, lunch at Himalaya, vegetarian dim sum, Star Ferry, Big Rubber Ducky in the Harbor, shopping, a stroll on the Ave of the Stars, Orwell’s Burmese Days, Sham Shui Po, cyclones, Shanghai St., dinner at Fernando’s,thunder and lightening, Ruins of St. Paul, shopping, Long Wah Tea House, shopping, lunch at Chi Lin Nunnery, Hong Kong Park, parasols, scheming, Aung San Suu Kyi, lunch at the Tea House in HKG Park, a hike to The Peak, shopping, “one of the best meals of my life,” (X2 after Fernando’s), rubber shoes, Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace,lucky money, temples, shopping, palm readings, oh yeah….did I mention shopping! Mom would be proud!

 

On the Walk of Stars in Kowloon.

On the Walk of Stars in Kowloon.

Return to Vietnam

Twelve years ago, we took a trip of a lifetime with our daughter and two friends. We traveled from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang to Hanoi, Vietnam. We ate fantastic food, and visited magical beaches, museums, ancient ruins, and rural villages. We also met two very good friends, Duong and Toai.

Da Nang Airport with Toai, Li, Steve, Jennifer and Duong

Da Nang Airport with Toai, Li, Steve, Jennifer and Duong

A lot has changed since that first visit. Vietnam is evolving and developing into a thriving country. And, Duong and Toai’s life changed in an instant when their daughter was killed in  a tragic bus accident on an icy Idaho road. Trang was the link between our families.She was studying in Boise and that is were we met. She introduced us to her parents and we visited and toured with them on our trip. It is bittersweet that our friendship with her parents was strengthened due to her death.

We met lots of family and friends and also made a trip to visit Trang’s tomb in Hue.

Toai's parents in Hue. Toai was born in this house.

Toai’s parents in Hue. Toai was born in this house.

A very special dinner with very good friends in Duong and Toai's home.

A very special dinner with very good friends in Duong and Toai’s home.

Duong meets with 10 ladies in Hue when ever she can. They have been friends for 49 years. It was an honor to spend the afternoon with them hearing stories and practicing English.

The Ladies of Hue with Steve at a dinner.

The Ladies of Hue with Steve at a dinner.

Tomb marker for Trang in Hue

Tomb marker for Trang in Hue

Da Nang is quickly becoming a destination for beach lovers. Resorts line the shoreline. The famous China Beach is a well-used public beach.

 

this is 6:00 a.m. on China Beach. There were thousands recreating so early in the morning.

This is 6:00 a.m. on China Beach. There were thousands recreating so early in the morning.

Da Nang is a river city. At least three new bridges have been built across the Han river in the last 10 years. Two of the bridges have been designed by Americans. The most impressive is the Dragon Bridge. It is beautiful in day and in night.

Dragon Bridge spanning the Han river in Da Nang

Dragon Bridge spanning the Han river in Da Nang

Some things have not changed much. One thing that we loved when we visited before was the basket boat. In Da Nang, there is still many basket boats in use.

Basket boats on the beach in Da Nang.

Basket boats on the beach in Da Nang.

 

There is so much more to the story of our experience in Vietnam. Future posts will chronicle. For now, we are enjoying the memory and and looking forward to returning in September.