Travel Stories

A travel blog for a long-term expat, backpacker, traveler, ESL teacher, and photographer. 

Bago

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After realizing that Yangon was majorly lacking some culture as it was swarmed with a busy city bustle, we decided to hop on a train to Bago. Bago is approximately two hours away by train from Yangon. Train...wait, Myanmar has trains? Yes, the English built a railroad system in Myanmar during their colonization period and today it is still used. By still used, I mean it still is the same as 1940 and has majorly deteriorated over time. And by deteriorate, I mean it jumps. Myanmar's train system jumps. This fact I did not believe prior to riding on the train but in fact there were times when I was in the air. Thus. riding trains in Myanmar require sports bras. Also, we rode in first class - a whopping dollar fifty for a two hour ride of jumping in first class. The views of the countryside were amazing, the greenest fields (again, it was rainy season) I have ever seen, rice paddies after rice paddies, lakes, and flooded village - it was all amazing to gaze at. Also, at the station, we were greeted by goats. There were goats on the tracks and goats in the station. What better way to be greeted?The video below is not my video but it summarizes the jumping train so you can see for yourself.

Our hotel in Yangon arranged for a travel agency, Sea Sar, to pick us up atthe station in a tuk tuk and bring us to their tour office (to keep our bags for the day). They then (to their benefit) offered us transportation for the day for 15 dollars each to about 5 different places (and with a tour guide). So, off we headed in the pouring rain for a second day in a row! The rain didn't stop the people from going around town though!Around lunch time, we were close to the second largest monastery in Myanmar so we darted off to go see 500 monks wait in line for food. We wandered around the kitchens and saw monks cooking barefoot. (You can't wear shoes inside temples or monasteries). About four monks went back and forth carrying giant pots of food into the cafeteria. Anyways, one monk rang the giant gong to announce lunch and 500 monks came out of all crevices magically appeared (as well as a pack of homeless dogs barking to the sounds of the gong). Monks from 7 to 60 years old began lining up. There was what looked like an endless wave of crimson robes, bald heads, and barefeet. The tourists (like Liam and I) wandered around taking hundreds of photos of individual monks. Children and monks close to my age giggled at the sight of the camera. Older monks were more used to tourists visiting but of course no monk was opposed because tourists meant donations to the monastery and therefore, food.

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Next, we visited some random temples. It seems that in all countries in Asia, once you see one Buddhist temple of that sort of architecture, you have an idea what the others will look like. The people walking around the temple were by far more interesting to me than the golden pagodas. Don't get me wrong, the temples/pagodas were beautiful but eventually rather repetitive. The same goes for Europe! I mean how many churches can you handle in Europe after awhile? Liam and I wandered around for subjects to capture. Below is what we found. 

 

One temple area we visited housed a giant reclining Buddha. This was the area where I found the most lovely Burmese boy!  He was trying to sell me some shabby looking postcards that he made. I asked him if he had really made these postcards (most of the time they say that so you feel more inclined to buy them) and he pulled out the kit from the ones he was making. It was enough to convince me but I didn't really want the postcards. So, I changed the subject and I decided to probe and ask him about his hobbies instead. He told me he loved singing and The Beatles were his favorite band. He then sang me Let it Be. (And later Tracy Chapman). I asked his name and he told me Foolish Man. Then I bought the postcards because I was charmed by his singing.He told me he listened to the radio over and over again to write down the lyrics and learn them. He pulled out a few papers that he ripped out of an old comic book with lyrics to Born in the USA on it and held it up. Anyways, I was quite charmed by his happiness and persistence so I thought I'd share it with you guys. The people of Myanmar are so friendly and innocent. Tourism hasn't massively taken over and so they're authentic, genuine, and happy people. This is just one example.By the way: The stuff on his face is a Burmese makeup that is made from tree bark. Most people wear it and it is a sort of sunscreen.

 

Our next stop was to see a python that was more than 6 meters long (more than 20 feet). It was huge from length to width! He had his own temple and his own room equipped with a bath where he could slither around. He was estimated to be around 120 years old so many locals brought him offerings of money and baskets of fruit. I was able to witness an offering session with the snake by one of the locals. You can watch the video below! And jesus, there was a lot of snake skin! They hung it around the room from the ceiling. Liam and I both got a chunk of it to keep (which he later forgot in his passport case for safe keeping and scared the shit out of random people).

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The saddest part of this charming, little village was that because it was rainy season, many people's homes were underwater (regardless of being on stilts). Many people had to flee to the local temples for sanctuary during the season because of the flood. Fish and meat markets were still being held regardless of the flood, in the flooded water - no doubt contaminating the meat. People bathed in the flood water too. It was sad to see but amazing to see real, authentic everyday life going on regardless of the misfortunate weather circumstances. People were amazing, hospitable, and so so friendly. This didn't bring down the emotions of anyone and it was ultimately inspiring. Liam and I walked around a few people's homes and took some amazing photos of the authenticity. We also ran into a bunch of school children and gave candy to them after they did their ABCs successfully for us - what great English teacher's we are! :P Then, it started raining sooooooo hard, I've never seen rain so hard. A local family saw us wandering and offered us sanctuary in their concrete house where we waited out the storm playing with two little boys on their stoop. Eventually, the family wanted to entertain us so they put on a cheesy Bollywood film.Anyways, we returned to Sea Sar in the evening after the storm and waited patiently for our next night bus to Inle Lake (which went right outside the office).