Tag Archives: Burma

After a wonderful visit to Inle Lake, we returned (via the direct overnight bus this time) to Yangon. Now prepared for the cold, I wore jeans, a t-shirt, and hand knitted jumper I had bought at the market, a colourful woollen blanket wrapped tightly around me, a Khmer scarf wrapped around my head and face, and an eye mask. I was relatively warm this time. We arrived very early on a Friday morning, but were not able to check into our guesthouse until 12pm.

In the dark we headed to the guesthouse to drop off our bags. After a failed attempt at talking loudly in an attempt to ‘accidentally’ wake up the receptionist who was fast asleep across two chairs under a mosquito net, Vy eventually did what Anna and I were too polite to do and poked him in the foot. He woke looking very unimpressed and told us we where we could leave our bags and directed us to the bathroom. To get to the toilet we walked though a small, plush living room, where we encountered an old man sitting unmoving in an arm chair staring fixedly at the wall opposite him, reminiscent of a David Lynch film. I’m not sure if he was ignoring us, was dead, or was sleeping with his eyes open. He didn’t notice us at all.

Unencumbered with our heavy bags we wandered the waking streets of Yangon and found a small tea shop, enjoyed a cup of sugar and milk mixed with a little coffee and some pastries. We then watched the sun rise over the beautiful Sule Paya temple.

For the going down of the sun we visited another temple, Shwedagon. Unfortunately there was a lot of cloud cover, so we didn’t see the myriad of colours reflected off the temple that was promised in the Lonely Planet. But no complaints, I think it was still pretty spectacular.

I also felt like a bit of a superstar when I was asked to pose with Burmese families in three separate photos. That hasn’t happened to me since I was a kid visiting Singapore.

The next day we said farewell to the beautiful Myanmar, and now read about it nearly every day in the paper as it starts to reemerge into the wider world. It’s certainly a journey we should all be watching with interest.

Every year the city of Taunggyi holds a balloon festival. During the day they release large hot air balloons in the shapes of animals. But at night the beautiful candle balloons and the fireworks balloons take flight. It runs for a full week. The last two nights, Thursday and Friday, are said to be the best, so we went on Thursday night (we returned to Yangon on the Friday).

My one piece of advice to anyone going to the balloon festival, is that you go earlier in the week. That is, unless you enjoy huge crowds of drunk young men who like to play a game similar to corners in the highly congested pathways. Each group, including us, formed long lines linked by hands as we snaked our way through the festival avoiding said drunks, cars, trucks (what were they doing in the festival area?!), and parades. The cold didn’t matter at this point as the body heat of thousands of people kept me comfortably warm.

I don’t know how the candle balloons work. The outside of the balloons are adorned with candles forming a shape (usually of a local business), and contain a train of candles shaping words. How do they stay lit? How do they not burn the balloon? I have no idea. But they look amazing.

Here are some photos of our tour of Inle Lake.

Silver smith

The Jumping Cat Temple (you may have to look closely to see the cat).

Tomatoes growing in the floating gardens.


After arriving in Yangon and checking into our hotel, our first two priorities were changing our money and booking the bus to Inle Lake. The post Tips for visiting Myanmar covers our money woes, so I shall skip to the bus.

Travel in Myanmar is quite lengthy, so the majority of (if not all) buses travel overnight. We were anticipating spending about 20 hours on the bus to Lake Inle and were prepared for this. We were, however, not quite prepared for there being no seats available on the direct bus. The balloon festival that drew us to Lake Inle, apparently drew many other people also. The bus was booked for days. We were told we could get an overnight bus to Metila, and then get a pick up (a ute) for one to two hours to Lake Inle. This sounded acceptable to us, so we paid for our tickets. Upon confirming the details, the time in the pick up extended to five to six hours. Ok, fine, no problem.

The bus left at 7pm. It was so cold. I left Australia just before winter, and have been in Cambodia for six months. I haven’t been cold in over a year, so I had forgotten what it was like to be cold. It also never occurred to me that I would get cold in Myanmar. I was wearing a skirt and t-shirt, and the only shoes I had taken with me were a pair of thongs (flip flops). I shivered away in my seat, was startled more than once by a spider that seemed to like my leg. I tried to sleep, but sleep on transport has never come easily to me.

We arrived in Metila at 4am, much earlier than we had anticipated. After asking around about getting to Lake Inle, we climbed atop a pick up very similar to the one below.

Thinking initially that we would be taken to the bus station, after forking out 10,000 kyat each (just over $10USD) we soon discovered that it would be taking us all the way to our destination. As the lower section of the ute was full, we were put up the top with four Burmese men who lay comfortably across half the space, and three other foreigners (two Germans and a girl from Hong Kong) who were squashed into the front half with the three of us.

It was so cold, and once the sun rose it became very hot. After nearly ten hours of driving up and down a mountain, wobbling precariously due to our top heavy load, sunburn, dehydration, and being squashed on top with over 15 people, we arrived at our destination. It was a wonderful adventure and one of the highlights of our trip. If not for that we would never have seen the beautiful countryside of Myanmar, and this beautiful sunrise (Vy’s first ever sunrise. What?!).

All that being said, we were very relieved to get seats on the direct bus back to Yangon.