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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.


Fishing.