Myanmar is the place to go to restore your faith in humanity and also responsible for my itchy feet. Not so long ago I didn't even know such country exists, until I went to an adventure with a good friend of mine, Fütyi. That was 2 years ago and ever since I had a bug in my head.
Many Burmese are very poor but will share with you all they have, however a new middle class is on the rise as the country has been gradually opening for the last 10 years or so. This rise may speed up with Aung San Su Kyi winning the elections last year November, bringing the end to the military rule that lasted for over 60 years. People have huge hopes in her party, NLD (National League for Democracy), putting her under immense pressure. Time will show how much and how quick she can change. It won't be easy.
Unlike my last time, with Majka we have started off by flying to Mandalay, a relatively new city established by King Mindon during the British colonial times in 19th century. Many find Mandalay unengaging, but I was very excited to meet the sweetest people I've met so far. With their signature smiles, betel nut stained teeth, thanakha painted faces and wearing longyi, they are unlike any other culture. It is hands down the safest country I've ever visited and I have complete trust in these people, who are very happy to see foreigners visiting their land and even happier to greet returning ones. The honesty and willing to help could be confusing for a westerner...
Mandalay has a few very interesting wooden temples, a Royal Palace that's a replica of the original palace which burned down at the end of WW2, an interesting sunset spot on Mandalay hill, but undoubtedly most interesting for me were the market streets southeast from the walls and moat of The Royal Palace. The Jade market is another great place to observe daily life. Most visitors however come to Mandalay for U Bein's bridge about 20km south from the city. The bridge stretches 1.2 km and is entirely made of teak wood. Sunrise on and around the bridge could be very rewarding. After sunrise most head to the nearby monastery where a large procession takes place. Unfortunately as many interesting events this too is just too busy with tourists with a ratio of 3 to 1, so we have left early and chose not to participate this awkward Disneyland like show. A short ride further up north is the town of Mingun with its unfinished Mingun Paya. This temple is of impressive size with gigantic earthquake imposed cracks on its face. If King Bodawpaya wouldn't have stopped building it for superstitious reasons, it would be the biggest temple of its kind.
It has been our first stop in Burma and a very pleasant surprise. People are sweet and watching life on street level left me with my jaws on the floor. Again! Look forward to the rest of you, Myanmar...