For this blog post we hand over the reins to two of our recent clients – Bruce & Emily Haupt, an expat US couple who recently relocated to Chengdu in China, and who travelled to Myanmar with us a few weeks ago. Bruce promised to write a blog post for us about their trip, and he’s been as good as his word! Here’s his piece, accompanied by a selection of his photos from the trip.
Arriving into Myanmar feels like stepping back in time.
January is in the dry season and everything is dusty. This is a light, brownish-orange dust that gets kicked up by foot and road traffic, getting on your skin and giving you ‘tan lines’ made from a light coating on anything exposed. The sun is also bright and warm- it was reaching the low 90′s already in February, so we wondered how anyone could make it through the summers in SE Asia.
It was loud. Horns honking and big trucks rumbling along the road. Families of four on one motorcycle: dad driving, the mother riding sidesaddle in the back with a kid in between and usually one either in mom’s arms or in front of dad.
Thanks to Remote Lands, we were incredibly lucky to have this adventure across Myanmar in February 2014. Now that three months have passed, here are our Top Five things we loved and always tell our friends about:
1. Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon
Since we entrusted our planning to Remote Lands, we’d done very little of our own detailed research prior to this vacation. We were truly blown away by so many parts of our trip and Yangon‘s Shwedagon Pagoda was the first of many times that we would be struck speechless by the beauty in this country. Myanmar is still in the process of re-building and upgrading the infrastructure needed to handle the rapid growth and increased tourism it’s seen since 2011 (Channel NewsAsia had an informative documentary of this a while ago). As such, the 322ft tall, gold leaf-covered pagoda is the tallest building in the former capitol. It is not just one building, but rather a massive complex of many smaller temples and stupas, and is a working place of worship for Buddhists.
2. Bagan’s 3,000 Temples
The Bagan temple complex is the main reason people, including us, come to Myanmar (Burma). After a friend first showed us the awesome misty morning pictures of hundreds of temples emerging from the trees (in this “Valley of the Hidden Temples”), we prioritized a trip to Myanmar while living in Asia. We were not disappointed, thanks especially to the help of Remote Lands.
In our opinion, the best way to experience Bagan is a hot air balloon ride at sunrise.
The second best way is to watch the sun set from atop one of the larger temples. For many temples, you can explore the insides as well: climbing through old narrow passageways and learning about Burma’s Buddhist past and present.
3. Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp
We recently moved to Asia from Houston, Texas so before coming here, all previous experiences with elephants were from a distance at the zoo. In the highlands of Myanmar near Kalaw we got up close and personal during an experience we won’t forget.
We would describe the Green Hill Valley Elephant Camp as an elephant rescue with a serious interest in preserving and peacefully living in our environment. The camp had 6-7 Asian elephants. Most were older and recently retired (rescued) from the timber industry. They had lived long and hard lives and were incredibly happy and grateful to receive love and attention here. Some had health issues that required knowledgable care, and there was even a little baby elephant that often stole everyone’s affection.
We began the day getting to know them all and feeding them a hearty meal of bananas. We then proceeded to walk a half kilometer away along a stream to a shaded pool where we jumped in the water with the elephants to give them a bath. We never realized how hairy elephants were until now, with firm bristly black hairs covered their skin. Post-clean up, the staff helped us up onto the elephants for a memorable 20 minute ride back into camp, and then we ended the morning with a delicious Indian lunch.
4. Ngapali Beach
After 6 days trekking across Myanmar seeing temples, riding elephants, visiting villages, and even watching a puppet show over dinner… we were ready for some serious R&R. Our last two days were spent at a beach resort in Ngapali Beach on the Bay of Bengal. We had amazing barbecued seafood, received Thai massages, and relaxed on gorgeous white sandy beaches.
Moreover, we took an unplanned 5 hour boat cruise around the area ($20!!!) where we snorkeled and visited private islands serving the best Pina Coladas we’ve ever had (in coconuts). We highly recommend a stop on the beach!
5. E-Bikes in Bagan
The most memorable experience we have is surprising to us. For most of our stay in Bagan (4 nights) we opted to travel the area on E-bikes. I don’t know if we’ve ever had so much fun! From cruising into the villages on paved roads to riding between temples on soft sandy roads, we had an AWESOME time riding, honking, and saying hello to the locals (Mingalarbar!) while we visited Bagan. It was even fun when Bruce’s e-bike battery died and we had to ride on one scooter doubled up.
Want to see more of our vacation? We made a video to chronicle the whole trip (INCLUDING E-BIKES): Escape to Myanmar!
We can’t say enough how AWESOME our 8 day trip to Myanmar was, particularly because every detail had been carefully thought out by Remote Lands. This was our first time using a private travel company and we were blown away by the level of professionalism and consideration for our individual needs. Huge thanks to Remote Lands who planned the whole trip, and our guide Akayi Htet!
Big thanks to Bruce & Emily for sharing their experiences and photos with us! Want to follow in their footsteps? Check out our large selection of Myanmar Itineraries or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll help plan your dream Myanmar holiday!