After much deliberation, I finally finished packing with
3 1/2 outfits, 3 pairs of shoes, and enough first aid/supplies/meds for every
eventuality. When we arrived to the airport
we found out that Zach's visa had the wrong birthdate. One of us panicked for the rest of the trip,
and one of us thought that that was a problem for future us. (I'll let you
guess who was who.) While we were on the
plane Zacharoni was very excited about the blankets.
Me: Did you just put that blanket in your backpack?
Me: Why would you take it on the first flight and not the
last flight on the way back?
Zach: Oh, I'm going to take that one too.
After the first leg of the flight, we're walking though
the airport (with this lady we met at Sea Tac and she was super-duper friendly
and chatty and I got to hang out with her while Zach looked for water.) I saw
some computers and told Zach he could try to look into evisa while I "checked
in" to make it facebook official.
Zach: So this is Singapore.
Me: Nope. We are in Taiwan.
Then we walked around for a bit longer, down one hall and
then I thought we'd better turn around.
Zach: Are you worried about time or do you just not want
to enter the boys side?
We were told in Seattle to make sure that we check on the
Visa situation and then double check that our luggage would make it to our
destination. After we went to the
counter and looked in on these things, the women there looked a bit but
essentially dismissed our concerns, again, a problem for future us. Second flight was just as great as the first,
and the meals were actually quite good.
In fact Zach at one point said, "I've eaten more balanced meals on
this flight than I ever have." When
we were in Ho Chi Min airport I grabbed a coffee and some free wifi so I could
check in again because I'm a loser, or at least that's what I read from Zach's
look so I maturely answered, "It's the only way I can prove I've been
The gate was pretty empty.
Zach: Not a lot of people wanting to go to a place with
We arrived to Yangon, Myanmar at around 1:30, where we
were greeted by our tour guide, Pew Pew and she brought us immediately to a gigantic
reclining Buddha (and we were totally the only ones there.)
She then brought to our hotel where a watermelon smoothie
was handed to us while our guide checked us in (after we put our stuff through
a metal detector as we walked through the metal detector setting it off.) Now, we thought we were going to have to be
on our own after that, but instead, the guide had a full day's worth of fun for
us! It was really really amazing, and
not just because I was expecting very little of the day. The coolest part of the day was the Shwedagon
Pagoda which is 325 feet tall, covered in gold and is surrounded by even more
amazing temples all around the Pagoda.
Tour Guide: Sometimes when people come to Yangon for
three days I run out of places to take them.
The next morning, we got up and the hotel had an amazing
breakfast. Zach: I could stay here all day!
Did I mention that after dinner with Pat's parent at Christmas, I became
really worried about where we were staying and what the bathroom situations
might be and texting Zach and Kelly about bringing toilet paper with us. I was mocked pretty hard when we arrived at
the 5 star hotel. Zach: Still worried
about toilet paper?
Then we flew to Bagan.
A picture of Bagan from the air that makes it look like our propeller
was too cool to be functional.
We were taken straight from the airport to the Buledi
Pagoda, where I had my first terrifying moment of the day. I didn't know I had any real phobias, but it
turns out that I am afraid of old stairs.
Now we both know. Especially very
steep, high, no railings, falling apart stairs.
By the time I got to the top I was shaking a bit. That's when Zach said, "I'm going to run
down and go up that other pagoda over there so you can take my
picture." At least it gave me time
to recover before I had to go back down the stairs which is even scarier. When I asked the guide if anyone else had
been afraid going up, he helpfully said, "nope!"
Then we went to Alo-daw Pyi Pagoda, and then the Ananda
Temple and the Shwezigon Pagoda - please don't ask me which was which. So from what I can tell, in Myanmar, the
difference between a pagoda and a temple is that you can go inside a
temple. We were not allowed to wear our
shoes at any of the religious sites. I
had been wearing shoes and being really careful for 3 months because of the
plantar fasciitis, so walking all day barefoot was... different. At one point, Zach asked about a building we
passed by, and we were told that it was a monastery that was in use between the
11th and 13th century. Then to driver
proceeded to stop on the highway and reverse.
We tried to tell him that it was really okay, but they made it happen
for us anyway. You tell me if it was
I believe it was the Manuha Temple that was built by this
king who was basically on house arrest during his time of rule, so he expressed
his feeling of confinement by building these huge Buddha statues with no extra
space around them. We had to squeeze to
get around the legs of the one Buddha to even get into the
Htilo Minlo Temple was the second biggest and we heard a
story about a king with a diseased finger, and then a queen magically sucked
the disease from his finger and so the king made her son a prince. This story took much longer to tell, and I am
still not convinced it was true.
Another fun tid-bit is that people hang out in the
temples when it's hot because the stone makes it cool. Ananda Temple is known as the most beautiful
temple. They are currently working on
taking off the white wash, but when we were there all the people were taking a
break for lunch. It also took me around
ten minutes to understand that the guide was using the word conjure. Things I'll remember forever.
We went to at least 4 more temples, and then went on a
horse and buggy type ride around a village in the old bagan walls. I took a bunch of pictures, all stalker like,
to capture how people live right in between these ancient structures. After that ride we headed over to one last
temple for the sunset. Before we left,
we walk to this building that was right there, but no one else seemed to be taking
Zach: Let's check it out - I mean what are we going to do
after this hang out in the hotel?
Me: And go to an epic New Year's Party! Okay yeah, let's go.
It was completely dark, without any windows, with a huge
laying Buddha. It was amazing, and
mystical and I'm so glad we checked it out.
The hotel was amazing, even if the wi-fi was not up to
Me: This doesn't feel like New Year's Eve.
Me: Well, we were site seeing all day, it's warm and now
we're in a hotel.
Zach: I'm used to being in a hotel and going to hotel
parties on New Year's.
Apparently, these parties are rated by the food, and the
food was excellent. I had this Myanmar
curry that I've never had before, and it was really yummy. I continued to have this same curry for the
next 5 days. 6 am we were getting up -
another day another flight!
Zach: You know when we think of Burma...
Me: I've never thought of Burma in my life.
Zach: South East Asia, then.
Me: I thought of Bangkok once.
Zach (ignoring me completely): You'd think it was more
like India but I always think of the Japanese influence.
Actually, he probably said something else that made more
sense but I was laughing too hard at myself.
We flew Air Bagan to Mandalay. Let's talk about the
airports for a second. First, I was very
excited that our tour guide helped us check in because otherwise I would have
been freaked out when someone just came and grabbed our bags when we hadn't
even gotten our tickets yet. Speaking of
which, they handed us our tickets and these stickers to wear because the
speaker system didn't really work.
(Later you would find people congregating by sticker, hoping not to miss
their flights, and on one flight, I totally lost my sticker and panicked.) Before security, they checked and stamped our
tickets without looking at ID - probably because our names were not on our
tickets. Then we went through a
"metal detector" made of wood and waited for a bus to take half a
block to our plane. You know those carts
that airports put your luggage on? Well outside the bus we saw someone pushing
one of those carts to our plane making me feel even more guilty for being on
the bus to begin with.
In Mandalay we went to the Maha Gandayon Monastery to witness the monks
lunch ritual. They eat two times a day,
at 5 am and 10:30 am and then they just drink after noon. They also have their meals donated and cooked
for them. We saw the whole procession
and then took a walk around to see the kitchens and what not. Part of this was really cool, but part of me
was uncomfortable with the people hanging out taking pictures and what not
Then we went to the longest wooden bridge which was
terrifying. It was wobbly and falling
apart (made of teak wood, which lasts 200 years, and it was creeping up in age)
and the only railing was a very small section that had to be reinforced with
Then we went to a place that they make lacquer, and a
silk factory, and a gold leaf place where I was more fascinated by how long it
takes to make the bamboo paper that goes in between the golf leafs and they
just throw away. And then we went to the
Shwenandaw Monastery that that was made with wood from the palace of the last
Burmese King. It took 700 carpenters, 2
years to create.
One of the temples we went to we saw some of the young
ladies during this cool ceremony that I will probably mess up when
explaining. So all the boys in the
country become a monk when they are younger and again after they are 20. And sometimes the girls go into the nunnery
when they are young too. You can
actually go more than that, but the kids that are really young might only go
for a couple of days. Before the go,
though, they get all dressed up and sometimes ride horses of elephants through
the street like a prince or princess for the day.
While we were there we also saw these brass sculptures
from Angkor Wat, which we thought was there like a touring museum. But what
they really meant was that they stole them during one of the wars, and we would
find later in Cambodia that Angkor Wat doesn't have any of these
sculptures. Sad for them, but cool that
we got to see them.
We also went to the Kuthodaw Pagoda to see the biggest
book because it is written on 729 (9 is a lucky number) slates, each housed in
their own stone houses, oh an there was a Starfish tree. And then we finished
up on Mandalay hill for a view of the city.
At breakfast in Mandalay:
Zach: The empires today weren't as old as the were
yesterday in Bagan.
Me: You know today is a different day than yesterday?
Zach: Days equal cities now, Tiffany.
Fair enough. Another day, another flight. Thanks Myanmar.
You were great! This was our first
flight on Air Asia, which was not the incredible service we had become
accustomed to. We arrived in Bangkok to
find that we were apparently on our honeymoon.
Don't worry, we put the swans to good use.
We took a cab out to explore because Kelly and Maggie
were still out on their tour. We saw the
main government like place, and then walked over to check out a temple, and
then Zach and I kept walking around. I
said I would be okay with that until it got dark, only it did get dark and then
a police officer like guy told us to hold still while the king drove by. We walked a little bit further, and then I
got uncomfortable and made Zach and I go back.
Zach: Didn't you grow up in NY?
Me: Yes, and that is why I know we should go back to the
The next morning we met up with Kelly and Maggie for
breakfast. They thought the hotel was
top-notch, but Zach and I were so spoiled by then we were like, "meh, it's
okay. It's not 5 stars, but it's alright."
We met our tour guide Nancy in the lobby who took us on
public transit, for a Chaopraya Express boat taxi ride to the market. I had
fallen in love with dragon fruit earlier in the trip and at the market, I saw
it in its natural state. Nancy bought us
some fruit to try. I didn't listen to
directions very well, though.
Then Kelly spit her seed on the pavement and Nancy
smacked her for it.
Nancy also yelled at me a lot for how many pictures my
friends were taking. I refused to pass
the message on though, so the dawdling continued. So many tourists in Bangkok that Zach and I
were seriously missing the military dictatorship. Wat Pho, known also as The
Temple of the Reclining Buddha was a good example of this. Going through this temple, we were packed
tight, meanwhile back in Yangon we were at a much larger reclining Buddha and
it was just me and Zach. I did get some extra luck using some lotus flowers and
blessed water. (We'll have to ask Kelly
for those shots.) And we saw the royal
area and Wat Phra Kaew the temple of the Emerald Buddha and the grand palace.
Nancy wanted to drop us off at the end of the day, but
Zach wanted to see more cool, old, religious stuff, so we climbed a bunch of
stairs and saw cool, old, religious stuff... with a view!
Backing up, when I was in Newark airport, I exchanged
dollars for Thailand money. Then when I
got to Thailand, I got another 100 just in case. When I tried to buy a water, they wouldn't
take some of my money, but they did take the other money. I just thought that
maybe the money was older, because that had happened with US dollars a couple
of times. Not so much. Turns out, in Newark, I got TAIWAN money. Whoopsie-Daisy.
I only brought a three outfits, with every intention of
washing clothes in a sink. But then I
remembered I'm in a fancy hotel and I could pay someone to do my laundry. Our clothes were returned all wrapped up and
perfect, but we took a picture and told Dawne to be proud of her son finally
Kelly stopped by while Maggie took a little nap. That's when Kelly saw my two extension cords,
one with 5 USB ports and one with 3 outlets and two additional USB's. I used these to power a phone, iPad, Kindle,
camera battery, and 4 extra battery packs. Me to Kelly: Do you like how much
power I have?
And then we were off to Chiang Mai! At the airport, we invited
Kelly and Maggie to watch Elementary with us because we had 5 available jacks
for audio, but they just looked at us like weirdos. Or maybe that was because Zach got dairy
queen. We were met at the airport by
Tus, our guide. He took us back to the
hotel where we checked in and grabbed some lunch. Before the guide left though, he reviewed our
itinerary with us.
Tus: And on Wednesday I'll take you to the airport.
Me: Is there anything that we could do before the
airport, maybe a temple?
Tus: Tigers? Yeah we could go see tigers.
Me and Maggie: TIGERS!! YES!!
Zach and Kelly: Tigers? O - kay.
Someone asked me how I knew Maggie, and despite only
meeting her once or twice prior to the trip, I told them that we were best
friends from when we were little because it felt like it told a better
story. We had lunch and as there was a
lot of tasting and trying things happening, I decided (and later felt bad about
embarrassing him) to tell Kelly and Maggie that Zach wasn't into sharing
drinks. They immediately made jokes
about cooties and then observed that when Kelly took a bite of Zach's meal,
"only Kelly got cooties in this exchange." Sorry, Zach.
I'll try to shut up next time.
That evening, Tus took us to see the old walled city, some temples in
the historical part of town and the Sunday market. This is also where he took us to eat from the
outside food court/cart area. Kelly and
I did a through perusal before we landed on "safe" food for
dinner. Oh, and we saw these Monks
messing with the New Year's decorations.
When we went to take pictures Tus told us to be careful because the
monks don't wear underwear.