Golden memories

I know it’s supposed to be throwback Thursday not Tuesday but on a grey cold day like today with the threat of snow descending upon us here in the UK it was nice to be reminded by Facebook of the holiday I enjoyed 7 years ago in Myanmar.

When I told people my holiday destination to escape the January blues most asked why I wasn’t going to Thailand or Bali, as there were direct flights and guaranteed beach weather. I have never been to Bali but my travel companion had and we had both been to Thailand numerous times, so we wanted somewhere new to explore because life is for living and for new adventures.

I remember the fun we had planning the trip over a glass (ok, carafe!) of wine or two after long days at work. We had just 10 days off and wanted to squeeze in as much as possible on the trip. With domestic travel in Myanmar not being what we were accustomed to in Japan, we decided to sacrifice the beaches of Myanmar for more cultural sights.

During our flight transfer in Hanoi as most Brits do we of course bought some duty free goods, I remember both of us choosing different flavoured Absolut vodka, it’s funny the odd things you recall. In hindsight, those purchases were a good buy as imported alcohol was expensive when we got to our destination.

As we exited the modern international arrival lounge we were greeted by the warm evening air and a line of taxi drivers looking for customers. Once inside the car it dawned on us that we were in a developing country and feared the taxi wouldn’t make it to the hotel with its missing handles and interior being held together by tape! We both worked hard and it was a holiday, so had opted for luxury 5 star accommodation on our trip, thankfully the hotel in Yangon didn’t disappoint and we enjoyed a few sundowners in the cocktail bar after a cheeky duty free vodka in our room.

With just a day to explore the city before moving on we ventured out after breakfast by the pool to visit Shwedagon Zedi Daw, better known by tourists as the Golden Pagoda. Following our guide book we began to question our map reading skills as we wondered along uneven footpaths but then there it was, nestled in the middle of a giant roundabout, not quite the location you imagine for a such an iconic stupa.

After paying our entrance fee and ensuring we were covered appropriately we could wander around. Even given the location, with the smell of burning incense and sound of chanting within the grounds it was surprisingly peaceful and I recall the sense of calm I felt, I was officially in holiday mode and the needs of my clients back in Tokyo were no longer of any concern.

We had a bit of holiday admin to do before heading back to relax by the hotel pool, as during our planning sessions back in Tokyo we found out booking domestic flights in Myanmar via the Internet wasn’t an option. Our concierge had given us details of a travel agent that could help us and off we went with the details of the flights we wanted and our credit cards.

Our flights to Heho and Nyaung U were booked and it was like going back in time when we were handed our tickets, they weren’t the e-tickets or QR codes via an app that we are used to now but carbon copy paper tickets…

Like most while on holiday I like to indulge in the local food, so after a swim and massage we took another decrepit looking taxi across town to a restaurant that promised authentic Burmese food. Unfortunately it was too long ago now to remember the name of the place but it was great, nothing fancy however it was full and bustling with a mix of locals and tourists and although the food wouldn’t win any prizes for presentation it was delicious.

Of course it would’ve been rude not to also try the local beer to wash down dinner.

Once back in our hotel room we emptied the mini bar of mixers to go with our vodka and set an alarm for the morning as we off on the next part of our adventure, Heho here we come…

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