Senior Consultant, Franki Crosse, is currently on a five month sabbatical from Oasis HR. In this blog series titled ‘Franki goes to…’ we follow her travels around the world and keep up to speed with what she’s been up to on her adventure!
As is becoming the pattern for my blog writing, I’m now sitting by a pool on the island of Manukan, Borneo and have found a few quiet minutes (and some patchy wifi!) so it seems a good time to reflect on chapter 2 of our adventure – Myanmar.
Myanmar (or Burma as it’s still known in countries that don’t acknowledge its government) is the country I had least initial images in my mind of what it would be like. Sitting just West of Thailand at the entry point to South East Asia, the nation is still rocked by political instability and the country itself has large restricted zones so tourists have to follow a fairly rigid trail. There are lots of rumours surrounding these zones and the government’s rule and practices here (many of which, if true, are horrific) – either way it seems that the journey to true democracy is very much still in progress.
|Given what’s thought by many to be going on behind the scenes, it feels somewhat surprising and a little inappropriate to say it but we absolutely loved Myanmar! There’s so much to see and do in this kite-shaped country. We started off with a few days at the beach of Ngwe Saung which after India was an absolute dream to relax and soak up some sun and have our first protein in a month with super cheap, fresh fish on tap! We headed to stretch our legs a bit after lots of hours on Indian trains and flights so we rented a couple of rickety bikes the next day.
All was going well as we rode back to our hostel for sunset until one of our bikes’ chain snapped clean through. Luckily three different locals pulled over and repaired the bike there and then, even driving to and from town to fetch a new chain link as darkness set in. This genuine kindness and the lighthearted nature that we were greeted with was a constant thread throughout our time there.
Next up, we headed to Yangon to see the Shwe Dagon – one of the most impressive Buddhist temples in the world with a 99m high gold plated pagoda towering over the city – a really special place. We’d been strongly advised not to eat any street food in Yangon but feeling confident (a little too so) from India we tucked in!
From there, we took the bus up to Kalaw so we could trek for a few days to Inle Lake. Our guide was determined to fatten us up so we were cooked huge feasts featuring our first meat since we’d been in London. This turned out to be a real error given the lack of refrigeration and with 10km left on the final day before we reached the lake it was definitely one of the trip’s testing 24hours…! Inle Lake was well worth it – it’s a huge expanse of shimmering water surrounded by mountains and home to a huge floating village complete with petrol stations, post offices, handicrafts and bars! It was amazing to boat around and get a feel for a totally different way of life. We then headed for one of Myanmar’s two vineyards for a rare civilised afternoon – vino is the perfect cure for food poisoning right?
From there we ventured West to Bagan, which has to be one of the most famous Instagram places of all time! Over 2000 14th century temples lie strewn across vast plains, rising up from the morning mist. We spent hours navigating our way around on scooters but only really scratched the surface of this incredible place – we were advised by a French traveller to ‘just get lost’ (in the nicest sense of the term!) and if we’d had a few more days we’d absolutely have done this, you can just keep going and going!
Next up was a 12 hour ferry to Mandalay where we went to a traditional puppet show and climbed another temple for awesome views of the city. We also managed to sneak into an incredible five star resort to use their pool – very much appreciated after a dusty day in the city! We headed to Hpa An for our last few days, exploring the giant limestone hills on a scooter, with some of the most amazing scenery of our trip so far. Watching the sun set whilst millions of bats flew out like smoke across a river to feed was pretty special.
We finished off our time in Myanmar with a trip to the Golden Rock. Here you take a packed open air truck up the crazily steep road to the top of the mountain like a rollercoaster (it’s somewhat telling that each ticket includes life insurance!) where a gold gilt boulder perches over a cliff edge, capturing the attention of all who come before it, religious or otherwise, as just a slight wind looks like it could send it crashing down to earth. Given it’s survived a fair few strong earthquakes so far, you can see how so many believe in the legend that a strand of Buddha’s hair is holding it in place.
And so after an incredible time we’re at the half way point of our trip, Borneo, with some of the best wildlife in the world and a visit from our parents. It’s come around crazily quickly!