Secrets of Myanmar

Falling in love with Burma made my heart fly. It’s still working its magic on me even though I’m now in Kathmandu, Nepal. I cannot forget it and I’m happy to share it with you too.

I just finished my latest issue of Vagabond on Myanmar and its overflowing with:

What No One Tells You About Burma, Meditating and Motorbiking in Myanmar, 169 photograph, Photography Advice for shooting on your own world adventures or your backyard and tips I learned in the 29 days I was visiting this Astonishing Country. Here’s the cover. Check it Out!

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The best things about Burma: the friendly people. They help you find your destination while on the city bus, are over the top excited to be in pictures with you and chat about your life. Astounding level of consideration and tenderness! They know you are a tourist and therefore don’t know much about anything in Burma.

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And the spirituality is everywhere. People are not caught up in only achieving. They are meditating, praying, and being kind. That’s my kind of religion –  not really a religion, but a way of life. See the video here to get inside Shwedagon Pagoda!

Yangon, the finest and most ethereal temple I have ever seen in my life.

Yangon, the finest and most ethereal temple I have ever seen in my life.

Shwedagon Pagoda is my favorite place to go in Yangon. Being there at sunset was divine, the candles were glowing and I was blessed to see two full moons there. This is not Photoshop – this is the real deal.Full Moon at Shwedagon, YangonAnd Eating! I asked a local in Bagan where do you go to eat?

This is what I got, vegetable curry with rice for $2.

All these plates are for me. Can you believe it? And they weren’t done bringing out the food, more arrived that I could not identify  but if you want to see it all on video go here

Go to Nu War restaurant in Bagan for real Myanmar food. At non-tourist prices.

Go to Nu War restaurant in Bagan for real Myanmar food. At non-tourist prices.

Bagan is mystical – you can’t believe how many temples there are – this one made me veer off the road while I was biking and go see its gorgeous-ness up close.

Sunset in the temples.

Sunset in the temples.

One thing about Mandalay is the great food. I went to a local place that opens at 5AM for the real people who work and live here. And you’ll pay the same price as them – its about 50 US cents for a bowl of rice, egg, and chicken which the restaurant routinely ran out of but here is the place and the cute kids who are the waiters. And it had great Burmese tea. Stay at the Nylon Hotel and ask about the local place three blocks away that opens at 5AM – I don’t know the name of it. They had no sign.

Tea and Noodles in Mandalay

Delicious Food, Adorable Waiters, and 1950s prices

Delicious Food, Adorable Waiters, and 1950s prices

Mandalay Morning Market

And the Mandalay morning market is not to be missed! It is churning with color and vibrancy. The girl above is making a fish dish similar to that traditional seafood dish in Thailand. I didn’t taste it as I am a bit cautious when it comes to seafood especially when its raw. I don’t need to throw up now so I usually steer clear just to be safe.

Give me an apple and I’m happy.

More Photographs here

Banana at the Mandalay MarketI love bananas so I got excited seeing this. Its the perfect food except that it does not travel well. My bananas end up getting crushed on the bus and I don’t have any yogurt or a  blender so I can’t make a smoothie. The other most perfect food.

Girl at Mandalay Market This girl was at the Mandalay Market selling her coconuts – my third favorite food. You can drink ’em, chew ’em and decorate your house with the palm leaves. Whats not to like?

Don't miss Kandawgyi Botanical Park in Pyinoolwin - you'll think you died and went to heaven!

Don’t miss Kandawgyi Botanical Park in Pyinoolwin – you’ll think you died and went to heaven!

If you want Jaw-Drop Gorgeous head straight to Pyinoolwin 2 hours from dusty chaotic Mandalay and luxuriate in Orchid Heaven — Kandawgyi Botanical Garden is now one of my most favorite places on earth. Check it out here in the video.

The cool weather, fresh yogurt, and slow pace in this hill station made me relax and stop moving. Suddenly all I had to do was walk around smiling at people, drinking tea, and chatting with locals. I did not see anyone rushing in the 4 days I was there.

Wish I could have stayed longer but you only get a 28 day tourist visa in this luscious country – you can’t see it all so get a business visa, which is a 70-day pass for Burma, if you can get it.

Its easier to get visas in Cambodia, that’s where I got my Myanmar tourist visa. There were no lines –  its a small office in Phnom Penh and it took only 5 days to get.

I over stayed one day in Burma (fine is $3 per day) as I could not tear myself away. You pay the fine at the airport when it is discovered by the officials they don’t even ask you why they just want their 3 bucks.

My last night I was at Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon – I did not want to leave but my visa was up. Going higher up in the mountains to Kalaw and the oceanside towns will be my next trip there. My advice is to go now, discover its untrammeled beauty, and let me know what secrets you find out.

Check out Vagabond Travel Photography Mag here

monksatmarketSee my photography store and more Photographs from Myanmar and the 29 other countries I have visited in the last 7 years – indulge yourself and go for a ride – you may be buying a plane ticket soon!

Kindly, Mary

Burma is Breathtaking

Discover Vagabond Travel Photography Magazine for your iPad - Stunning Photography, Travel Advice on your next Journey and Inspiration http://tinyurl.com/byg76kx

Discover Vagabond Travel Photography Magazine for your iPad – Stunning Photography, Travel Advice on your next Journey and Inspiration
http://tinyurl.com/byg76kx

First: You fall in love with the people here. They want to help you.

All you have to do is look lost and someone will come to your aid.

This does not work in many countries but it works here in Yangon.

My latest thing to do is get on a city bus going in my general direction with a note written in Burmese where I want to go.

And I will get there. How?

This morning three people offered to guide me.  I did the same route yesterday so I didn’t need help but I did bask in their good will.

The bus looked like it was going to crumble into dust particles but I didn’t think it was polite to photograph it with all the passengers sitting on the peeling seats.

Check out my Youtube channel to Discover Videos from all over the Globe - 176,879 downloads

Check out my Youtube channel to Discover Videos from all over the Globe – 176,879 downloads

So here I am in a swank coffee Garden Bistro looking out over the magnificent gardens of Kandawgyi Lake.

My favorite place to do wifi and drink coffee in Yangon. Ultimate reality. Garden Bistro, with Signature Restaurant next to Kandawgki Lake

My favorite place to do wifi and drink coffee in Yangon. Ultimate reality. Garden Bistro, with Signature Restaurant next to Kandawgyi Lake

I walked around the lake last night and even when it got dark I felt safe — there is almost no crime here – this may be because if you get caught you get executed but I think this may be changing.

I haven’t gotten a creepy feeling yet — oh wait…

I did get sketched out last night when I went to look at a room to rent. It was stinky and decorated with mold, low ceilings, and felt dirty for $22. It didn’t come with a smile so I bailed. I knew I would have nightmares in that room.

The owner looked bored/pissed off that I was showing up to book a room. There’s a scarcity of rooms available in town as it is the high season and they didn’t build enough hotels to accommadate all the people interested in coming to Burma now that restrictions have been lifted. It was not actually closed to outsiders for the last 20 years it was just more irritating to get a visa as I have met many people here in Asia who did get in – and they are foreigners like me. You had to wait longer and there were less tourists – sounds great to me.

Side note: it only cost $70 to fly one-way from Bangkok here. Now the doors to Burma are wide open and people are scrambling to start up hotels and guesthouses for us.

Transportation here varies:

Taxi, motorcycle, walking, decrepit bus, and my favorite; bicycle rickshaw:

See the Gallery of Worldwide Photography for Your Own Projects here: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com

See my Gallery of Worldwide Photography for Your Own Projects here:
http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com

Coming soon the actual video of the above  photo – i have to wait to get to a country where it doesn’t take 3 hours to upload a 3-minute video.

So back to Kindness and More Miracles: in the taxi on the way to my guesthouse from the airport I was so excited to be here I was hanging out the car window waving and smiling and taking photographs to all of Yangon and I didn’t notice my passport falling out of my camera bag. It was dark when we to the guesthouse thru the insane traffic (not many traffic lights so things get clogged up fast) and i didn’t lsiten to the tiny voice inside me that said – check the car again — my mind said oh i have evruthing – –

Stop Listen to the Body!

So I noticed it was gone after I checked in and started to panic. I must have left it at the airport – so back I go to the airport in another over-priced taxi but on the way I realized – no it fell out int he first taxi and a peace settled over me – I would get it back.

5 minutes later the phone rang in the car — my passport had been delivered back to my geusthouse.

Meet the kind people who helped me here

Travel Advice: never get in a taxi with a person who feels creepy. I knew when I looked at this man that I could trust him.

He was kind and he had heaps of friends: while he drove me into town he said hello to other drivers and chatted with them in the choked with traffic roadways – smiling the whole time.

This country is full of love and kindness. Except for maybe the military who control everthing but even that is thawing. Aung San Sui Kyi is having meetings with her former captors who kept her on house arrest. The louts.

AungsansuikyiBVote22

The military like to say she was free to go and that is true but they would have never let her back in Burma if she went to see her family in England. This is what can happen to large spirits. The Burmese love her. And the authorities find this annoying.

Fact: she was forced into house arrest after winning the people’s vote to put her in power 20 years ago. That’s when the barbed wire was installed around her home and her family in England forbidden to visit. Heinous. But she may be in command in a few years when they have another election. Sure hope so.

So I’ve been in Yangon for 5 days now and am finding new things to look at and people to talk with every day.

Check out more photos from Machu Picchu to the rooftop of the world in Nepal: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com

Check out more photos from Machu Picchu to the rooftop of the world in Nepal: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com

I am experiencing a tidal wave of goodwill towards me.

Barack Obama visited Myanmar, and the Burmese are now fond of us USA folk so come here now before anything screws that up. Their faces light up when I tell them I’m from USA — where else in the world are you gonna get that?

I am literally bowled over. People are asking to have their photograph taken with me – like the one above. I’m being called Madame and I finally like it: I feel like a quasi celebrity.

My favorite thing Obama has done is to come to Burma and make friends here. Never mind that he shouldn’t have kissed Aung San Sui Kyi as no one shows affection like that here except for teenagers in the park making out under their umbrellas to hide the fact that they are kissing. Cute.

The only challenge so far has been eating that prawn salad last night which resulted in getting the runs today but even that is not deterring me – I still took the local bus lurching over the road in downtown Yangon for about 3 miles.

And since I’m only paying $8 a night for a room with fan only and rather thin walls I can live it up at this posh place that charges $3 for a glass of juice and $4 for a caffe latte. And has a great view over the gardens.

The neighborhood is topnotch – a big public garden is steps away from my guesthouse where I plan to do yoga in the morning – Sule Pagoda is next door – see photo below – a golden tower of holiness that glows all day and tons of fascinating street life – you don’t even have to go anywhere but outside to see things you have never seen before:

Unusual Fruits, slinky skirts on all women, men in longyis, crumbling colonial architecture next to modern buildings, and poverty but not so horribly bad. Not as bad as Cambodia.

The best things so far:

Making friends with the Burmese staff and helping them with their English. See facebook page: Mary Bartnikowski – be my friend and I will be yours.

Seeing Shwe Dagon Temple in Yangon and feeling the astounding vibrancy penetrate my soul.

Check out: Photography from two trips around this planet earth here: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com

Check out: Photography from two trips around this planet earth here: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com

Moving to the Sule Pagoda neighborhood and being astonished by the rhythm of Yangon (some people call it Rangoon.) The food is delcious, the people are kind, there is no crime, and even though the streets aren’t clean I’ll take kindness over cleanliness any day.

I go to sleep to this view and I wake up to it too. Teashops, kind people, and fruit - thats all I need. http://bartnikowski.com

I go to sleep to this view. Teashops, kind people, and fruit – thats all I need. http://bartnikowski.com

Check out: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com for more Astonishing Photography

Check out: http://bartnikowski.smugmug.com for more Astonishing Photography

The delicious food! Many times I am not sure what it is but it sure tastes good.

I’ll have more food photos and video — See my latest videos  here:

http://www.youtube.com/user/zestyzippy?feature=mhee

And my next issue of Vagabond Magazine will be out by mid-March, Check it out!   http://tinyurl.com/byg76kx

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Next Stop Nepal!