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February 2016

One Beautiful Night in Mandalay – Myanmar (Burma)

This was the first leg of my trip. I was finally on my way to a country described as one of the most welcoming and beautiful in all of South-East Asia. I was in Myanmar or should I call it Burma, either way – I’d arrived.

Walking into the Mandalay arrivals hall I was greeted by enthusiastic taxi touts, I was wary and went to take out some cash to bide some time and figure out what I wanted to do. I decided to go for the taxi as the price seemed very reasonable. I passed my cash over to the enthusiastic young english speaker and then was passed on to 3 or 4 different people with everyone taking a cut of the money. I was a little worried, would I get to the taxi and be asked to pay again? Would they claim we hadn’t paid enough? little did I know I had nothing to fear, the honesty and kindness the Burmese people showed me was second to none.

When taking taxis in a foreign land there is always the concern that they have absolutely no idea where you want to go. He was smiling and nodding but there’s always a worry in the back of your head that says you’re going to end up half an hour in the wrong direction with no idea where to find your hotel. This wasn’t helped by the sheer size of Mandalay itself – it’s huge and the streets run for far longer than you’d imagine. It’s a truly vast city. I felt ashamed for doubting my driver’s skills as I arrived at the hotel and made my way in with two bell boys helping me with my bag.

The hotel was pretty basic and I had to expect it really, it was one of the cheapest I could find but the staff were friendly and really wanted to help me get to know the city. I decided to walk myself lost.

IMG_0088
A Proud Home

The first thing I noticed was how different each building was, everyone had clearly set out to design their house in a certain way and  each was beautiful in that it showed the character of the owner. I was struck by the diversity of everyone’s home, so far gone from the uniform nature of the Bangkok skyline I’d become accustomed to in the days before my visit.

I was travelling in the run up to the first elections held for decades and the city was full of hope and smiles. I couldn’t comprehend the love that was being passed through so many smiling happy faces.

A friend I was with, who was a bit more travel hardened than I, tried to work out what they wanted from us, surely there must be some kind of ulterior motive? Yet I never had the slightest inkling that anything was false, or that there was any underlying motive for their kindness, the people of Mandalay were full of love and it showed!

The traffic is wild! It takes a little while to get into the flow of the city. Meandering through parked bikes, diving around market stalls, all the while switching my attention to traffic firing towards me in all directions. You’re at the mercy of the city and it’s invigorating. There’s music in city life, navigating through the traffic is your dance and Mandalay plays a relentless rhythm.
Burmese Bridge

My first trip to the city only lasted one night but I managed to catch a sunset at the U-Bein Bridge. Much like the rest of my experience in the country, I was shocked at how spiritual it felt. Watching the sunset and taking a few minutes to myself, connecting with the calm water, I was in awe.

In just 24 hours the city had taken me for a ride, in the best possible sense. I was ashamed  of the prejudice I brought with me, but was ultimately left weak by the beauty I found in nature and my fellow human beings. What a way to start my trip in a country that continually took my breath away. I would be returning soon enough but until then, onto my next stop, Bagan.

 

 

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It’s Wednesday, let’s dance…

Each week I’m going to put up a link to a track I’ve been playing the most or has had the biggest impact on me.

There’s no better way to start this than the menacing, panic attack inducing production of Dat Oven. I found this jewell while listening to Oxyd’s Boiler Room Set and it’s been playing as loud as possible all week.

 

So… let’s dance!

To Travel Alone

It’s hard to understand how it feels to travel alone until you’ve done it. Before the trip I’d taken shorter trips solo, I knew I was competent enough to do it and I actually preferred it to travelling with others, that wasn’t the issue. It’s the doubt in the back of your mind that says you can’t.

Burmese Benny
Myanmar Sunrise

If you’re considering travelling on your lonesome you’ve probably already heard the familiar phrases:

“You won’t be travelling alone for long!”

“There’ll be loads of people just like you out there!”

“You’re going to be killed in your sleep! Trust no one”

The last one’s probably not as common, it’s actually what my sister told me shortly before I left – apparently she’d dreamt it and was worried for me, more likely she was trying to freak me out. Thankfully I wasn’t smothered in my sleep but the other phrases weren’t as helpful as intended.

They’re meant with good intensions and for the most part, they’re true. There’ll be people you can travel with who are often quite similar, or very different – both are good. What they do is give you a false sense of security. When I was sat with a creepy Aussie man telling me how the teenage girl serving us wasn’t wearing a bra I was well aware that chance plays a huge part in the people you meet. Because of the helpful comments from people assuring me I’d make friends straight away, I’d allowed myself to imagine my trip being shared with others. Ultimately, this isn’t what I actually wanted.

I’d forgotten the sort of person I am, not just someone who has black & white photos taken of themselves staring at city skylines…

Benny HK

There aren’t always going to be people you want to spend time with or let into your plans.I spent some time travelling with people who were nice enough but I wouldn’t be friends with them outside of the travelling bubble. Eventually I was lucky enough to meet someone who I got to know and had an amazing last few weeks. It gave me the best of both worlds, I was able to share beautiful views and new experiences with someone but I could also be alone if I wanted to.

So don’t be afraid and believe in yourself! Just remember you are alone and you shouldn’t be surprised when you find yourself without company for a few days, take the opportunity to get to know yourself better and wait for the right people to come along.

 

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