Ten Photos of Myanmar by Charisse Vilchez
Forget sophisticated cities and structure – traveling off the beaten path often give you a more memorable experience and an adventure you will never forget. All you need is courage, an open mind and a lust for the unknown.
In 2010, Agoda Philippines’ PR Manager Charisse Vilchez and her brother Carlos were discussing their dream destinations and this year they made one of them come true. “I guess it was quite significant because it was my first time to travel with my older brother – he brought his girlfriend with him and I asked my boyfriend to go too!” she says.
Charisse and her brother chose to visit Yangon and Bagan in Myanmar because it is known to be one of the most exotic countries in the world and what made it even more interesting is that they only began allowing tourists to visit their land in recent years.
The three favorite things about the trip.
1. Thingyan Water Festival. This Burmese water festival is their New Year celebration. People splash water at each other since this is a cleansing ritual to welcome the approaching year. They say that the act of pouring water is also a show of blessings and good wishes. It didn’t matter if you were a local or a tourist, you were bound to get soaked. Even when we would walk in the side streets, little Burmese kids would run after us with a pail of water, laughing. We felt blessed and at the same time happy to be part of it. It kept us in a good mood the entire time. Their energy was contagious. Good vibes all the way!
2. Temples. All the temples were breathtaking. The Schwedagon Pagoda is a must-see. It’s in the middle in the city but once inside it’s like you’re in a whole new different and “golden” world. It is the resource of Myanmar’s heritage – their religion, architecture and art. During sunset, there’s a burst of gold all over which makes the view spectacular. Bagan is much like Angkor Wat in Thailand, with 2,000 pagodas from the first Burmese empire still standing. Visit the Ananda Temple where you’ll find the four 9.5-meter-high Buddhas who have been said to reach Nirvana. The highlight of my trip would still be witnessing the sunrise by the Lawkaoushuang Temple.
3. Food. Burmese cuisine is quite unique with an intriguing mix of British, Burmese, Chinese and Indian influences. In Yangon, 19th Street offers affordable yet delicious barbecue stalls and local packed restaurants that offer skewers of pork, beef, chicken, tofu and other vegetables. Don’t forget your bottle of Myanmar beer too!
During my brother’s birthday, we ate at The Strand Hotel. Aside from the elegant and very charming ambiance, we also enjoyed their menu which features Burmese and Western Cuisine. For a five-star hotel, we spent an average of 25 to 30 USD only per person. In Bagan, we tried The Moon Vegetarian Restaurant, though none of us were vegetarian. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy their fried noodles, the Moon vegetable salad, spring rolls and banana pancakes which were all delicious and exceeded our expectations.
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.