Myanmar, Cambodia, KL and KK

It is so hard to sum up the 'highlights' of our recent travels to Myanmar, Cambodia, Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur. I've tried to whittle down to just a few of the pretty pics from my massive folders of images - thank god for huge SD cards and spare hard drives!

First stop, Yangon (formerly Rangoon) in Myanmar (formerly Burma). A bit of culture-shock and in-your-face poverty did not help already missing the little ones. Surviving a confusing and volatile political climate, you can't help but feel for the everyday people that the world seems to have forgotten. In spite of this (or maybe because of), they are beautiful and friendly people who are happy to help. Knowledgeable guides are worth more than the few dollars they accept (although some wouldn't accept anything!) Top places to visit include Shwedagon Pagoda and it's glimmering expanse of golden stupas, the decaying colonial-era buildings of downtown and enjoy a cocktail (and escape the heat) at the Strand Hotel.

Yangon, former capital of Myanmar.
{Yangon, former capital of Myanmar}

Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar
{Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar}

Details of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar.
{Details of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar}

Inle Lake
and Nyaungshwe exist in the Shan state of Myanmar. We enjoyed the simpler, slower pace, with all our transport being by bicycle or longboat. The highlights are the many homes along the waterways, that seem to defy the laws of physics by staying upright. Also, the floating gardens that are rows upon rows of vegetable and crops harvested by boat for locals and restaurants. Once you are back in Nyaungshwe township, looking over the land with drink in hand, it is quite reminiscent of Venice, except the pigeons are replaced by swallows and the church music by rhythmic chanting echoing from the scattered temples. Very peaceful. On your way back to the airport at Heho, detour to the Pindaya caves and marvel and the thousands upon thousands of golden Buddhas of all shapes and sizes scattered throughout the cave tunnels in the mountain.

Inle Lake and Nyaungshwe, Myanmar.
{Inle Lake and Nyaungshwe, Myanmar}

Pindaya Caves containing thousands of golden buddhas, in Myanmar.
{Pindaya Caves containing thousands of golden buddhas, in Myanmar}

has gone screaming to the top of my recommendations of places to visit before you die. It is simply spectacular and I give it five years max before it is overrun by tourists as more and more people discover this breathtaking place. Rented electronic motorbikes took us through fields and dirt tracks, discovering hidden and seemingly untouched temples, with golden shrines, towering stone stupas, jewel-clad finials and secret Indianna Jones-esque stairways to higher levels. Yes, theme songs were hummed while exploring. From Bagan, you can also do a day trip to Mount Popa, a temple set atop a volcano that can be seen from as far away as 60km. Make sure you stretch before you tackle all those stairs!

Temples of Bagan, Myanmar.
{Temples of Bagan, Myanmar}

Young Buddhist monk to-be at the reclining Buddha of one of the temples of Bagan, Myanmar.
{Young Buddhist monk to-be at the reclining Buddha of one of the temples of Bagan, Myanmar}

Mount Popa, Myanmar.
{Mount Popa, Myanmar}

Before starting the trip, Angkor Wat was my most anticipated destination, but Bagan really did spoil us. Being swarmed by other tourists trying to get that early sunrise shot (at 5am!) really took some of the shine off, however once you crop them out of your photos, it really is a beautiful destination. Wander around to the back side for a bit of peace and quiet (besides the monkeys) - most tourists seemed to vanish after they had their sunrise photo shoot ticked off the to-do list. Day trips from Siem Reap, Cambodia into the UNESCO World Heritage zone of Angkor Wat and surrounding sites start very early and it is a very, very, very long day if you choose to fit them all in one. Feel free to don the black lycra and whip your hair into a braid to get into the treasure-hunter spirit at Ta Prohm. Or check out the many large and multi-sided faces of Buddha at the Bayon temple. These many other temples besides the main Angkor Wat complex were, to me, much more interesting.

Siem Reap, Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and other temples in the UNESCO World Heritage zone in Cambodia.
{Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm and other temples in the UNESCO World Heritage zone in Cambodia}

After all this culture (please, no more culture!) we were off to Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. Perfect for the end of our trip - the weather behaved itself, the water was calm and the fish were as colourful as the drinks. This was our chance to relax, soak up some sun, swim/snorkel/scuba dive and do some cheap shopping!

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Kota Kinabalu. #fish #beach #water #jetty #scuba #snorkel #swim
{Malaysia and Kota Kinabalu}

The delicious food of Myanmar. Oh, the food! Why isn't all food served in hollowed out fruit?
{Oh, the food! Why isn't all food served in hollowed out fruit?}

The beautiful people of Myanmar.
{The beautiful people of Myanmar}

It was such an unexpected pleasure that I think I may even return (which I don't say often with sooooo many places in the world to discover). However, after this mind-blurring exploration, it was good to be home.

I hope you enjoyed these snapshots of our holiday through SEA (South East Asia, by the way) and I'd love for you to comment below and let me know what you think of the photos. If you've been, what were your favourite places? If you haven't, what looks the most enticing?
I hope this inspires you to travel the far corners of our world, meet new people and be motivated to do wonderful things!

xo Mo

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