January 7 – Overnight bus wasn’t horrible. Emilie said it was the best she’s been on in all of Southeast Asia. We paid about $18 for the overnight bus from Yangon to Bagan and got in around 5am. Ended up taking a horse and carriage to the hotel for about $5, which was probably a very inflated price, but it was 5am and we were in a new city so that’s what happened. Luckily, the hotel we were staying at, Bagan Umbra, let us into our room early and we took a nap, and woke up around 9am. A friend of Emilie’s had gone on a balloon ride there (for $360), and met the people who worked there, and they agreed to show us around a bit. Gavin, a UK native, picked us up at the hotel around 10am with his coworker Kyaw Kyaw (pronounced Cho Cho) and they showed us around a few of the local temples.
We then went back to Gavin’s hotel which was absolutely amazing. Right on the river with a perfect view of the setting sun. We hung out with him and his other ballooning coworkers for a few hours and even joined them at Queens for dinner. We got duck, chicken curry and prawns with mushrooms which were all phenomenal. We also tried the traditional Burmese tea leaf salad and rum drink called Caperenia. Such a lovely group of people from Europe and Canada, we really enjoyed ourselves and planned to meet them early the next morning to either watch the sun rise or, if they had anyone drop out, ride in a hot air balloon for free!
January 8 – No luck at the balloon place this morning, but they drove us over to a temple close to our hotel to watch the sunrise. The landscape of Bagan is absolutely amazing. Very flat with a mix of green and browns, with temples scattered in every direction. Came back to the hotel, had breakfast, then met Gavin at 10:30am to head to the market and to Kyaw Kyaw’s village. His whole community works on beautiful laquerware pieces and it was awesome to see the process from start to finish. Kyaw Kyaw’s sister painted the traditional Burmese face paint on all our faces so that was a cool experience as well. After the village, we had a quick lunch and met up with the whole balloon crew to take a boat over to a sand bank. I can’t express how amazing all these people are and how quickly they’ve adopted us into their little clan. Had a great time with all of them and then went to dinner again at Queen.
January 9 – Woke up again around 5am to see if there would be any extra spots on the air balloon, but again no luck. We watched them take off and then Sam and I walked back to our hotel while Emilie got a lift with the crew. Fell asleep by the pool for about half an hour after breakfast, then we headed off to the market and bought a few items. Went back to Gavin's hotel and laid out for a few hours with his balloon crew family and had an amazing time (as usual) with them. Joined a few of them for dinner that night and then said our very sad goodbyes. Really cannot believe we got so close with a group of people in only a few days and almost a little sad that we've had such an incredible experience here our first week in Southeast Asia because I know its not going to be this pleasant when we're in cities where we . Got a few don't know anyone. Got some of the crews information and hoping to keep in touch with them.