That Bangkok Year

“Part of the urge to explore is a desire to become lost.”

Leave a comment

Myanmar feat. the Parents

I didn’t mean to stop writing. A broken laptop, a draining job, and law school applications have been sapping my resolve. Obviously that ends now! This will be the first of a few posts that catch you up on the last 6 months of my life.

In early May mom and dad came to visit for a week. The plan was to stay in Bangkok for one day, go on to Myanmar for five, and then back to Bangkok for 2 more days. To prepare for their arrival, I decided I’d try out a new look.


I was going to have to shave the beard I’d been growing for the duration of our 2.5 month break from work anyway, so I figured I’d try the father/son dueling moustache thing for a day or two.

We spent the bulk of our first day exploring the city, specifically the Royal Palace area. To get there we took a ferry down the Chao Phraya River.

14297159563_59a599f36e_z14274923542_d812d7d648_z 14276531564_4604a218f7_z

Once we got there we saw the royal temple, Wat Pho home of the the resident giant Reclining Buddha, and some other touristy sights.

14277008735_f991f63e5b_z14090358208_80d5b5c913_z 14090371190_42964737eb_z 14090403390_0c95edd529_z 14253871406_7fed6f7fda_z 14253876406_8467c794bd_z 14253882666_083538c264_z 14253896556_fd6a7c42e0_z 14273679791_73d7d77762_z 14276559254_33bdc526c4_z 14276987545_09b08eb9c0_z 14276993695_f30af66772_z 14277002575_0be39cb7c8_z  14277012185_74c795dd69_z 14297206373_9e50d8e03a_z 14297207293_9fb6f1cc61_z

I bet you can all guess which of those statues is my favorite. I wonder if you have to go to extra school to get a hermit MD.

The next day we got on a plane for Myanmar. We spent two days in the former capital of Yangon, and then three more in the famous city of Bagan, home to thousands of pagodas rising from the desert.

Myanmar was the fourth Southeast Asian country for Kara and me to visit. It’s prized by travelers as being untouched by the eroding effects of westernization on it’s culture due to it’s repressive government’s history of isolation policies post-British colonization. Tourists have been pouring in looking for an experience they can’t get elsewhere before everything changes.

The city of Yangon, formerly Rangoon, is being hailed as the next Southeast Asian city to explode economically. While the fuse has been lit, I wouldn’t say it’s booming quite yet. Walking around the city felt similar to the way I imagine Bangkok 40 years ago. Old brick buildings, dirt roads, no chain restaurants. Women and children still cover their faces with thanaka, a paste derived from tree bark. The men wear Longyi’s; skirts that wrap-around your waist and are held up by a tight knot.

On our driving tour of the city, we drove by Nobel Peace prize winner and heroine of freedom Aung San Suu Kyi’s home. She was imprisoned for 15 years before being released in 2010.

Aung1 Aung2

That afternoon we visited the jewel of Myanmar, the Shwedagon Pagoda. Every foreigner I know living in Asia has the same attitude about temples. They’re amazing, beautiful, impressive, and basically all the same and a bit tedious. Thus I was totally unprepared for the 320 foot tall pagoda.

14090378219_829f6230b1_z 14090392639_6d080ea039_z 14090413660_f92514c273_z 14090427380_5fb8205997_z 14090432140_2aeb9467f8_z 14090378219_829f6230b1_z   14090427380_5fb8205997_z 14090432140_2aeb9467f8_z 14090479987_0131bb9540_z 14253927766_2d83abddc2_z 14273701011_452f682707_z 14274987762_dceab7e9ec_z    14276607114_be2e0cf29f_z 14277030035_7dfe8a7207_z 14277041545_1fe2925923_z 14277046885_45488b9550_z 14277047975_8972a8b6c2_z  14297238473_df3498d816_z14276605654_ffb4c589d2_z

Its tiers are plated in gold, studded with diamonds and capped by an orb bearing 4,500 diamonds and a 76-carat diamond on top. Burmese people come from all over the country to worship; many wearing beautiful traditional outfits. My mom, Kara, and our guide posed for a picture with a woman from an old tribe visiting from her local village.

The incredible wealth on display is shocking when juxtaposed with the poverty of Burmese people. The majority of Burmese citizens have an annual income of less than 200 American dollars per year.

The next day we got up early to beat the heat and visited a lakeside park.

Yangonpark1 Yangonpark2 Yangonpark3 Yangonpark4 Yangonpark5 Yangonpark6 Yangonpark7 Yangonpark8 Yangonpark9 Yangonpark10

In some of the photos you can see the Shwedagon Pagoda in the background. I was particularly fascinated with the water Zamboni cleaning up all the lillypads. We also saw Burmese supermodel Moe Hay Ko doing a photo shoot, complete with fan girls giggling a short distance away.

In the afternoon we visited a monastery and school for young novice monks, as well as the one for nuns across the street.

Monk1 Monk2 Monk4 Nun1 Nun2 Nun3

After the monks and nuns we visited another reclining Buddha.

Reclining buddha1 Reclining Buddha3 Reclining Buddha4 Reclining Buddha5Reclining Buddha2

In between our planned events we wandered around the city, perused street markets, and relaxed at the historic Governors Mansion Hotel.

YangonRandom1 YangonRandom2  YangonRandom4 YangonRandom5 YangonRandom6 YangonRandom7 YangonRandom8 YangonRandom9YangonRandom3

The peaceful looking man above gave Kara a card that promised her good luck for a whole year! So you know she’s got that going for her, didn’t help with out NFL Pickem’ pool though.

Early in the morning of our third day in Myanmar we boarded our small plane to fly to the original capital of the Burmese Empire, Bagan.


Getting off the plane the first thing about the Bagan region that jumped out at us was the heat. March – May is the hottest season in this part of the world, and for the three days we were there temperatures reached 110 degrees. However, a dry 110 was not nearly as unpleasant as a muggy Bangkok 97. The area is arid, dry and flat producing a hauntingly still atmosphere.

After getting settled into our picturesque hotel along the Irrawaddy river, we went via van to the local market. Unlike markets in Thailand, there was no focus on providing silly chotchkies for tourists. It was cramped, loud, and pulsing with life. Everyone in the small town visits the market daily to get food and supplies.

Bagan Market1 Bagan Market2 Bagan Market3 Bagan Market4 Bagan Market5 Bagan Market6 Bagan Market7 Bagan Market8 Bagan Market9 Bagan Market13Bagan Market10 Bagan Market11 Bagan Market12

Kara and I couldn’t help buying our own Longyis. I swore I would wear it again but it hasn’t left my closet since returning to Bangkok.

Bagan Market14

That’s some type of dried blood. It’s commonly found in soups both in Myanmar and Thailand.

Bagan Market15 Bagan Market16 Bagan Market17 Bagan Market18 Bagan Market19

We came prepared with some whistles, tops, and balls to give away to kids we met. This little guy loved his new toy.

Bagan Market20 Bagan Market21 Bagan Market24Bagan Market22

This cute woman ran up and insisted on giving Kara a hug and taking a picture with her. This was the most authentic market I’ve been to thus far, and my second favorite only to the one in Luang Prebang, Laos.

After the market we were taken to see some historic buildings, including this temple known for it’s intricate wood carvings.

Wood Temple1 Wood Temple2 Wood Temple3 Wood Temple4 Wood Temple5 Wood Temple6 Wood Temple7

I don’t remember the story behind the creepy guy hanging on the wall.

We spent a lot of time walking, horse carting, and motor biking around the area marveling at the several thousand pagodas.

Temple1 Temple2 Temple3 Temple4  Temple6 Temple7 Temple8 Temple9 Temple10 Temple11 Temple12 Temple13 Temple14 Temple15 Temple16 Temple18 Temple19 Temple20 Temple21 Temple22 Temple23 Temple24 Temple25 Temple26 Temple27 Temple28 Temple29 Temple30 Temple31 Temple32 Temple33 Temple34 Temple35 Temple36 Temple37 Temple38 Temple39 Temple40 Temple41 Temple42 Temple49Temple43 Temple44 Temple45 Temple48

We painstakingly captured some magical sunrises and sunsets.

Temple47Sunset1 Sunset2 Sunset3 Sunset4 Sunset5 Sunset6 Sunset7 Sunset8

We rode motorbikes around the area and had some delicious local cuisine.

Cuisine1 Cuisine2 Cuisine3 Cuisine4 Cuisine5 Cuisine6 Cuisine7 Cuisine8 Cuisine9 Cuisine10

Burmese food is a little less visually appealing than Thai, but it tasted very good. I especially recommend the quail eggs in brown sauce.

At one point we narrowly escaped a stampeding herd.

Stapede1Stampede2 Stampede3 Stampede4 Stampede5 Stampede6 Stampede7 Stampede8 Stampede9

The family in the cart bringing up the rear generously and completely unsolicited gave my dad some fresh mango, which we promptly devoured.

We took a day trip to Mount Popa, a peculiar mountain topped by a Buddhist monastery. On the way we stopped to eat lunch and gape at the geological marvel.

Mt. Popa1 Mt. Popa2


How anyone could possibly build a monastery up there is beyond me. To reach the monastery, we had to climb the 777 steps and dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge the locals.

Popamonkeys1 PopaMonkeys2 PopaMonkeys3 PopaMonkeys4 Popamonkeys5 Popamonkeys6 PopaMonkeys7

The monkeys live on the steps, dependent on people to buy food at the bottom of the steps and feed them. They look adorable, and they were, but they were also vicious. I tried to get a little too close at one point and was lunged at in an “I’ll rip your face off” kinda way.

At the top, the views were predictably awesome, although the monastery itself was a little mundane. (ultimate nitpicking)

Mt. Popa3 Mt. Popa4 Mt. Popa5 Mt. Popa6


On the way back to Bagan, we stopped to see how Burmese people make their ornate lacquerware products.

Lacquerware4Lacquerware6 Lacquerware1 Lacquerware3Lacquerware2

The secret is pretty much hard labor. The items are layered with different paints and glazes approximately 20 times over the course of several months. In between layerings they sit in a cool underground room and harden. All of the intricate images are hand drawn and unique. I was a little concerned about all the fumes and toxins the workers were essentially living in, not that I have any solution.

Here are some final Myanmar pictures.


Lacquerware Technology College.







Kid who helped me with my bike.

Random4 Random5 Random6 Random7 Random8 Random9 Random10 Random11Random1


Five days isn’t nearly enough time for any country, let alone one as diverse and untamed as Myanmar. That being said, it made a hell of an impression on us and there’s nothing I would change our time there. Except maybe not try duck brain.


We returned to Bangkok early in the morning with two days left in my parents trip. The first day we took a canal tour of Venice of the East. The trip was highlighted by a temple with an unusual color scheme…

ColorTemple1 ColorTemple2 ColorTemple3 ColorTemple4

A floating market…

Floating1 Floating2 Floating3 Floating4 Floating5 Floating6 Floating7

An orchid farm…

Orchid1 Orchid2 Orchid3 Orchid4 Orchid5

Feeding the fish…


A traditional puppet show…

Puppet1 Puppet2

and of course the canals themselves.

Canal1 Canal2 Canal3 Canal4 Canal5 Canal6 Canal7 Canal8 Canal9


The next day took a Thai cooking class.

cooking1 cooking2 cooking3 cooking4  cooking6 cooking7cooking5


That’s our final product above. Oh man can we cook when given the exact right ingredients, tools, and close supervision. I’m praying Kara and my mom truly learned something so I can reap the benefits someday.

At night we had some fancy dinners, one of which was at the number restaurant in Asia according to some random list I found on the internet!

Nicefood1 Nicefood2 Nicefood4Nicefood3

It’s not pictured but the first night we had the best Chicken Tikka Masala anyone could ever have. The second night “best restaurant in Asia” didn’t quite live up to the hype.

After dinner at Nahm I surprised my parents by taking them to the famous Skybar featured in Hangover II for unparalleled urban views and one last moment together.

Skybar1 Skybar2 Skybar3

Needless to say it was a great week. Despite all the activities some of the best moments were spent just playing cards or catching up by the pool. It’s been about 6 months now since I’ve seen the ‘rents and writing this post been a reminder of what’s waiting for me at home!

Funny1 Funny2

As usual photo credit to Kara and not as usual to my mom. More updates to come soon!