I left Bangkok's Don Mueang Airport two Fridays ago with some feeling of trepidation as we flew towards Myanmar. The Lonely Planet guidebook I have been referring to had warned about the still somewhat primitive nature of the country compared to the rest of South East Asia. "Bring all your cash you will need as there are no ATMs in the country," it said. No ATMs? At the thought of that I already felt like a big task was at hand for me.
What I found there was an interesting juxtaposition between the stalwart old regime and the progessive influence of the outside world that is rapidly entering. The Burmese people seem to be embracing these changes eagerly too. One of my new friends here excitedly told me that Visa had arrived last month. The young taxi driver that picked me up at the airport said the country had changed so quickly in the last two years and "I hope it will stay like this for good".
Also, I was very blessed to meet some wonderful young monks here who showed me many sights around town and given me a glimpse into their lifestyle, which is so very different from my own. Their days start at 4AM and are filled with study, meditation but also lots of socialisation. They enjoy listening to Amy Winehouse, Westlife (!), Bon Jovi (!!) and even Justin Bieber. They love to practice their English with foreigners as they hope to travel the world, just like everybody else.
Below are pictures from the beautiful Shwedagon Paya, the enormous reclining Buddha at Chaukhtatgyi Temple and inside a hollow stupa at one of the other temples, as well as other photos from about town and with new friends.