Welcome to the Golden Land.
It’s really not hard to see how Myanmar earned its nickname. As we were flying into Yangon we passed over a huge, shimmering golden stupa, which we (mistakenly) assumed was the Shwedagon Paya in Yangon. Five minutes later we’d seen a dozen more dotted around the Burmese countryside, each bigger and brighter than the one before it. And then we actually did see the Shwedagon Paya. Wow.
Even the arrivals hall at the airport was beautifully decorated with golden spires, and we drove past a mechanics that could easily have been mistaken for some magnificent, ornate temple.
Well, to quote the famous Mr. Kipling (no, not that one!) ‘This is Burma‘. Sitting outside with a bottle – or three – of the local brew, the stresses of the last week seem a million miles away now and it finally feels like we’re on holiday!
Arriving in Beijing is a full-on attack on the senses; sight, sound, smell and fashion (yes, pleather, diamante, and unfortunate typos are everywhere. – Arnami jeans anyone?). I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere quite like Beijing!
Like Seoul, the city is a fascinating mix of old and new. Old guys sit on the street playing Mahjong outside a 5-storey market bursting at the seams with designer knock-offs, rickshaws peddle alongside shiny new Mercedes, and the smog is so thick that you feel the runway beneath you before you can even see it.
We’ve definitely ticked some things off the bucket list. The Forbidden City was incredible and Tiananmen Square was an interesting if slightly eerie place. But the huge military presence on the streets and the airport-style security checks at every subway station serve as slightly uncomfortable reminders of China’s current political situation. A lot of the time we felt like human pinballs being bounced and pinged along regardless of the direction we wanted to be going in, and the constant staring and pointing got a bit too much at times. When we visited the zoo to see the giant pandas (!!) a man and his son in front of us actually turned away from the pandas, whipped their cameras out and started snapping away at us two.
Our trip to Beijing has been a fascinating, but not entirely relaxing experience. Next stop, Yangon!