Tag Archives: travel

Nay Pyi Daw, the new capital of Myanmar

I spent the past three weeks in Myanmar (Burma)… that country in South East Asia that no one seems to have heard of. That’s okay, some of them haven’t heard of Australia either.

It was a confronting country to visit, both for the cultural differences and the ongoing political problems that underlie everyday life for the Burmese, however much the government tries to (physically) shield visitors from seeing them. There’s a million places and stories I could write about Myanmar but the one that’s left the biggest impression reflects this shield, although it is the least representative of the culture of the country. Nay Pyi Daw (Nay Pyi Taw), the brand new capital of Myanmar.

In the same way that Canberra was purpose-built to be the capital of Australia, Nay Pyi Daw was built from scratch over the past decade and announced in 2005 as the new capital. The difference is that Nay Pyi Daw is drastically, out-of-this-world different to the rest of Myanmar.

Myanmar in general is typical of South East Asian countries in its roads, buildings and other infrastructure, plus some colonial buildings and minus some internet access, ATMs and hot water. Until you arrive at your humungous, brand new hotel in the ‘hotel city’ (the only place where foreigners are permitted to sleep) area of Nay Pyi Daw and suffer a brain dysfunction, forgetting whether you are in Los Angeles or Burma.

Among the many oddities of the capital are:

– An exact copy of Yangon’s Shwe Dagon Pagoda that manages to turn one of the most beautiful temples I’ve seen into a tacky Buddist tourist attraction

– An Olympics-quality stadium and sports complex still under construction for the South East Asia Games, coming up at the end of 2013. And next to it, a village of bamboo-thatch houses

– Two shopping centres with imported foods and international brands (we bought some Australian Brie and Cadbury choccy, still cheaper than Aussie prices)

– A brand new library full of decades-old books that had been moved straight from the former national library in Yangon

Aaaand…

– A 20-lane highway, 10 lanes each direction, no exaggeration, with about one car driving on it

To complete the experience, at the end of the day thinking the whole city was deserted, we arrived at the bus station and found it teeming with people. The same local markets that we’d seen everywhere in Myanmar, and we understood where all of the supposed one million inhabitants hang out. Nay Pyi Daw wasn’t a ‘fun’ holiday experience but it was one of the highlights of our trip just for the awe factor.

20130907-101646.jpg
20 lane, 0 cars

20130907-101657.jpg
Nay Pyi Daw’s version of the Shwe Dagon Pagoda

20130907-101702.jpg
The national library, ‘helping those who seeks knowledge’

20130907-101715.jpg
The site of the upcoming SEA Games

Advertisements

My story published on Naked Hungry Traveller

When I travelled through Malaysian Borneo in October 2012 I was blown away not only by the amazing sights and activities, but also the ecological devastation on the island. I felt inspired to write about my experiences, and today my article and photographs were published on an Australian travel website called Naked Hungry Traveller.

If you’re interested please check it out at:
http://nakedhungrytraveller.com.au/of-monkeys-and-men-the-wild-nature-of-sabah/

Mum and Dad liked it so maybe you will too 😉

…and don’t be afraid to share it on Twitter or Facebook using the links on the website.

Cheers!
Sasha

Mini trip in Eastern Europe

This week I travelled from Berlin to Kathmandu the long way round – via Budapest and Belgrade. The past week has been a whirlwind, living out of my suitcase and catching sleep on trains and planes wherever possible. Not surprisingly, I’ve caught a cold. This combined with the fact that Mum and Dad have been delayed by two days, leaving me alone in Kathmandu for three nights, means I’m having a chilled out time in Nepal so far despite the constant noise and motion that is Kathmandu.

I left Berlin on Friday night with Bec and we caught a 14 hour train south-east through Germany, The Czech Republic, Slovakia to Budapest, Hungary. The train wasn’t too bad and we managed a few hours sleep although were awoken at 2 a.m. with a creepy man watching us sleep. He soon left us alone and the rest of our trip was much more relaxing. We kept the history to a minimum and spent most of our time swimming in the Szechenyi and Lucasz baths, eating great Hungarian food, drinking chilli coffee and champagne frappes in New York Cafe, and generally admiring the beauty of the city. After being so long in Berlin, which makes up for in cool what it lacks in beauty, we were both in awe of buildings such as Fisherman’s Bastion and St Stephen’s Basilica, especially lit up at night. We also went to the Szechenyi bath party (Sparty) on Saturday night – think thermal pool plus DJ plus 500 drunk backpackers. Crazy fun but crazy gross by the end of the night. The one museum we visited was Hospital in the Rock, which was an underground hospital and nuclear shelter kept secret from the Soviets until 2002.

On Tuesday Bec and I left Budapest headed in opposite directions – she home to Berlin and I on another train south, this one to Belgrade, Serbia. Figuring on a lack of bread in Asia, I left her with my jar of Vegemite but the airport security staff took it away from her! I guess they wanted it for themselves, they’re only human.

With less than 48 hours in Belgrade I had to be choosy about what to do. On the morning of my first day I took a walking tour which was a good way to see a lot and learn about the city in three hours. Then I walked the length of the main road of the city to the biggest Catholic cathedral in the Balkans, Saint Sava temple. The outside is white and majestic, but the inside isn’t finished – not even close. It’s all concrete but I found this interesting in itself. I also met an ancient Serbian woman and we had a broken conversation in which we somehow managed to exchange names, nationalities and the fact that Christianity is common in Australia but I’m not religious. Amazing!

Belgrade has been voted the best nightlife in Europe, so luckily I was staying in a social hostel called Hedonist where we soon had a group of about 10 people wanting to go out, including an American expat who wanted to take us to his favourite bars. So all of us – Aussies, Swedes, Yankees and Canadians had a beer in a bar along the Sava river and then crossed a bridge into Novi Beograd (New Belgrade) which has a bunch of boats and barges converted into bars and clubs. We went to one that played the strangest mix of music from the ’80s to now of every genre imaginable and in no logical atmospheric order. Prince would become Kings of Leon would become a South American dance song.

It was a late night and the next day I packed up on about three hours’ sleep and said goodbye to my new friends. I could easily have spent more time in Belgrade and the rest of Eastern Europe, but was due to meet Mum and Dad in Nepal. I flew to Kathmandu via a 10 hour stopover in Qatar bringing my travel time to almost 24 hours. As mentioned Mum and Dad’s flight was delayed so they are currently spending two nights in Kuala Lumpur.

As soon as I landed I recognised the familiar smells and heavy, humid air of Asia. Kathmandu is as chaotic as expected. Dumplings, curry, spices and chilli. Electricity blackouts every day. Incense, temples, hippie pants (regular clothing will be my biggest readjustment back in Sydney). Watching every step to avoid giant holes in the road. Endless car horns and motorcycle horns. Three months in Europe was awesome but Asia feels like coming home.

20130706-223315.jpg
The architecture of Belgrade: Communism meets early 19th Century meets modernity

20130706-223012.jpg
Looking over to Novi Beograd with the boat bars in the Sava river

20130706-223021.jpg
The Saint Sava temple

20130706-223027.jpg
Bec may call me the Map Queen but maps were no help to me here.

The Wrinkles of the City

Last week I had the anniversary of seven months since leaving Sydney. So far I’ve spent the 26th of each month at…

September – arrived in Kuala Lumpur from Sydney
October – Thailand
November – Cambodia
December – Laos
January – Thailand
February – China
March – China
April – Germany

I’m settling into my au pairing work in Berlin (although seriously reconsidering whether I ever want kids). The girls are sweet, the parents are fantastic hosts to me. Berlin is a very cool city and I’ve been enjoying the parks, museums and vintage stores (I went to a five-level charity store yesterday, the top level was entirely vintage clothing from the 50s to the 90s. I love that they can now charge high prices for 90s clothing. Ridiculous). I have my own bike which really completes the Berlin experience, the bike lanes here are fantastic and life is just better on a bicycle.

Yesterday I went searching for The Australia Store on said bicycle because I’m craving some vegemite. Didn’t find it, maybe it went out of business, can’t imagine why. The journey wasn’t a waste of time though for three reasons: I worked off my Belgium Chocolate ice cream, I found the five-level vintage store and I saw another two pieces of the Wrinkles exhibition.

The Wrinkles of the City exhibition is a series of street art pieces in Mitte (my suburb) at the moment, by French artist JR. They’re huge black and white photographs painted onto buildings, photographs of Berliners that represent the historical buildings of the city. The nice part about it is I keep unexpectedly coming across the different artworks.

20130507-210800.jpg

20130507-210013.jpg

20130507-210022.jpg

20130507-210030.jpg
The last one isn’t part of the exhibition but I saw it while I was taking a photo of the hand and it’s real cute.