What a change of pace it's been coming from our family reunion to a place that was not really what we expected, in a good way of course. We felt as if we were back in India. Flying into Yangon we instantly got the Indian vibe due to all the British colonial architecture and extremely diverse local population. We arrived at our guesthouse and the owners were amazing, welcoming and incredibly friendly. Realizing that Myanmar is touching Laos, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, and China, it’s no wonder that there is such a mixed group of people in the region. We really had no idea what to do when we got there so we figured the best thing would be to go explore the city and new cuisine. We landed in an Indian, Burmese fusion joint that was absolutely amazing! It was strange being back in a place where you become the center of attention with every corner you turn and only 10 percent of the population speaks English. 

BABY YAK! How hilarious is his teeth! 

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon

Left: The city center of Yangon. Right: Gong at the Shwedagon Pagoda.

Sunset over Shwedagon Pagoda. 

A feast in Chinatown. I'm so FULL!!


After venturing around town for a couple days and seeing the local tourist spots such as the Shwedagon Pagoda, we were ready to get out of the city and make our way to the small town of Hpa-An. This town had little to offer, but after signing up for a full day tour of the surrounding area, we were blown away with what we saw. Our group of 8 people loaded up into a small tuk-tuk and headed out into the countryside. The tour consisted of visiting the many Buddhist monasteries and cave temples, which ended up being one of the highlights of the whole trip. 

This was one of our favorite cave temples! Amazing!

So beautiful! 

The view from one of the cave temples! 

Carvings in the caves! 

RIght: The local watering hole in one of the small villages. 

Another epic picture. 

Can you find Mikaela?

Light at the end of the tunnel! 

The caves were MASSIVE! Never before had we experienced such places! We were astonished to see the intricate carvings throughout the high temple ceilings and the natural brilliance of these humongous caverns. After a full day tour in 100+ degree heat we were ready for a nap and a shower!

The following day we decided it would be cool to climb the tallest mountain in the area which turned out to be about 3500’ ft. The hike ended up being quite the challenge. It had a staircase nearly the entire way up but every foot forward was 3 feet in elevation. Once our group reached the top it became immediately clear that it was well worth the hike. What a view!!! After snapping some good sunset photos and taking a quick break, it was time to make our way to the bottom to avoid a night time trek. When reaching the bottom we realized we were stranded. There wasn't a soul around to take us the 30 min ride back to our guesthouse. Luckily we started walking back home and found a man with a car looking to make a quick buck, which we were more than happy to pay.

View from the top! 

The never ending staircase! 

Group shot of our hiking buddies. 

The mountain in the middle of the picture (the tallest peak) is the mountain we climbed. To the left you can see an epic balancing rock with a temple on the top and to the right another large temple.  

Thousands upon thousands of Buddhas cover the Hpa-an fields.

Water cave! 

The next day we took a short bus ride to another small town called Kinpun (Golden rock) known for a massive boulder barely balancing on the edge of a cliffside monastery. There is a cool history with the rock as each Myanmar citizen must make a pilgrimage to see the rock in person once in their life. Therefore, there were thousands of people at the top of this mountain praying, eating and just hanging out. It was pretty uneventful for the high price tag but the ride to the top of the mountain was definitely exciting. We were packed into the back of a small dump truck with 30 other people on the tiniest benches riding up the steepest, windiest roads I’ve ever been on. The ride down the mountain was even more fun as we were crammed into the back of the truck with some Cambodian monks who sang the whole way down the mountain! 

Golden Rock or Kyaiktiyo. 

I love the picture on the right of the woman praying. 

Our Cambodian monk friends. Mikey had to sit on the bench with them because women aren't allowed to touch a monk (Mikaela was swiftly scolded for trying to!).

With Thingyan (The Burmese Water Festival) quickly approaching we had to make some serious moves to get to the city of Bagan before the whole country shut down for the 4 day festival. The cool thing about Thingyan is that every form of transportation stops and all the restaurants and stores shut down, which makes eating quite the challenge. So we took 3 hellish bus rides to get to Bagan before the festival. To no one's surprise, our bus adventure was awful and consisted of us being dropped off in the middle of nowhere at 2am! It got even better (worse) when we had to pay an outrageous amount of money ($10USD) to catch a ride (on the back of mopeds) to the bus ticket office at this ungodly hour. Turns out the ticket office was really just a local man's shop and the moped drivers had to wake the man up so he could sell us our ticket. BUT turns out the bus didn't leave for 6 more hours. So we were left to sleep in this man's ticket office/house in bamboo chairs until the next onward bus arrived to take us to Bagan. But finally, we made it! 

A rice worker. The hat he is wearing is very traditional to this country and are very colorful! 

BAGAN! A city known exclusively for its epic temples. 

Thousands of these temples covered the plains of Bagan! 

Most temples you could walk inside and find secret, tiny staircases leading up to the top of the temple! 

To the right: we took a sunset cruise with some Australian friends we met. 

We spent 4 days in this awesome little temple city, and it was well worth the trouble to get there. In 1044 the ruler of this once thriving city commissioned thousands of temples. Over the next 200 years around 2000 temples were built and still stand today even through massive earthquakes and natural disasters. What a feat of engineering and a sight to behold! In order to tour around the 16 square miles of temple sites, we decided to opt out of the more expensive E-bikes and go for your good-ole peddle bicycles. This was a bad choice, with the temperatures upwards of 105 degrees we were limited to a 6am-11am & 4pm-6pm regimen for fear of dying from heat stroke. But is was so great to be able to explore these extremely undeveloped temples, in which we had free reign to climb up and get some amazing photos!

On our 4th day in Bagan, we learned that we needed to make a choice whether to stay in Bagan for 5 more days while Thingyan was going on, or leave that same afternoon and catch the last bus to Mandalay, a nearby city. It was an easy decision for us, being templed out and ready for a change. 

One of our favorite photos of the whole trip! Sunrise! 

Amazing sunset. 

BIKING!! Mikey's bike broke miles away from town and luckily a young man stopped with some tools to help us out! 

Model Pose!


Biking on the dirt, sand roads. 

After yet another bus ride we made it to the big city of Mandalay just in time for the festival. The festival is a 4 day water fight!! Every single person in Myanmar is partying in the street and throwing water at eachother. The city of Mandalay had built massive stages for music, dancing and throwing water over the past few weeks and it was utter mayhem when we walked out of our hotel the next day. It was an extreme awakening when we took our first four steps outside of our hotel and were greeted with a bucket of water in the face from a moving truck. The rest of the day followed suit and it seemed that being a foreigner painted an even larger bullseye on your back! Not to mention that a 1,000,000 people were wanting, no, DYING to get you to say hello to them. Every which way you turned it was, MING-A-LA-BA!!!!!! (hello) and then immediately followed by another bucket of water. We quickly learned that we needed to buy a squirt gun to exact revenge on the little monsters of the streets! The water fights we got into were pretty epic and there was no mercy! 

Going out at night to get food at the few remaining open restaurants was still not entirely safe because when these kids would see you walk down the street, it was the single greatest joy of their lives. They immediately went into strike mode with only one goal in mind, ATTACK!!! Soaked, yet again! It felt like walking outside in a zombie apocalypse, if you didn't watch your back you got smoked.

Party on the streets! 

We got up on one of the stages and were spraying people with water! The streets were deadlocked with people and pick-up trucks carrying loads of people to the festival. 

These guys are having a great time!

Feeling slightly overwhelmed! Pure chaos!

In the wake of 4 days of getting wet, we were relieved to find the festival coming to a close and were more than ready to reach our next destination, PyinooLwin (what a mouth full)! The day before leaving Mandalay we randomly ran into our friend Anna from Hpa-An and decided to spend the next few days traveling together. PyinooLwin was a nice little pit stop to break up the trip and we were able to rent a moped and explore around the city for the afternoon. The main sights to see were a small waterfall with 12 million people swimming underneath and a massive botanical garden from the British colonial days. Two day was enough for us and we were excited to move onwards to the town of Hsipaw (See-Paw) via the high speed mag-lev train. Just kidding! This baby was a real gem and quite the experience to endure. It was 6 hours of rocking, shaking, and hopping. It was enough to drive a person crazy, but the scenery really made up for the rest. 

Train Ride! Our French friend Anna.

A massive bridge... and a cute, lady selling watermelon on the train.

Once we arrived in Hsipaw we booked a two day trek for the next day into the far off mountains. The plan was to visit several Shan villages and spend the night with the locals in one of the villages. It was so nice to be back in the countryside away from all the hustle and bustle of the city. We ended up covering 20 miles and 6,000’ of elevation in the two days and got to see what it really meant to be a citizen of Myanmar. Our group (Mikaela, Me, Anna, our German companion and our guide, who had very little English skills) started off trekking through gorgeous paddy fields and Shan villages gaining more and more elevation as the day progressed. It was interesting to see that the farmers had completely decimated the countryside to make room for the endless corn fields which they do not even consume! Half the corn grown is dedicated solely to farm animals and the other half is exported to China.

After around 4-1/2 hours we had made it to the village where we would spend the night. Our homestay was a traditional bamboo house with a large open upstairs loft for sleeping. The amazing family who hosted us cooked an amazing spread of food and showed us how they lived out their days. We took a little nap upon arrival and stuffed our faces with a huge traditional meal, then decided to take a little stroll with our guide to check out their main source of income….tea. It was really cool to see the process used to steam, grind and dry the tea and we even got to take part in the operation with a huge family! We spent the rest of the night chatting with the group and drinking some very strong homemade rice wine. In the morning we ate another amazing meal for breakfast and were back on the trail. Upon arrival back to our guesthouse in Hsipaw, it was time to book our final bus ride of the trip (back to Mandalay) where we would fly out!!!! Whoop Whoop!! Bus rides are one thing we will NOT miss! 

Yaks, the river and the countryside!

Tea farms.... trekking along through the villages. 

We are obsessed with Yaks (water buffalo). We saw these kids riding their buffalo, it was quite a funny sight! 

The barren landscape. 

The Palaung village where we stayed. There are many different ethnic groups and the Palaung and Shan people have their separate villages but seem to get along with each other. 

Our trekking group and our host. She was 7 months pregnant and still carrying water from the well, cooking like crazy and picking tea in the fields. What a woman! 

The tea grinder. We watched the whole process from steaming the tea, to grinding, to drying. 

Our host's kitchen. Quite modern but still uses wood to make the fire. To the right we are eating a lovely dinner! The food was some of the best we had in the whole country. 

Our guide showing us how they dry the tea in the sun. To the right some kids playing in the village. 

We made it back to Mandalay the following morning and the city looked completely different from the place we had been just one week before during the festival. We couldn't believe how many shops and restaurants were open, hustling and bustling. It was a quick stay for us but we did manage to get some final souvenir shopping done and lose a slipper to a seriously angry escalator! “cough” Mikaela “cough.” 

The traditional rice worker hat! Doesn't Mikey look amazing?!

We have just one week left to go where we will spend our last days in Chiang Mai, Thailand! Saying goodbye to Myanmar was tough but we were ready to take on Thailand, yet again, to try and get some sweet redemption out of her. Ready or not here we come!

Sadly Myanmar has some seriously bad things going on in their country- concentration camps and ethnic genocide. Here is a really good, short documentary made a year ago on the Muslim Rohingya group that is being persecuted...the more people that know about it the better chance they have...

Philippines Part 2 - Siargao Island

We made it! Lush green hills, mangrove swamps, and forests of coconut trees as far as the eye can see. We were picked up at the one room Siargao airport and driven in the back of a pick-up truck to our accommodation. We rented a large house right on the beach with a little wharf over the water and its own swimming pool. Relaxation!  

Cute little stingless jelly.

Comin' in Hawt!

Beach combing booty!

The next day we rented motorbikes and checked out the little town 30 min away from our house. We hadn’t realized that the place we were staying was in the middle of nowhere… miles down a winding dirt road in a very tiny village, which led to a lot of sore butts from the mopeds! We went into the town, General Luna, to check out the world class surf break “Cloud 9” (what the island is known for and part of the whole reason we came). The town was less developed than we had originally expected. Some nice guest houses, resorts and restaurants but quite uninhabited compared to so many other places we had been. Even better, many of the people spoke English! What a relief! After traveling for awhile you really appreciate being able to understand what people are saying to you!

Quick pit stop.

Checking out "Cloud Nine"

The boardwalk out to the break.

In the afternoon of the next day, Emily and Brendan finally made it to Siargao. It was so exciting to finally see them! We hung out that day enjoying each others company and the warm sun! That night it was the first time Mikey and I had cooked a real meal in 6 months! It felt good being able to cook something exactly how you want it. We had mahi mahi fish steaks with a mango salsa, DELICIOUS! It was also time to surf and the waves were PUMPING! It was a real shocker for the boys the next morning when they thought the waves would be 3-4 foot and ended up 3-4 meters! Turned out not to be a good day for soft top longboards, but they made the best of it! Later that day, we got the entire group out in front of the house surfing the baby waves, and eventually the girls were getting into everything on their own!

Left: Swarmed by kids. Right: Homemade Mahi Mahi Steaks.

Party wave!

Bombs away!!!

We wanted to go explore the island further so we headed up north with our gang of mopeds. Rice paddy field after rice paddy field mixed with groves of coconut trees, the landscape was beautiful. It must have been harvest season because picked, unprocessed rice was set out on the side of the roads (or even in the roads) in order to dry out. Even better than the landscape, were the people. The rice paddy workers would stop their work as we drove by to give us a shout or a wave or even a little dance. Children would yell at us, wave and try to get high-speed high-fives. 

High speed high fives!

Right: Miles of drying roadside rice.

We then headed up farther north to Pacifico Beach where we had an amazing lunch. While waiting for the food Emily and I were eyeing up some local kids playing some pickup basketball. Our competitive side got the better of us and we challenged them to a 3 on 3 basketball match, choosing a small but cute little kid to be on our team. I think we were the only girls to ever play with them because after a few minutes the whole town was out on the street watching us! We had a whole cheering squad! The boys weren’t taking it easy on us either but in the end we won! There were two little girls watching us that were especially excited that we came out on top. It was Joe & Beth’s last night with us before they headed home so we had a bonfire on the beach and had some fun underneath the star-studded sky! 


Bullfrog party!

Joe and Beths last night bonfire.

Small glimpse of the milky way.

The next day we checked out the Magpupungko tide pools to do a little snorkeling. The lava formed a mega tide pool that is only exposed during low tide. Here we saw little fishes and even a deadly coral snake (banded sea crate). After another full day of beach, surf and food, sadly it was then time for Amanda & Nick to leave. Getting them to the airport turned out to be quite the challenge when we happened to get 2 flat tires!!! Luckily they made it out in time.

4 deep on the motorcycles!

Beach combing treats.

Chillen at "Cloud 9".

Left: Getting the tire patched (vulcanized), very old school! Right: 12ft alligator! Turns out the mangroves are infested!

And then there was four! Emily, Brendan, Mikey & I chose to move to another hotel closer to town, entirely due to the terrible, terrible, awful owner/host of our current house (P.S. NEVER STAY AT PARAISO RESORT!!!). But we won’t get into that whole ordeal. Thankfully the next place we stayed was absolutely amazing, on the beach, next to surf breaks, right in town, and served up some amazing jungle juice! 

Ocean 101. 

Island hopping!

One of the coolest adventures over the next few days was going to the Sohoton Caves, a mere 2.5 hour (very loud) boat ride away, but an entirely new galaxy! The bluest, greenest, clearest waters you will ever see in your life and epic caves. Once at the cave area, the tour starts by speeding through low clearance, stalactite ridden caves. But don’t you worry, we were very safe, they decked us out in googley hard hats and life jackets. We looked like bob the builder wannabes. At the first stop we swam through a low, small cave entrance that opened up into a huge water filled cavern, where the only light came from the sun reflected water from outside. Our pictures, although awesome, don’t do it justice. The next stop was quite the adventure. We jumped off the boat and waded into a large dark cave. We then climbed up huge stalactites gaining higher and higher ground which led to a platform with a cliff jump into the clearest water imaginable. We then toured around the glorious backwaters with large cliffs and gorgeous corals. Our last stop was to swim with the stingless jellyfish. They’re quite cute little creatures especially when they can’t sting the life the out of you. All in all it was an incredible day! 

Heading to Sohoton Caves.

The green room.

The caves 

The jellyfish pool.

Closer Inspection.

Another day we circumvented the whole island on mopeds with our new friends Marcelle and Yoyo. When our sore butts couldn’t handle it any longer we stopped at a small burger joint in the middle of nowhere. We were lucky because as soon as we sat down a storm hit!! A downpour of rain and wind. Welp, I guess we will be staying here for awhile! Thankfully, just before sunset the rain let up and we hurried our way back home. 

Right: Mobs of kids! Stop for a second and your getting surrounded.

Right: Massive Pig!

Mikey and Brendan went on a few more morning dawn patrol surfing sessions during our stay. Emily and I decided they shouldn’t have all the fun so we went out to surf by ourselves at a smaller break. At first when we showed up there was NOBODY there. The one piece of advice the boys gave us was, “just go where everyone else goes.” Well that wasn’t going to work! But we toughened up and paddled out, to our surprise we crushed it, catching dozens of small little waves. What a blast! 

Left: Rock island surf break. Right: Gettin fishy!

On Emily & Brendan’s last night, the whole hotel had a party for them! Well it wasn’t actually for them but we like to think of it that way. The hotel was opening their new restaurant and all of us were invited to a free banquet and show! That morning while eating breakfast, the workers were finishing up the last few things on the building and we suspiciously saw them walk a very upset little goat over to the front of the building, in perfect view of all the morning breakfast eaters. “What are they doing with that goat?” I asked. THEN a heart wrenching squeal. Mikey says “OMG don’t look, just don’t look.” Before I could turn my eyes away the worker had slit the poor goats throat and was walking it lifelessly around the building. Everyone in the restaurant was in utter disbelief! So much for breakfast! Later we found out that it was a ritual done to protect the new building, brutal yet effective. 

Dinner is served.

That night was very fun! They had a huge spread of local Filipino dishes and two huge whole pigs! They even had an hour of singing and dancing entertainment. It was a great last night to spend together. We were sad to see the last remaining family depart for home. It was so strange to be all alone after 3 weeks of constant interaction and adventure. We had a quick pit stop in Cebu for the night. Two flights later we found ourselves being kicked out of Vietnam due to missing connecting flights and having no visa, we were then forced to overnight in Bangkok and lost Mikey’s debit card in a greedy ATM!!! That little setback wont keep us from our final stop… Myanmar!!!!!!

Enjoying one last sunset.