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April 23, 2015

Renting E-Bikes in Bagan, Myanmar

The old town of Bagan is fascinating and maybe one of the top places in the world to see the sunset over the thousands of pagodas.








Front row seat for the sunset on top of Shwe San Daw Pagoda

Although there are 2,000+ pagodas still standing, the crumbling temples are each unique with different shapes, sizes and designs (some are filled with ancient paintings while others have multiple tiers to keep climbing til you reach the very tip top). Some of our friends said they’d spend a few days less in Bagan because, by this [...]

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April 23, 2015

Let’s Go: Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan is mystical, magical + inexplicable, all in one. There is a well-known saying of the Burmese people: “If you are a real Myanmar, you must have been to Bagan.”

It’s one of those places that you just have to go to understand its beauty because, as beautiful as it is in photos, no photo can do justice to the serenity when you’re at the tip-top of a deserted pagoda or the minute detail in every inch of a pagoda built literally thousands of years ago. I don’t mean to say “just go,” but… really, JUST GO!

The old, dusty town is also (would you believe it?) an old royal capital from the 9th to the 13th centuries. Beginning in the middle of the 9th [...]

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April 13, 2015

Mandalay Palace

Mandalay is Myanmar’s second largest city, home to roughly 1.5 million people and steeped in Burmese history. Boasting a reputation of being Burma’s cultural + educational hub, the city is often overlooked by tourists who are more interested in relaxing at Inle Lake. This bustling city offers a look into Burma’s past – before the tourists + even before the Brits’ arrival.

View of Mandalay Palace from the Watch Tower

One of the city’s main attractions is Mandalay Palace, a walled and moated “city” that now hosts military officials and families. When you’re walking [...]

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April 10, 2015

A Tour of Three Royal Capitals – Mandalay, Myanmar

Just on the outskirts of Mandalay are not one but three former royal capitals (Sagain, Ava and Amarapura) and the typical tourist path explores all three small villages in one day. So, of course, we signed up for the tour. How can you miss seeing three royal capitals that are right under your nose?

In typical Jeffrey-and-McCown fashion, we had no idea what to expect when we first arrived (we’ve gotten into a habit of planning the cities and towns along our stop – for flying/training/busing purposes, but nothing to do in the city, so when we first arrive, it’s a bit like a deer-in-headlights syndrome). Several tour companies on TripAdvisor offer these [...]

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March 25, 2015

A Ride on the Circle Train – Yangon, Myanmar

On yet another hazy day in Yangon, we headed up the road to the main train station (the same one that would carry us off days later on the overnight Yangon-Mandalay train) to board the Circle Train, taking us in a circle around Yangon’s “suburbs” and then back into the city.

Because most locals can’t afford apartments in the city proper, the vast majority lives in the suburbs but finds work inside the city. This Circle Train is the preferred method of transportation in and out of the city as traffic can get pretty brutal (and, of course, you have to own a car or motorbike). So, riding this Circle Train provides an unspoiled glimpse into local life away from the [...]

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March 24, 2015

Shwedagon Pagoda + Surrounding Area

The gleaming, gilded pagoda is your first spectacular view of Yangon on arrival, dominating the city’s skyline and commanding your instant attention (especially at night time!). Up on a hill, this 2,600 year old Buddhist temple is a sight to behold, towering over Myanmar’s largest city and reminding you of ancient times while connecting you to a very real, present-day Yangon. The number one site in Yangon (and probably all of Myanmar) is known as the Crown of Burma and is the country’s most revered shrine, a sprawling temple that boasts eight hairs plucked from Buddha.

Although legend holds that the stupa is more than 2,600 years old, some historians believe it [...]

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March 12, 2015

1.5 Days in San Diego

Our first two nights were scheduled in San Diego, but we landed at 8:45pm (11:45pm Eastern Time), and had to rent a car and get to our hotel. We crashed into bed and tried to rest up for our packed day ahead.

One of my best friends had plenty of wonderful things to say about her time at Coronado Island, just a quick 10 minute drive from downtown San Diego, so we chose to stay on the island rather than in the downtown area. Once we’d decided to stay on Coronado, I had to choose from the handful of hotels there. The famous Hotel del Coronado was a bit out of our price range at $400+/night, so we settled on the El Cordova Hotel just across the street. It is an old mansion [...]

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March 2, 2015

Planning My Very First Trip to California

On the eve of Jeffrey’s & my big Asian Adventure, I wanted to spend some quality time with my mom before Jeffrey and I packed up and headed out for months.

Disclaimer: I’m an idiot and haven’t signed up for the referral to make any money off any of the below credit card offers. This is this genuine advice as I see things. I have both of the cards listed below, however, take my advice with caution: I’m far from an expert on financial/credit matters, but happy to help where I can!

My mom had just applied for the US Airways Premier World MasterCard over Thanksgiving, so she received the Companion Certificate in the mail in late December. A little more on the [...]

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June 11, 2014

Galata Tower Review – Istanbul, Turkey

Bereketzade Mh., Galata Kulesi, Beyoğlu, Turkey 18.5 TL (~$8.90 US) Hours: 9am to 8pm everyday

After lunch at another outdoor cafe (…because Charleston has exactly 0 fun outdoor streetside cafes), we walked over the Golden Horn to the more modern side of Istanbul. Trying to get our tourism on, we headed to a must-see site: the Galata Tower.

View of the Galata Tower from across the water

In the context of Istanbul, the Galata Tower is brand spanking new at 650+ years old. This is especially evident in the context of the Hagia Sofia, built in 537, whereas the Galata Tower was completed in [...]

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March 21, 2014

Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici) – Istanbul, Turkey Review and Photo Gallery

Basilica Cistern – Yerebatan Sarayı – “Sunken Palace”, or Yerebatan Sarnıcı – “Sunken Cistern” Address: Very close to the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque in the old city of Istanbul. Alemdar Mh., Şeftali Sk No: 6, Fatih, Turkey Price: 10 TL (~$4.50 USD) – a bargain, totally worth the admission price. Hours: Daily.  April-October: 9am – 6:30pm; November-March: 9am – 5:30pm

After touring the Hagia Sophia (click for post) with the other 6 billion people that morning, we headed just across the way to the Basilica Cistern. When we saw the crowds there, too, we were so over crowds and ready to walk around the city that [...]

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