Backpacking through Myanmar [part 1 of 3]

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I’ll give you 5 seconds to answer: What is the very first thing that comes to mind when you think about Myanmar? Let me guess – Aung San Suu Kyi, right? At least for me it was. When I got around to think about what I actually knew about this nation before travelling there, “not much” sums it up, I’m afraid..

Now, let’s take this from the beginning. My two childhood friends, Jørgen & Martin has got two parents (as one commonly does) with a slight taste (read: huge appetite) for the Pacific Ocean and all of its remote, tropical islands. So, last winter they left Oslo to spend a couple of months in paradise (look up Rarotonga – no, not on a physical map, …yes, use Google image search, … and yes, that is actually the place, …no, that is not photoshopped (you get the point now, I figure)). Accompanied in part by their children; these two young boys wanted to do a sweep across Asia, before returning home. A part of that exciting quest was exploration of Myanmar. I was invited along – and gladly accepted!

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Flight DY7205 from Oslo through Stockholm to Bangkok. Appropriately named “BANG-kok!”, a complete opposite to “The sound of Silence”. However, it felt strangely familiar, having been to some of the great, busy cities of India. A picture of traffic in two-three elevated “channels” feels appropriate:

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Flying to and from Myanmar is restricted to some chosen destinations, and for that reason, we used Thailand as a springboard to its neighbour in the west.

Here’s a portrait of Martin before we move on!

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We spent two days exploring, and amongst other things, joined in on a trip into the backwaters of the city; a web of interconnected canals – with “swarming” wildlife… at least a couple of laid-back lizards or two… (pictures to come!).

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I’d like to call the next picture “The river captain, and his wife”. Strangely, he is not the one doing the dishes at this one instance in time.
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There are no longer predators around that hunt the water monitors. Thus, with a steady supply of food available around-the-clock, they have become lazy and “fearless” of humans, and human activities. We could almost touch it, – that’s how close we could come.

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According to our guide, a lot of the traditional way of “slow(-er)” living is vanishing at an accelerating rate. This can perhaps be seen by the brand new buildings that are mixed in with the old canal-side houses.

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One thing you don’t escape (in Asia in general), are temples. Literally everywhere, and with an astonishing amount of gold and glitter. However, the golden tan doesn’t come naturally, someone has to paint them shiny…

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Back to the backwaters again!

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…where we found an orchid farm:

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…and an insane amount of fish (carp, I think), that was used to being fed white bread lol. When we started to feed them, the water literally turned into fish. H-Fish-O2. The battle was ON!

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Back in the city, this stray dog caught my attention between two parked, colourful buses.

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The air quality is plain awful, no surprise here. The drivers try to be cautious, and most use a facial mask.

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The next day, we swapped out Bangkok with Mandalay. It’s situated on the banks of Irrawaddy, in the heart of Myanmar. (This is a good time to hit play on Hans Zimmer’s masterpiece “Waters of Irrawaddy”, to really set the mood!). We got a small bungalow all to ourselves, – left our belongings there, and went outside. Our first impression of the people of Myanmar was that they were very friendly, polite – and by no means accustomed to tourists. This is of course a big plus, as it means not getting ripped off in taxis, restaurants and most stores.

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Jørgen and Martin posing in front of our accommodation. Award for being the easiest to recognise person, goes to Jørgen, for his exemplary orange shirt.

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The first image of this blogpost, was taken just outside our hotel at night time. Same night, some sort of festival were held in the streets, with loads of exotic food and fun activities, mostly for children.

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We got in touch with some locals – or more correctly, Jørgen spotted a guitar. They were nice, and we sang along. No english though. But guitar. Fun!

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We rented bikes the following morning, and went out at the crack of dawn. First stop was the local marked, were we got to try out a few tasty sweets and meet some of the people that worked there; which to our surprise was (almost) women only! Here are some of them:

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I leave you with the following image from the marked entrance, which I really like – may even go as far and say that I think it’s the best picture of this blogpost! Until next time (part 2), cheerio!

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The Windy City – Chicago!

Alexander, Sverre, Gergo, Hannah and I decided to pay Chicago a visit some weeks ago. We borrowed a car and bought doughnuts & coffee for the road trip! The drive was 3-4 hours and certainly different from what I’m used to in boring AF Scandinavia. Large billboards literally follow you the entire way; half of them tell you to put your faith in God and the rest appeals to the hungry traveller. Somehow the best steak in the state is always located at the next food exit. Yes, food exit, that is what (some of) the highway exits are called.. lulz.. The typical food exit consists of a cluster of different fast-food chains and the like. A spot on the map of extreme caloric density with an event horizon i.e. the point of no return, where/when you spot that juicy, delicious burger on a billboard.. lolol, here’s a picture of us (three backseat physicists):

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The designated driver for the occasion was Alex, given that flat terrain is one of his Danish specialities lololol. Sverre and his phone can be seen also to the right, making sure we are on the right track. #NeverTrustAWindowsPhoneEverAgainLOL

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For those of you wondering how far – or perhaps, where the third most populous city in U.S. is situated, here, have a look at the map:

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HVT_5521The nickname “The Windy City” is certainly a good fit, for a lot of reasons, mainly – its so damned windy. Luckily for us, the temperature was also freezing! The place we stayed at was somewhat cheap, but more importantly, right in the hearth of Gotham, I mean the metropolis.

After arriving quite late, we decided to grab a beer – and if it hadn’t been for mr. Treider here, almost ruining it by “oh man we gotta go check this out” and “must.. photograph… over… there..” we would have had more than 14 seconds to pick a “flavour”. It turned out the store was “right around the corner” all along. However, neither me nor Alex will acknowledge that someone went around the entire block. Because, that would be… absurd.

Due to the coffee (singular), I couldn’t sleep all night. So, next morning I decided to step up my game, and get that caffeine tolerance up up UP. This has proven more difficult than imagined.

After breakfast, we went out to find Cloud Gate, i.e. The Bean the perhaps most well known tourist attraction in the city(?) – at least the most photographed one. It is best described as a mirror, bent in three dimensions to look like a bean, hence the nickname. We first had to walk there – and here are some shots taken on the way:

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(Sorry, no points for recognizing Lincoln).

Finally, zeh Bean: (click here for a version in color)

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As you probably noticed earlier; Chicago is located by Lake Michigan, down south. The fresh water has a special green/turquoise tint to it.

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The city is also known for the excellent Field Museum, the home of SUE; the largest, best-preserved, and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex ever found.  That’s “her” below:

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I also found these absolutely hysterical statuettes, which I decided to caption appropriately (you must know your internetz):

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We continued our expedition towards the planetarium. (Don’t mind the pointing, it’s the complete opposite direction)

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We found it (and decided to come back later) along with a gorgeous view of the city skyline and the lake. We also found our dark caped guardian – not the hero we deserve, but the hero we need. *Sigh*, I need to stop with these quotes.

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Me, appreciating a little sun for a change:

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After having some food, we joined Alex in his quest of finding Saint Mary of the Angels. If you got he reference of him holding a doughnut and a cup of coffee in front of SUE, you probably get this one too (I most certainly don’t lol). Since we live in 2016, finding the church took about 1.5 seconds + whatever time it took to google it. We grabbed an über and arrived shortly after.

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Signs. Weird ones. Blue ones. Chicago hosts a diverse collection… Remember to keep a ruler in your car so that you can check if parking is legal or not during winter times. Will there be more snow? Will the magical 2 inches be reached? Playing with fire, are we? Or how about a 500 dollar fine for feeding the pigeons?

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Pizza, delicious and fat. One metric tonne of cheese. Very yummy, much taste, such wow. Sverre looks ecstatic at the sheer sight of food after a long day (as we all were, of course).

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I wanted to go back to the pier for a long exposure shot of the city in the dark, over the water. Somehow I managed to convince the others to accompany me! Safe to say, we were not alone out there. There were a certain very recognizable smell in the air.

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This blog post would be incomplete without a photo of the famous Chicago “L” (short for elevated) that transports people into, around and out of the city.

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…and here is a cute little turtle from Shedd Aquarium:

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To this day, I don’t know why it says “A BEST”. GAWD, IT MAKES NO SENSE. Anyway, this is the entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago. A place definitely worth a visit.

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This exhibition appealed to me of course! /physicslessonstart/ What we’ve got here is the classic potato battery, taken to the extreme. After some googling, I found out that you can get a little over 1 V per potato. A rough estimate of 500 potatoes gives us something like 500 V to play around with. Wait. Am I sure that they are all connected in series? Nope. Could you do anything fun with it? Not really, the current is probably too low bad. Is it still awesome? YES! /physicslessonend/

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Also, we got this intensely interesting triple-square thingy going on. If that doesn’t get your hearth pumping, I don’t know what will.

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The last great adventure was climbing up the 92-or-so floors of the John Hancock Center. There we got to try out Tilt, which is best described with some photos. This evening was the night of the Super Bowl, so we had the entire floor to ourselves; 360 degree of pure panoramic view. What followed was quite a spectacular sunset, I must say.

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Here is a timelapse from my phone of the sunset. Due to “bad” auto-exposure there is some flickering… Anyways.

Then, after some food from a great kind-of-market-place-but-not-really, we found the car and started driving home. Since Chicago/Illinois is an hour behind Michigan, we got back a little later than anticipated. But, who cares? Awesome trip!

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