There is a well-worn path through Southeast Asia that snakes through Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and, depending on whom you ask, maybe a few other places. Treading this path at a leisurely pace over a few weeks, you’re likely to see some of the same Western faces making their way from hostel to hostel across the backpacker districts on the trail. One item almost always on the breakfast menu at these places: pancakes. Specifically, banana pancakes, which are not exactly part of the traditional local selections. As a side note, yogurt and muesli is also almost always the menu, but, while delicious, it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. The “Pancakes Trail” has many more common themes than just breakfast menu items though, revolving essentially around catering to (and exploiting) the tourists that make their way through it. You can see similar photo op gimmicks like deep fried bugs to eat or fish pedicures, child touts at temples and monuments pulling out all the guilt-inducing stops, even scams that are fairly similar across cities. The tourist sites themselves can have a bit of thematic repetition as well: the requisite visit to the “local village” and accompanying boat tour, whether it be lake or river, firing automatic weapons (or at least posing with them), and of course temples, temples, temples.
Domestic air travel in Myanmar is an interesting experience. Once we were turned loose at the terminal in Yangon, the seemingly chaotic boarding through a single exit and constant indecipherable announcements were a tad confusing. Admittedly, we were at least mildly concerned that we might miss our 0630 flight. Everything went smoothly though. We rode across the tarmac in a repurposed old Japanese city bus and connected through to Mandalay with a comfortable and short flight.
Yangon, Myanmar isn’t quite the antipode of the southeastern United States. That would actually put you in the middle of the ocean west of Australia. However, after more than 20 hours of flight time equaling half the circumference of the globe, let’s just keep things simple and say that we’re on the other side of the earth.