Good Morning Yangon! We arrived super early at 6am (The photo above was actually taken from the first day we arrived and took the bus when it was still bright) It was still dark when we arrived. 9 hours on the overnight bus, we were tired and wanted to check into our hotel. We got a taxi for KTS 10,000 (USD 10) to the hotel. We knew we were being ripped off but I was too tired to haggle. The first taxi told us KTS 50,000. (USD 50) This was the beginning and end of Yangon for us. Having encountered really friendly genuine, sincere hard working people in the rest of Myanmar, Yangon is the big city, where everyone is out to rip the tourists off! OK, maybe n0t everyone, just the taxi drivers.
We managed to check into our hotel early. We stayed central at Clover hotel. It’s just next to traders hotel and the Scott’s market. We freshened up and went to inquire about going to the Golden rock. It’s about 3 hours drive out of Yangon. We found out a car would cost USD 200 and if we took the bus we would have to stay overnight. We decided it was too expensive. I felt a bit disappointed we didnt go. Below is a picture of what it looks like.
Yangon is not really pretty. There are pockets of decaying old world charm mixed in with some really ugly modern buildings not unlike most developing asian cities. Again, like Mandalay, the attraction is really the people and the living culture. There are still streets where old trades are divided. One area sells electronics, one area sells textiles, one area is solely for medical supplies….
The food like the rest of the country is faultless. I really did not struggle being a vegetarian who is also allergic to MSG. I have more problems eating in Thailand than in Myanmar.
Pomelo is a shop that works with local artisans to produce local crafts with a contemporary twist.
“Our producers include HIV sufferers, street youths, the mentally and physically disabled, and small family businesses fighting poverty.”
Address: 85-87 Thein Byu Road. Yangon, Myanmar (above Monsoon Resturant)
We stumbled upon it after we took a scenic walk along the strand to look at old colonial buildings and was thirsty, so went into the Monsoon restaurant for brunch. The shop is located upstairs. I ended up buying a really cute papier Mache owl. I just started making papier mache animals so this was a good example!
The top attraction in Yangon is the Large Shwedagon Paya complex at sunset. As the sun sets, the light hits the golden stupa, making it sparkle and shine. There are also jewels and diamonds that crown the stupa.
The lower stupa is plated with 8,688 solid gold bars, an upper part with another 13,153. The tip of the stupa, far too high for the human eye to discern in any detail, is set with 5448 diamonds, 2317 rubies, sapphires, and other gems, 1065 golden bells and, at the very top, a single 76-carat diamond. Below are photos of the jewels taken from the exhibition.
This place is the holiest and most sacred temple in Myanmar. Pilgrims come here from all over the country at least once in their lifetime.
To experience this golden wonder, foreigners must pay KTS 8,000 entrance fee.
and finally the last but my favourite. The wholesale pharmaceutical market near the General hospital where I bought medical supplies for my dog bite. Betadine Sparay and plasters for KTS 4,000.
This is part of my peony series. I love doors. I know I have used them before but I’m building up a collection 😉
Mandalay is not the prettiest city, but it is in the surrounding areas that the magic is hidden.
First stop Mingun. A little village along the Irrawardy river. The only way to get there is by ferry. There is a public one that leaves at 9am and returns at 1pm which costs KTS 5,000 return (USD 5) The boat ride is an hour. Alternatively you can hire your own boat.
Mingun is special for 2 reasons. It is the home of the largest pile of bricks and the largest bell.
The Mingun Paya which started to be built in 1790 was never completed because halfway through, the King’s astrologer prophecized that the King would die once the temple was completed. Hence the temple is missing the stupa. However, the largest bell was cast to be put in the largest temple.
The pair of Mingun lions sit at the base of the steps, overlooking the Irrawardy river.
Second stop Inwa, also know as Ava. One of the ancient imperial capitals of the Burmese Kingdom. To get here is by a short ferry ride across the river bank KTS 2,000 return. We shared our ferry with a few monks. It’s a 10 minute ride across to the other side. Once you get off, you hop straight onto a traditional horse cart for KTS 6,000 which is a tour that takes you to 4 important sites. There is no haggling. This is the official rate.
The Bagaya teak monastery is one of the highlights. It is not only a beautifully carved timber building, but it also sits on the most scenic landscape surrounded by emerald green rice fields and tall elegant palm trees.
For me, the most enchanting experience was our rickety horse cart ride with our local Burmese guide/driver. He looks too young to be working but he said he was 18 years old and he was wide eyed and enthusiastic to show us around the sites. He spent the whole hour chewing betel nut whilst chatting to us, and when we were walking around the sites, he was busy grooming his horse.
We only spent an hour here when we could have easily stayed longer but we were short for time and had to zoom around if we were to make it to U-bein bridge for sunset.
We arrived at ubein at 4pm which was a little early to be honest. I would have preferred to have spent more time not rushing in Inwa. Then again, that gave me enough time to stroll across the world’s longest and oldest teak bridge, mingle with the locals and people watch! The iconic U bein bridge is 1.2km long and the monks from the nearby monastery use the bridge daily. The bridge is ok, to me it’s just a bunch of sticks placed together, no offence, but it is the daily life that is the highlight here. There are people fishing, farmers tending to the rice fields, ladies carrying local produce, a farmer herding his cows, a bunch of kids swimming and jumping off the bridge, monks walking, locals dating and tourists like me ;p
The sunset is not too shabby. This is the view of the sunset from about midway across the bridge. Sunset is 530pm.
After sunset, we went back to the hotel. We had street food for dinner. I bought the same tempura vegetables from the local stall and he charged me half price. Ridiculous! I already thought I was ripping him off the night before when he said KTS 300 (USD 0.30) I’m not sure if you can see my bag of tempura vegetables in the photo below. I had that with a plate of plain rice and a fried egg, since I’m vegetarian. My friend ate the rest of the meat dishes. 2 meat dishes, 2 fried eggs and 2 plain rice that came with free trimmings set us back KTS 2,200 (USD 2.20)
I’m only confessing here at the end. We cheated a little bit today and got the hotel car to take us around Mandalay to catch the different ferries and to go to U bein bridge and one small pagoda stop. It was a full day’s use of the car including dropping us off at the bus station in the evening. We paid USD 50. We probably could have paid a lot less for a taxi but we were just too lazy today to have any mishaps. Our justification was that we knew it would be a super long day sightseeing, plus a 9 hour bus ride in the evening into Yangon. It was money well spent although I do hate importing inflation.
Our bus left on the dot at 9.30pm. Farewell Mandalay.
We arrived in Mandalay from Bagan by bus just before noon. The journey took the longest time because we took the wrong bus. It wasn’t the express one so it stopped everywhere. It took 6 hours and cost KTS 7000 (USD 7)
At the bus station we bought our bus tickets for Yangon for the following night. We made sure we bought the correct bus ticket this time. We found the Shwe Mandalar bus company which we had taken before and bought the tickets there. The bus ticket was KTS 10,000 (USD 10) and we got the bus people to give us a ride to our hotel for KTS 5000 (USD 5)
After we checked into our hotel, we got a quick bite at the coffee shop opposite. We had a bowl of vege noodles each and a coffee for a total of KTS 2000 (USD 2) The local food is cheap if you dare eat it. It’s really tasty and I didnt get sick once. Obviously I went for the food that was either boiled or fried to death ;p
After lunch we went sightseeing. We ended up at Mandalay Hill for sunset and headed back to the hotel. We had street food for dinner. I found a stall selling tempura vegetables. The guy charged me 300 kts (USD 0.30)for 10 pieces of fried vegetables. I felt like I was ripping him off!
Tiffin carriers were a traditional form of transporting food in Malaysia and around the region. An old school lunch box. This one is made of metal and enamel paint and were used by the Peranakans. Sometimes there are peonies painted on the Tiffin carrier as decoration. This is a plain one but I have added in the peonies in the background 🙂
Today’s sketch of the day is of this little dog that bit me in Myanmar exactly a week ago. I’ve had my tetanus shot and he didn’t look like he had rabies but I was still and am still a bit scared. I haven’t been to the doctors, I know I should but I’m scared of doctors too.
Myanmar is a place full of dogs. They are everywhere. This one is not a stray. It belongs to someone who lives next to a temple in Bagan. I startled it whilst it was sleeping and it woke up and attacked me. I got bitten twice. Once on my right ankle and once on my left heel. It isn’t the best place to be bitten either considering I had to walk barefoot most of the time and climb stairs.
Now, I’m going back to be in denial.
Bagan was the capital city of the first Myanma Kingdom, the site located at the banks of the Irrawardy river, measures 13 by 8 km and contains more than 2500 Buddhist monuments (temples, stupas, monasteries, etc) built from the 10th to the 14th centuries AD. This is the world’s densest concentration of temples in one site. Several of these monuments are still highly venerated by the population, and attract numerous pilgrims and devotees from all over the country, particularly at festival times. Today it is an Unesco archaeological zone.
My friend and I decided to go to Myanmar because she wanted to celebrate her birthday there.
We flew into Yangon and straight off the plane, (well after we changed some crisp USD into local KTS at the airport) we took a taxi (KTS 6,000) to Aung Mingalar bus station and caught an overnight bus “Shwe Mindalar” (KTS 25,000 pre booked through and agent) from Yangon to Bagan. It took about 9.30 hours . We left at 7pm and arrived at 4.30am. We spent 2 nights in Bagan. We chose to stay in Nyaung U which is near to old Bagan where the temples are. We stayed at Aung Mingalar. The hotel was a few minutes walk from the bus stop, which was a relief as it was dark when we arrived.
This might read like the amazing race but trust me, it felt like it. On hindsight, we should have stayed longer but we didnt have enough time.
The first day we rented a bicycle (KTS 2,000) but smartened up on the second day and rented an e bike for KTS 7,000 (USD 7)
We pretty much followed the itinerary from the Lonely planet Myanmar which we found really helpful.
I’m putting the costs in because I found it really helpful when I was doing research on the area. The best place to change money is at the airport. I brought new USD notes in large denominations. I didnt have a problem changing money. There are ATMs as well but I didnt try them. There is also free wifi at the airport if you need it.
Voted Best trips in 2013 by National Geographic