After visiting Africa two years ago, Eastern Europe and India last year, this year I am visiting Myanmar, or also known as Burma in the past. I was supposed to went to Myanmar last December, but due to technical issue and conflicting dates, I went to Thailand instead. The question you may ask is, “why do I want to go to Myanmar?” Well, here’s few of my thoughts:
1. They have only recently open up to the world, since their 2015 election won by Aung San Suu Kyi party, means that the local culture is still relatively intact and uncontaminated by the West.
2. It’s exoticness has it’s own appeal, not to mention it is cheap to travel in Asean. I spent $2000 all-in for the trip, including airplane tickets and decent hotel.
3. It’s a photographer heaven for street and landscape photography, especially in Bagan for architecture of temples.
Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar most famous structure
Me and my father took a flight at 12 pm from Jakarta to Singapore by Tiger Air, transit for half day long which I spent my time to Marina Bay Sands shopping mall for lunch and went to Orchard to buy a book in Kinokuniya. We have also booked Ambassador Hotel inside the airport to avoid the hassle of hailing a cab at 4 in the morning from city, six hours stay for two person cost S$110. Our booking starts at 10 pm, so when we arrived at 9 in Changi Airport, we first dined at a foodcourt on the second floor after immigration check. It happens to be the night of football final, Germany vs Italy, people were watching together in a large LCD screen in the lounge.
Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Ambassador transit hotel’s room is decent and large, the standard room has bathroom inside the room which is very convenient for us to clean up and went sleep as fast as we can. Our morning call was at 4 am, after packing our stuff (we only pack a cabin-size luggage and a small backpack) we had breakfast at McDonald then headed to the boarding gate. Tiger Air is quite on time with their departure time, a rare feature in Asean flights.
The view from air approaching Yangon Airport
Three hours after the take off from Singapore, we arrived at Yangon Airport, located in Yangon, the biggest city in Myanmar but not the capital city. I have to admit that Yangon Airport is way better than I imagined it would be, the architecture and feel is similar with Changi Airport, which is great. The exchange rate for USD to Myanmar Kyat at the airport is good as well, there are several shops, but we found AYE bank to be the best.
We met our tour leader named Zin Bo, an energetic young men in his 26th. We learned that he has took his diploma in international relation and speak fluent English and Japanese. We passed by Aung San Suu Kyi house when she was on house arrest, but it was raining so we took pictures from car only. Our first sightseeing stop is Chaukhtatgyi reclining Buddha, it is basically just a big statue of Buddha posing. To get inside the building, we have to take off our shoes and socks, walking barefoot inside the cold and sometimes wet floor. After a 10 minutes tour, we exited and clean our feet using a wet napkin. Since we are hungry (it was still 11 am), we went to a famous restaurant called Padonmar where many ambassadors ate in the past. The food was good and the price is reasonable, however when you order many dishes like we do, we spent too much ($60) for 4 people lunch.
Chaukhtatgyi reclining Buddha Statue, Yangon
At around two o’clock we headed to Karaweik, a dragon-themed boat on a lake to take pictures of it. There isn’t much to see on the area, but there are restaurants and local people walking on the park. After Karaweik we visited the city hall and take a walk at Along Mahabandoola park, seeing local people activities on Sunday evening. People are eating on the streets and sitting on the park with their partner and friends. Be sure to use comfortable shoes when walking in Myanmar, because the road are wet and harsh in some places.
Karaweik, a restaurant in the middle of a lake, Yangon
Mahabandoola Park, Yangon
Sule Pagoda at the city centre, a busy intersection in Yangon
We also saw a crossing boat from one side of the island to the slum side of Yangon from Nanthida Jetty. Poor people are living on the island separated by a shallow river, to get supplies they have to cross to the city by boat.
Nanthida Jetty, a transportation for the poor to come from across the river
It’s the real portray of life in Yangon, apart from the building of high rises and fancy restaurants around the town. We checked in at our hotel, Grand United Hotel at 2.30 pm and took a shower before departing again to Shwedagon Pagoda for sunset.
Shwedagon Pagoda seen from our hotel at Grand United Hotel, Yangon
Shwedagon Pagoda is the second tallest pagoda in Myanmar, about 110 meter high and covered by gold. Touring around Shwedagon took about 1 hour and cost $6 (8000 MMK), local people are praying and giving things or money to their god in the front of the temples. The thing that annoyed me most is walking barefoot on a wet floor, the small stones are hurting my feet. Slightly before sunset, at 5.15 pm we exited the pagoda and drive to Yangon International Hotel to see the pagoda from the top floor at sunset, sadly the weather was cloudy and the sun didn’t shine through the end, but I managed to get few decent shots.
Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon
Shwedagon Pagoda at dusk, taken from Yangon International Hotel
Shwedagon Pagoda at night, taken from a street across the river
After a day of quite exhausting activities, we dined in the famous Shan Noodles restaurant and this time spent only 22000 MMK ($19) for 4 person meal. The noodle is good and tasty, a bowl of it cost only 2200 MMK ($1.9). Then we headed to Grand United Hotel to meet the tour manager and rest.