Mingalaba! I just came back and I’ll try to remember the important nitty gritty details. First up, money DOES matter. To credit myself, I did find out online that the Burmese are very particular with their cash – notes have to be clean and crisp, same goes for the usd notes. However, when I exchanged my 280 usd at the Yangon International Airport, I was shocked to be given two stacks of 100 notes each. Each note had a 1000 kyats denomination (about 1 usd). But I made one huge mistake. I. forgot.to.check.the.notes. So in this pile, I had torn/ dirty notes which couldn’t be used =(
Here’s my B&B at Yangon- Wai Wai’s Place (http://waiwaisplace.wordpress.com/about/)
A very simple but clean room for 25 usd. Accommodation in Myanmar is pretty expensive for the standards so you have to have lower expectations!
I rushed off to the Bogyoke (bo-jio) Market since it closes at 5pm. There isnt really anything that interested me though. There’s plenty of longyis, gems, jewellery and food.
This is an image that haunts me till now. My appetite has probably been reduced to half. Flies flying around seafood sold by the road and at the foot of the overhead bridge. Im not sure whether there ice somewhere to keep the seafood’s temperature low. But right beside this man, there was a little boy selling live birds in a cage.
In general, I felt that the Burmese were friendly and helpful people though communication is quite abit of a challenge.
And here’s the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda. Magnificent massive pagoda. Foreigners have to pay 8500 kyats to enter. Tourists seem to outnumber the number of devotees and it’s quite irritating to see people standing between Buddha and a kneeling devotee and posing to take photos! Sigh..
And yes, I had two bowls of noodles =X
The next day, Wai Wai prepared Mohinga for the guests… It’s something like mee siam but not spicy.. And the yellowish bits are fried chickpeas.
The next day, Wai Wai wrote down “Hledan” station in Burmese on a post-it just in case I couldn’t find it. It was only a 5 min walk away! Here, you can get a circular train ticket for just 1 usd. The entire circuit would take about 3 hours but I was on it for perhaps 30 min? I alighted at the main Yangon train station which is in Downtown.
After that, I searched for this famous nasi biryani place (again recommended by Lonely Planet) But I’m not really a biryani fan so.. it tasted pretty average to me. I think the boyfriend will love this though, since he’s mad about biryani. Haha. Together with a banana lasso, this meal cost about 3 sgd.
Ended the day watching the sunset at Kandawgyi Lake.
That night, I was to share a cab with two Aussies to get to the bus terminal for our over night bus. But there was a massive jam. And thank goodness for Samaritan no. 1, the taxi driver, I was able to tell him that we had a bus to catch in Mandarin. The entire time, I saw him trying his very best to overtake cars and he offered his handphone so that I could call the bus company to tell them that we were on our way. Thankfully, we reached 10 min before departure time.
This company, Joyous Journey Express is pretty famous. It’s a VIP bus highly recommended online (18ooo kyats~ $18) Seats are wide. Snacks provided. But after taking other companies for the next few days, I realized that I no need VIP bus actually la. The ride to Bagan is 10 hours with about 3 stops in between for food and toilet breaks. The thing I hate about getting off the bus at the destination is the taxi drivers crowding at the door when you are getting off. Groggy, dry eyes, blur, can’t even walk straight, have not even gotten my bag and they just keep buggingggg you. ARGH. So anyway I made huge mistake here. I spent $12 to get to the wrong hotel -.-” The wrong hotel was in New Bagan and far away from the ruins and pagodas. Thankfully, I arrived at the right hotel in Old Bagan. And thankfully I could do an early check-in. Have not showered for ___ hours.
This is Bagan Hotel River View. $144 per night. ZOMG. Totally overpriced but it’s just by the Ayeyarwady River and sooo close to the temples. And it has a nice bath tub with nice warm water. Aaaahhhh… Thankful for that after a blazing hot day temple hopping.
There are a few ways to get around Bagan. Private cars, horse carts, bicycles or e-bikes. I chose the COOLEST option of course! =D 8000 kyats ($8)and you get an e-bike for from sunrise to sunset.
I tombang-ed a few school-going kids along the way. At one point, 4 of them wanted to stack onto my passenger seat. But I had to shoo 2 of them off gently. Haha.. The smiles of exhilaration on their faces just by being on an e-bike for 10 seconds- priceless. Unfortunately, I thought an e-bike is invincible and that it could ride through sandy paths. So I fly off my bike a couple times because though I was pressing on the brakes, the “engine” was still on and the accelerator was very sensitive. I ride really slowly though so I’m not seriously injured. Just scratches and ugly bruises on my leg. You know the idea of e-bike rental is to have an enjoyable and faster ride. But I ended up feeling so achy that night because I had been grasping on the handles for dear life the entire day. My body was continuously tense. Imagine teenage mutant ninja turtle. Yup, that was me on the e-bike.
Good thing is that motorists and other locals will look out for noob tourists like me and honk when they are nearing.
I visited a few temples along the way. Some were planned while some I stumbled upon while getting lost. Here’s the famous Shwe San Daw Pagoda which gives you the awesome/typical view of Bagan. The steps are really steep. GULP. I stared at the stairs for a long time. Steeper than those in Siem Reap. I’m afraid of stairs. But I’ve come so far. So I made my way up slowly, heart racing as if I’m sprinting. No kidding. TIP: Climb from other steps like the East or West ones. The main steps facing the entrance look pretty eroded. Too tiny for my huge feet. It was noon and there were only probably 5 tourists? Some crappy selfies and shots taken by random tourist. I was ready to descend with such shots so I’m glad for my bro’s tripod. With it clasped around my bag, I managed to take one nice shot =)
Strangely, Shwe San Daw is packed with tourists just for sunset. Hoardes of tourists and their big buses were all around. So I found this website online which recommended a few less visited temples. And this is where I met the painter (I think he’s called Pochi) And he showed me the way to the temple. Even waited patiently for me as I struggled with the e-bike, trying to “siam” horse poo.
I asked the man whether he wanted to be my guide the next day and I told him I didn’t want to ride any more bikes since my butt was aching and I was so afraid of falling again. However, he said it was not possible in Bagan for a female unrelated pillion on his motorbike but said it was fine with an e-bike. The next day however, he told me that it was not possible on the e-bike too. Since I really didnt want to ride anything I told him I’ll walk on my own and I was very terribly sorry that he made a wasted trip down. He was kind enough to offer being my guide while I walked but I suddenly felt uncomfortable so… I gave him some money for making the trip down and headed off on my own.
Clearly, walking took me nowhere far under those oven conditions. I saw locals taking the pick-up so I decided to try that too. Quite an experience! Really cheap! And fast! And sheltered! =)
I arrived at 2am at Inle and I didn’t inform my inn. However, they allowed me to sleep on the couch at the reception but it was freaking cold. Not exactly what you want after a 10 hour long ride and have not showered for ___ hours. The owner was really nice though, he helped cover me with a blanket. And in the morning, his wife gave me another blanket. And that’s the lovely Aquarius Inn =) Rooms were definitely not cheap but staff was very friendly, there was good wifi and there was rain shower in their bathroom. I fell sick here and nursed myself back to health.