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Thursday, 5 February 2015

【TRIP】301214-030115 - Myanmar trip-- A trip back to the past

I wasn't very excited when my family decided to pick Myanmar as the location for our year end trip. However, it turned out to be a quite memorable vacation. I always excited with stories of ancient city, the lost world heritage that beings us back to centuries before. Myanmar as a country with more than 75% of buddhist has one of the most historical buildings, the ancient pagodas that had been worshiped by the people since centuries ago. The amount of pagodas is uncountable and each of them is had been miraculously existing and maintaining till now.

Day 1 Yangon City

Our trip started from Yangon city, one of then main city of Myanmar.  Its a good thing that we are able to  change Myanmar Kyats at the airport since it isn't available in Malaysia. The rate is around 1usd for 1032 kyats. There is a few money changer just next to the baggage collection area, which is much cheaper compare to those out at the airport lobby. So, make sure to change at least a few hundred dollars before getting.out from the area. They only accept usd, sgd , and euro in most of the money changer, and do make sure that the notes are in good.condition (no scribbles or stamp or torn corner or obvious fold crease). They are not able to change in the bank thus most of them are reluctant to accept the the defect notes. There is also Telenor (network provider in myanmar)booth next to the money changer, where sim card is available in 11k kyats for 1gb data plan.
Just happened that when we arrived in Yangon, the travel agency only inform that they are not able to pick us up.from.the airport. We then seek help from the ministry of tourism booth. They provide quite a splendid solution. The lady that serves us has very good english conduct. Her name is May. Basically she just solved all our issue for that day in Yangon and provide a good arrangement for the day trip in the city. We were able to get a van for 5 of us for the whole day tour in Yangon city and sent us to the bus station at the end of the day for 100usd. Well, the van is able to fit in around 9 people in total, in which if can travel in a group of 9 the individual price would be much cheaper. Besides, the driver they arranged for us is able to speak english and is familiar with Yangon, although not as professional as experienced travel guide.

The airport to the city is roughly 1 hour. On the way u are able to.see the streets and buildings of Myanmar. It is quite similar as Malaysia about 30years ago (as described by my mum). The weather too is similar to Malaysia in Yangon as its more southern part of the country, about 27 degrees to 29 degrees. Some part of Myanmar has obvious seasonal difference though, unlike the summer all year round Malaysia. And most of the people there wears sarong, male or female, formal and informal.

Sites to visit in Yangon

(i) Botataung Pagoda - aka Buddha's First Sacred Relic Pagoda
-- contained one of the most historical Nan Oo Royal Palace Bronze Image


(ii) Kandawgyi Park
That awesome boat is actually a restaurant. They have a series of performances dinner set every night. We didnt have the chance to try it out since we were rushing for the schedule.

(iii) Chauk Htat Gyi Buddha templa - Sleeping Buddha temple


(iv) Shwedagon Pagoda -  Largest Pagoda I had seen so far, and my favourite. The amazing thing about this is that it has lots more of temple around the pagoda, its like a city of temples. Very well-maintained, very beautiful. It cost around 8000kyats for tourists entry. There is a map available somewhere which would give basic information about the place and the pagodas. One of the amazing thing here is that there is a diamond or (a few?) on top of the umbrella, which will shines in different color when seen from different spots. We recommend for a tour guide here since you will get more information about this historical building which makes the trip more meaningful.

Our first taste of Myanmar food starts with some bihun- like food and some fried wantan. I didnt get their local names but its seems to be common in some of the food stalls. 

Later the afternoon, we had a stop after china town (or.streets) and.grab a bites of fried popiah, carrot cake and also another types of noodles from the food stalls as recommended by our driver. It tasted like our local sup ayam, or mee soto kind of soup based, with your choice of toppings, such as keropok, sausages, meat, parsley and some fried stuffs. One of my favourite Myanmar food from the trip.

It is better to have a local guide either a hired traval guide or in our case, the driver that is able to translate burmese for you. Main language used in Myanmar is burmese and we hardly find locals that can speak well english or chinese (despite having lots of china business here).

I had learn from the trip that there is a few things to give attention to:
(i) Be sure to have lots of small change for donations, since main attraction here is mostly pagodas and temple.
(ii) Wear flip flop or slippers or shoes that can be taken of easily as we are not allow to wear shoes in pagoda.
(iii) Attire should at least cover legs and shoulders. Revealing clothing is prohibited in the sacred place, such as shorts or skirts above mid leg sleeveless top.
(iv) Tap water is not safe to drink, even boiled water from shops or restaurant. Get only drinking water from bottles.
(v) Prepare some medicine, such as paracetamol and diarrhea pills just in case.

Our travelling schedule is kind of tight and thus we tried to pack our trip to visit as much place as possible. We took an overnight bus from Yangon to Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar to save up the time of traveling. The bus station is located somewhere near airport thus we spent another hour to the bus station from Yangon city. For those that would like to take train instead,.the railway station is located in the town. The traveling time from Yangon to Mandalay is about 8 to 9 hours, thus best to take it at night to save up the day for sightseeing. travel by plane is not recommended as the local flight is very expensive, although it did save up a lot of traveling time ( ~2 hours ). Bus ticket cost 25usd per person, with vip seats (3 seats per row type of coach), however when we arrived there we are given a normal bus seats (4 in a row). As we booked it online from a local travel agency (Intrepid), we are not able to confirm the situations before boarding. The ministry of tourism counter I mentioned earlier do provide bus booking service, I suggest to take their service instead, at least more trustable. Thus do not worry too much if you are unprepared for the trip, May gives a very good suggestions.

Day 2 - Bagan 

Our bus starts at 9pm sharp and we reached around 5.00 am. Upon arrival, there are taxis awaiting by the sides that are able to.bring u to your hotel or specific destination. This ia where we meet with , out travel guide for the next 2 days. We decided to go to Bagan early that morning after his suggestion. We drop by our.hotel for an hour to.wash up and departed from Mandalay at 6.30pm. Mandalay locates at the northern part of Myanmar in which it has some seasonal influence of weather.The difference between day and night during winter was quite big, around 10.degrees apart. A s we leave quite early morning it is around 16 degrees at that time. It will gradually increase to 26 27 degrees at the afternoon when the sun rises up.

It took around 4 hours to reach Bagan by Van. There is a usd 15 admission fee into the city for all foreigners. Bagan is located north of the Myanmar, a suburban city with least development, thus it still maintain in a very olden days buildings. It has millions of pagodas scattered all around the place, some newly built some maintained its ancient look. Main activity here is to visit different types of pagodas. To my surprise, for all the pagodas we went, there is quite a crowd, locals and also visitors, and are the buildings are well maintained and the buddha statue are mostly humongous and . It really shown that buddhist here are very devoted.

List of Pagodas:

(i) Shwezigon Pagoda

(ii) Gawdawpalin Temple -- there is a small road at one of the back entrance which leads to another building that we can climb up and get a full view of the temple from the other side.

(iii) Ananda Temple


(iv) Thatbyinyu Temple

(v) Bu Pagoda

(vi) Shwe Sandaw Pagoda -- my favourite in Bagan (because we can climb it!!!!) Its hard to describe how tall it is from the picture, I literally shivered when I looked down from the top.


(vii) Dhammayangyi Temple

We had our lunch at Golden Myanmar 2 Restaurant. Its a buffet style of meal, served with refillable side dishes, with around 4000 kyats per person. Their main course are different types of curry. Unlike the typical indian curry, it is less spicy, most submerge in a thick layer of oil and they taste the same regardless the type of meat that is cook. Most of their food are quite oily, the fried, the cooked, their meat or vege. I pretty much like the soup, its something like the hot sour soup from Thailand but not spicy. The tea are free of.charge in most restaurant, and it really recommended to take a cup.after the meal to sooth the throat. Its quite uncomfortable after eating too much of oily food when I am not usually taking that much of oily food.

We left the place at roughly 4.30pm, back to Mandalay. It is recommended to at least stay a night in Bagan if you are not in rush of the schedule. From all the sites visited , I personally like Bagan the most. I was kind of regret to take the hot air balloon trip from Heho to view Bagan from the air. Heho is a small village nearby the Bagan. Though our travel guide said its not worth it for the amount of money paid for the ride.

Another 4 hours and we were.back the hotel in Mandalay. The whole trip from Mandalay - Bagan - Mandalay cost us 250usd. Usually the drive from Mandalay - Bagan is 200usd for one way trip, since the driver will need to drive back to Mandalay.

My mum had been craving for chinese food that day, We had chinese food for the dinner but it didnt turn out to be food that we were expecting. The cookings were kind of dull. Try not to spoil your image of Chinese food here if you havent tried chinese food before.

Our hotel locates about 2km from the Palace. Golden Dream Hotel provide a comfortable service, clean toilet. The breakfast though is not that satisfying. Internet is not stable for the floor i stay in but its quite fast at the lobby.

Day 3 - Mandalay City 

Day 3 of our trip, we tour around Mandalay city. The same tour guide brought us around the city for a price of USD100.

Site visited:
(i) Mandalay Palace (Side)- We didnt go into the palace, but was rounding around the area. Our tour guide suggest it is not worth it, as we need to pay certain amount of


(iii) Sutaungpyai Pagoda


 (iv) Sanda Muni Paya -- a collection of Buddha scriptures inscribed on the marble stone.
The tour guide told us that it is a copy of the real book across the street, and consist of 1774 marble slab with inscribed scriptures.

(v) Kuthodaw Pagoda -- aka the world largest book.
-- The real copy of the Scriptures. It situated just opposite the Sanda Muni Paya. They consist of 729 marbles slab inscribes with Buddha 's scriptures. Each of the marble slab is housed with a white stupa to protect the marbles slab.

(vi) Mahamuni Pagoda


(vii)  Hand Weaving Center

(viii) U Bein Bridge -  The longest wooden teak bridge

(viii) Lacquerware workshop
-- I didnt manage to capture picture of the place. Lacquerware is one of the famous souvenir from Mandalay (or Myanmar). The place that he bring us to, provides a overall flow on the process from raw materials to the refined lacquerware that they sell in the market. The delicate workmanship is much impressive.

We had our lunch in some local shops. They serves different kinds of noodles namely Shan noodle Si gyet and Mi swun. Highly recommended to try the fried tofu which tasted like tofu fishcakes, very suitable for a bite in the afternoon.

For dinner we went to one.of the famous local restaurant, Aye Myit Tar. The food and the prices are similar as in Bagan with curries and side dishes. One of the special thing is that they have an after meal titbits, the tea leaf, chillies and nuts. The tour guide suggest tasting the tea leaf and the tea together for a better sensation, and it didnt turn out to be a good choice of attempts after meals. The smell.of the tea leaf will be expanded to 100x in.your mouth. Not a good attempt. Do take palm sweets after.meal for better digestion and soothing of the stomach.

We head back to hotel early that night for rest to prepare for the 6 hours ride the next morning.

Day 4 - Inlay lake

We checked out the hotel at 4 am on Day 4 of our trip and departed to Inlay (aka Inle) Lake. The road is extremely bumpy but we are able to.see alot of suburban view if we go by the van. It cost us another 250usd to.get to Inlay lake.

Upon arrival to Inlay , we were required to pay 10usd admission fee each person. The tour guide arranged a boat trip for us which cost 5usd per.person. We spent at the lake for about 5 hours, including lunch time and be back to the shore by 4.30pm. However, it is recommended to go for the boat ride starting early in the morning. As we were.short of time, we cant manages to visit all the place of interest. Do get the brochure when arrive at the airport and get to know which location to visit if you do not have a local guide with u.

Place visited in inle lake:

(i) Gold and Silver Smith Work Shop -- One of their famous product as well.


(ii) Kayan people / Long-neck women

(iii) Hand weaving center for lotus and silk cotton

Street food - bread-like with red bean paste

Our trip basically ends here. We took a night bus departing from Inle.lake at 6pm reached Yangon early morning at 5.30am. It is highly recommended to get the bus ticket early for those coach type of bus from the airport as there is high chances that the ticket will be sold out soon.

Back in Yangon, we finishes up the market place that we missed out on the first day. We happened to bump in this talented student that is selling his painting at the street market. He can finish the type of art in merely 5 to 10 minutes and all of them just looks so marvelous.

Here is a short video for the painting he was doing when I stop by the stall. 

 There isn't much that I get from the trip. Some titbits *pizza flavor tortilla chips and few other local brands.

I love this sand painting a lot. Its acrylic paint on top of a cloth fix with sand as the canvas.

and of course the acrylic speed painting.

It is a enjoyable trip in overall. I would love to visit again, to some other experience i.e. hot air balloon ride, which we didnt have the chance to go for.

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