26.02.2013 - 26.02.2013 36 °C
We are finally here, Myanmar, the one place we both wanted to visit on but never thought we would get the chance. And so far we have not been disappointed.
We had an early start this morning but it was made a lot easier by our guesthouse been smack opposite the train station. Apart from the heat, even at 8am, we had a straightforward journey to the airport, we paid 20 baht each for the train and it took around 30 minutes.
Even the airport was easier than we imagined. Everything for once was signposted and we managed to find where we need to be and within half an hour we were checked in, through passport control and strolling around the departure lounge. For breakfast we decided to go to McDonalds, there was not much choice within the airport and as soon as we saw it we both fancied it and were really excited as we don’t often splurge on food. After our healthy breakfast we browsed a couple of shops but we couldn’t buy anything so we left before temptation took hold.
Our flight was delayed by 15 minutes but it didn’t matter too much. Our first real issue came when boarding the plane. We hadn’t noticed when checking the tickets but we were not sat together. The flight was only an hour and twenty minutes so we didn’t miss each other too much. Apart from a turbulent take off the flight was smooth and by the time we had filled in our Myanmar arrival forms we were practically there.
Once off the plane we met a couple of other travellers in the line for passport control and we agreed to share a taxi into Yangon centre so the fare would be cheaper. We were straight through passport control and our bags were even waiting for us when we got to baggage claim. The whole journey from leaving Bangkok train station to leaving Yangon airport was easier than we imagined and stress free.
We talked in the taxi to the two people we had met, a Swiss guy and a German girl. She was doing more or less the same as us but in only ten days, he on the other hand had come with no plans or booked accommodation and hardly any money, and we have been stressing that we are too unprepared. The drivers in Myanmar, especially our taxi driver, are crazy; we are surprised we made it to the guesthouse in one piece as he was winding through the lanes beeping his horn. Our guesthouse is good, way overpriced, but so is all the accommodation here, but we have a large room with a/c, hot showers, a towel and breakfast, it is spotlessly clean and the staff seem helpful.
We decided to spend the rest of the day just strolling the streets, we needed to change some US dollars in to local Kyats and also get our bearings. We tried a few banks but these all closed for money changing at 3pm. We saw a flashing sign that said ‘money changing coming soon’ and walked towards it. It was a brand new shop that wasn’t finished and they invited us in and were extremely friendly. We changed our money and all the staff and family came over to watch the lady behind the counter count it, counting together as she flicked through the notes. We have only changed a hundred dollars and we got an inch thick pile of notes in return, 85500 kyats. We laughed when they handed it over and all the staff laughed at our reaction.
We are only around a fifteen minute walk from the very centre of Yangon which is great. The city itself is manic and a bit overwhelming at first. The traffic is constant and there are thousands of people. The pathways are a maze of market stalls selling literally everything you can think of and then some. There are also some beautiful buildings, both Buddhist and from the British colony, specifically in the very centre, where a golden stupa sits on a roundabout in between two large colonial buildings, complete with clock towers. Busy side streets connect all the main roads; these are full of noodle shops, antique shops, fortune tellers, Indian food vendors, sugar cane juice stalls and more people. The city is very large but it strangely has the feeling of been very small and traditional, all the man wear traditional Longyi, which look like sarongs and many women wear Thanaka which is a white makeup applied to the cheeks and sometimes arms. The women look beautiful with the makeup and the traditional blouses and skirts, walking around shading themselves with a parasol.
The sidewalks are higgledy-piggledy and everything seems old and crumbled in a charming sort of way. So far Myanmar is like stepping back in time and seems distances away from Thailand and a lot closer to Indian culture.
One of our immediate favourite things is the return of an Indian quarter that we have been missing since Malaysia. Naturally we decided to go for a curry and called into a small restaurant that we were just walking past. We had rice with a variety of vegetable top ups and meat curry of your choice. We both chose Chicken Masala. The vegetable curries and rice it turned out were unlimited so as long as you ate it the waiter kept filling it back up. With a drink each it cost us $6.
By this point we were starting to get tired so made our way back. We called into a small café to try the local beer, Myanmar lager, which we both very much enjoyed and then came back to plan tomorrow. The first thing we need to do is get a new Thai visa. We would get 30 days for free just for re-entering but that will not be enough. We need at least 60 so we can go back to the safari for a month and then still have a month for the north of Thailand. It also means if they do arrange us to stay for free at the safari we will not have to go on a visa run quite so soon. Then we plan to see some of the main temples and sights. We only have two full days in Yangon so it maybe a case of fitting a lot in as naturally we want to see everything.