A Travellerspoint blog

Exploring Yangon's Sights

sunny 39 °C

This morning we got up bright and early and went downstairs for breakfast. Breakfast is included at Hninn Si Budget Inn and we got some toast, a fried egg, fruit and coffee. It was quite nice. We bumped into some friends we met in Langkawi over breakfast and they happen to be staying in the same hotel so we caught up. They have just done 28 days in Myanmar and leave tomorrow. It is their second time and they are the reason we decided to go to Myanmar so it was really nice to see them again.

After breakfast we called into an Internet cafe to print out out air tickets and got a taxi to the Thai Embasy which cost 2000K. It is quite far out and when we arrived there were a handful of people applying for a visa, most of them were people from Myanmar. The process is really easy. You collect a form and fill it in there and then. You need a passport, two photos, the form and a copy of your air tickets into Thailand. The employees were extremely friendly and helpful and took Chelsea to get our air ticket copied as we needed one each. The nice man paid and took a lot of persuasion for him to take the money off us for the copy. Once you have everything completed you queue at line 1 to get it checked and handed in, queue at line 2 to pay and queue at line 3 to get a receipt. It costs forty dollars and you pick it up the next afternoon.

The whole process only took half an hour and we decided to walk to Shwedagon Paya as it was only about a kilometre from the Embasy. We found it quite easily as you can see it in the distance but had to say 'no thank you' to around twenty taxi drivers who beeped there horms continuously as we walked down the main road. The Paya is one of the most famous in the whole of Southeast Asia and thousands of Buddhists make a pilgrimage here at least once in their lives. It is hard to describe how amazing it is. The entrance is guarded by two gigantic Protectors of the temple in the form of two lions and they unbelievable large.


You pay your entrance fee of five dollars each and leave your shoes at the bottom. The walk up the stars and through a corridor of vast columns that are intricately detailed with mirrors, gems and tiles is lovely. It is open and airy and the marble on your feet is cold. On the way up there are vendors selling flowers and drinks as well as a lady with several small birds in a cage that you can pay her and release one.


The corridor leading up to the main event is beautiful but when you get to the top it is overwhelming. The whole place is gold and shines in the sun. The complex is huge and has several different areas all surrounding the main giant golden stupa in the centre. Around the main stupa there are lots of smaller golden stupas circling it and then a wide path to walk aroud. Everywhere you look there are different temples, all of them intricately carved and decorated and adorned with gold and mosaic.


There was a lot of people looking around the Paya and worshiping and a lot of families who seem to have come for the day. Lots of people were in traditional dress and they looked beautiful surrounded by the temples. Families were sat in shaded areas having picnics and there was only a handful of western people there. Families were very intrigued by us and woke there children up so they could show them us, waving and smiling. By this point it was unbearably hot and reaching 40 degrees. Around the complex they have water coolers and cups so you can get a drink but we walked around from shaded spot to shaded spot viewing the temples and shrines. You walk around the whole area with your shoes off and this was fine in the white tiles as they were cool but the path was patterned with back tiles which we danced around as they were burning our feet. It is hard to describe the vastness and to capture it on photographs and we spent around an hour or more having a look around.


We then decided to visit two other religious sights that we a little further out of town while we near them. We first went to Ngahtatgy Paya. Here you again take your shoes off at the bottom of the stairs and walk up. On the way up we were approached by a man who was very excited to talk to us. He has been learning English for 8 months and we were the third people he has been ale to practice on. He spoke to us for a long time and asked us after we had viewed the Paya if he could show us around the monestary he lives in. We were not sure if he was genuine or not and as we have just come from Thailand where lots of people approach you to sell you things we were skepticle. We went inside the temple and it costs 2 dollars to enter but you get a free bottle of water. Inside was really basic and quiet and housed a giant seating Buddha. It was huge and there were a handful of people worshiping.


When we left the man was sure enough waiting for us and he looked really excited at the prospect of inviting us to the monestary so we decided to go. We went into the Chaukhtatgyi Paya grounds and he proudly walked us past some monks who asked where we were from. We replied England and he asked us when we go back can he come with us in our backpack. We visited the Paya and inside was a ginormous reclining Buddha. It was huge, it's eyelashes we're more than a metre long.


After the man took us into his monestary. It was a teak wood building raised of the ground on stilts. He explained to us what he does here and showed us around inside where him and the monks live which was a very basic house. He showed us his little village and the spirit temple and talked with us for a long time. He lived for free in the monetary but worked for his keep, he taught the monk children and he thought the children at the orphanage. He cooked and cleaned and washed the robes and in between he was required to meditate and worship. It was really interesting and he genuinely just wanted to show us around where he lived. He was very proud of his country and his faith and surprisingly was very open with his criticisms of the government which we didn't expect.

After we caught a taxi back to our guest house, showered and got ready to go out for tea. We hadn't eated since breakfast so were really hungry. We were a little apprehensive about ordering food and we didn't know what to expect. We have only just gotten used to walking into a local Thai restaurant where no one speaks English and it feels totally different here. We found a restaurant that was extremely busy with locals and decided to just try here. All the waiters were children and they brought us a menu. We didn't know what anything was so we just picked a dish each and decided to try it. Tea is very popular here so most places have a bug pot of tea on every table and small tea cups and you help yourself to tea for free with your meal. After a minute trying to work out how to get the tea out of the pot a giggling boy came over to help us. Liam ended up with a noddle soup type meal with a rich chicken sauce and pieces of chicken, noodles and different vegetables. Chelsea got a bowl of broth and a bowl of glass noddles with chicken, quail eggs, tofu and vegetables. We think you were suppost to add the broth to the noodles and create a noodle soup at least thats what she did. Both came with spring onions and nuts sprinkled on top, were delicious and cost 2800K (£2.10).

We decided to walk the opposite way to last night and find a place to have a beer. As we were walking we bumped into our fellow travelers from Langkawi and sat and had a beer with them. One beer turned in to 19 beers and when the shops had closed, we were truely tipsy and had ran out of money we all walked back. We really enjoyed sitting and talking and they have, as always provided us with loads of useful information and laughs. They have set up a website called The Leaping Lemur as they were frustrated with all the outdated information in travel guides on Myanmar. We have been using it regularly for information on accomodation and travel and they were pleased that their efforts have been of use to people.

Posted by Chelsandliam 05:36 Archived in Myanmar Tagged yangon myanmar Comments (2)

We have arrived in Yangon Myanmar!

sunny 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.

Posted by Chelsandliam 06:31 Archived in Myanmar Tagged yangon myanmar Comments (4)

Shopping in Bangkok

sunny 37 °C

We got up this morning and had a few cups of coffee downstairs in our hotel before we headed out. We set of walking to Siam Square. It is quite a long walk and we asked a few tuk-tuk drivers on the way but they all wanted to either overcharge us or give us a cheap fare with a 'stop off', meaning they wanted to take us to a friends shop to push us into buying something they would them get commission on. We declined and walked which wasn't that bad.

We went into the big MBK shopping mall first and browsed some shops. Chelsea bought a few T-shirts. When she has got them home one of them however is different to the one she picked and a lot smaller so is no good. It is like a crop top on her, but it was only £2. We decided to go to the cinema today as well so bought our ticket for the afternoon showing giving us more than three hours to shop, which obviously Liam was ecstatic about.

We spent a while in MBK and then ventured outside to some of the smaller, boutique style shops for a look around. Our favourite iced chocolate drink stall was not there today so we went inside a shake shop and had a mocha shake which was yummy. The area around Siam Square is a shoppers paradise, it is full of really small unique, boutique style shops, hairdressers and electrical shops. It is all very fashionable. Liam managed to find a quirky jewellers that sold plugs as he has managed to lose one of his plugs at the safari and has been swapping one earring between two ears for a few weeks.

We then went into the Siam Cente. This is another mall but it is beautiful. It is hard to describe the interior but every shop has quirky fixings and all the fixings within the mall such as light fittings, chairs and windows are like art installations. Every shop is like nothing you have seen and all the restaurants inside look expensive a quirky and there is art on the mall walls. It is lovely just to look around even if you don't want to buy anything.

Chelsea had a look around and spent some of the money she got for her birthday buying three nice dresses from a shop called workshop. If we had more money to spend on clothes it would be difficult to get her out. It is Chelsea's favourite mall she has ever been. After browsing around the
Siam Centre for a few hours we then went to the Siam Paragon mall. This mall is full of the top designer brands, Dior, Chanel, YSL, Maserratti, Fendi and hundreds more. It is like another world and we walked around looking at all the expensive clothes, jewellery, cars, shoes and handbags in the mall for a while. Each mall in Bangkok has a particular type of shop, there is one for cheap clothes, one for fashionable items and one for designer items. The whole area where the malls are is quite up market and there is fountains and clean streets.

By this point it was nearing the time our film stated so we headed back to the MBK mall for the seventh floor where the cinema is. We decided to watch Die Hard five and got lost in another world while we were in there, both forgetting we were in Bangkok for a few hours. We really enjoyed our slice of normality, shopping and going to the cinema and the day has flown by.

It was quite late after we walked back so we decided to go for some tea on the way home as we were really hungry. We went to a street stall near the train station and Chelsea has crispy pork and rice and Liam had noddles with black sauce and chicken and we shared a beer. Street food is always delicious and is always really cheap and often the surprise of what you will end up with is most of the fun.

We lingered over our food and had a few beers and then walked home. We sat in our communal area and watched We Were Soldiers before packing ready for our flight tomorrow morning. We are really excited and nervous for Myanmar tomorrow.

Posted by Chelsandliam 06:06 Archived in Thailand Comments (3)

Ayutthaya to Bangkok by train

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View Southeast asia on Chelsandliam's travel map.

We got up bright and early today as we wanted to get to Bangkok early in case we had trouble finding accommodation in the area we wanted. We wanted to stay more central than the backpacking haven of Khao San Road. We had seen a place online called the Train Inn which isn't exactly the Hilton but it is opposite the train station so we don't have to worry too much about getting to the airport on Tuesday and it is close enough to the big shopping area of Siam so we can do some shopping.

We walked around in Ayutthaya for a while trying to find somewhere nice to eat but in the end we decided to go to the same place we have been for the two days previous. The food is great no matter what we order so we can't go wrong. We had chicken and rice this morning which comes with a delicious chilli sauce and a bowl of broth as a palette cleanser.

After that we checked out of Chantana Guest house and made our way to the train station. We had read that the train fare was 15 baht each which seems ridiculously good to take you 80km or so to Bangkok. We managed to find the train station okay as it was in walking distance apart from the problem we had finding the 'ferry' crossing as the station is on the other side of the river. After a while Chelsea asked a nice lady and she directed us to a dilapidated old boat that travelled around 20 yards to take you to the other side for 4 baht.

The fare unbelievably was indeed 15 baht each for a third class ticket to Bangkok so we were both happy but the next problem we had was getting the right platform. The conductor was as typically helpful as ever telling us it was platform three, the only problem being the platforms didn't have any numbers on them. We huddled around more travellers and locals hoping we were in the right place until a bell rang to signal the train was near and all the locals moved somewhere else, so we shuffled towards them.

The train journey itself was good apart from a screaming child and the constant disturbance of vendors urging past you selling their goods. It was better than going by bus and the scenery was great. It was rural farmland and open countryside and we bought some lemon iced tea from a vendor and read our books. It only took around two hours until we pulled into Bangkok station.

We managed to find and check into The Train Inn straight away and although it has a shared bathroom, is a bit old fashioned, the air con only blows out hot air and it is quite expensive it serves our purpose for our two days in Bangkok.

The first thing we did once we had settled into our hotel was walk to Siam Square to find a drink stall that we visited on our first trip. It took us a while but was totally worth it. The guy does the best malt chocolate ice drinks that are made with cocoa powder, malt powder and copious amounts of sweet carnation milk. Served over ice it is worth visiting Siam just to try one.

The rest of the day we spent tackling errands and shopping for our trip to Myanmar. We walked to Siam Square, where all the big shopping malls are. We chose MBK which is the cheapest of the malls and spent a few hours browsing several floors. We ended up coming away with a lot of what we need, DEET, sunglasses, a belt for Liam and a new top for Chels. We will have to go back tomorrow though as Chelsea wants a few more clothes after some were ruined during our time at the safari.

We have been unable to buy malarials as the only one we are willing to take (malarone) they do not sell in Thailand and the side effects of the others outway the risk of malaria in our opinion. We will just have to be carfeful. We have stocked up on good quality, high DEET content insect repellent and will be wearing long sleeves and trousers during sunrise and sunset.

On our way back we called at an Internet cafe and printed off our boarding passes for our flight. The shopping took us way over budget and walking around and to and from the shopping centre was enough activity for one day so tonight we ate and had a couple of beers around the train station. There are a few cafes and street stalls set up on the street and we had a great meal of noodle soup (Liam) and duck and rice (Chelsea) washed down with a couple of beers.

This time in Bangkok is different from the last, it is only a couple of days but it feels like a completely different place away from the backpacker hive. It is a lot less fun but also more quiet and you don't get hassled by tuk-tuk drivers of suit sellers ever thirty seconds. Tomorrow will be more of the same, shopping and gettin ready for Myanmar.

Posted by Chelsandliam 07:12 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand bangkok Comments (2)

So laid back we are horizontal in Ayutthaya

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View Southeast asia on Chelsandliam's travel map.

Today we had another well deserved lay in. We are still recovering from our month volunteering at the safari, our bruises are going down though and our bites and scratches healing. We decided to visit the market this morning and have a leisurely walk. The market is quite large and is a fully functioning local market. It sells everything you could ever want, fresh foods, fish, meat, clothes, dried foods, household goods and second hand goods. We had a look around but the market was coming to a close as it was near lunch time.


We went to a street vendor and got an iced coffee which was gorgeous. They are usually nice but this one had a coffee machine so we got freshly ground coffee instead of Nescafe.

We decided to go to the same eatery as yesterday morning as it was so friendly and nice. They dont speak any English and both times we have gone it has been extremely busy with Thai people which is always a sign of amazing food in our books. It is on a smaller street opposite the bus station. We tried out our Thai and ordered rice with pork for Chelsea and pointed to a noodle dish for Liam. They were really nice. Chelsea had thinly sliced pork and sausage and rice and Liam had a noodle soup with pork balls and thinly sliced pork. In Thailand your meal always comes with several condiemnt options, hot (chilli), sweet (sugar), salty (soy sauce) and sour (fish sauce). Often you also get the choice of spring onions, pickled chilli, honey and crushed nuts also so you can adapt your meal to your specific tastes. We have different tastes with regards to Thai food. Liam will always go for noodles or noodle soup and Chelsea will always go for rice.

It is crazy how fast you can become accustomed to Thailand. We have been at the safari for a month and at first we were a little overwhelmed again by it but we are back into it now. Just walking down the street is an experience. You get approached by people offering you tuk-tuk rides and the street itself is an obstacle course. The paths are littered with tables and chairs, motorbikes, rubbish, electrical wiring, dogs, parked minivans, food vendors and bird cages. Houses, restaurants and cafes spill out into the paths so wherever you go you are forced to walk on the road. Every spare place on a house or cafe is filled with an advertisement and the traffic everywhere is always mad busy.


After our morning jaunt we came back to the room and picked up some things for our afternoon. We walked to the area where the ruins start and decided to go into Wat Ratburana which costs 50 baht each and is the closest to the town. This temple ruin is really good.


You can really imagine how it used to look as lots of it is still intact and you can walk down the steep stairs inside the main prang into a crypt where there are original wall paintings. As you get deeper it gets extremely hot and humid and when you come back up it is surprising how cool you feel.


From the top of the main prang the views of this complex are lovely and the outer walls and entrances of the main hall are intact so you can envisage what it would have looked like.


After we had explored the ruins we decided to sit in the park for the afternoon talking and reading our books. We took a blanket and sat under a big tree in the shade surrounded by the ruins. It was really lovely and hours past with us talking and reading. The park is gorgeous, there are rivers and lakes running through it with brick paths winding through ruins. Lots of the smaller temples are free to enter and there are ice cream vendors selling home made ice cream which are basically a freezer strapped to a push bike and he rings his bell whilst cycling around. Whilst we were sat today loads of people took our photos whilst they thought we hadn't noticed. A few people asked permission but most people slyly crept forward and pretended to snap the ruins. We are not sure why but it was mostly Asian people so maybe we made a nice natural snapshot reading in front of the ruins. It made us laugh anyway.


At around 4.30pm we decided to head back since we hadn't eaten since breakfast. Chelsea had tore her favourite pair of trousers at the safari and on the way back we saw a seamstress so decided to take the trousers to be fixed. We went back and grabbed the trousers but when we got back to the shop they had closed so we decided to go for a drink. We went to a bar and shared a cold beer and went for some tea.

We treated ourselves to a burger and chips tonight and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. It was homemade and we shared a few more beers before heading back. We have tried to book some accomodation in Myanmar but most places don't have a website or email so any that do are out of our price range. We have decided to wait until we have arrived in Yangon and enquire at our guest house about booking our next stop. We are hoping that calling a few days in advance will be sufficient as we are having no look on the Internet. We are a little nervous as we have read a lot about the influx of tourists making it hard to find accomodation but Chelsea spoke to two men tonight who have put our minds at rest as they have been to Myanmar in several occasions and have nothing but good things to say. They have told us that it will surpass every expectation we have so we are quite excited.

Tomorrow we are off to Bangkok to buy some clothes before leaving for Myanmar on the 26th.

Posted by Chelsandliam 05:43 Archived in Thailand Tagged ayutthayathailand Comments (2)

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