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Entries about myanmar

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

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