We spent 3 days at Yangon, the capital of Myanmar. Those 3 days were full of bitter sweet experiences, from enjoying the awesomeness of Myanmar's culture and cuisines, almost being conned by a tout, trying to live a life of locals, plagued by sickness, laying lifelessly at hotel and ran out of medications and chevied by touts. Never once we had such a wonderful yet hard-passing full 3 days, nonetheless it remained an awesome memory whenever we reminiscence it.
|Sule Pagoda, the center of the Yangon city|
Upon arrival at Yangon International Airport, the first thing we do were compare the exchange rates and changed a few thousand kyats. Within a matter of sudden, we almost became a millionaire, haha!
Lucky for us, we met two fellow Malaysians hailed from Kedah and share a cab to the town. As a backpacker, budgeting is a must. Stroke the deal with the cab driver for 12000 kyats for 2 drop points - Sule Pagoda and Shwedagon Pagoda. We got the cab driver to help us take a group photo before embarking our journey, and lucky the photo was not blurred.
Yangon's weather on November was scorching hot. The sunlight was hurting our eyes, sweats were dripping and shirt was drenched with sweats. Clouds could barely seen hovering the sky.
Men were seen using an umbrella while walking, which was a not so common scene. Simply because the weather was intolerable.
The 2 ladies stopped by Shwedagon Pagoda, one of the most scared temples in Yangon. It is believed to contained 4 relics of the previous Buddha.
Entrance to the walkway to Shwedagon Pagoda is guarded a pair of Chinthes, which is revered by the Burmese and symbolize the royal throne of Myanmar. Such a magnificent view at the entrance.
To enter Shwedagon Pagoda, $10 or 8000 kyat is payable per pax as the entrance fees.
|Side view of Sule Pagoda|
We stopped at Sule Pagoda and decided not to visit it as the entrance fees were exorbitant - $4 or 3000 kyat. Instead, we walked around to explore the vicinity and the findings were promising.Lots of local cuisine, which we had no idea the name nor the hygienic level were tried.
Eating culture is Myanmar is very different compared to some of the countries in South East Asia. Instead of dining chair heights, people sit on stools and eat by a random makeshift stalls. Even the locals also sit on stools.
|A random vermicelli by the roaside, 300 kyats.|
|Shwe yin aye, 300 kyat. A must try local coconut milk mixed with condensed milk, added glutinous rice, sago a soggy bread dipped. The taste is very refreshing and cooling on a hot day. It is similar to what we called Cendol in Malaysia.|
|Shwe yin aye before adding the coconut milk|
|Mohinga, a local popular cuisine. Rice vermicelli is drenched with fish broth with onions, garlic, ginger. A must try when you are in Myanmar.|
|Some random noodles. Tasted like laksa from Malaysia.|
Obviously we had more than those mentioned above. After some walkings and spending some time in Yangon Circular Train, we went to an eatery nearby to train station without knowing what was being offered.
It turned out they are selling economy rice. All the above dishes cost us 3500 kyat, not to mention the excellent service rendered, probably due to they have not seen any non-locals dine there. The boss was attentive to us, fanning us, make sure we had enough tea and explaining each dishes to us. I wonder was these services were being part of the 3500 kyats charged? Nevertheless, the dishes were superb, and glad we had opportunity to try some local cooking.
Outside of the eatery there were people bathing. What an unique scene.
|Pineapple Juice and papaya salad, total 2500 kyat. Took this at Inya Lake. Disappointing meal.|
We were actually waiting to embark at bas journey to Mandalay at night. Having said that, we got no proper place to rest and bath, then our body was sticky and full with unpleasant sweat smell.
|Yangon Railway Station, a colonial architecture|
Resorting with no choices, we went to take a ride on Yangon Circular Railway to kill off some time. As a tourist, we were expected to pay for a "premium" ticket for 1000 kyat each pax, while Burmese passengers just pay 200 kyat (information from Internet), yet the treatment we got were same. It appeared to us that Myanmar has different tier of treatment toward tourists and locals, whereby tourists are expected to pay multiples of normal price.
Yangon Circular Railway is not a sightseeing place. It has nothing to see but just an old-fashioned imported Japanese train. The entertainment was the people in and out the train, and as a result you become an "entertainment" for them as well because some of them might look at you differently as a non-local.
The train circulates Yangon city in a 3 hours interval. In between, watch the vendors boarding the train to sell something to make a living, and outside of the windows you are able to see how the real Yangon city looks like, and how the Burmese stay in such impoverished conditions.
Mind you, the train was poor air conditioned and air ventilation was bad. Be prepared to be drenched in sweat, again.
Coincidentally, Myanmar General Election was going to be held a few days later (8 November 2015) during our visit. Thus we had the once in a life time opportunity to see how Burmese campaigned for Aung Sang Suu Kyi's NLD party, chanting some slogans which I never understand on street. I used to hear mentioning politics in Myanmar is a taboo but it appeared the circumstances had changed them.
Not to be confused with the famous tourist destination in Myanmar - Inle Lake, the Yangon city also has a lake - Inya Lake. It is the biggest park in the city and a good place to hangout in the evening.
There is a huge dining place at Inya Lake that serves as a good place for dinner as well, though I see the price was relatively higher. We see a group of people were enjoying some form of lok-lok, with skewers of pork innards, meats etc offered but the murky condiments made us abstained from having it.
Fortunately there was a decent toilet in Inya Lake. Though we cannot take any shower but at least we get to wipe and cool ourselves. Somehow we have an indication that we were going to fall sick due to the weather.
That marks our first day in Yangon, Myanmar. We took a cab from Inya Lake to Aung Mingalabar bus station for 8000 kyat, which we felt we were cheated somehow. Over there, we continued our journey to Mandalay.
Interestingly, due to the entertainment (movie) features in the bus were not working, we got refunded 4000 kyats! Hooray! Who needs to watch a movie at midnight anyway?
Check out our Part II adventure in Yangon.