Hello Myanmar! - Yangon and Bagan
Been a bit slack on the blog as of late, mainly because the wifi in Myanmar is not exactly top notch. So here’s the first of two posts from my time in Myanmar, or Burma depending on what like to call it.
Myanmar isn’t exactly the most well trodden route on the backpacker path, so I entered the country with a lot of excitement for what I would discover. It is included in my South East Asia Lonely Planet but it is a couple of years old now and as I would discover a lot has changed with regards to amenities etc. I arrived in Yangon first thing in the morning after staying over night at KLIA. I didn’t sleep much but luckily the hostel I was staying at, Humble Footprints, let me to check in at 8am! After catching up on my sleep I got chatting to some of the guys staying at the hostel. Headed out for dinner with some of them and then went back to the hostel. It wasn’t long before we’d exhausted the hostels supply of beers and then the staff kindly directed us to a 24 hour shop. Lars, from Denmark, introduced us to a drinking game called f#*k you. I should imagine you can work out how the rest of the night/early hours of the morning went down! After recovering from a justifiably large hangover the next day I headed to the Shwedagon Pagoda. This is the most famous pagoda in Myanmar. With a height of 105 metres and reportedly covered in 60 tonnes of gold it’s not hard to see why! I got there in the afternoon so I could see it during the day, at sunset and at night and it is spectacular at all three times of the day! The place was busy, but not busy with tourists like I’ve gotten used to with these sorts of places on my travels. I think I saw about 4 western faces there. For one of the main tourist attractions in the main city this was quite an unusual experience on this trip.
The next day I headed to downtown Yangon with Lars and Chris from the hostel. Initially we were trying to find the China town area here, but struggled to find it. I don’t think it’s quite like the ones you get everywhere else in the world with the gaudy red gated entrances and the lanterns. We ended up going to a tea shop that was recommended for a decent bite to eat. They kept bringing out dish after dish, all delicious, and all it cost in the end was $2! Chris had found out about a free city walk that had just started up in Yangon, so at 4pm we met at the Sule Pagoda as instructed and found the guy in the bright green shirt. The guide was in fact an Aussie guy who had been living out here for a few months. I have to say it was one of the best city walk tours I’ve been on. Gino, the guide, took us around the city pointing out all the old colonial buildings and explaining the history behind them. Incredibly fascinating, and there’s a lot more to Yangon than I realised. According to Gino these building are not used any more and there’s a real danger of foreign investors taking them over and doing god knows what to them. Fingers crossed that doesn’t happen. He also filled us in on the history of the country over the last 150 years, pretty mad what’s gone on here! Although they seem to be on the right track at the moment. My last day in Yangon I went to the National Museum with Chris. It’s probably the strangest museum I’ve been to. For starters we were the only ones there, and most of the museum is models of things you can see around the country. The rest of it was not exactly set up for people to learn much. Each exhibit has a name, but there is no description of what it is or the history to it, oh and there was a power cut about half way round!
After the over night bus to Bagan I arrived at my accommodation at 4.30am. With only the security guy there it meant I had to sleep in the lobby for a few hours before the staff arrived for work. After catching up on my sleep i headed out in to town to hire an e-bike which is the best way to get around there. There are 3 areas; Old Bagan, New Bagan and Nyaung and between all of these are hundreds of temples and pagodas. I spent the two days zipping around on my scooter exploring all the different temples. All of which you can go in to and nose around. Once again I felt like I was the only tourist here and it was unlike any experience I’ve had so far on my trip. I did find myself retreating back to my hotel during the middle of the day as the temperature hits about 40 degrees after lunch time! (I’m strangely looking forward to the balmy mid twenties we get back home!) There’s a few temples that you and can climb up for a good view and they also make for a good spot for sunset. Unfortunately on both days a whopping big cloud drifted across to block most of it. I can’t really complain though, I’ve been pretty lucky on this trip so far with regards to weather. It was still an incredible sight though, you couldn’t even begin to count how many pagodas and temples there are dotted across the horizon. Well at least I could be bothered!
So that was my first week in Myanmar, next up is the road to Mandalay!