Thursday, January 31, 2013

Myanmar at a Glance

Usually when I travel, I fell in love with the inhabitants  before I fell for the place. In Myanmar's case, I fell for the place first. =)

Myanmar has just in the past two years opened its doors to welcome tourists in. Before that there were merely 100,000 tourists per year. Now it's a booming economy with almost a million of tourists flocking its hot spots per year. Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure that Myanmar is still not quite ready for tourists. This has been quoted in a news clipping I saw on its local TV. haha! The Myanmar tourism industry has a lot of room for improvement but they are certainly on the right track. =)

Myanmar... Burma... whatever you wish to call it is a beautiful place! Clean and has very friendly people. And it's pretty safe too. I didn't bother locking up my bag when I walked the streets of Yangon or at any other cities I've visited which is Bagan and Inle. Discriminations on local Muslims? Haven't witnessed nor experienced any. But lemme share some pointers to get around Myanmar though I'm no expert.

1. Transport

Every city/town in Myanmar is well connected. You could go from town to town by train or bus, airplane or boat even. But the route my friends and I took were like this:

18 hours of no fan/aircon and electricity! 

  • Train from Yangon to Bagan (16 - 18 hours) - USD 50 (link 1, link 2, link 3)
  • Bus from Bagan to Inle (6-7 houts) - 10,000 Kyats
  • Bus from Inle to Yangon (12 - 13 hours ) - *USD 20
All buses from Inle to Yangon are at 4 pm if from the town itself, else you'll have to go to a bus station 30 minutes at the outskirts for the 5 pm bus. Not to worry, there are many buses available. Just need to inquiry early to see if there are seats available. 

2. Local tours or guides

We were traveling in a group of four so it was pretty easy to book a whole boat or car for a day tour around town. This was what I seldom experienced during my solo travels. We could even set the time to depart and when to end. Haha! Thus we managed to capture a sunset in Bagan and a sunrise in Inle. It was truly a group effort. I don't think I'd be able to do it if I was to travel solo. *a hindsight =)

The golden Shwedragon Pagoda complex in Yangon.
  • Yangon - hired a cab for a few hours and negotiated on the price. A cab was hired for 15,000 kyats and he took us around major tourist spots within Yangon... especially the Shwedragon Pagoda.
  • Bagan - the driver who fetched us from the train stations ultimately became our tour guide for that day.  We paid him 50,000 kyats. We also took a boat ride in the Irrawaddy river for an hour which costed 7,000 kyats.
  • Inle - The tour was booked via the hotel we stayed at and it started around sunrise for 35,000 kyats (If I'm not mistaken lah. hahaha) 
3. Hotels and Wi-Fi

Internet connection in Myanmar is pretty bad. haha! But in case you managed to book a good hotel with wi-fi availability, then you're in luck. 
4. Couchsurfing in Myanmar?

Not possible. Locals are not allowed to host any foreigners or they'll be punishable by law! So don't think about it. But meeting with a local is highly possible if only you could fit it into your tight schedule that is. hehehe

5. Shopping
Cute Myanmar dolls being sold in open markets at Inle Lake.
Postcards are easy to come by but fridge magnets are not. Sobbb.... sobbb...  You could also find precious stones and buddha images at the open markets. Local wear is also available. 

6. Halal Food

This is possibly the most asked question. I've been told many times by colleagues who've been to Yangon that halal food is hard to find. On the contrary, there are plenty of them if you looked long enough. haha!

1,800 kyats bought at a street market in Yangon
But likewise in Bagan and Inle. I guess you have to make do with Maggi, seafood or be a vegetarian. =)

7. Currency Used in Myanmar

You can pay some hotels, tours, and souvenirs with dollars. But food is paid with Kyat (the currency of Myanmar) The best rates so far is at the airport of Yangon. Difficult to find elsewhere but some hotels provide exchange at their counters. Do take note, they only accept Singaporean dollars, Australian dollars and US dollars to change with Kyats. Leave all your ringgit Malaysian bills at home ya! =P

OK, this is all the info I have to blog about. Will have to wait for the awesome pictures from the other #myanmargang ms fie and ms lily to update their blogs. Hehe.



Henry Lee said... [Reply]

thanks for the tip! hopefully one day i could visit this place! :)

fie-nuts said... [Reply]

Nice summary of our trip Jard! Hehe. I have no clue yet what to write in mine. Need to go on another train ride trip for some inspiration.

Happy walker said... [Reply]

yeah, one day i would like to visits this place too~

Jard The Great said... [Reply]

@henry... hope one day u shall visit here too! ^__^

@fie-nuts... you can put up a picture post instead! ur pictures are beautiful!

@mr lonely... yes one day indeed. =)

JieJ said... [Reply]

hoho..baru cadang mau minta FM..heheh..bah lain kali bawa aku sekali Jard..mau merasa juga jalan2 ni..insyaAllah..BTW nice one Jard!!!

Azian Elias said... [Reply]

salam kenal..

travel ke mana2 kalau dapat halal food memang senang hati kann.

hlga said... [Reply]

kakak kuat tuh 18 jam tanpa wifi tanpa listrik?
ngebayangin aja kayanya bakal mati gaya :p

Jard The Great said... [Reply]

@jiej.... hahaha.. boleh bah kalau kau.. pastikan duit cukup k kalau mau ikut aku. =)

@azian elias.. salam kenal.. memang hati senang bila jumpa makanan halal! hehehe

Jard The Great said... [Reply]

@helga... iyaa.. tanpa listrik sengsaraaaa! hahahaha!

Biqque said... [Reply]

lama betul train tu...ada musola tak?

Jard The Great said... [Reply]

@biqque.. takde sgt! hahaha! dalam dua bilik sleeper je yg dipakai.. yg lain masuk non-sleeper punya part.

Alid Abdul said... [Reply]

Finally you post it haha, even at glance hehehehe. Btw mahalnya tuh train 50 USD wow.
so how's the wifi so far haha...

Jard The Great said... [Reply]

@alid.. it was actually 40 USD.. Lily's friend Anna complained about it and they refunded us USD 5. Suppose to be refunded by USD 10. heeee

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