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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Yangon, Myanmar

Yangon, Myanmar

Myanmar is one country I've never dreamed of and thought of traveling. Even when I've heard that they are giving a few countries visa free to enter their country, that includes Philippines in the list. Then one day I came upon an instagram account showing the explicit beauty of Myanmar, from them on I decided to see the place with my own eyes. My travel buddy initiate the first course of action of buying our promo fare ticket. We traveled with Jetstar airlines to the Golden Land of Asia. 

Myanmar is formerly known as Burma. A Southeast Asian country bordering India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. There's always a time difference so do your research ahead of time. In my side Myanmar time is 1 hour and 30 minutes late compared to Singapore. Plenty of time to slack off going from one place to another. Its a short trip of just 4 days and 3 nights, we've planned the trip accordingly to see as much places as we can. We decided to omit the guesthouse instead take the sleeper bus to each places to save time and most importantly to cover more distance. It was a challenging journey of sleep deprivation, bladder control, time management and hygienic conditions. Game on! 

March 12 Yangon
Changi Airport Terminal 1 to Yangon International Airport
Jetstar 3K581 Flight time: 9:10 Am - 10:40 Am 
Flight Travel time: 3 hours

It was a smooth flight from Singapore to Yangon via jetstar airways. We have contacted my friend's friend brother to pick us up in the airport and at the same time hired him as our taxi ride for the whole day.  The foreigner rate is significantly high all over the country, the usual rate 2,000 kyat for a taxi fare can go as high as 25,000 kyat for non locals. Our friend's name was Kyaw Min Oo, a patient and kind person who made us feel welcome in their beautiful country. 

Whole day Taxi Fee: 20,000 kyat - 25,000 kyat (includes pick up from the airport, sightseeing and to the bus station) If you're interested send me a private message so I can give you his number.

Kandawgyi Park
How to get there: Take a taxi from downtown Yangon 
Open hours: 4 am – 10 pm daily 
Entrance fee:  3,000 kyat (excludes Boardwalk fee)

Kyaw pronounced as Kyo brought us to our first destination. Kandawgyi Park is just 45 minutes away from the airport and located east of the Shwedagon Pagoda.  It is also known as the  "great royal lake", formerly as Royal Lake. It is considered as one of the two major lakes in Yangon. The iconic Karaweik, a palace on the eastern shore of Kandawgyi Lake.

We had a quick stroll in the park due to the unbearable heat, afterwards we decided to have our first myanmar meal inside the park with the floating palace on sight. Ordered: Hinthada Mon Hin Kha, Mandalay Meeshay with Watermelon and Apple Shake for our refreshment. It turns out this traditional Myanmar dishes were just appetizers. I found something unpleasant in my meal so I just sucked in my belly and forget about it. The park is quiet expansive a great place to rent a bike which they don't have it there. A place for lovebirds too which were abundant in the afternoon. 

Our night bus was scheduled 8 in the evening, we got plenty of time for another meal and to visit Yangon's famous pagoda. Our first meal left us craving for more food so we decided to have an early dinner in People's Park, a few metres away from the Kandawgyi Park. This time around Kyaw joined us for dinner. Ordered: Fried Rice with dried fish, Fried Rice mixed with corn and chicken, Fried Beef and Shan Style Noodles. Compared to our first meal this one had an abundance of rice, lots of it. I was surprised when they served my fried rice with dried fish as it can feed two mouths, yet I still managed to devour the plate on my own. 

Shwedagon Pagoda
How to get there: From downtown, take a taxi to the Pagoda 
Open hours: 4 am – 10 pm daily (except holidays,check website for details) 
Entrance Fee: 8,000 kyat

Shwedagon Pagoda is a gilded stupa located in Yangon, Myanmar. It has been officially named as Shwedagon Zedi Daw. Also known as the Great Dagon Pagoda and the Golden Pagoda. We were fortunate to see a procession when we went there, Kyaw our tour guide told us its a ceremony for families and relatives to celebrate a male child becoming a monk. The boy's were dressed nicely and was carried in the procession. Even Kyaw had experience being a monk at a young age, he recalled the memory and said it was difficult. After being a monk for a few months or years you are given a chance to stay or go back to society. A decision that will shaped your future, it takes dedication and commitment to be monk. I respectfully salute those who stayed and accepted the silent path of Life.

It has a fancy entrance lobby with security officers, detectors inside a high ceiling building and a long escalator up to the main pagoda. I'm not used to its convenient method, I still prefer the old school of climbing a flight of stairs up to reach the pagoda. Our main plan was to go to Shwedagon Pagoda and see the sunset but we went there too early. The heat of the sun was blazing hot and walking barefoot didn't help at all as the tile floors were hot too. I've read in a few blogs about the beautiful sunset in Shwedagon Pagoda. A must see they say however when we got there it was too crowded, the heat was too much for us. Before the clock strikes for sunset we were out in the streets. Good thing we went out early from the pagoda as the traffic really gets bad in the city around that time. I also made sure we had a night bus booked for our two trips from Yangon to Bagan then Bagan to Inle Lake. Both were bought online. We hoped and wished everything goes smoothly according to plan, like no interruptions: tire deflation, road blockage and detours along the road. 

Aung Mingalar Bus Station 
Thudhamma Road, North Okkalarpa Township, Yangon, Myanmar. 13 miles from downtown or 45 minutes by car and 5 miles away from the airport or maybe 30 minutes by car, depending on the traffic. 

Booked Online
Aung Mingalar Bus Station to Bagan Shwe Pyi Highway Bus Terminal 
JJ Express Night Schedule: (Last trip) 20:00-5:30
Bus Fare: 25 usd / 30 sgd per pax
Travel time: 9-10 hours

We changed our clothes, brush our teeth and wash our face in JJ Bus Office Station. It wasn't really that clean but its better than nothing. They served water and coffee while everyone waited for the bus transport, it clearly shows they care about their passengers and I know from that moment I've booked with the right company. It's crucial to booked your sleeper bus with a reputable bus services as it will ensure your safety and comfort. JJ Bus Service is an impressive transport company which provides quality chairs, on scheduled train time, own TV screen with updated movie list and airline stewarding service. The service attendant served juice, coffee and tea to everyone on board the bus. Even offering sweets and biscuits too. A blanket, bottled water and a box of cookies is given to all passengers, with 3 stops for bladder break: 1st and 2nd stop it's compulsory for everyone to get off the bus while the last one they allow passengers to continue their stay in dreamland.

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