Monday, January 25, 2016

Myanmar Trip

“To wander is to be alive.”
Roman Payne,
Europa: Limited Time Edition

Mingalabar! My previous trip was to Myanmar for 7 Days, it was 30th November 2015 until 6th December 2015. Why myanmar? I have no idea :) 
The way I chose  my destination is random, I go when I feel like I really want to go to the place, by instincts perhaps. As usual, I have prepared things and research everything before the trip. Preparation is important if you travel solo or in groups. When I had a transit at Bangkok, there was two guys who had problems because they were heading to Vietnam, but they didn't have visa to enter Vietnam. Research is important, whether you need Visa or not, how much money needed, what is the currency, and of course you have to read and know things about the country you will enter. Each country has different rules, norms, and habits. 

Anyway, back to Myanmar Trip, I had my itinerary ready and already booked the hotel only at Mandalay first, because this time I wanted to just wing it. I'll be going to Mandalay, Bagan and Yangon, but I still have no idea how long will I stay at Bagan and Yangon. 

My first day was just in plane, taxi and bus. First, I went by plane (AirAsia) from Jakarta Soekarno Hatta Airport to Bangkok Don Mueang, about 3 and a half hours, transit for 2 hours and then to Myanmar, Yangon International Airport, which took about 1 and 45 minutes flight. It was already 7 pm when I arrived at Yangon, I went to the bus station, Aung Mingalar Bus Station from the airport by Taxi. The taxi driver charged me 13.000 kyat for the trip. I didn't know the average fare because the taxi didn't have argometer and when I read people's blog about their trip in Myanmar, they never mention the fare. I realized later on that I paid too much! It should be less than 10.000 kyat. Mind you, the taxis in Yangon don't have argometer so you have to bargain, always! They also forbid motorcycles, and the traffic is really bad, so you might have to be early if you don't want to be late. Also, people in Myanmar driving like they're in a fast and furious movie. 

Ticket to Mandalay

When I got to Aung Mingalar, the problem is the people can't speak English at all, I talked in English with body language and I point to the word Mandalay. They knew what I meant finally, but they kept talking in burmese language as if I understand. The trip to Mandalay is about 7-8 hours by bus, it was a regular bus with 10.800 kyat fare only with aircon and one water bottle. The bus left at 7.30 pm from Aung Mingalar Station. After a few hours we had one stop at Pioneer to eat. The closer to Mandalay the colder it gets. 

Rest Area
Then, I arrived at Mandalay at 8 am. I was kind of confused and nervous because the guy who help the driver said that we're not going to Mandalay but he didn't really speak English, it turned out I'm in the right bus. I spent my night on the bus like I planned to, and it was really tiring more than I can imagine but it was also really fun! Totally recommended to go by bus! on my research we can also go to Mandalay and Bagan by train, but the review were all bad, some said the train sometimes went out of the rail, so I decided to go by bus.

2nd Day - Mandalay

 Second day at Mandalay, I didn't went straight to the hotel since it was still 8 AM, too early to check in. I arrived on a bus station near Mandalay, just a few km from Mandalay, can be reached by motorcycle or taxi. I went with a guide by motorcycle around Mandalay Area,First destination is the famous Mahamuni Pagoda, second destination is Kuthodaw Pagoda, located near the bus station outside Mandalay.

Mahamuni Pagoda

 When I went to Mahamuni Pagoda, they were doing procession of prayer, only the men allowed to be near Buddha Statue, the women has to sit outside the area. 

Mahamuni Pagoda
Kuthodaw Pagoda also located outside Mandalay, but not too far, approximately 15 to 20 minustes with Motorcycle.

Kuthodaw Pagoda

View from HsinByuMe Pagoda
And then to Hsin Byu me Pagoda. It is located in a hill, a lot of stairs to go up to enter the temple. 

The stairs to HsinByume Pagoda

The temples mostly look the same, the most interesting part is the nature surrounding the temples or the view from the temples. If you enter the pagoda, you have to enter it barefoot and you have to wear a shirt with sleeves and long pants or skirt. Third destination is my favorite place, U Bein Bridge. 
U-Bein Bridge

The Bridge is made by woods, nothing special about the bridge, burmese around the bridge and some on the bridge selling food and merchandise. The most interesting about U Bein Bridge is the view of the lake. It was amazing, even on the middle of the noon. It must be pretty amazing at sunset or sunrise. 

another view from U Bein Bridge
As you can see, you can ride the wooden boat on the side of the bridge. 

an evening at Ubein Bridge

 On the picture above, you can see a burmese woman carrying things above her head. Women in Myanmar mostly still use their traditional clothes, long skirt, simple yet truly burmese.

Afterward, I went to the hotel to check in and rest for a while. Then I went to Mandalay Hill for sunset. Again, with a lot of stairs to climb! On Mandalay Hill, I met a student who's learning in Monastery. He's still young and not yet to be a monk, he speaks a really good English and eager to know about things outside Myanmar. He explained the the rules in Monastery and the meaning of the Buddha statue on Mandalay Hill. 
There's no entrance fee to enter Mandalay Hill, but you have to pay 2000 kyat if you have a camera or phone with camera with you. From the top of Mandalay Hill, you can see sunset and the view of whole Mandalay. That was also my favorite. 

Sunset from Mandalay Hill

From what I learned, there are a lot of small villages in Myanmar that doesn't have school, or they only have primary school and the education fee at Myanmar is so expensive and not people can afford it, so one of the option is to enter monastery, the provide free education but you have to follow monastery rules, such as, shave all your hair, wearing clothes like monks. The boy that I met told me that they love to go to Mandalay hill every sunset every day to speak with tourists, it's like English class for them. Despite of the condition they live in, they still eager to learn, I was quite impressed.

with the Monastery student
From Mandalay Hill, I plan to walk to the hotel since it's not really far and I would walk by the palace. I went out at 7.30 PM, on the middle of the way, a motorcycle with three men stopped me and they laughed, then an old man called me from a motorcycle, he said that it's dangerous for women to walk alone at night at Mandalay. It turns out women are not supposed to be out at night alone at Myanmar. I was quite surprised, because nobody write it on the travel blog. 

Anyway, Mandalay Hill was quite amazing for the day. I figured that I'll be going to Bagan on the morning and I bought bus ticket to Bagan at the hotel. The bus fare is 9800 kyat, 10.000 with a water bottle. 

3rd day - Bagan

In the morning, someone pick me up to a bus to Bagan. It was a small bus without aircon. The trip is about 6 hours, I arrived at Bagan at 2 PM. Bagan is my favorite part of the trip. Totally adventure!! I stayed at Nyaung UU, about 10 km from Old Bagan. There are a lot of electric Bike and bicycles rent around the area, I rent a bicycle for two days, with 3000 kyat. All I have is a map from the hotel, but the way to old and new Bagan is quite easy, just follow the main road. Although, if you rent an electric bike it might be okay, but to go by a bicycle, it was a hard work! since the road is up the hill or down with the high speed vehicles on your side! sounds dangerous, but it was fun when you get used to it, the first time, well, I was quite afraid because the cars always honk when they want to pass you. You might get a little bit jumpy at the beginning but if you stay on your side of the road, it was fine. 

Or maybe I was nervous since it was my third time on a bike! :D At Bagan, you're totally surrounded by nature, green trees, it was really nice! Along the way to Old and New Bagan, you will find several temples. 
You can go inside the temple and see around bagan. 

on a top of a temple at Bagan

Again, to enter the pagoda you need to be barefoot and wear shirt with sleeves and long pants or skirts. Also be careful since it was really dark inside the pagoda. I felt like I was entering a pyramid! Oh my, it was so exciting :) 

View from the top of pagoda

Here is the picture of me and my Bicycle which I considered my best friend back then! We travel together for almost about 20 km a day for two days in a row! The air was quite cold but because I ride a bike that doesn't really matter.

At old Bagan, I met a really nice lady who sells water and tanaka. Tanaka is the cream they used on the face, to make the skin good. At least that's what they said. 

Me and the nice lady
 I also took a video of her making tanaka for me, please click this link to see the video on my instagram! tanaka making

gate to Old Bagan
I passed the gate 10th times maybe, I lost count since I went back and forth. 

Thattbinyu temple
Thattbinyu Temple is the first temple that you saw if you go left after the big gate. Then you can follow the road from there and it will lead you to Shwesandaw Pagoda, the most famous temple at Old Bagan for sunset. 

Shwesandaw Pagoda

My expectation was too high for Shwesandaw. I didn't see the sunset since the weather was cloudy and it was too crowded with tourists. Also, to enter Shwesandaw you have to pay for 20.000 kyat per person which I found unreasonable, although they said then you don't have to pay if you enter pagodas at bagan. But the thing is, I did enter some of pagodas without paying entrance fee. I didn't think 20.000 kyat is worth it. 

view from the top of Shewsandaw

I decided to went back to Nyaung uu because it was 1-2 hours of bicycle ride from old Bagan to Nyaung Uu. It was getting dark and my bike didn't have lamp on it! :D 

4th day - Bagan 

I woke up early in the morning in the hope to see floating hot air balloon. But it was raining really hard, so no hot air balloon for me. Decided to wait until the rain stop, but it didn't! so I decided to still go in the light rain since it was my last day at Bagan, again with my bestie. :D 

Shwezigon Pagoda

The first pagoda on the way is Shwezigon Pagoda. It was a big area and on the entrance there are a lot of people selling merchandise. I had a bad experiences in here. First, one of the seller forced me to take something that she said was a gift. Then when I came out, she already put my shoes in front of her stall. She forced me to buy the things that she sells, when I said no, she said I already took the gift so I have to buy something. I was quite surprised, then I returned it to her. so just precaution for backpackers, if you don't  want to buy something from the stall, don't accept anything. 
Inside the pagoda, there are two women standing outside Buddha statue and told me to pray to Buddha. they gave me flowers to put on the hand of the Buddha. I thought that I only had to pay for the flowers, but they asked me 5000 kyat per person for that! Another surprise! It's not about the money actually, but the way they did it. 
entrance to Anandha Phaya Temple

Anyway, I continue my way to Ananda Phaya, which I think as the most beautiful one. Ananda Phaya looks like a castle in fairy tales. 

ananda phaya
So, this is it, I went to Yangon with VIP night bus charged 18.500 kyat with aircon, wide space to sleep in, blanket and head pillow! It was really nice! The bus left at 9 PM and arrived at Yangon at 5.30 AM, they picked us up to the bus station from the hotel. Again, it is better to buy the ticket from the hotel.
Please do check my Instagram for more pictures! elisabetpingkan 

 oh wait, here's some pictures at Yangon. 

Yangon Park

Temple at Yangon

and this!! the best KFC I ever taste!! :)

KFC at Myanmar <3

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