My 6 Weeks In Myanmar (Burma) - Day 1

in #travel4 years ago (edited)

I want to tell you about my experiences of my six weeks in Myanmar. Having just gotten back home to San Francisco from one month in Vietnam and a week in Cambodia, I felt my trip was incomplete. Vietnam was amazing but I kept hearing from other travelers about Burma and how I needed to get there quick. Before it became the next Thailand or Vietnam. Myanmar had been under strict military rule for 50 years and had just recently opened it's door to the rest of the world. In fact, some areas are still closed off to foreigners. I really wanted to experience this mystical land that I had heard so much about. So, I booked myself a ticket back to SE Asia for six wild weeks in Myanmar.

Day 1:

I arrived in Yangon on April 12th, 2017. One must secure a visa for entry. This was easily done online which is called an e-visa. I did see a Visa On Arrival (VOA) desk at the airport, which means one can obtain a visa at the airport. Check this out before going. My plane leaving the States required me to show my visa approval letter during check in and same with the transfer in Singapore. So, I am not sure how that all works. Your visa is good for 28 days upon entry. I will tell you all later how I managed to stay for 6 weeks as that is a question I got a lot.

Customs was a breeze and now I entered the departure area. I was truly in Myanmar! There was lots of hustle from various taxi drivers but my first stop was to pick up a local SIM chip for my unlocked phone. Data is extremely cheap there and I highly recommend picking up a SIM chip. I had a chip from all three major companies (Ooredoo, Telenor & MPT) over the course of my six weeks and MPT is by far the clear winner for coverage in Myanmar. If you plan on only staying in the "Tourist Triangle" any of the chips are fine. I got way out there in Myanmar and MPT was the best. Data costs around 10,000 Kyat with $1USD ~ 1350 Kyat. This will give you 5GB of data and a local phone number. I found all carriers to be similar in price.

So, now it was time to grab a taxi and head towards the city center and to my hostel. It had already been a long journey from San Francisco. A taxi from the airport should only cost you 8000 Kyat. Be firm and find another taxi. Now, I was headed towards Chinatown to my hostel, Little Monkey, which took around 45min. I had booked 2 nights here and was arriving during the Water Festival. This is Myanmar's biggest holiday and was forewarned that onward travel might be tough. So, I was prepared.

Little Monkey is a great but small hostel. Located in Chinatown and one block from 19th street. This is the area that gets busy at night and attracts tourists and locals alike to eat. Do not come to Myanmar with the hopes of a party scene. It's just not happening. The hostel was designed to have pod beds and that was great. Honesty, I have not stayed in many hostels before. They also had consistent hot water which is hard to find, as I found out. I highly recommend this family run hostel.

As fast as I arrived, I was out the door to do some sightseeing. I bought myself a Longyi which is a traditional garb that is worn like a dress. Almost all men in the country wear a longyi and so do the women. My first stop was to do the Circle Train around Yangon. I knew this must be done first as the Water Festival started the next day and transportation would be shut down. So, I headed to the train station, solo, and hopped on the first train. This loop takes around 3 hours to complete and costs 500 kyat.

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These are some images from the train. Since I knew I could get wet, I did not bring my nice camera. I was basically relegated to my iPhone 7 in a waterproof LifeProof case for the next week during the Water Festival. By the way, I did get wet on the train ride from kids excited about the upcoming holiday and throwing water into the train. Somewhat akin to kids lighting off fireworks on July 3rd. Upon returning to the main station, I made my way back to the hostel to change. Now, I was off to the Shwedagon Pagoda at sunset.

The Shwedagon Pagoda is the most important place in Myanmar for Buddhism. This is a country where ~99% of the population is Buddhist. There is an 8000kyat foreigner entrance fee and men must wear pants or a longyi and women must wear shirts that cover their shoulders and have their knees covered. This is a must see in Myanmar. Since I was taking a taxi back and forth, I felt safe taking my Leica Q with me to take some pictures. I normally travel with a backpack full of lenses (primes and zooms) for my Sony A7R2 and a tripod. This time, I was traveling light.

Entering the Pagoda was a little overwhelming at first but that melted away into awe and amazement. You can feel an energy here. I walked around for a bit and noticed that monks were lighting candles that completely surrounded the pagoda. Interested, I walked up to see what was going on. A kind monk grabbed me by the hand and gave me a candle to start lighting the candles with him. I was the only foreigner doing this so I felt a bit special. After, I took some long exposures with the Leica Q with my small Joby tripod.

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I recommend visiting the pagoda at night or the early morning as the ground can get very hot. It had been a very long day already and now it was time to head back to the hostel. I met some friends there and we went out to eat on 19th st. The place with the 1000kyat mojitos is where I ended up eating a lot. I do not remember the name but it is hard to miss. Everything is closed by 10-11pm, so it was time for sleep.

Here is a recap of my first day of six weeks in Myanmar. I came here with no plan but to see as much as I could and get as far out there as I could. My only plan was to meet my friend back in Yangon on the first of May so we could go North and ultimately depart on the 22nd of May.

My trip to Myanmar (Burma) took me all over the country from the secluded beaches of the South, 4 day treks in the mountains to see the Chin people and the tattooed women, boats on rivers, 17 hour train rides, 3 days on a motorcycle in the Golden Triangle, temples of Bagan and Mrauk-O, Kalaw, Inle Lake, Mandalay, Lashio and everywhere in between. I went to places that few foreigners have ever been and seen things few ever will. This blog will be continued to recount my tale and journey.

Please feel free to ask me any questions you have on Myanmar. I would be happy to help!

To Be Continued

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wow..amazing...keep it coming...i enjoyed the narratives...and nice view of Pagoda

Thank you for the read! It was quite a journey with ups and downs. I will try to condense a little more but also want to be informative for people who want to travel to this wonderful country.

you can say it again.. a dream destination it is....good one..keep it up!
do find time and check out my blog for my short family story ...you will surely love it . plan to post many from this weekend! do follow me also so we can connect more through our blog posts...thanks

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