Myanmar
20 february - 8 march 2009

 

Travelogue & Info

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Finally another of my dreams come true, I am landing in the mythical Burma (for the precision Myanmar like it is now called), since I was child had fascinated me. To the arrival hall of the airport we found the representative of the Guest House I booked; immediately accompany us to withdraw the tickets for the local flights I booked from home; we immediately make knowledge with Burma bureaucracy that forces us to turn for varied offices of the Yangon Airways up to the main office in the city center. We arrived to the guest house that reveals a little bit disappointment being a little bit bleak.
We immediately go out and bought a local sim card since 2009 the foreigners can also buy, to call and to receive phone calls avoiding the scary rates of the phone-centers. We make a walk for the city center dipping us in the Yangonese reality; we immediately notice the banquets preparing and selling everything, we also notice that almost all the men chew the betel leaves and after that they spit carpeting the avenues of red, besides the women with the painted face with the tanaka, the Burmese cream of beauty.
We immediately visit the (first of many!!!) Sule Pagoda. Afternoon devoted to a visit of the Scott Market and subsequently the Chauzkhtaki Pagoda that entertains the big laid down Buddah.
A taxi toward the Shwedagon Pagoda that it says is the most impressive and beautiful of the world. The taxi-driver thinks to leave us at the base of the long stairway (instead of bringing us to the base like he could do) and so considering that in all the pagodas you have to walk barefoot the scaling that will put to hard proof my poor ankles. Suffering is repaid by the magnificence of the pagoda, absolutely spectacular!!! In the vastness of the structure the sacred is mixed to the profane considering that a lot of Burmese come here to pray and even to walk and to relax; we make knowledge with a young monk that wants to improve a little bit his English, between the varied things, he asked me what is our most important monument to compare to their Shwedagon Pagoda and I answered him the Vatican (even if technically doesn't find in Italy), or is it the Colosseum? After shooting many photos we grant a good dinner on the shores of the lake.

Wakes up to the dawn to take the airplane to Mandalay, to the arrival hall we found (with some surprise) a taxi driver to wait us, sent by the guest house to which I simply asked information. So we agree for a tour to visit the city and the interesting outskirtses. We reached Sagaing at first where we admire the magnificent 45 Buddahs of the Pagoda Onhmin Thonze. We have lunch in shore to the river and then visit of Awa by horse cart.
For the sunset we reached the famous U Bein wood bridge, that we cross afoot for the whole length to take a pirogue on the other bank and to admire the marvelous sunset on the lake with the sun that to a few to a few it inflames the bridge swarming of life. After a long bargaining we agree with the taxi driver for the transfer to Bagan.

Pleasant breakfast in the garden of the guest house and a taxi to the harbor, in the wait for the boat to Mingun we shooted many photos of swarming port activity. In an hour of boring navigation we disembark on the sandy shores of Mingun and we were boarded by a couple of guys, they offered to accompany us for the temples and that a little afterwards they will be become angry because we don't want them as guides. We immediately see the enormous Pagoda of Mingun, but we give up climbing us and we continue the visit of the other pagodas and the big bell of Mingun; the time we had to wait before taking back the boat passed around for the stands where we bought a beautiful mask and relaxing us with a refreshing sugar cane juice. Returned to Mandalay we grant a good Indian lunch and then visit of the greatest temples and Pagodas of the city.

The punctual driver waits for us at 5.30 a.m., we crossed the city wound, still in the darkness but already swarming of life; the territory to a few to a few changes, from the rise camp with the farmers to desert landscapes, I really didn't believe to find in the south east Asia so arid zones; for a couple of hours we crossed a sandy road crossing villages of huts, giving here and there some t-shirts that we were brought. In the late morning we were already to Bagan, we settle in the guest house and to relax from the long transfer we book a massage that will be revealed not very satisfactory. We had lunch with a "light" but good Burmese barbecue; a jump a school to give some pens to the child and then to the medical center to give some medicine.
We arranged a transfer with a horse cart to admire the sunset from the top of a pagoda that won't repay the work to climb the narrow, steep and dark staircases. Dinner with a pizza, I have not understood for what reason is typical dish of the tourist restaurant of Bagan.

Day devoted to the visit of the plain one of the thousand stupas, very beautiful the Shwezigon  Pagoda and the Ananda temple, also in this case I didn't expect to find such a hot zone (at least 40) and desolate, for this the choice of the horse cart revealed better in comparison to the bicycle like our room neighbors have done. Rests in room in the first afternoon for then to return in the plain one to admire the sunset from the Mingalazedi Pagoda, the staircase it is steep but fortunately to the outside and gifted of handrail; there are a lot of tourists her the atmosphere it is the same pleasant, we enjoy the sun that to a little little it inflames the thousand temples. We dine with Erika, the Italian friend we met in the guest house and was traveling around Asia for three months.

With the flight that we fortunately have succeeded in anticipating we reached in the first morning Heho, the airport near Inle lake, after a long negotiation we agree with a taxi driver for the visit of the Pindaya Caves and then the transfer to Nyaungshwe. Even if the distance is brief, the road is very bad, we had to bump for 2 hours to the going and 3 to the return, we sight women and children that move big stones for the maintenance of the road mantle repeatedly :-(((.
The caves are really suggestive, it says that there are more than 8000 Buddahs to the inside . We have lunch to Pindaya, the features and the attire of the local population, the Shans are quite different in comparison to the Burmese.
We arrived in the late afternoon to Nyaungshwe and we settle in a very nice guest house. To the restaurant we fond Erika with a Brazilian friend coming from a 14 hours bus trip from Bagan.

Visit of the lake on a boat only for us, we immediately saw the famous fishermen that row with the leg even if the impression is that now it's only done for the tourists, we visited villages and markets but the tour it will be revealed too touristy with frequent standstills in the shops, the most pleasant part has been the navigation along the channel to the Udein temple of whose stupas in remember  a little bit the atmosphere of Angkor. In evening we decide to try to anticipate (with success) the flights to Bangkok and Krabi in way to have more time to devote to the sea after Burmese hard work. In the evening we went to the same restaurant we tried the evening before and accompanied a couple of sympathetic Italian that have been left free from their guide but as they spoke very little English and so we gave a hand to order some bread for the scarpetta (to heat sauce with bread "left" by pasta or rice)!!!

For the end of the forenoon we were already to Yangon, we changed accommodation opting for a hotel next to the Sule Pagoda, better place even if the room was without windows and the sheets were branded "style jail", we spend the afternoon turning for the city and its markets to return the evening to the marvelous Shwedagon Pagoda to admire it to dark ; last Burmese dinner in the good restaurant "House of Memories" in a colonial house.

Even with some difficulties, the Burmese experience has also been pleasant and interesting, above all the marvelous population that also living in the oppression is able to give so much joy and serenity!!!

VISIT BURMA!!!

 

ITINERARY

Date

Itinerary

Transport Time
20/02/2009 Milan - Bangkok airplane

12 hours

21/02/2009 Bangkok    
22/02/2009 Bangkok - Yangon airplane

1 hour

23/02/2009 Yangon - Mandalay airplane

1.5 hours

24/02/2009 Mingun

Mandalay

boat

 

1 hour

 
25/02/2009 Mandalay - Bagan car

6 hours

26/02/2009    

3 hours

27/02/2009 Bagan - Heho airplane

1 hour

28/02/2009 Inle lake boat

6 hours

01/03/2009 Heho - Yangon airplane

1 hour

02/03/2009 Yangon - Bangkok

Bangkok - Krabi

airplane

3 hours

03/03/2009 Krabi    
04/03/2009 Krabi    
05/03/2009 Krabi    
06/03/2009 Krabi - Bangkok airplane

1 hour

07/03/2009 Bangkok - Milan airplane

12 hours

The map & itineray

 

WHEATHER
Very hot and damp in general, torrid to Bagan, on the Inle lake sees the height an a little more fresh.

 

FOOD
Main dish is rice accompanied mainly by meat and/or vegetable curry (more or less spicy); excellent the Burmese barbecue ate to the restaurant Little Bit of Bagan to Nyaung U and the vegetarian food of the restaurant Marie-Min of Mandalay; super refreshing the fresh fruit juice and the sugar cane juice.

 

COSTS
Decidedly low, there is a desperate search of US$, forced currency for the tourists, the local currency Kyat is useful only for the restaurants and the local transports. The are also changed but to less favorable rates compared the US$. The banknote from 50 and above all 100 US$ are more appreciated and changed to more favorable rates but in every case are absolutely necessary banknotes in perfect state (without writings, cuts or folds).
As possible as we have tried to avoid everything what it has to that to do with the government (lodgings, restaurants, transports, tour) trying to favor the most possible the desperate population rather than the dictatorship.
Average costs (1 US$= 1200 Kyats):
lunch or supper to the restaurant = 7 US$
guest house double room = 20 US$
city journey by taxi = 3 US$

 

COMMUNICATIONS
Since the January 2009 the tourists can buy a sim card to use (with personal mobile phone) for the international calls with good rates (1,5 US$/ minute) in spite of the high rates (6 US$/ minute) of the phone centers. In the tourist places the cellular signal is discreet and even if not tried, sms can be sent and received phone calls from abroad.
We have also found (but not anywhere) discreet internet connections.

 

Dangers & annoyances
The tourists move in absolute safety, apart some rare scams in the places more crowded and attempts of small frauds. I expected to see more police and military but probably the regime holds them distant from the tourist places.
The blackouts are frequent, usually you are forced to walk to dark, almost all the lodgings and restaurants have some generators and their noise often breaks the quiet of the Burmese nights.

 

TRANSPORTS
Seen the little time we used a lot the airplane, we reached Myanmar from Bangkok with Air Asia, Asian low cost airline, good prices, we also changed some flight of reentry and to Krabi a few days first with a least expense, 2 of the 4 taken flights however had a delay of over 1 hour.
There are various private companies for the local flights (with good safety standard), absolutely to avoid the government company Myanmar Airways!!!
With Yangon Airways I had the possibility to book the flights before the departure, apart some bureaucratic difficulties as soon as arrived in changing the voucher, we received a good service and has also succeeded to change some flights.
The roads are really very bad with very low drive-times, with the car (and driver) however it succeeds in living very more the Burmese reality; the journey between Mandalay and Bagan even if was really dusty has been an intense experience.

 

LODGING
Discreet guest house with moderate prices but also super luxury hotels (these quite often to government share and therefore to avoid if you don't want to favor the dictatorship).

Yangon
Ocean Pearl Inn: cheap guest house in the semi central zone; double room with bath 15 US$, in the price is included the transfer from the airport (only for international flight).

May Shan guesthouse: next to the Sule Pagoda, better than the other one even if the room is without windows and the sheets are branded style jail; double room with bath 25 US$.

Mandalay
Peacock's Lodge: guest house in the outskirts of the city, big room and breakfast in the garden; double room with bath and breakfast 21 US$.

Nyaung U (Bagan)
May Kha Lar Guesthouse: guest house in the center of the village; double room with bath and breakfast 14 US$.

Nyaungshwe (lago Inle)
Aung Mingalar Hotel: in the outskirts of the village, good setup and very nice rooms; double room with bath and breakfast 25 US$.

 

LINKS
 

 http://merome.itgo.com/ The site of the embassy of Myanmar in Italy with information to get the visa
http://myanmartravelinformation.com/ Useful infos on transports and place
http://www.myanmartourex.com/ Burmese tour operator with useful infos on transports and place
http://www.irrawaddy.org/ Online newspaper
http://www.myanmarevisa.gov.mm/ Online newspaper

 

 

 

Copyright 2009 Giuseppe Ruperto. All rights reserved.