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Published: July 26th 2011
Since leaving Borneo we flew to Bangkok with the sole purpose of applying for our Myanmar visas. We do plan to explore Thailand as well, but this time around we were focused on getting to Myanmar where we plan to spend 4 weeks. We had a short but fun stay in Bangkok, especially when it came to tasting some real Thai food. We actually didn’t do much of the touristy stuff since the hotel we chose was near the embassies, but we did head down to the backpacker mecca of Khao San road to pick up a copy of the Myanmar guide book. The visa process was smooth and within a couple of days we had our passports back in hand. When booking our flights to Yangon, we found that if we delayed our departure by a week we could save ourselves a considerable amount of cash (approximately $67; it seemed like a lot at the time). We took the opportunity for a little R&R at Ao Nang beach on the Andaman coast of Thailand.
We arrived in Yangon on an early morning flight from Bangkok and after breakfast we decided to go for a walk to get our bearings
Pre-WWII era buses are still running in Yangon. Amazing!
and explore a little. We have to admit that this is the first time in a while that we’ve felt a little bit of culture shock. The streets are full of pot holes, sidewalks are crumbling and you really have to watch where you step to avoid falling into open sewer drains. Kind of reminded us of some of the big cities we travelled to in West Africa. The cars are generally super old and are a mix of left- and right-hand drive (the result from when the government switched overnight from driving on the left to driving on the right).
On our walk we barely made it to the Sule Pagoda in the middle of town when we were approached by a very persistent monk who insisted on taking us to see his English language school. He seemed friendly enough and we were too tired to really argue with him so we went along with it. It turned out to be a really fun time. The best part was riding everywhere on the local buses, as we wouldn’t have known which ones to take on our own. It was a great way to see the city. The class
had several hundred students and they learn English by reading and repeating phrases from their “textbook” which happens to be Dale Carnegie’s “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” We got a kick out of that. Apparently our monk has been doing his homework. Anyways, we were absolutely exhausted by the time we made it back to our hotel. We found out later that this seems to be pretty common for monks to approach tourists and take them around town. We spoke with a German tourist who was staying at the same hotel as us and he had a very similar experience the following day.
The highlight of Yangon was the Shwedagon Paya. The golden dome is 322 feet high, and according to legend is over two and a half thousand years old. It’s the most sacred Buddhist site in Myanmar and words can’t really describe it. It was a bit treacherous walking around as it was raining and the tile floors were super slippery, but we did our best to stay under cover and we chatted with several locals that wanted to practice their English. We’re also doing our bit to try and learn some Burmese. We hung
out until dusk when they turned on the lights and the place looked even more spectacular.
One thing to mention is that this is the rainy season. Pretty much the only guarantee is that it will rain at some point during the day. The rest of the time it will be hot and humid. People here may not all carry cell phones, but the absolute must-have accessory is definitely an umbrella.
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