Yangon is the largest city in Myanmar. It was formerly called Rangoon. The urban image is shaped by a mixture of British colonial style houses, modern skyscrapers and golden Buddhist Pagodas. It is a car city; there is not a single motorbike or scooter since they are officially forbidden in Yangon. There are over 7 million people living in the actual city, even more if you count the agglomeration as well. It is the industrial center of Myanmar and even used to be the capital before they moved that to Naypyidaw in 2006. Yangon is pretty different to the rest of Myanmar. I sometimes have the feeling that all big cities around the world are pretty much the same. There are many fancy restaurants, expensive and almost more western food than local food. The city has its charm, but I definitely prefer the rest of Myanmar. When I was at the airport I had quite a fight with the cab drivers. At the accommodation they had told me it would be about 8000 Kyat to get there from the airport, they wanted 15000. After a while I got one down to 9000 and took off. When I arrived at the hostel though I couldn´t check in or even put my luggage inside since there was some sort of government control going on. So I just walked around close by, got some water and delicious vegetarian Indian food at the Taj Indian Nepali Restaurant until I got a text that I could come now.
At the Dengba Hostel I had to wait anyway for quite a while until they finally managed to check me in. The staff seems to be pretty inexperienced, so everything is a bit chaotic and slow. The entry of the hostel is also a bit tricky to find. It is on the third floor of a building but there is no proper sign outside. After I could finally check in I first took a proper shower with warm water, rested a bit and went for some exploring. I walked around the roundabout with the Sule Pagoda,
through the Maha Bandula Park
and some local market where you really got anything you needed
to the ferry terminal
where I watched the sunset.
I went to the Rangoon Tea House for dinner. It is a very nice place and the food is great, but the portions are very small and it is super expensive. I met two Malaysian women – Manjit and Jit and had a nice chat with them. Back at the hostel I did some computer stuff before going to bed. At the free fried noodles and egg breakfast I got to know Lea – a Swiss girl. We decided to explore the city together.
We took the Bus 36 for 300 Kyat to the Shwedagon Pagoda. It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, 2600 years old, containing several relics of previous Buddhas and is 99 meters high. The entry for foreigners is 10000 Kyat (~6€), but it is definitely worth a visit!
I was talking to a monk in there and he gave me a flower bouquet for free so that could donate it to Buddha. I was looking for the Tuesday corner since I was born on a Tuesday and my Burmese zodiac sign is the lion and donated it there.
After the pagoda we went to the People Park. They also charge a entry fee and it is absolutely not worth it. It is more of a building site than anything else. But you get a nice view of the pagoda from there.
On our way to the Kandawgyi Lake we had some nice noodles on the street from a local couple with some serious onion cutting skills. We only payed 400 Kyat (~24 cents) for both of us. I think that was the cheapest meal ever in Myanmar and very delicious.
The lake is quite nice, but they could make a lot more out of it. Interesting contrast of old and new there and some quite adventurous bridges.
We walked back to the hostel over the Bo Gyoke market. You get pretty much anything there.
I rested a bit and wrote my diary then I took off to see the sunset. I had read about the Great Garden Roof Top Bar and imagined that as a great spot for sunset. It was tricky to find though. It is on top of the Lanmadaw Hotel and there is no sign for the bar at all. When I got out of the elevator at the top I couldn´t believe my eyes: Charlie and Tom were sitting on a table. I had met Charlie two years before in Australia on a 10 day tour from Perth to Broome and Tom is her boyfriend. What a coincidence! We had dinner together and a drink.
The bar was only on one half of the building and unfortunately on the wrong side, so if you go there for sunset it is the wrong place, but otherwise it is nice and the food is delicious. Seeing the full moon coming up above the city was pretty nice too though.
I walked back to the hostel,
had a shower and talked to the people in my dorm. Since I had to get up at 4:30 am I went to bed rather early. I was supposed to share a cab with an Indonesian couple from Yogyakarta. He had Grab on his phone (an App similar to Uber) and we got to the airport for only 6200 MMK (~3.80€), so only a bit more than 2000 MMK per Person. Everything was still closed, so I ate my snacks for breakfast. I still had to change some Kyat to another currency, because this money is worth nothing outside Myanmar and you also can´t change it anywhere. The exchange shop was still closed though. Was supposed to open at 7:30 am, but they didn´t show up. In the end I just managed to exchange the money before boarding started at 8:20, was a really close call. I had a window seat and could take some shots of Yangon while taking off.
I had to change in Bangkok and was off to Laos. New country, new adventures!
I really loved Myanmar! It is still so pristine, the people super friendly and it is beautiful! I can just recommend going there and I will be back oneday for sure. I just hope that it will stay like that and won´t change in a bad way with all the development going on. Even with new adventures coming up and going to other South East Asian countries I haven´t been to yet, I was pretty sad to leave.