First day in the unknown Myanmar
Visiting Myanmar is one thing I would brag about, through out my life. Slowly the doors to tourism are opening, but still Myanmar is not everyone’s cup of tea. I was always wondering how this country would really be or is it worth going there (because I do not have lot of money and I travel on limited budget).
I applied a Myanmar tourist visa in Hong Kong and it was a cakewalk getting it there(not sure if you do not have all the right documents). Direct flights from Hong Kong to Yangon were expensive, so I traveled via Kuala Lumpur through Air Asia.
9.00 AM – After reaching Yangon and out of the airport, a taxi driver, chewing beetle nut, comes to me and exclaims “Lucky you, everyone have a problem with visa. You really lucky”. If this was any other country, I would have taught, the taxi driver was just trying to be friendly and get a customer. But, in reality, the military government actually is against tourists visiting their country and innumerable number of visa applications have been rejected.
Unlike others, who want to explore Yangon first and then make a move to Bagan, I wanted to go to the Golden Rock (Kyaiktiyo Pagoda). I exchanged money at the airport; I usually do not exchange money at airport, but in Myanmar, the airports offer a very competitive exchange rate (1 USD = 970 MMK).
9.20 AM – I have taken a taxi from the airport to Aung Mingalar Bus Station to catch the bus to Kinpun, which is a base for exploring Golden Rock. The cost for the taxi is 6000 MMK (I decided not to bargain, because the people are poor and even one single dollar makes a huge difference to them and the whole point of me traveling to this country is to make as much financial contribution to the locals). The taxis are un-metered and the rates have to be discussed before the journey.
10.10 AM – What should have taken only twenty minutes, took more than 45 minutes and at last I reach the dusty and chaotic bus station. The taxi driver stopped right next to the bus which is departing to Kinpun. I brought the ticket right inside the bus for 7000 MMK. The bus was to leave at 10.20 AM, but for unknown reasons to me, the bus left at 11.30 AM. From here on, I realized how punctual Myanmar would be.
02.10 PM – Waking up after sleeping for almost all the journey, was the biggest surprise of the day. What they said would take five hours, we reached Kinpun in just about four hours. Just as I get down the bus, a tout comes running to me, “You tourist? Need a room? Only five dollar”. I ignored him and walked past few hotels, shops selling jams, fruit vendors. Not so far away found a quiet guest house at the end of the street. The room with an air-con was USD 16 a night.
After non-stop traveling for more than 24 hours and sleeping for only an hour at one of the worst airport terminals, KL’s LCCT, I really needed some rest and had no energy to visit the Golden Rock that day. Threw my bag in the room and kept on walking until about 7.30 PM (as I love to walk in new places and see new people). Later, after eating some traditional Myanmar food, called if of a day. The next day I was destined to visit the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (Golden Rock).
Air Asia flights at KLIA LCCT – http://www.flickr.com/photos/dennissylvesterhurd/8535341445/
Myanmar rickshaw driver – http://www.flickr.com/photos/carsten_tb/9511230522/