Finally the first trip in many decades, we decided to travel to Myanmar on our backpacks. For all the fees we paid for the individual journeys, I will state it below for your reference
We have reached the Yangon international airport! This was the view when we were landing, they have deliberately built this at the airport and I think it feels more welcoming for tourists and their people. Before getting out of the airport, we have to fill in a form for entering their country.
Myanmar Declaration Form Front
Myanmar Declaration Form Back
As we did not check in our luggage, we were out early and decided to change to Kyat (their currency). We have only brought USD and thought that some local currencies would come in handy. Exchange rate is 1Usd to 1180Kyats (as of 22 June 2016). Next we passed by the SIM card shop, there were 2 types of date bundle options.
1) 12,000 Kyats with 1GB data, free Facebook and 5000 credits for local and international calls and messages.
2) 1,500 Kyats for a SIM card and a top up of Kyats 3000/5000/10000 credits.
So anyway, after a long and confusing conversation with the guy at the counter, I decided to get Option 2. Top up cards can be purchased at any Telenor shops you see in Myanmar.
When we exit the airport we have to find a transport to the hotel for us to put our bags so we can travel out for sightseeing before coming back to shower for the night train to Bagan. Holly Hotel is a modern newly renovated hotel, costs us USD52 a night but we will check out at night. It's a reasonable price to pay for 5 people to shower. A bliss to have a decent looking room and a shame to have it for only the day.
From Holly Hotel, we took a bus (fee 200 Kyats) from the nearby bus station (the hotel staff brought us there) to the nearest Circular Train. There we took the train to Mingaladon (fee 200 Kyats). It was an interesting ride as i haven't been on one of these trains in my life! And I believe that the world is slowly facing out these as the countries develop.
Holly Hotel Room
Holly Hotel Delicious Thai Restaurant
Taking the Circular Train
After taking the bus to a station, we asked the counter for a ticket on the train for an experience. From the pictures taken, you can easily tell that they are really not catered to the tourists at the moment yet as everything is all in their own language. We could only make our guess throughout this whole process and hope that we understood each other.
I could see the word Air-con on the ticket, but when the train came, it was filled with fans and no doors. Regardless, the trip was very cooling as the train gradually picked up its speed and the weather was not humid, even though the sun was scorching.
From the happenings on the train, you can tell that the locals there use it as their daily mode of transport, bringing all sorts of items and food, either to sell or to transport them from one place to another.
Circular Train Station
Ticket for Circular Train, Yangon
Time Schedule for Circular Train, Yangon
Yangon Circular Train Route
The Circular Train
Inside the Circular Train
Selling fruits on train
Rubbish behind Yangon house
Myanmar kids crossing train tracks
Walking to Mingaladon Bazaar
Upon reaching Mingaladon station, the captain told us that it was the last stop so we had no choice but to alight and walk to the Mingaladon Bazaar station. That was the longest walk ever! We literally walked on the railway tracks for about 1.x km before we reached the Mingaladon Bazaar station, which is 15mins to the market if we walk. The next train was an hour later so we decided to explore the area. If we hitch a ride on a motorbike, it would take us 5 mins but we were skeptical so we decided to just walk. It was more like a neighbourhood walk so we saw many houses built using bamboo and wood, very kampung. We had to ask for directions now and then, and the locals were all very nice and welcoming, trying their best to understand our hand signs and guide us.
Fields in Myanmar
Fields in Myanmar
Fields in Myanmar
Bamboo House in Myanmar
Roadside Noodle Stall
We passed by a roadside stall and decided to try their food since we were getting a little hungry. It's basically noodle with tofu and soup. So this lady basically pulls out some noodles or beehoon (she will ask but you wouldn't understand), pours oil, some powder (which I guess is either MSG or stock powder or both), and mixes with her bare hands and serves it to us. The first reaction was "Yucks! That was damn gross!' But we of course could not express it that way, so we obediently tasted the noodles. Surprisingly, the noodles tasted very delicious and somewhat like a salad.
Then instead of walking back upwards to the station where we stopped, we walked downwards to the next station. We stopped at Danyingon station and explored the place. It's their local fruits and vegetables market, mainly mangoes, betel nuts and chilli. Customers there all carry a basket with them as it's no way they can do with a trolley. All roads there are paved with rocks and pebbles.
Locals carrying food on head
Back to Holly Hotel and Bus to Bagan
While waiting to go and get a taxi to the bus terminal, we turned hungry and ordered room service, the best and only meal of the day! Total including service charge and government tax, we paid Kyats 13,250.
From Holly Hotel, we took a 10 min walk to find JJ Express, the overnight bus service. Do note that if you are planning to stay at Holly Hotel and walk to JJ Express, the journey is pretty dark, but not dangerous. Along the walk there, you will see many food places. I call them food places as they are not air-conditioned, not as renovated as a cafe and not as bright as a foodcourt. I don't have a name for them actually but the food places are really authentic retro kampung style where everyone sit down and drink beer over soccer.
Pad Thai in Holly Hotel
Fried Rice in Holly Hotel
JJ Express and Supper
When we reached JJ Express, I finally smiled. I see foreigners! Caucasians and Malaysians! For the whole day, we were stared like we were aliens so it was so comforting to know that there are other "aliens" around. It was a pretty fast process as we have already booked the tickets online. I paid USD37.1 for a 2-way trip to and from Yangon. The services staff were very nice as well and speak fluent English. They explained and made sure the details were correct. On the way we are returning from Bagan, they will also pick us up from our hotel.
We met 2 girls from Malaysia who were also waiting to go up the bus, but they did not do much research online and so were at a lost of where to go and things to do. Another reason I like free and easy trips like this is you get to meet people from around the world and get to talk to them.
3 hours have passed and we have stopped for a 30 min pee break. It's like those that we stopped when going Genting. We passed by a cafeteria and decided to eat. The food was good and cheap. The Prata with egg was normal, but crispy and hot, which was already 60% good.
We ordered chapati but this dish came, which we accepted as it looked delicious. We also had coconut noodle which was new to us but tasted unique with a touch of coconut. We read that the salad here is good but did not dare to try it as they were not cooked dishes. Tea was good as well, quite similar to what we have in Singapore Prata stalls, so not much of an adaptation required.