Myanmar was once an isolated country in the east and a lot of the attractions being off the beaten path compared to neighboring countries like Malaysia & Thailand. Few years back, when the economy opened up to the world due to democratic reform, so did I having the chance to visit the once-mysterious country.It was the last day of 2014, when I first landed in Yangon International Airport. The plan for the rest of the day was to explore around the Yangon city area. Upon landing, I booked some local taxi and traveled to city area for room check in.
Of course, the first destination was Shwedagon Paya. The most famous pagoda in the country.
Monk sit and stare blankly
In the pagoda, I could see the Burmese were praying presumptuously, round the pagoda.
After 1-2 hours ambling in the pagoda, I was on my way back to hostel. Earlier when I first came to Myanmar, I noticed a lot of the locals were chewing something, but their mouth looked ‘ugly’ where the teeth reddish in color, quick scary though. Right came out from Shwedagon Paya, I seen a women seeing those ‘things’ that the locals chewed – betel nuts (paan). She offered me to try without any charges, and taught me how to eat. The taste, was like chewing some grass … not something I fond with. However, I did feel appreciated the kindness of the people there.
Street seller that offer me free paan
The plan for the next few days was to see sunset/ sunrise in Bagan. I’d pre-booked the flight with Golden Myanmar Airlines. It was the very first time, where the passengers were not assigned the seats. So anyone could choose any seats they want. Democracy.
It’s a short trip from Yangon to Bagan. Upon landing, I wanted to go to train station to buy the train ticket back from Bagan to Yangon later. However, I wouldn’t want to take the taxi with those that wait in the airport, as the price were ripping me off. So I just walked out, and headed to the train station according to the map. After few minutes walked by, I stopped a motorbike and ask if he could fetch me to train station. He hesitated for a while and I offered him 2000 Kyat. He agreed and brought me to the train station. Once reaching there, I pulled out my wallet and passed the bill to him. He rejected my offer, and saying he wanted to do good. So he didn’t want any money. It’s the very first time I felt the true kindness, in the country. After Vietnam, Myanmar surprised me again.
After that, I proceed to the ticket counter to buy ticket. But I couldn’t see any staff there. After a while, someone walked out from somewhere, and asked if I wanted to buy ticket. He said it’s public holiday (1st Jan), but he could help me. I was doubting if he was cheating. Then he pulled out the keys, and opened the door, and written the ticket for me. He was really the staff that selling ticket, and I felt sorry for doubting him in the first place.
Kind staff in Bagan’s train station
Once I got the ticket, I looked around see if there is any taxi this time, but there is no one. Looking into the maps, it’s roughly 3km from the train station to Nyaung-U area . There is no options available, other than walk. No choice then. After 10 minutes walking and seeing a motorbike coming from behind, I stopped him and ask if he could brought me to Nyaung-U. He was a bit concern, with no extra helmet. Anyway, he still willing to help me and fetch me to the town area. I offered him money, but he didn’t want as well.He was delivering something to the shops in town for selling. So without hesitation, I offered to buy some foods (biscuits) from him. In one sense, it’s kind of re-payment to him. In another, the biscuits tasted really good.
Kind local that offer me a free ride
After checked-in to the hostel, I went to the nearby Shwezigon Pagoda. Managed to take some nice pictures there.
Cheerful children playing in the pagoda compound
People that still praying even though it’s late evening
One of the famous attractions in Bagan is the sunrise view near Old Bagan area. However, one of the challenge is the transportation as the famous viewing spot is quite some distance from town area. Among the tourist, the most popular option is e-bike. So if you intend to go to Bagan for sunset viewing, it’s best to pre-book the bicycle 1-2 days ahead, else, you will have to walk 5-7 km. I went to two different place for sunrise viewing, namely Bulletin Pagoda & Shwesandaw Pagoda. By using Maps.ME or google maps, one can easily search for the exact location.
Sunrise in Bagan
Magical view of the sunrise
Balloon going down
Tourist climbing over the pagoda for the best viewing spot
Little monk standing outside of ‘Sleeping Buddha’
Other than sunrise, sunset in Bagan is equally famous. I chosen the Pyathetgyi Pagoda.
Foreign traveler that ‘locked’ down the best spot waiting for sunset
I preferred to move around the pagoda for capturing more meaningful shots
Goods delivery using cow
After 3 days in Bagan, it’s time to go back. Since the weather was good and I wanted to see how the locals living outside Nyaung-U, which saturated with tourist. I decided to walk from Nyaung-U to airport. After 20 minutes walking, there wasn’t much things other than grass and bushes along the road. And I was sweating heavily at that time. Anyway, I just continue walking. Surprisingly, a car stopped by and asked where I wanted to go. I said wanted to go to airport, and he said that he can fetch me. Lucky me, again.
Even though the trip to Myanmar is short, but it given me a long-lasting memories. Among all the countries I’ve traveled, Burmese is among the best.