Yangon to Shwenyaung Junction, Myanmar

Myanmar 158I only have 8 days here. Ideally I want to do a triangle of the big three:  Yangon – Lake Inle – Bagan, and back. 

Within an hour of landing I’ve ditched my main backpack with the nearest random I can find – A man named U Myint Maung at the tour desk of The White Hotel, Central Yangon.  He charged me $2 USD for the week. I’d have paid ten times as much to rid myself of the heavy beast. He also exchanges my USD for Kyat at the rather sketchy rate of 770 to the dollar. It’s mean to be around 850-900 I read, but the rain is bouncing off the Yangon pavements. If this is the price I pay to not look like a drowned rat then so be it. The country uses USD for hotels/trains & Kyat for food/buses. Depending on what mood it’s in. You have to keep your US bills pristine (no tears, no marks, no cocaine or whatever else you find on notes.) Kyat on the other hand comes normally in tatty $1000 bills, or in the very highest domination of the $5000(£7ish) note. Either way so you kind of feel like a drug launderer most of the time with huge wads or sealed plastic envelopes.

Within 2 hours of landing I’m racing to Yangon’s Aung Mingalar Highway Bus Station, an hour north of town. To the untrained eye I appear to be in a battered old Nissan taxi (although I suspect it might also just be a mate of U Myint Maung’s). In every other sense it’s more like tug boat, with rain streaming in through the broken wind-down windows into small puddles in the foot wells. I perch in the central spot and try and ignore my upcoming drowning by learning Burmese with the driver. It takes me the full hour to master: Ce-zu-beh (Thanks).  The ‘bus station’ itself has clearly modelled itself on a Brazilian favela. It is friendly/filthy chaos. As the one token tourist, some nice men ferry me around under an umbrella like I might melt if touched by a raindrop, which is mighty considerate of them.

As always, I find a stall to hoard my essential survival items; bus sweets/bus cakes/bus crisps (Pizza flavoured squares, rather tasty.) It’s really quite pleasant. I get two seats to myself for the whole 15.5 hours. My first impressions of Myanmar are:

*Well this is all nicer/easier than I was expecting. It’s a little like a combination of Laos/Cambodia.

* Apart from the qwerky site of men in longyi skirts, which they amusingly faff with and re-tie all the time, and the sweet cartoon Burmese writing that looks half Arabic half flowers shapes, the airport looks like any other. In fact it’s perhaps better than most; no queues for immigration, a nice lady who didn’t waist one of my only 3 blank pages stamping me in, ‘please and thank you’s and welcomes’ on the entry forms. Auckland International could learn a thing or two.

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An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

Blasts From The Past…

October 2011

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