Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Mystical Myanmar (2014) Day 1: Mingalabar Yangon & Shwedagon Pagoda

Right after we did mini college gathering to Siem Reap, Cambodia last two years, my friends decided we should go and explore Myanmar. Myanmar is very mysterious to me cause what I know about this isolated country is Aung San Suu Kyi only. Luck was on our side when we managed to grab the best deal which cost as low as RM138 for return flight to Yangon, Myanmar eventhough it was consider the peak season. Amazingly a great deal and how we could ever resist that, right?

With the visit of Myanmar, I unofficially unlocked all the 10 Asean countries - Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and last but not least, Myanmar itself.

Myanmar, Yangon 02

There are few things to take note before one enter Myanmar:

Visa Required For Malaysian
Unlike the rest of the ASEAN countries whereby visa is exempted, an advance tourist visa is required before entering into Myanmar. In Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), this visa can be applied at Ever Fine Services (M) Sdn Bhd located in Masjid Jamek LRT Station area (between 7-Eleven and Burger King). Total visa cost  is RM141.80, which included RM110 for visa and RM31.80 for service fee. Don't forget to bring along two passport photos with white background, a photocopy of valid passport and return ticket for visa application.

For more info about visa application, check out from one of my favourite Malaysian travel blogger - Kaki Berangan: Myanmar Visa Application (blog in Malay language)

Alternatively, you can apply through E-Visa which cost US$50 for a single-entry tourist visa.

Currency Exchange 
Myanmar/Burma's currency is known as Kyat. It's not commonly found in any Malaysia's local money changer, hence it is advisable be prepared with US dollar. But then, ensure that your USD dollar is extremely clean with no marks, stamps or any ink, undamaged, fresh, crisps and as close to brand new as possible. There are number of times whereby our US dollar were being rejected.

US$1 (approx. to RM3.30) = 978 kyat

Wear Slippers or Sandals Rather Than Shoes
Of course in terms of dressing, decent wearing is required whereby miniskirts, sleeveless shirts and shorts is not allowed in religious places like pagodas, temples and monasteries. However before entering into any of these religious places, one is required to remove footwear entirely including stockings, which I found to be irritating and annoying somehow. I totally lost count of how many times I need to remove both of my shoe and socks especially temples hopping in Bagan. Hence it is highly recommended to bring and wear those footwear that can easily be slipped on and off such as slippers, flip-flops or sandals.

Myanmar, Yangon 07

Flying In Myanmar
Malaysia Airlines only serves direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Yangon International Airport whereas AirAsia is flying into two different airports, Yangon International Airport and Mandalay International Airport. We flew with our favourite budget carrier and we chosen to fly into the first one, Yangon International Airport .

Once we arrived in the airport, my friends and I decided to change some of our US dollar into kyatt as we worried that we unable to find any money changer in the downtown. Right after we got out from the arrival hall, we were surrounded by numerous of taxi and van driver until a decent and young looking guy approached us to bring us around Yangon which a charge of US$10 each. After discussed among my friends, finally we agreed and he will bring to the places we want to venture upon.

We took a risk by not reserved any accommodation on the first day arriving as we had decided to take overnight bus for a long journey to Bagan. Therefore, the first place we assigned the local driver to bring us was to the bus ticketing office to purchase the bus tickets. I couldn't remember the exact location for the bus ticketing office but it's situated right in the city center whereas for the bus terminal, Aung Mingalar Bus Terminal is located out of the town.

Myanmar, Yangon 03-1
The bus ticketing office. We bought the JJ Express VIP bus tickets.

Myanmar, Yangon 05-1
We had traditional Myanmar cuisines in Aung Thukha 

Food wise, we found out most of their food tend to be oily and salty. As Myanmar has been isolated for almost half of the century and only recently opened up to the tourists, foreign investment and development aid, it makes sense there were limited of choices when come to food cuisines. Don't expect for any sushi or kimchi to be found there.

No matter how rush we were, one of the famous landmarks must visit in Yangon is Shwedagon Pagoda. This impressive gold plated pagoda contained the relics of the four Buddha who had attained enlightenment, hence it was known as Shwedagon, which means the Reliquary of the Four.

Myanmar, Yangon Shwedagon Pagoda 01

Myanmar, Yangon Shwedagon Pagoda 03

DSC_9415
With my favourite group of travelmates 

We were so surprised to find out that there is a free WiFi connection within pagoda. Without waiting a second, all of us instantly connected it to our smartphone for check-in, Instagram, Whatsapp and so on. The whole area of the pagoda is vast, complex and pretty huge too and ended up, we spent almost two hours here just to take thousand of photos at almost each and every corner.

Opening Hours: 6.30am to 10.00pm
Entrance Fee for Foreigner: US$8 or 8,000 kyat

Our local driver also brought us to few places but I personally think these can be skipped literally. The only thing we ashamed off was we couldn't made any visit to the Karaweik Hall which is well-known for its impressive and amazing modern architecture because we're eventually rushing out of times.

Time flies like in the blink of eyes and it's time to get board on the bus for a long journey to Bagan, a city is known to have more than 2,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries. But what we're looking forward from Bagan was to catch the most beautiful and mesmerising sunrise. Will we able to make it? So, do stay tune for the upcoming post.

Bus Yangon To Bagan
This is how their bus looks like - It's pretty cool!

A single trip from Yangon to Bagan (Ngaung-U) with air-conditioned VIP bus cost 18,000 kyat (approx. to US$18 or RM60) and the journey takes about 8-9 hours long. The bus fare including some small snacks such as cakes and biscuits, a bottle of drinking water, toothbrush and toothpaste. How attentive they were?  

6 comments:

  1. Aiks bus fare include toothbrush and toothpaste. Lol...first time i heard of this. Never travel by bus before. Only use bus in malaysia

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  2. I'm surprised no socks allowed in temples, altho I'm aware of the no shoes rule. Wonder why. The coach looks so neat & new. Price is so attractive too. I wanna visit Myanmar some day too....... xoxo

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  3. Wahh... very nice bus yeah... niw usd is higher than rm3.50 per dollar... sighhh... not good..not good

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  4. Wahh... very nice bus yeah... niw usd is higher than rm3.50 per dollar... sighhh... not good..not good

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  5. OMG!!!! So cheap for RM138 returns! Lucky you.
    Your photos are beautiful again like postcards. I am eyeing at this place.

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  6. How interesting! RM 80 for an 8+ hour bus journey with toiletries. I don't see a toilet at the back though, how would one go about brushing their teeth?

    I've been to Myanmar too, agree, it's still not very "touristy" or commercialized since they only recently opened the country up (except for places like Maykha River which has a large backpacker presence).

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