Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Exploring Myanmar

We are back in Bangkok now. After spending some time in Myanmar, Bangkok feels a lot more organized and cleaner than I remembered. In total, we were in Myanmar for 2 weeks.

A: We first flew into Yangon, the biggest city of Myanmar.

B: After 3 days in Yangon, we took the overnight bus to Bagan - Ancient city, famous for its pagodas & phayas. Lovely place. We had 5 days in Bagan - which was a good amount of time to explore Nyaung Oo, Old & New Bagan.

C: We then took a Day bus to Mandalay (5 hours journey) - the bus was a lot smaller than the bus from Yangon but we survived. We spent 4 days in Mandalay and surrounding areas - Amarapura, Inwa & Sagain. - where Frode got really sick, we still don't know what caused it.

D: Our fourth stop was Inle lake, where we stayed for 3 days.

Finally, we took yet another overnight bus. This time from Inle lake back to Yangon, where we flew out to Bangkok, Thailand.

We loved Myanmar. The people are so friendly and helpful. Always smiling. Still unspoiled and unexploited by the tourism (for the most part). Some things can be a little expensive but food & local transportation are still pretty cheap. As Myanmar opens up to the world, I am sure a lot of changes will come but I hope their happy smiles will always be there.

Transportation in Myanmar:
1. Yangon to Bagan - by JJ ('Joyous Journey' bus company) VIP bus. One way 18,000 kyat. Left Yangon at 8pm and arrived in Bagan at 5:30am. There are a lot of different bus companies that goes from Yangon to Bagan - JJ bus was spacious but we got the last seats and could't recline the seats much so get the tickets earlier than later if you are planning on traveling with VIP bus in Myanmar.

JJ Bus tickets
Spacious but sucks to be at the back
JJ snack :-)

2. Around Bagan - Horse drawn carriage. We paid 20,000 kyat for a half day - probably a little pricey since we organized this through our hotel. But it was really fun way to look around old Bagan. Second day, we rented bicycles for 2,000 kyat (for 8 hours). Good workout. The third day, we rented e-bike (bigger size suitable for two people 5,000 kyat for a half day) - it started raining in the afternoon so we were freezing cold.

Horse drawn carriage
3. Bagan to Mandalay - Long distance bus. We were told it's VIP but the seats were a lot narrower and packed with people (even in the aisle!) Left Bagan at 8:30am and arrived in Mandalay around 1pm, stopping for lunch in between. 8,000 kyat per person.

Narrower seats
This is where we stopped for lunch
People in the aisle too
4. Around Mandalay - Trishaw around Mandalay downtown & to Mandalay Hill. We gave him 4,000 kyat to Mandalay Hill for two people. To Amarapura, Inwa and Sagain (Mandalay's surrounding towns), we hired a taxi for a day for 40,000 kyat with 'English speaking guide' - a graduate from Mandalay university who wanted to practice his English.

Taxi hire with 'guide'
Horse drawn carriage in Inwa

5. Mandalay to Inle Lake - Another long distance overnight bus which costs 14,000 kyat per person. This bus had a toilet on board, yay. Especially good considering that Frode was really sick on this bus trip.

Mandalay to Inle lake
Waiting to board the bus
This is supposed to be 'VIP' bus

6. Around Inle Lake - Boats. And very expensive if you are stuck in the resort right in the middle of the lake. Costs you $10 every time you want to go somewhere.

We'll stay in Nyaung Shwe town next time... I think. 

7. Inle Lake to Yangon - 11 hours bus with no toilet but it stops every 2 hours or so for toilet stop. Although one of the toilet stops was in the middle of the field.... Beautiful stars!

We paid 24,000 kyat for our ticket through hotel but you can get it for around 22,000 kyat in town (Nyaung Shwe)
'VIP' bus - Quite comfortable

Dinner stop - but we were in no condition to eat :-(((((

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