Land crossing and first impressions
We spent one more night on the Thai side of the river, which was cheaper than staying on the Myanmar side. We walked around a bit, it was very rainy, and it’s a different town than Chiang Mai. There were lots of Muslims, and people were rather unfriendly looking. Christophe found a herbal sauna though, which was very nice and hot also. Fired up with wood, it got really hot inside!
We had quite high expectations about Myanmar. So many people who had been there recently told us that it was just amazing, the people are so nice etc etc..
Our fist impressions didn’t really match our expectations, but I think we are getting a better feel for the country as each day passes by. We arrived from Mae Sot (Thailand) to Myawaddy (Myanmar) by car/foot. The border and immigration process was simple and fast. But as Myawaddy is a border town, where many people seem to live off from tourists… You can expect people to be overly friendly and pushy.
We had this one guy clinging to us already from the immigration. He wanted to take us to his friend to exchange money, he had « the best » bus for us to Yangon. He could recommend us a place to eat and borrow us money etc.. He had a solution to all our problems and wishes. In the end we had to tell him that we wanted to walk alone for a bit and look for a better exchange rate (which we found easily from a bank). We ended up taking his bus to Yangon (costed 10 000 kyat/person). It was very very old, but we got to Yangon after 12h.
We are here during the rainy season. It’s good that it’s not that hot, but it’s raining several times EVERY day. It’s grey all the time, so all our pictures also have a greyish feel to them.
Two other bad first impressions come from the hygiene level and price level. We thought Indonesian street food had a questionable hygiene level, but here it seems to be much worse. Actually this is the first Asian country where we have had some stomach upsets :S It is pretty filthy here: The way they touch the food and treat the ice in the streets of Yangon is quite revolting to look at.
PS: Myanmar street food is also very deep fried and unhealthy.
It is not that cheap either. Hostels charge almost (eastern) European prices and food is 2-3 times the price compared to Thailand. There seems to be also a lot of entrance fees especially for tourists. Tourists pay more in the bus, on the boat, to get to the temples to get in to Bagan etc etc.
OK, so is there anything good about this country?!
The pagodas are beautiful. They have very decorative and impressive images of Buddha. Most of the people are friendly and they can have a good chat or help you out (there are a few exceptions) without asking for money. They don’t usually initiate a smile, but they smile back at you if you smile.
The nature is beautiful and very green everywhere out of town. In towns the colonial buildings are magnificent, yet not very well taken care of.
I’m sure we’ll manage to find more positive and nice things as the time goes by and we visit more places.
We arrived late night, it was very rainy, and we didn’t have a booking so we hopped in a taxi and asked to be brought to a hotel we had read about online. We thought we won’t book so maybe we get a better price than what we would get online. When we arrived at our place of choice, they were closed already. So we walked in the rain for 15 minutes to another totally crappy place for too much money and stayed there for 1 night.
The next morning, we walked around town for 3 hours asking prices and looking for another place to stay. But they all charged a lot (starting from 8 euros for a dorm bed - Thailand is 2,5 euros for a dorm bed in a nice place). So we looked online and then found dorm beds for 5 euros.
In the afternoon, we caught the circular train for 3 hour ride around Yangon. Nothing very spectacular.
In the evening we were in trouble again. We went through the food stalls, but didn’t have a clue what we should eat. Eventually we found a restaurant with a friendly manager who explained us in English what they had. We took a grilled fish and some vegetable curry. It was good, yet it didn’t let our tastebuds explode.
When we came back in the evening, we found that the aircon above our bed had been leaking. We asked for and got another bed, and then saw that Christophes backpack was also wet. So we asked if they could dry the backpack, and they put the backpack outside. In the rainy season … Five minutes later I got my backpack back, totally soaking wet. They suggested to dry it again, but I decided to dry it myself.
The next day went better. We walked to the Shwedagon pagoda, around the Kandawgiy park, to a tower, to the old house of general Aung Su, and to the temple with a massive sitting Buddha and a massive reclining Buddha. There we had a monk invite us to his monastery and we had tea with him and his student. It was an interesting experience to talk to them and we learned a bit more about Buddhism and culture here in Myanmar. In the evening we went again to see the Shwedagon pagado in the night, but didn’t go in as the fee for foreigners is 8000 Kyat (0 for locals).
Today is the last day in Yangon, we visited the Buddha hair relic pagoda (6000 Kyat) and got a teaching on the Burmese horoscope. Christophe then made offerings for his family and grandmother to wish her well in the next life. Now we are waiting inside the hostel, as it is raining, and in the evening we will catch the nightbus to Bagan.
It is a busy city, so we hope to find some more peaceful towns where the cars don’t honk all the time and people have time to stop and smile.