Mingalabar (မင်္ဂလာပါ။) from Yangon, Myanmar 🇲🇲
Yangon is the biggest city in Myanmar and boasts the largest number of colonial era buildings in Southeast Asia. It is also the home of Shwedagon Pagoda which is Myanmar most scared Buddhist pagoda. For anyone wanting to travel from countries outside ASEAN, do check the visa requirements. If you are from the UK, you would have to apply for a visa online that will set you back $50 USD. The currency of Myanmar is known as Kyat, Kyat is very hard to find at currency exchanges and even if you do find them the exchange rates are not great. I would suggest that you bring US Dollars to Myanmar and exchange them for Myanmar Kyat when you get there as the exchange rates were much better.
Yangon still lacks basic infrastructure such as a good public transport system. The city has buses and trains but the downside for travellers is that the numbers on the bus are all in Burmese, making difficult to know what bus to take. The easiest way to get from Yangon airport to the city centre is to take a taxi; at the airport you will find a taxi booth at the arrival lounge and you will be able to get taxi for a fixed price of 8000 Kyat or $7 USD. The journey from the airport to city centre is roughly 6miles but due to traffic congestion, the journey will take close to an hour.
This was our first visit to Myanmar and one thing to take note is that if you decide to travel to Myanmar during the low season of April to June, the summer months, be prepared for the weather. The weather during the summer can reach 40° + so do remember to hydrate and apply lots of sun block. During our stay in Yangon the temperature was averaging about 38° daily. What really fascinated me about Myanmar was the architecture and culture of Burmese people. Myanmar was once a British colony until they gained independence in 1948. 'Till this very day you will find many beautiful colonial buildings in Yangon. Even though most of these buildings are on the Yangon City Heritage List there are many buildings in poor conditions and not suitable for visiting. Most of these buildings are located within the downtown area of Yangon near the Sule Pagoda. Within the downtown area you will come to notice that it was designed with a grid system in mind and it's pretty easy to find your way around. Downtown also consists of China town and India town as well as important government buildings and monuments such as city hall and the independence monument.
One of the best ways to see and experience Yangon is to hop on the circular line at Yangon train station. The journey is like Glasgow's own clock work orange (the underground) but only much longer and above ground. The round trip from Yangon will take you about 3hrs. The train leaves from either platform 4 or 7 depending if you like to travel clockwise or anti-clockwise, the journey will set you back 200 Kyat (11p). During the journey you will be able to observe venders coming on board the train selling a variety of items from nic-naks to fresh food. It was impressive to see venders balancing large trays on their heads and moving between carriages to sell their items. The journey will take you through towns and villages however the train can be crowded at times and due to heat it can make the journey uncomfortable. As the trains do not have doors, I suggest that you see nearest to door as it is much cooler and give you a better chance to take photos.
A place that you can't miss visiting while in Yangon is the Shwedagon Pagoda which towers over the city. The construction of Shwedagon Pagoda began about 588 BC and until the 14 century, the Shwedagon Pagoda was maintained by 32 kings of the Okkalapa dynasty. When Queen Shin Saw Pu ascended to the throne in 1453 AD, she rose the height of Shwedagon Pagoda to 302 feet. At present Shwedagon Pagoda stands at 326 feet after it was rebuilt by King Sinbyushin in 1774. Shwedagon Pagoda consists of ten unique sections. The ten sections are the base, the three terraces called "Pyisayan"; a bell shaped structure called the "Khaung Laung"; the "Baung Yit" which are distinct embossed bands; a monk's food bowl called the "Thabeik"; a lotus flower ornament known as the "Kay-lan"; banana buds called the "Hngnet Pyaw-Bu"; an umbrella known as the "Hti"; the "Hngetmana" which is a flag shaped wind vane and the diamond orb known as the "Seinbu". The sections of the Hti, Hngetmana and the Seinbu are decorated with 3154 gold bells, 79569 diamonds and other precious stones. The Seinbu has a 76 caret apex diamond right at the top of the Pagoda. Shwedagon Pagoda sits on 114 acres of land and is surrounded by many beautiful Buddhist buildings and structures. There are four gates, North, South, East and West that lead up to Shwedagon Pagoda. Before visiting do take note that visitors have be appropriately dressed in order to visit the Pagoda. All shoulders need to be covered, shorts cannot be above the knee and also no shoes and socks are allowed on holy ground. I would suggest that you bring along a bag to store your shoes when you visit the Pagoda as you may enter through one gate and decide to leave from another gate- it saves you the hassle of reclaiming your shoes. If you do not have a bag when you get there, don't worry, there will be children at every gate selling plastic bags for your shoes. There is a fee of 8000 Kyat (roughly £4.58) for all tourists to pay in order to enter Shwedagon Pagoda but in my opinion it is money well spent. The best time to visit any Pagoda or temple in Yangon is in the morning or late evening. The reason for this is that walking barefoot on hot floor tiles is not a nice experience; moreover in the heat of the day one could really burn the sole of their feet.
The next stop after Yangon will be the Bagan, there were three options to get there; fly, take a train or the bus. Flights are the faster way to get there but it is also the most costly and a return trip from Yangon to set you back about $200+ USD. The trains are slow and tracks are very uneven giving you a very bumpy ride and the journey will take longer than the bus. We concluded the bus option was the best way for us. The overnight bus is 9 hours long and we chose to leave Yangon highway bus station at 8pm to get us into Bagan at 5am. We booked our bus journey with JJ express after reading numerous recommendations online. An easy way to make reservations is by messaging them though their Facebook page and the cost is $19 USD per person for a single trip. As we would be arriving in Bagan at 5am, I would recommend that you contact the hotel to ask for an early check in if possible. In my experience, during low season, some may accommodate your request or if not you would have to pay for an additional day-most hotels only allow check in at 2pm. Can't wait to get to the ancient city of Bagan and explore its extensive range of temples.