July 13, 2014

Crash Course Yangon

Yangon surprised us.

Because Myanmar was closed off to foreigners for too long, we kind of expected Yangon to be a quiet small town but the pulse, colors and sounds of a bustling big city is a contradiction, albeit, pleasantly of the Yangon we had in our mind.


Sure, we were a bit apprehensive about setting foot in a military ruled country because of all the common negative perception about their government and just minutes out of their extremely clean and modern airport while at a back seat of a cab idling at a traffic light, we were side by side a van with a huge POLICE sign imprinted on its side in bold stark white letters. Only the hands of the prisoners grasping the bars can be seen.

But other than that sighting, we’ve never seen any form of military presence and the Burmese people seems to be generally at peace, happy and very friendly. We never once questioned our safety nor did we feel threatened in any way and at any time. We felt VERY SAFE even while strolling at night in a country that is embroiled in political turmoil for the longest time.




The city center for its proximity to the popular sights is where we stayed. Accommodations in Yangon, well Myanmar in general, is still limited and rates are a little bit higher compared to other neighboring Southeast Asian countries because of the recent influx of tourism and lack of infrastructures. 

We always do some form of research before our every travel but somehow it escaped our notice that the city center is also known as the Little India.




Like many Southeast Asian countries, it is crowded with a mishmash of settlers, but judging from what the district is called, there’s a profusion of Indians concentrated in the area. Lucky for us that means glorious authentic Indian food!


Little India is lined with narrow streets that hosts dilapidated colonial mix-use (residential and commercial) buildings and makeshift stores that sell anything and everything from the ubiquitous cheap China made plastics to street food to betel nut sellers with stained red teeth.


We saw some parts of Yangon that is grimy, crowded, polluted but somehow, we saw it as character.

In its crumbling walls, we glimpsed the history of its grandness. In its crowdedness, we saw the art.





Yangon has us charmed.

And grateful that Myanmar is now open to us Filipinos, visa free since January of 2014.

NOTES:

Yangon International Airport – IATA code: RGN located at Mingaladon about 15 kilometers from north of downtown Yangon.

There is a taxi booth at the airport with fixed price. We paid 10,000 kyat from the airport to the city center.

Philippine time is an hour and half (1hr and 30mins) advance.

Currency: Kyat (pronounced as chats).
Note that they only accept clean and crisp dollar bills with no crease and from year 2006 or
newer.

Rates at the airport are surprisingly good.

You can also use US dollars for paying hotel bills, entrance fees to tourist attractions and long
distance bus tickets.

Electrical outlets - 2 round pins or 3 flat pins

The only mode of transportation we used to get around is cabs because buses and trucks with their Burmese script routes intimidated us. These are old surplus vehicles that are either left or right hand drive and may or may not have air-conditioning. There is no meter so negotiate before getting in. $1 or 1,000 kyat is the minimum.


Dress modestly with shoulders and knees covered when visiting the temples. Footwear, even socks are not permitted in places of worship. If you turn up at a temple inappropriately dressed, you can rent or borrow a longyi (a sort of sarong) for a few kyats as deposit.


1 comment:

  1. Looking at your photos made me missed our short stint at Yangon and to write about it as well.

    ReplyDelete

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