Yangon, Myanmar, starting the trip

Myanmar Travel Blog

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Yes, the highlight of this country is its people, the most simple and humble people than you can find anywhere on this planet. And I consider myself extremely lucky to meet, interact with the people of Burma (Myanmar).

The transportation in Myanmar is really something to worry about in the sense that nothing goes as planned. The buses, taxis break down frequently on the bad roads and you might not arrive at the schedule time at your destination. Hence travelers are advised to plan to reach the place from where you are flying back at least minimum of one day in advance. Trains are expensive compared to buses as foreign tourists have to pay tourist prices and have to book in compartments for tourists.

The currency used in Myanmar is Kyat (chyat) which has an open market conversion rate of around 1USD=1200 Kyat.

The official rate displayed in banks is 1USD=6 kyat which is ridiculous as a bottle of cold drinks in the costs around 500 Kyat which is approx 80 USD according to the official conversion rate. But fortunately no one uses the official conversion rate. Everyone exchange the money at local jewelry shops or people standing at the local Bogyoke market. Its perfectly safe to exchange money with these people, except that someone might try to short change you, so count the Kyats notes carefully before giving your US$.

In Yangon, I stayed at Thamda hotel which was not bad at 22USD bus still expensive for a backpacker like me,  but had no choice as I had to book it in advance to show it while applying for Visa.

For the initial trip, I booked the train from Yangon to Mandalay and hotel in Mandalay.

Whilst on the road, I just checked for some cheap places with basic amenities, but clean.

Food and Drink:

Myanmar is not especially famous for food, but one never seems to be lacking really good food and a cold beer in most places in Myanmar. Whilst I like spicy food, I was content with whatever was available. Food was cheap for around 1-2USD and same for drinks.

Special note of thanks, and disclaimer:

I would like to say special thanks to Thomas, who worked for a travel agency and helped to arrange some of the stuff during the earlier part of my trip. We became very good friends after this trip, shared a few drinks and went to the amazing local food place in China town.

We are still in touch and have promised to visit his house and meet his family. He got married to his girlfriend in the next month.

My trip started with the flight from Bangalore to Calcutta (Kolkata) where i spent overnight in a hotel to catch the next day flight to Yangon. After checking into the room in Kolkata I went for a round around the city and found that there were very few transportation options available as it was the time of the biggest festival of West Bengal, the Durga Puja. All the streets were filled with people walking, visiting various temples, pandal erected for Durga idols. The energy and excitement was simply awesome. I had food at one of the temples where they were serving free food to all the devotees.

After arriving at the Yangon airport, I found Thomas waiting for me. As it was my first visit to this country Thomas presented me with traditional welcome gifts.

We went straight to his travel agency where we made my initial travel arrangements. I booked my train tickets for the next day to Mandalay, and a hotel in Mandalay, changed currency. Thomas became my friend the first day itself when he showed me around the town in the evening. He took me to this local food place in China town where we had some beers and a good barbeque for a bargain price. I got my first insight on the local Myanmar culture, things to do, not to do along with other stuff. He was keen on knowing about stuff happening in other countries, not that he was not aware of it, but wanted to get some more info.

I spent half day at the Bogyoke market bought some cool T-shirts at cheap prices, visited Sule Pagoda, then collected my train tickets, had some coffee with Thomas and his friends and started my trip around Myanmar. The first destination was Mandalay by overnight train. Although the seat was comfortable, the train ride was not, rattling all night long.

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