The Beginning ... Yangon (22-23 Oct 06)

Yangon Travel Blog

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Buses on the street of Yangon
I, at the age of 29 has chosen to go Myanmar for my maiden solo trip. Is that a sign? Am I trying to make a point to myself? Or am I preparing myself for some kind of unknown or future happenings which will only reveal itself when the time comes? why else would I want to travel alone in a country where the people are oppressed by its government, where the people doesn't speak the language that I understand, a country that is more well known for it's human rights issues (or lack of it), a country where you are totally cut from the world outside, and the list just goes on. Nevertheless I did and I have to say.... it's quite a liberating and interesting experience.

I arrived in Yangon around 12pm on 22 Oct 2006.
my protector, the fruit seller
After checking into the guest house and talking to the staff, I've have decided to travel only the southern part of Myanmar. I would love to go to Bagan but due to time constraint, I've decided to forgo it. Armed with the map of Yangon, I set out to see the capital of Myanmar.

My first unforgettable experience in Myanmar is my encounter with the fruit seller on the street of Yangon. she and her 2 other colleagues were walking on the street selling fruits that were placed on a big tray on top of their head. I didn't see her initially as she was walking a little further behind the other 2. As I was busy taking pictures, she sneaked up behind me to take a look at what I was doing.
when I showed her the pictures I have taken of her friends, she got really fascinated and kept gesturing for me to take more pictures of them. One of the guy who had been watching us, came over and offered to help take the picture of us. He was quite friendly as he started to ask where I'm from, where am I staying, how long i'll be here, and he could asked more if not because of her. she is very protective of me as after 3rd question, she pulled my arm indicating we have to move on. Giving an apologetic smile to the guy, I followed her. Not more than a couple of steps down the road, I was stopped by 2 monks who walked by and wanted to know where I'm from. Didn't want to be rude, I stopped and before I can actually answered him, she pulled me away while saying something to the monks in Burmese.
free water station
Even when she has to make stops along the way to sell fruits, she wouldn't let me go on on my own as she will indicate for me to wait for her. Under her care, the longest access anyone has of me is a police officer who is waiting his ride home. He is one of the few Burmese who can speak better English and he relish the opportunity to practise his English with me. The fruit seller and I parted ways not long after that I wasn't sure whether I was in the right direction following her. I tried to ask her by showing her the map and she gesture she doesn't know how to read.

My 2nd unforgettable experience in Yangon is at Yangon train station. After manage to make my way to the train station, I went to the special counter for foreigner to purchase the ticket for the Yangon city train loop which will take me on a 3 hours ride around Yangon region.
One of the many food stalls on the street... and there are lots of those around
After checking on the next train departure and arrival at the station and the safety of the station at night, I was ready to purchase my USD1 ticket. Imagine my shock when the trainmaster refused to sell the ticket to me, asking me to come back the next day. After minutes of hand gesturing and limited English exchanged between us, seeing him refusing to budge, I asked about shorter train ride availability. There is one 45 minute train ride and he wanted to charge me USD1 for that ride. Naturally I was outraged by the price and I argued with him on that. I'm not sure whether he finds the whole incident amusing or that I actually argued with him funny as he was chuckling looking at me the whole time. Finally he pointed to the young chap sitting next to him saying he will wait for me at the train station at night, escort me to the taxi station and he will sell me the 3 hour train ride ticket around Yangon.
caught this while walking along the street of Yangon...

While waiting for my train to arrive with the trainmaster and his staff, I met Mr Chu, who dropped in with his friends to buy the same train ride as me. As his English is limited, I managed to find out that he's Korean and is on some kind of travel tour and will be staying in Yangon for 8 months. Not long after he left to join his friends, he came back and gave me a pack of biscuits as a gift. He is really quite a nice guy as before he got off the train at his stop, he gave me his home number in Yangon and asked me to call him should I need anything. waiting for the city train loop kinda reminds me of public transport in Malaysia. It's never on time. When my 4.45pm train finally arrived at 5pm, the trainmaster had one of his staff escort me to the back of the train and got me a seat at the special section for train conductors, gave instructions to the conductor that I'm a foreigner and will only get down at the main station.
one of the many smaller stops along Yangon city loop trainride.
He also gave me instructions that I am not to get down that train at any other station and that the young chap will be waiting for me once the train got back to the main station. At this point in time, I have to say, the Burmese are really nice people... ahhahaha.. the trainmaster and his entire staff actually sent me off to my 3 hour city ride.

The train ride gave me a glimpse of every day life of the people in Myanmar. they have no regards to their safety or of their children. You can see that the train station is one of the favorite hangout place for them as there are children running and playing at the platform of the station, people selling food and vegetables at the side, women sitting on the rail tracks chatting, etc. For the first half of the train ride, it is full of people.
the passenger train which has doubled up as cargo train as the train heading back to the city
As we move further north, the number of passenger dwindle down. I was putting my head out of the train window, enjoying the breeze when I suddenly saw a stone went flying in front of my eyes. shocked I turn to the direction where the stone came from, and I saw this Burmese lady trying to tell me something using hand gesture. I sat there watching her not understanding what she's really trying to say to me. It seems like she's trying to ask me to change place, so I stood up and when I did, she gesture for me to sit. And yet she's still trying to tell me something which I have no idea what. Finally, her husband shut the window next to them and indicate for me to do the same. I managed to do so just in time before the train stop at the next station. In less than 1 minute, the entire train was transformed into a cargo train as Burmese passed baskets of vegetables and sacks of potatoes through the window and filled up the train.
Shwedagon Paya, the holliest temple in Yangon.
It was quite fascinating seeing them at work and I guess the young lady was trying to tell me not to let the Burmese passed their goods through my window. By the time the train rolled back into the main station, it was already 8pm and the young chap was already at the platform waiting for me.

The next day, I spend the morning at Shwedagon Paya, one of the holiest place in Myanmar. The entrance fee for the Pagoda is quite expensive at USD6. Initially I tried to walk around and take a look at the pagoda on my own, but the area is just too big and it can quite overwhelming with all the smaller structures surrounding the main stupa. so i decided to hire a guide to take me around and give me some background on the pagoda. By the end of my tour and after spending 3 hours there, i had enough pagodas for the day.
Inside Shwedagon.
So I took a walk around the People's Park which I was told a popular picnic place for the locals on weekends. From there, i took a taxi to Chinatown and spend a short time there. It's quite fascinating seeing how they display all the sausages, spices, vegetables at the market and along the street. I was told by my guide that there is a famous Peking Duck restaurant at Chinatown which is really delicious. And I am in Chinatown, I thought to myself, why not have Peking Duck for late lunch. So I asked around and was given the direction to the restaurant. what i neglected to ask is the distance as the restaurant is not exactly located in Chinatown. It was a good 30 min walk. I've never walked so much in my entire life. 3 hours walking around the pagoda, another 1 hour plus around the People's Park, half an hour walking around Chinatown. By the time I reached the restaurant, I was dead tired. Peking Duck is my most expensive meal in Myanmar at 9600 kyat (USD8). For that price, I get a big bowl of soup, 1 whole duck, 12 sweet buns and other side dishes of peking duck (which I seriously doubt I can get even a small piece of Peking duck meat in KL with that price). since I alone can't finish the whole duck by myself, I packed the leftovers and gave it to the staff of the guest house I was staying and they were really grateful for that.
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Buses on the street of Yangon
Buses on the street of Yangon
my protector, the fruit seller
my protector, the fruit seller
free water station
free water station
One of the many food stalls on the…
One of the many food stalls on th…
caught this while walking along th…
caught this while walking along t…
one of the many smaller stops alon…
one of the many smaller stops alo…
the passenger train which has doub…
the passenger train which has dou…
Shwedagon Paya, the holliest templ…
Shwedagon Paya, the holliest temp…
Inside Shwedagon.
Inside Shwedagon.
photo by: aleksflower