Myanmar

06 Mar 2018 5:30 AM | Anonymous member

The flight from Tokyo to Yangon was scheduled for 8 hours but took 7 1/4!hours with ANA in a 767 with non reclining seats. During the flight to Yangon in the day it was not such a big deal but the flight back will be overnight . The flight path was not a straight line but wiggled south of China, seemingly avoiding China airspace- not sure if that is a constant or not. We are 2 1/2 time zones West of Japan!


We arrived in Yangon around 1615. It took about an hour to get through immigration and customs. One bag had red tape on it since it was loaded with medical supplies but after 2 inspectors casually looked at the contents we were passed through. We left Tokyo when the high was around 50 degrees . The temperature on arrival in Yangon was about 90 degrees, but did not seem that hot.


The 45 minute rush hour taxi ride cost $ 10 . Although the Brits were here for many years, they drive on the right but many of the cabs are Japanese hand-me-downs with the steering wheel on the right. Gas stations are selling their cheapest gas for about 50 cents a liter ( about $2 a gallon.)


Yangon is the original name for this city that used to be the capital of Burma/Myanmar but the Brits changed it to Rangoon. It was changed back several years ago.


There are a lot of old  seemingly unoccupied  buildings I guess from pre WW2 times that have become surrounded by overgrown by trees, shrubs, etc. 


The classic dress for men and women is a long skirt-like garment called a longyi. Few people wear shorts and those that do have shorts that look more like pedal pushers. Dress code for the pagodas requires that the knees not be showing, no cleavage, and bare feet are a requirement.


The Panorama  hotel is in the business district. Our room is U.S. Sized with a king bed which is quite comfortable. There is no safe in the room but safe lockers are behind the reception desk. We went to dinner at a health food restaurant near the hotel. I had chicken soup and fried rice. The fried rice was nothing like what we used to get in Thailand. Lynn had a salmon dish. Both were quite good. Instead of serving us water we received a reddish clear liquid they said was beetroot juice. We also shared a chocolate/ banana smoothie which was tasty.


After dinner we walked to the Sule pagoda, paid the obligatory $3 per person to get in. Hopefully we will be able to append a photo to this. Most have heard about the Rohingya problem in southwest Myanmar. This is soused to be a religious issue between the native Buddhist Burmese and the Muslim Rohingya. In our walk we passed through a neighborhood predominantly Muslim but we saw no antipathy toward them in the streets.


The streets around the hotel are safe personally but the traffic is dangerous. In Vietnam you could start walking and the traffic would steer around you but crossing the street , even with the green pedestrian walk blinking you are still at risk for those cars turning. There are few morcycles/motorbikes  in Yangon.


                                                                  Day 2


Good weather; hot and muggy, high temp in the 90's


I think our malaria prophylaxis is making us sick. So we will try to take our pills at bedtime. Yangon and Mandalay have no malaria but Pagan and Inle lake are considered low but real risk.


After breakfast I headed to a tour place that offers a 4 hour guided bike tour on the south side of the Yangon River. We will do that tomorrow afternoon.


When Lynn started to feel better we headed toward Shwedagon pagoda, about 2 miles away, detouring through the Aung San market to look at cotton fabric and gems ( apparently there is a lot of Jade mined here as well as rubies). Some amazing prices. We walked an extra 15 minutes to get lunch. Lynn had chicken with cashews and I had pad Thai . With 2 cokes the bill came to ~ $10. 


We spent about an hour in the temple complex   before taking the public bus back to the market to finish the walk back to the hotel.


We will head out to dinner in another hour or so. We are looking to go to the second best restaurant in town recommended by Trip Advisor if we can find it. It has been established to train poor people about the Food and Beverage profession so the personnel all work the front and back. Unfortunately the restaurant was fully booked so we went to a restaurant on the 20th floor of a building near our hotel with great views of the city including both pagoda complexes. Food was ok with watered down drinks but worth the view. ( ate there a few days later with excellent food!)


Probably due to the British influence there are lots of churches of different denominations in Yangon. We again noted lots of people who are Muslim in this town with no problems that we could note as casual observers. Saw at least one mosque and one Hindu temple in the area


The town is pretty busy in the day but activity really seems to pick up in the evenings with lots of outdoor eating places- but not what we would consider restaurants. Lots of sellers on the street wrapping betel nut  in green leaves with a white paste. I have not seen many women chewing this stuff but lots of men do ( when we lived in Thailand this was an almost exclusive habit of women). We often see drivers waiting for a light to change leaning out of their car to spit this reddish stuff into the street.


                                                    Day 3


Our day three, according to our schedule was free all day so we scheduled a half day , 30 km , 4 hour bike tour. Unfortunately there had been a follow up e-mail telling us the day was full with teaching students at a hospitality school across the Yangon River on Dala one of the 50 plus townships making up Yangon. Apparently we missed a wonderful experience.


We wandered down to the river , slowly strolling to get to our bike meeting place at 12:30 P M. We had a nice lunch and I tried to navigate to the bike place but urged right instead of left and got us lost. With help we did get to the bike place on time. There was one other in the group a guy who works at the Huntington Memorial library in San Marino, CA.


The first several blocks were very dangerous winding our way to the ferry which was to take us to Dala. We had previously remarked that we had seen few motorbikes/cycles in Yangon. Apparently they are not allowed on the main streets of Yangon; they are prominent in the Dala township, however. Large crowds go back and forth across the river on the ferry ( no bridges yet but one is planned). Once we got off the ferry we had to walk our bikes through the crowds to a place open enough to mount. Just after David, our guide, and Lynn mounted and started to head off I tried to mount my bike. They then stopped for a motorbike before I got any momentum and I lost my balance and elected to fall to my left rather than to hit Lynn . I received a large (6cmx6 cm) road rash and hit my left hip. I was able to continue on. The traffic was minor in Dala but after a snack we spent 5 minutes on a main road before being ferried to an island for the remainder of the excursion. With about an hour to go Lynn got exhausted but was able to finish ok. Our guide decided that we were too dangerous to return to the bike shop so after crossing the river again, put us in a taxi to our hotel. 


The ride was interesting. The kinds do not get to see foreigners very often and all

came out to say hello and high five us on the island. The main roads on the island were high above the ground, ? 6-8 feet, presumably to allow travel during the monsoon. They were generally well maintained except for one very muddy area where they were replacing a bridge.


                                                   Day 4:


Due to jet leg we awoke at 4:30 AM which was good because we had to take transportation to the airport to fly to Mandalay at 7 AM. The flight was 1 hour 20 min in an ATR-72 a jet prop built by a French/Italian consortium and apparently is a popular short haul plane around the world. It was amazingly quiet. The Mandalay airport is ~ 40 km from the city of 1.5 million so we toured all day before arriving at our hotel at 7 PM! Exhausted would be an understatement.


Our first visit was to a monastery in Amarapoura, where they train young monks. Apparently Mandalay is the religious center for Burmese Buddhism and all boys are expected to get some trading. Young apprentices come for a week beginning at age 10, though there are younger ones around, pre apprentices. They arise at 4:30 AM eat breakfast, have instruction and then , apparently, go around town with food containers for food donations. They all return around  10 AM in order to line up for their other meal if the day at 10:30 AM. This is a big tourist attraction watching them March in for their meal.


We next headed to the river where we left our bus and took a boat across the river to be transported by horse cart for a couple of hours to view the old king's palace near Ava. We were mobbed by women selling jewelry, wooden Buddhas , paintings, metal, old coins etc. they do not relent and are almost as annoying as some of the Chinese in tourist areas in China. After walking around an old monastery( always without shoes or socks)( watch out for nails sticking up) we took the buggy back to the river where we were treated to an enormous lunch before returning to our bus ( again surrounded by women asking us to make them happy by buying their wares.)


Mandalay has the second most pagodas in Myanmar, after Pagan. We took our transport up the Sagai hill to get a view of the area from the top of the hill. The weather was clear but the atmosphere was hazy up to about 18,000 feet . Our guide says it is not pollution but the months of dry weather this time of year with lots of dust in the air. The conditions reminded us of Chiangmai when we visited it in March 1968. We were told then it was due to burning of rice straw. I suspect it is a combination of these causes.


The last event was sunset looking through an old bridge that reminded me a bit of the activity around sunset at Key West. It has become such an event that everyone comes to enjoy it.


I have solved the malaria prophylaxis issue by taking my pill at bedtime. Lynn has deferred for a while. There is NO malaria risk in Yangon or Mandalay but a small risk at Inle Lake and Bagan. 


Breakfast with our group (day 5) in an hour before heading out for another day of sightseeing. There are only 6 in our group of English teachers, including one German guy with an Australian/German accent( he lived in Sydney for a year). 



 


Comments

  • 06 Mar 2018 8:07 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Thanks for sharing. Sounds like you had an interesting time. Your descriptions brought back many memories of my trip there. How many times were you served curry?
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  • 09 Mar 2018 8:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    I echo Marty's comments - brought back many memories of my brief visit there in early 1970's. At that time, military rule made Yangon very drab, not many tourists. Your comments about Rohingya vs. other Muslims was interesting. Wikipedia says Rohingya claim they have been there at least since 8th century, and it had once been an independent kingdom; they are not illegal immigrants from Bangladesh as Myanmar rulers claim.
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  • 15 Apr 2018 3:20 PM | Deleted user
    The skirmishes with the Rohingya were just beginning when we were there, and it's hard to believe the extent of human tragedy since. The country is fascinating, with many adventures to be had there. It's unique and ever changing. Thanks for the memories.
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