Several days ago, I finally made it to a country that has been near the top of my ‘To Visit’ list for quite some time: Myanmar. Despite quite the ordeal in getting everything prepared (visa, money, etc.) I caught my flight and made it through immigration with no hassle. Along with a few Finnish travelers (one of whom I seem to run into everywhere I go), I caught a cab across the city to the downtown area where all the guesthouses are. Our plan was to get there early and find a nice, cheap place to spend the night.
The problem was, all the places we were checking were fully booked! I didn’t realize when I booked my flight, but January 4th is the Burmese Independence Day, so hotels were booked to the brim with travelers. We each ended up finding different places… but I think I got the worst out of the bunch: White House Hotel. It was cheap, that was good at least. However, I shared a room with 7 other travelers (not so bad) and a host of bed bugs and mosquitoes that seemed to materialize out of the walls. It was a pretty miserable night and I couldn’t leave fast enough the next morning.
Independence Day Festivities
A big problem for someone like myself is the difficulty in booking accommodation ahead of time. Very few guesthouses and hotels have any sort of online presence; reservations are done in person, over the phone, or through a travel agent. In the busy season like this, the few hotels and guesthouses in an area tend to get booked up pretty quick. In a place like Thailand, this doesn’t seem to happen so much, simply because there is so much more infrastructure to support an influx of tourists. While this is a disadvantage Myanmar has when it comes to tourism, it also is one of my favorite things about this place. It’s not very touristy.
Exploring the city the past few days has been quite an enjoyable experience for me. The architecture alternates between shining golden pagodas, crumbling colonial style townhouses, and dreary concrete buildings packed tight with people. The people here are even more diverse. There are so many different ethnicities and cultures present in this city, it’s easy to forget where the heck you are in the world.
The food is delicious too. Of course, I can always find something I enjoy. I love food too much! I would say Thai food still rates a little higher on my scale, but the food I’ve had here is right up there.
Yangon also has some really cool sites to see. The most prominent of these is the massive Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s huge, sparkly, and covered in gold. Makes for a pretty impressive picture.
One of my favorite places was Kandawgyi Lake. It’s right across the train tracks from downtown and offers a peaceful, verdant setting to relax and enjoy a stroll. Trust me, when I say verdant, I really mean verdant. The water is a shocking green color… so I wouldn’t recommend swimming…
The dominant sight at the park surrounding the lake is the Karaweik. It’s a big… boat… swan… palace… thingy. See?
While walking around the park, I was approached countless times by locals and asked for pictures. A few times I got my camera out and snagged one too. It was an entertaining experience and a little embarrassing at the same time. I kinda felt like one of those stupid lap dogs with big pretty eyes that get passed around for photo ops and shake a lot… Oh… sorry Bella! (My parents’ dog… mwahaha).
All in all, I’m enjoying my time in Myanmar so far. It’s a little more expensive than I planned, but everything else is going swimmingly. I’m looking forward to getting outside the city and enjoying some of the other things this country has to offer!