I arrived in Yangon Myanmar (originally Rangoon) at about 6.30 p.m., the place was already dark as the clocks had changed again. Ten dollars got me the twenty kilometers into the center of town and to the backpackers. I was already surprised about the size of the place and how modern it was, i was expecting somewhere another step back compared to other Asian cities i had visited but not at all. Apparantly Myanmar was undergoing a bit of a transformation with lots of development, power cuts were quite frequent as the grid couldn’t keep up with demand. The people seemed instantly friendly and the taxi driver very pleased to hear that it was my first time there, even giving me a guided tour as we went past various sights.
As tourism hadn’t fully taken off yet there isn’t a glut of accomodation and it isn’t as cheap as other asian cities. I could normally find cheap hotel rooms in most Asian cities for about 20 dollars to include breakfast but i had to resort to a newly opened backpackers hostel which gave you a cubicle in a dormitory for 15 dollars. Owned and run by a very enthusiastic man originally from Singapore it was a wealth of information and well worth my first few days in Myanmar.
My first stop was the impressive Shwedagon pagoda, completed in the 6th century it stands 99 meters high and is gold gilded. It is one of the most sacred sites in Myanmar for the local people –
A day of pagodas and temples in Asian heat deserves a reward, the local Myanmar beer tasted good and at 2 dollars a bottle was good value !!
I had a tour around downtown the next day which showed off some of the old colonial buildings and hotels. The Strand hotel is particularly well known but at about 500 dollars a night was slightly out of my budget, i’ll stick to the 15 dollars a night cubicle thank you very much. I did pop in to have a look around and popped to the bar, the cheapest thing on the drinks menu was 3 dollars for a very small glass of beer but it came with some peanuts, i ended up being charged 4 dollars but i think i got off lightly looking at the other prices.
I think probably due to a previous curfew whilst under military rule the capital city quietens down early and the restaurants are normally shut by 9 p.m. Street life goes on but nowhere particularly for the tourist to hang out.
I left Rangon and headed east out to Bago on the local train. Somebody had already described it to me as ‘hilariously bumpy’ and they weren’t wrong !! I splashed out an upper class seat and the two hour journey cost me a dollar !! The carriages must have been fifty years old and so were the cobwebs, pull down shutters, no A/C and people spitting out the windows completes the picture.
Old locomotive arrival –