Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Myanmar 2015 - Yangon and Bagan 5D Itinerary

WELCOME TO YANGON
Last June 11, 2015 my friends and I packed our bags to fly to Myanmar for the first time. We were able to book a very rare sale ("Economy Super Sale") with Singapore Airlines which cost us about $250 (P11350) per person 2 way. (Comes with complete meals for the 4 flights, roomy seats, 30kg luggage allowance, and in flight entertainment!!!) This is much cheaper compared to the airfare of Cebu Pacific which totals to P15000 at least. And Singapore Airlines is famed to have the best economy class in the world. We were really lucky. We booked a flight from June 11 to June 17, with June 11 and 17 spent in Singapore (our layover destination). 
BIRD attack
It takes about 6 hours to get to Myanmar from the Philippines, but there are no direct flights. We had to stop at Singapore for a few hours. For June 11, we left Manila around 19:00 (delayed flight) and arrived in Singapore at around 22:20 PM. We had our checkin luggage sent ahead of us to Yangon, since we did not want to carry around our bulky luggages when we sleep at Changi Airport. Our flight to Yangon is scheduled to depart at 7:55 AM, so we had about 9 hours to rest/eat/sleep in the airport. Originally we planned to sleep at the Ambassador Transit Hotel in the airport, average cost per head is SGD65 for 6 hours. Sadly all stations of the transit hotel was full that day since some were under renovation. LESSON: Book ahead of time, Changi Airport has a lot of travelers coming in and out.

Our flight to Singapore from Manila was delayed but the flight itself compensated for it. I barely noticed the time with all the happenings inside the plane. We were first seated and served hot towels! Love the warm towels to relax my nerves. Soon after we were flying. We were all given individual menu cards that contain all the drinks, food course available. It was so fancy. Take note this is ECONOMY! After selecting our dishes, I focused on the beautiful personal screen in front of me. I watched Chappie while dinner was served. Dinner was japanese style chicken salad + braised fillet of fish + light caramel mousse with chocolate + bread roll and butter. It was amazing! After watching Chappie, I was laughing my head off with Friends the series. Before I know it, we were landing and I did not want the flight to end just yet (which is very rare for me, Singapore Airlines felt like home). 
Singapore Airlines is love <3
Upon landing at Changi, we went straight to information got ourselves free internet passwords, got our complimentary SGD20 voucher each (make sure to ask information if your connecting flight is eligible for the free voucher), and went to look for the transit hotel. As mentioned before, everything was booked so we had to look for an area where we can sleep. After looking for almost an hour, we discovered an almost abandoned like gate...E11 at Terminal 2. We were so happy that there were so many leaning chairs to sleep on, plus there were just about 4 people sleeping there. There were still 10-15 seats left unoccupied. We washed up and went straight to a chair and claimed it. I slept uncomfortably but was woken by R telling me to change seats, he told me that our stuff were infested by small cockroaches in just 5 minutes. It was a very cruel 5 hours, we all barely slept with the hard misfit chairs. I even had cockroach bites, my legs were itchy when I woke up. By 5:30 AM, we were already walking around the terminal looking for breakfast. We ate some Toast Set at Wang's. The Toast set came with 2 toasts, 2 soft boiled eggs and coffee, all for SGD 4.90. I used our complimentary SGD20 voucher. Soon after it was boarding time again!
The secret of Changi Airport
Love Toast!
Flight to Myanmar was 3 hours and Myanmar is delayed 1 hour from Manila/Singapore. Again we had the all star treatment, hot towels, complete meal, and inflight entertainment. We arrived 9:20 AM on Yangon International Airport. When we got to the airport we went to the money changer and was able to change USD 50 as pocket money for the trip. We changed USD200 so that we get the best rate of 1115 kyat per 100 USD. When we got out our driver was there to pick us up, he was driving a large van. We had so much room and it was a comfy 1 hour ride to the Grand United DownTown. We booked an all inclusive tour package with Pro Niti Travel and Tours. We paid USD 220 (P10000) per person for a 2 night hotel accommodation with breakfast, VIP JJExpress bus tickets to bagan and back to yangon, air-conditioned car for tour, english speaking guide, entrance fees for all places, sunset boat in Bagan, toll fees and fuel, and abundant water and wet towels. Food and visa processing is excluded. This is really a great package. We paid 40% of our total package here in the Philippines, and paid the rest 60% in person when we got to Yangon. If you will go to Myanmar, this is best travel company you can book with. They do not disappoint. They are very good in english, prompt, and smart. You can reach out to Mr. Min Than Htut directly by min@pronititravel.com. Not needing to pay anything anymore during the trip is very helpful. I really recommend you to book with Pro Niti and have a convenient trip. I appreciate their private large cold vans, their unlimited water (BIG DEAL in Myanmar since its too hot), and wet towels.

Note: Myanmar has bad internet connection. Speed is very slow. Be prepared. Food = go with Chinese Fried Rice.
Singapore Airlines, you are now my chosen airline
Arrival at Yangon International Airport

Going back to Grand United DownTown, we were given 2 rooms for checkin; later that day our other friends will arrive and will checkin to another room. All in all we were 7 in the party. The room was surprisingly spacious and clean. It had clean sheets, complimentary water, and slippers. The toilet was clean and had good warm water flow. We rested until about 2 PM when we went out to look for lunch. For lunch, we went to the chinese restaurant across called Oriental House Restaurant. We ate 2 of their fried rice and 3 of their home made ice cream. We spent 7100 (USD7) kyat for 3 people. We then spent the rest of the day walking around the streets taking photos. We were amazed the INTENSE HEAT (it was really really hot that we kept sweating), took photos of the different misshaped buildings, and played with the flocks of pigeons. 
Grand United Down Town
Coffee, Water, Tea. They have a refrigerator.

2 Beds - Clean Sheets



Yummy Jade Fried Rice (upper right)
Nice House Feels
Gold
One of the parks nearby
City streets

Bugs at the Market
Soon after our friends arrived at the hotel, where we also met with Mr. Min Than Htut (the owner of Proniti Travels). He met with us so that we can pay the 60% of our bill directly to him. Then he accompanied us to the nearby local market, where we saw local goods like fried crickets, large fruits, and other local cooked dishes. Min brought us to a street that sells a lot of shabu-shabu. But since the place was crowded and packed, we opted to just eat dinner at the hotel. Min then left us to go back to the hotel ourselves. 

Back to the hotel, we had a chinese fried rice as our dinner. Sadly the service on the hotel was not good, in fact I do not recommend it. They got our orders all wrong and serving time was way too long. Spent 8000 kyat for our (r and my) meal. But in any case, it was a good time to chill and get to know whats the latest happening with our friends. 

Next day, we woke up and had our complimentary breakfast buffet at the roof top. We left about 9 AM. We got picked up by our van driver and our tour guide (i cannot pronounce his name right :( so i dont know how its spelled)  for our stay in Yangon. Our first stop was the China Morning Colorful Market where we were exposed to the different local ingredients and materials consumed by the myanmar people. The most interesting was the Tanaka cream that they put in their faces. This was used to protect the skin from the sun rays and keep it pretty as said by a local vendor. My friends bought 2 kinds, the ready made one: cream already in bottle (1000 kyat) and a tanaka bark with sandstone (1000 kyat). Next stop was the famous Shwedagon Pagoda. This was my very first Myanmar Pagoda visit and I was really amazed. We spent a good time here taking photos and our guide explaining to us the Myanmar culture. One of the great memories here was the "birthday guardian". In their culture, every "day" has a corresponding guardian and Shwedagon has a "washing" statue for each guardian. So what people do is that they pour water over their guardian to wish for good luck etc.. My birthday falls on a sunday so my guardian is a Garuda
My statue
They also have other statues like the one  for asking a baby and such, where the baby statue is filled with gold leaves on either the cheeks (asking for a baby girl) or the crotch (asking for a baby boy). Then there is also a section wherein the Shwedagon Bell construction was discussed, it's amazing how much gold and jewels are used there. YOU HAVE TO VISIT THIS PAGODA both day and night. :) 
Entrance
Walk Path
Guardians
Reclining Buddha
Happy to Travel
Love to Pose with the Pagoda
Lunch
Resto Lunch
Resto Lunch
We also dropped by shortly at the Chauk Htet Kyi Reclining Buddha, this is the biggest Buddha I have seen. The look is definitely humbler compared to the other countries I have been too, but never the less...its amazing to see the Buddha marks on the feet in great detail. We also went to Kandawgi Lake to see how people watch the football match, we ate our lunch nearby here. We also passed by a local market for more souvenirs. Myanmar is very abundant in gold and jade, we managed to buy Jade bangle for my grandmother for $60. It took some good haggling but in the end she gave in. My grandmother was so happy with it, that I regret not buying more for my mother. Since it started to rain hard, we just passed by the City Hall and Independence Monument via car. We then proceeded to the bus station for our ride to Bagan. We got our inclusive tickets from our guide and waited for the JJExpress Bus loading. It was a big bus and cozy since it has enough room to stretch. We left at around 8 PM and we arrived at Bagan the next day 5 AM. Throughout the trip, we had 3 stops for food and biobreaks. We ate lunch at around 10 PM when the bus stopped at one of the food stops. All the toilets of the bus stops were clean and had many cubicles. I was able to wash up and brush my teeth after I ate dinner. It was pleasant enough and we saved on hotel accommodation.
Counter and waiting lounge
Patiently waiting

Loading the Bus
Food Stop
Chinese Fried Rice!!!!
Food Section
Fried Rice with Cashew

Before I go to the next day itinerary, let me just remind my dear friends about some things on Myanmar temples. They are very strict with attire (most strict I have been too), all pagodas require visitors to remove socks, shoes, slippers. No shorts and any revealing clothes. Please be prepared for this by bringing with you wet ones or towels to wipe your feet after. Also make sure to wear comfortable clothes since its really hot here, I suggest wearing the breathable pants sold here. Do not lose the sticker given to you by your guide when you enter the pagodas or temples.
Reminders: Inappropriate for Temples and Pagodas
They light these up during the night


Trusty shades, wet towel, socks, shoes
Passes for the different Pagodas
Next day June 14, we arrived at Bagan early in the morning and were flocked with many tour guides at the bus station. Seriously they were about 50-100 tour guides surrounding the bus that it was scary to go down. Luckily our guide Mr Thut was very smart that he stayed on a clear ground that it was easy to spot him with a paper with my friend's name written. So we traveled via private van from the bus station to our hotel Thande Nyaung U. Our guide gave us 2 hours to rest and wash up, then it was time for another visit at their local market, to see what villagers buy and sell. 
Market Selfie
Leaf that they chew as a snack w/ tobacco
Slippers
Straw Goods
Market Carts
Love!
Relics
Group Shot
Then we went to see the golden stupa of Shwezigon pagoda. It was also beautiful. Pagoda's are bigger and usually surrounded by stupas cause the pagoda itself encases very important relics like Buddha's hair, teeth, cane, etc.. We then went to see the nearby Wetkyi-in Gubyaukgi temple with its jataka mural paintings. Then Htilominlo temple to see its plaster carvings and glazed sandstone decorations. All throughout, your respect for them will grow since you will see their devotion to Buddha. His life stories and teachings depicted in many ways and forms. Myanmar people believed on reincarnation and the power of good works. They prefer to live humbly and give all their riches to temples and the needy so that they can pay for the wrong doings and not get a bad next life. It was really awesome to know more about Buddha and his life story, apparently the latest Buddha was a prince who was pretold to be a Buddha. His king father tried to surround him with worldly pleasures so that he will be a king not a Buddha, but eventually the heavens sent 4 apparitions to the prince and showed him suffering. The prince then went on a 10 year meditation and became enlightened after. He then lived to share how he reach his enlightened state. Myanmar people believe that once the 5th Buddha comes, the world will end and all reincarnations will cease to continue. You will be stuck on the state you are in, unless Buddha helps you walk his way. We had lunch at a local restaurant and went back to our hotel to check in. Since it was hot, our guide gave us some time to rest before we proceeded to the next temple which is Ananda temple
Buddha
Buddha Life Story

Ananda temple is one of the oldest temples and it has a unique Buddha image with expression changing depending on where you stand inside the temple. It can smile or frown. This temple is very interesting since you see the differences of the Buddha in terms of his ear lobe length, neck, and even wardrobe. Apparently, Buddha was drawn differently depending on the year it was created. Next we went to Thatbyinnyu via horse cart, it was a pleasant ride since we get to see lots of stupa and sceneries, got many great shots here. We even climbed stupas just to get shots (with approval from locals). 
Cart
Love the wind behind my back
Cause we climb
Then lastly we went to Dhammayangi temple for its remarkable brickwork. We went atop of it and took awesome breathtaking photos, but caution since its bricks...it became too hot to step on. Watch out for this. Lastly we rode a jetty for a slow cruise down the Irrawaddy River to see the sunset. We went back to the Hotel for our own free time. We had dinner at a nearby restaurant and proceeded to Shwezigon pagoda via foot since we wanted to see it at night. It was really pretty and we had enough time to take photos before they closed it at 9/10 PM. We got back to the hotel on our own and slept for our 8AM call time.
What is inside?
Buddha
2 Buddha

Posing
Red Bricks
All aboard
us by the water
Posing 101
At Night
Next day June 15, we had our complimentary breakfast at the hotel. It was great and I loved their yogurt w/ honey. Heavy good meal for a long day. We went to the rural village of Minnanthu first to see how the locals produce the "Lon-gee" (long skirt for all gender), cigar, and even silvery. I and R bought 2 Lon-Gee for our souvenir. Htut then walked us around the village showing us how they smith, harvest, and even get water. There was even a plant leaf that is used by the villagers to clean their teeth. It was soooo cool! There is a funny memory here since the plants around the area are actually poisonous and we didnt even know until Htut told us when we were about to leave the place. I was wearing slippers this time O_O. He said that Myanmar people are already used to the poison that it doesnt affect them anymore. 
Village tour
Cotton. He showed us many plants.
Smith Wares
Silverworks
Tobacco Gift by a Grandma
How they make threads
Threads
End products
Me w/ Longee
Tobacco making granma
Then we went exploring! We visited several more temples and stopas. 
Laymyathnar monastery complex (where we saw how monks lived and ate), Phayathonsu, and Nandamannya temples. We had lunch at local restaurant nearby and rest at the hotel for 2 hours (pack and sleep). We then continued to see a traditional lacquer ware store that showed us how these fine wares are made. Now I understood why they came at such a price, it takes too much time for a piece to get completed. We then went to see Manuha temple, Nanpaya built with the sandstone, and Gubyauk Gyi temple (Myinkaba). Htut brought us to a snack shop and treated us to local snacks, I ate a lot! It was nice to know things about our guide. He talked about his past work in Dubai and what he does on a normal day. Apparently Myanmar people are very conservative and only drink out with friends... they do not indulge in malls or karaoke or anything excessive. Checked out at our hotel. After that, he took us to the bus station at 5PM so that we will not rush. We ate dinner at one of the local canteens in the bus station and rode the bus at 8 PM. Same as before, the bus took stops for food and biobreaks. By 6 AM we were at Yangon. 
Us with the golden stupa
Over the edge
Holding on
Its beautiful from afar
Puppeteer
Workers creating the lacquer wares
Temples for Monks
Higher than it looks
Stupa
Next day June 16, our guide before was the one who fetched us at the bus station. There was confusion on where we will be picked up so we were panicking for 5-10 minutes. Then our driver found us. We were brought to a local tea house for breakfast. Then we did a 50 mile ride to Bago. Upon reaching Bago, we went to Htauk Kyant World War 2 Cemetery to see the soldiers who died their before. It was very serene and beautiful. We went to Kyat Khat Wine Monastery and saw how monks lived. Surprised to see 3 year old kids here. We were told that monks survived solely on donations and they cannot refuse a donation regardless of what it is. They live to study and share Buddha's ways to people that is why people give them donations. Ate lunch at a local restaurant. Went to Kanbaw Za Thardi Palace which was biggest Palace during Second Myanmar dynasty. It was so big that only one palace was restored, all the rest were developed into residence for other people. All posts were made of teak wood. Hin Thar Gone Pagoda. Lastly went to Small Village to learn more about daily routines of local people and see 19 feet long spirit Snake. It was believed that the monk who brought the snake to the village had a dream about the snake asking the monk to bring her to the village. The snake is still alive but the monk already did of old age. It was very spooky when I was there, seeing the spirit snake lady statue staring into my eyes. There was even a ritual being prepared wherein you can experience being before a person possessed by the spirit, you just need to give donations depending on the spirit being invited. Our guide told us that some people play pretend to be possessed. Before we drove back to Yangon, we drove by the Kyaik Pun four facing Buddha images. It was very huge that you no longer needed to go down. We were brought to the airport for our flight to singapore. Our flight was at 17:30 and our arrival in singapore will be at 22:00. We bought some souvenirs in the airport (very expensive, make sure to buy at the city!),and ate a light meal on the airport cafe. It was a steady flight and I enjoyed it with all the free meals and comfy flight. Before i know it we have landed in Singapore and we took the train to Bugis, and walked to our hostel: Five Stones Hostel. We had to remove our shoes prior to getting in the hostel, but I appreciated that. We checked in, took a shower at the common shower room, and packed our stuff for tomorrow's flight. We slept at around 2 AM. We booked a 8 people room even though we were just 7 since we wanted privacy (paid P5,492.87 only through Agoda), it was very tight but we all had ample bed bunk space and cabinets so it was fine for a one night stay. They had great toilets, the beds were clean, and the lobby/reception area was very neat. They even have hiking, biking, and boat tours...I will definitely stay here again when I go back to Singapore. On the living room, they have series sets, game consoles, books, and board games. Many backpackers stay here.
Breakfast place for locals
Fried Rice again!

Site Logo

Snake and her spirit look
The monk who brought the snake to the village


Monks carrying their lunch
Lunch Hall
Their daily lunch
They line up into 1 line
Abbot
One of the grandest palaces in Myanmar
Throne room
Relics
Only one section was restored
Big 4 faced buddha
Tombstones
Only cafe in the airport
5 Stones Hallway
Merchandise for Sale
FIVESTONES <3
Last day June 17, our flight back to Manila was at 19:25 so we had only a few hours in singapore. We opted to have breakfast at the hostel since it was free. We had toast and cereals. Then we took the train to Orchard and went on our separate ways. Me and R went to H&M, Giordano, Toy stores, food courts and eventually went back to the hostel at 4 PM to pack up. On the way, we bought Magnum Infinity which is insanely expensive. But I got fooled by advertising since the packaging was so pretty and its for the sea games. Taste was really bad though, did not enjoy it. So we packed and was able to get to arrive at the airport at around 6 PM. Enough time to buy some jerky with our free vouchers and get my GST tax refund. By 7 we were at the plane. Had a great flight and enjoyed my Friends watching. :D

Photos will be posted soon enough (I hope!)



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