We flew on AirAsia directlly from Singapore into Yangon. Our flight was at 9.10 am and we were at the airport about 2 and half hour earlier to check in and to enjoy some food and drink at an airport lounge.
We had not eaten any breakfast yet so immediately after we crossed the Singapore Checkpoint at the departure hall, Terminal 1, we zoomed into Plaza Premium Lounge. It was just the place for some light breakfast and coffee.
The food variety was great, I had laksa and congee (my favourite breakfast food) whereas the others went for bread, crossiant etc etc. I disliked airplane food immensely so I always made sure that my tummy was “happily contented” before boarding a plane.
pICKUP BY OUR GUIDE AT yANGON
The flight from Singapore to Yangon was three hours, we flew out of Singapore at 9.10 am and reached Yangon at 10.35am local time. Yangon’s time was 1.5 hour behind Singapore.
We picked up our luggage at the luggage belt and crossed the custom easily. We were out into the arrival hall shortly and almost immediately spotted our Myanmar guide. He was holding a “card” with my name.
Our guide spoke good English and our vehicle was a mini van (MPV) with plentiful of spaces for four of us, our guide and our driver. So far so good.
Before we proceeded with our tour we made our the first and final payment for our trip to our guide. The trip cost was US$490 per person and it covered all transfers (cars, boats, domestic flights), entrance fees to tourist attractions, guide fees and driver fees for the entire eight days and seven nights. We did not take up the options where the agency provided hotel accommodations as we had our own preference. Interestingly after we booked our tour we were not required to put a deposit upfront, Myanmeses were certainly very trusting.
Our payment was completed with “crisp & new” US dollars. I had been informed that in Myanmar old US notes or folded US notes were not accepted by hotels, money changers and businesses.
Chauk Htet Kyit Buddha temple
Chauk Htet Kyit Buddha Temple was 13 km south of the airport. It was also along the route to Yangon city and our was first attraction stop.
Just outside the entrance into the temple, our guide informed us that each time we entered a temple in Myanmar we must take off our shoes and socks. The temple floor were smoothly tiled and felt cool but it was very dusty and in no time our feet was coated with a layer of fine dust. No worries, our guide had plentiful of wet wipes for us later on.
Chauk Htet Kyit Buddha Temple housed a beautiful reclining Buddha. The Buddha had porcelain white complexion, bright red lips, graceful brows and smiling eyes. It was the prettiest (most feminine) I had seen. The Buddha was lying relaxing on his side with his head propped up on one hand.
We made our way slowly around the entire Buddha statue as we listened to our guide detailed explanation. We were not so much into the “historical stories” because it usually went in one ear and then out the other. Mum did not understand English so we took turns translating snippets here and there.
As usual there was a wall murals depicting the life of Budhha from birth to the end, when he achieved Nirvana. This was a story that we had heard over and over again when we visited Buddhist temples regardless of the countries . We were not very attentive to our guide’s narration and hoped he did not feel that we were rude!
At the back of the temple there was a “Merry-go-round” looked alike structure and locals were “bathing” the buddha statues on the pedestal. We too went to “perform” the bathing ritual. To do it “correctly” we had to go to the sector that represented the day of the week which we were born and “bath” the appropriate Buddha Statue.
Bogyoke Aung San Market
Bogyoke Ang San Market was just 7 km south of Chaut Htat Kyi Pagoda. It was a huge local market located in the center of Yangon city.
The perimeter of the market were rows of two/three storey of colonial buildings. We had a map of the market but it was of not much use as it did not indicate the sort of products that would be sold at different sections of the market. The market looked huge so we requested for more time to explore the place.
The ground floor were lined with small antique shops selling old coins, bank-notes, postage stamps and medals. In the middle of the market are jewellers, selling famous Burmese jades and rubies and other precious stones. There were also handicraft shops and clothes stores. We were no “expert” of precious stones and did not want to “risk” buying inferior products so we just “stroll-and-see”.
We found several food stores at the west wing and decided to stop for our first taste of local food at these “local-looking” food stores. The tables were low and we sat on short stools.
Luck was with us as the menu was full of pictures so we ordered by pointing to the items we like. We had fried dumpling, fried assorted vegetable and fried noodle, The food tasted like typical chinese food, slightly on a “sweet ” side. Lunch for four came up to 9500 kyat (SGD9.90, USD7.30) which was pretty reasonable.
After Bogoyoke Aung Sang Market was a relaxing city tour in our MPV. The day was already getting uncomfortably hot so it was more “comfy” to stay in our air-con vehicle and viewed the city. Our guide had also provided us with many bottles of cool mineral water so we were pretty contented laying back, sipping water and listening to his narratives of the various prominent historical buildings in the city center.
In the center of the town was a huge golden pagoda. Surrounding the pagoda was a row of two storey houses and around the houses was a big road. Bascially the Pagoda seemed like it was sitting in a big round about. Our MPV drove around Sule Pagoda a few times so that we could have a closer look of its structures.
Sule Pagoda was built some 2,600 years ago. Though tempted we did not get down of our vehicle to explore Sule Pagoda.We would be visiting the grandest pagoda in Yangon, Swedagon Pagoda, later on, near to sunset time so we did not want to tired ourselves yet.
We only had one evening in Yangon and planned to spend our only sunset timing at Swedagon Pagoda. Our guide/driver drove us to the west gate of Swedagon Pagoda which he claimed was the best location/gate to start our walk into the Pagoda.
Surprisingly the west entrance was not crowded at all. Since it faced the west, the rays of the setting sun casted a golden sheen over its majestic golden entrance structures. My mum, Lin Ying and I were wearing long jeans/pants but somehow I “did not” meet the “entry criteria”.
For whatever reason or rationale, my bottom half had to be “covered up”! I had to pay 5000Kyat (USD$3.85 SGD$5.17) as deposit for a piece of scraf. The scarf was wrapped over my jeans before I was allowed to cross the entrance into the temple. The guide assured me that I would get back my deposit when I returned the scraf. The entrance fee for tourist into the pagoda was 10000Kyat person (USD$7.7, SGD$10.34) (which was already covered in our tour fees).
The entrance was a long corridor. The corridor was lined with rows of golden painted columns and they shined beautifully reflecting the golden rays of the setting sun.
At the end of the corridor was a series of escalators that brought us up to a higher level. It seemed like the pagoda was built on a hill.
The scene that greeted us at the end of a short corridor after stepping off the escalator was amazing. In our sight was hundreds of golden stupas glittering in the sun. Every stupa trying to out-shine the other. It was an “overwhelming” sight, a sight that” brought a lump to my throat”.
The Shwedagon Pagoda was the most sacred Buddhist stupa in Myanmar and one of the most important religious reliquary monuments in the world. We started from the western side of the pagoda and walked clockwise to the northern side, eastern side, southern side and finally back to the western side. There were many locals sitting around, walking about, praying while waiting for the sun to set.
Entry into Shwedagon Pagoda was free for locals which probably accounted for the high volume of locals in the Pagoda ground. Though they did not have to pay for the entrance fee (which went to the upkeep of the Pagaoda) they were the ones that donates the gold/gold leaves that kept the stupas shining through the centuries.
Shwedagon Pagoda was a gorgeous when the sun set. The main stupa was even more prominently “golden”. Our guide lead us to a specific corner in the ground and from there we could see the shimmering blue light reflected from a huge diamond dangling in a “basket-like” structure sitting on the tip of the golden stupa!
By the time we were done with Shwedagon Pagoda it just after 7 pm. We got our guide to drive us to a shopping center, Kantharyar Centre, which was just 200 m from our hotel. Surprisingly the mall was quite deserted but luckily for us the stores were still open.
There were many restaurants and cafes and after looking about we ended up in “Black Canyon”. Its “Brown Sugar Bubbles” looked interesting and the foods looked good.
We ordered some local foods, pasta, and “fish & chips” (without chips), desert and coffee. The bill came up to 50600Kyat (USD$39, SGD$52). Price wise the meal for four was not very expensive but for a third world country the price was rather steep. We supposed we were dining in a shopping mall with posh setup so the price could not be that low.
Our stay was at “Esperado Lake View Hotel”, which I had booked on Booking.com. We selected the hotel for a couple of reasons. It oversaw the lake with Karaweik Palace in view and across the lake in a distance we could also see Shwedagon Pagoda. We picked two rooms that faced the lake and paid more for them. The cost of the two twin rooms was 178019 Kyat (USD$122.5, SGD$183) for one night and the stay came with breakfast.
Our rooms were large with full wall height glass window facing the lake. The furnishing was cosy and modern and the ensuite bathrooms were clean and spacious!
At night we looked of our window and were able to see Shwedagon Pagoda shining “goldenly” somewhere across the lake. Nearer to our hotel we also saw a night view of Karaweik Palace. It was a pity that we had only one day/evening in Yangon, if we had another evening we would certainly reserved a “dinner” at Karaweik Palace which came with Myanmese cultural dance/show.
Night view of Kandawgyi Lake as seen from our rooms
Hotels near Kandawgyi Lake
There were many hotels in the vicinity of Kandawgyi Lake. We chose to stay near the lake especially at “Esperado Lakeview Hotel” because it was within walking distance to Karaweik Palace. We had only one day in Yangon and with the limited time we did not put Karaweik Palace as one of our “must visit” attractions. We thought by staying in a hotel near Karaweik Palace would gave us an opportunity to drop in for a visit when we were back in our hotel. Unfortunately there was no time at all and our “Karaweik Palace” visits were limited to viewing it from our hotel.
Breakfast at esperado Lakeview hotel
Our room prices included breakfast which was served in “Esperado Rooftop Bar and Restaurant.” It was a buffet breakfast with some local fares and bread, egg, cake, etc.
Breakfast certainly came with a view. Unfortunately the day was rather mistly and the view was blurry.
Coffee break at Yangon Airport
Our flight out of Yangon to Inle Lake was at 10.15 am. We needed to be at the airport one hour before flight time. We purposely chose a late morning flight so as not to have wake up too early and to give us time to enjoy our breakfast. We were on holiday! No ungodly early “wake up hour” whenever possible!
Our guide picked us up at about 8.30 am at the hotel and transferred us to the airport. Checking in was pretty easy and fast and on entering the departure hall we still had 50 minutes to spare. Great time for an early more coffee break at Gloria Jean’s Coffees. Holiday meant “indulgence” when possible.
Two cakes and two cups of cafe latte came up to 21850Kyat (USD$16.70, SGD$22.50). The price was not cheap but still relatively cheaper than the price in Singapore.
Flight from Yangon to Inle Lake
The flight from Yangon to Hohe (Inle Lake) took about an hour. It was a domestic flight on a small plane. Surprisingly we were served drink and pastries during the flight.