DAY 1

Apr 12 2018

Changi Airport Singapore

SingaporeSG

Yangon International Airport

Myanmar (Burma)MM

We got our SIM cards at the MPT at the airport for 5000 kyats each that gives us 2.5GB of 3G data (valid 30 days). That’s actually pretty great a deal so we decided against the ultra budget option of sharing a single SIM card as a personal hotspot (which works but seems to need setting up at the counter) and instead got one each. That’s going to be plentyyyy of data for 4 days. The staff at the MPT counter spoke good English and was very helpful with all the setting up(:

Yangon International Airport

Myanmar (Burma)MM

The Lodge Yangon @ China Town

Myanmar (Burma)MM

And finally we decided to head to the Kandawgyi Lake but our grab driver canceled on us! Grab definitely doesn't sound very popular there but throughout our trip we had been using Grab to just get price estimates so we won't get ripped off.

We decided to walk around the hotel vicinity for a bit to see what we could find but honestly the heat got the better of us. It legit killed us. I kept repeating that the heat is unreal and it truly was because it was a very dehydrating scorch that I've never experienced in a long time. DEAD.

The Lodge Yangon @ China Town

Myanmar (Burma)MM

Kandawgyi Lake

Myanmar (Burma)MM

Kandawgyi Lake

Myanmar (Burma)MM

Shwedagon Pagoda

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Shwedagon Pagoda

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Yangon Night Market

Myanmar (Burma)MM

We were finally starving and desperately in need of some food. The night Market we headed to turned out to be a place meant for food (and unexpectedly, barely anything else)

Yangon Night Market

Myanmar (Burma)MM

The Lodge Yangon @ China Town

Myanmar (Burma)MM

DAY 2

Apr 13 2018

Early day! It was really hard to get us up at 3.30am and trying to all get ready by 4. It was the first day of the Thingyan festival and at what seemed to us like an unearthly hour so we were a little afraid that we would have trouble getting a taxi to the airport for our early flight to Bagan. But as we walked out the hotel door, we discovered that the city was very much alive before 5am and there were plenty of taxis around. We took the elevator down to the reception to find the receptionists jolting awake from our arrival 😅 he eventually helped us hail a taxi but only after at least 5 drivers declined to send us to the airport! Thank goodness there were plenty of taxis and it wasn't long before we got one willing to take us.

The Lodge Yangon @ China Town

Myanmar (Burma)MM

Yangon International Airport

Myanmar (Burma)MM

So we got ahead of ourselves because we were anticipating traffic issues and weren't sure what sort of queues and wait times to expect at the domestic terminal but we breezed through everything. They weren't even particular about weighing our carry-on bags and checking them for liquids etc. Nice. So we decided to go find ourselves some breakfast to pass the time.

Yangon International Airport

Myanmar (Burma)MM

Nyaung-U Airport

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Nyaung-U Airport

Myanmar (Burma)MM

Zfreeti Hotel

Myanmar (Burma)MM
Although our hotel, Zfreeti Hotel, rents electric bicycles for 3000 kyat, they weren't available because of Thingyan Festival - I suspect for fear that they could be damaged or that riders may be vulnerable to accidents during the water festival?

We were then left with 3 options: 1) Walk 2) Taxi for the whole day or 3) Rent E-Scooters from the shop right outside Zfreeti.

Option 1 was much too ambitious in the heat. And while Option 2 was the best way to keep us dry and comfortable, we really wanted the full Bagan experience and also the flexibility of having our own bikes.

Then we decided to go try the E-Scooters (quoted 7000 kyat for the whole day) but they feel almost no different from the larger motorbikes! They were smooth and easy to ride but making turns freaked the hell out of me. We eventually decided against it because we knew that our safety was at stake! They went at speeds 30-40 mph and the acceleration was way too sensitive for me to confidently say I can get around the rest of the day on and sharing the roads with other cars and horse carriages.

I'd probably ride an E-Scooter in a more controlled environment but in Bagan where it is sandy, the roads were unpaved and did not have directional lanes + the co-occurence of Thingyan where kids were relentless in their water attacks on motorists... we regretfully forwent the more adventurous option and decided on a driver to take us around the whole day. Such a pity the hotel's electric bikes weren't available!

So that driver was going to cost 30000 kyats as quoted but at the end of the day, the manager (not driver) insisted he meant 30 USD and asked for 40000 kyats. 🤦‍♀️That costed more than what our hotel offered. Suffice to say, we didn't return the next day for their offer to Mt Popa (54000 kyats versus 45000 kyats arranged by hotel).

We finally just wanted to take a break and retreat. We decided to head to their market to see if we could get swimsuits so we could swim in the hotel pool.

So that's our more up close attack by some kids at the market! I only wish I had a water gun so I could attack them too!!!

Thennnn we gave up... And because the Bagan Museum that we wanted to visit was closed for Thingyan, and we felt we have seen most of the major temples, we decided to just head back to the hotel until we can catch the sunset.

Pity the hot air balloon season is just over and our sunset experience doesn't include watching balloons over the skies!

DAY 3

Apr 14 2018

After packing up, we checked out and got on our ride to Mt Popa! We decided to have our luggages put in the car rather than left at the hotel so we can head straight to the airport. The hotel receptionist was really nice and probably foresaw that Mt Popa wasn't gonna take a lot of time before our flight and offered that we could return to the hotel to chill and shower if we wanted to, even if we've checked out. But we were still afraid that we wouldn't make our flight, not knowing what to expect of Thingyan traffic!

Zfreeti Hotel

Myanmar (Burma)MM

Mt Popa

Myanmar (Burma)MM

But as fate would have it, our driver stopped and told us that the petrol was no good. Probably too much water got into it (Idk... What happens when it rains then?).

He wanted to be safe and called for another car to come get us because it would be dangerous if the car really broke down as we are going up mountain roads.

And so we just wanted for the other car to come. We were in the car, in the heat though with windows half down, for at least 45 minutes. 😐 Well it wasn't too bad other than the heat and bearing with a stench after a herd of cows came grazing on the trash right beside us and pooping all over 🐂🐃. Throughout the whole wait I was just worried that we would never get to our destination but I'm glad the car finally came!

Mt Popa

Myanmar (Burma)MM

Nyaung-U Airport

Myanmar (Burma)MM

Thankfully it didn't stay that awful...? There was probably an earlier flight and an hour after just being on our phones, more people appeared and more importantly, a cafe opened. It had only a few items available from the menu but we needed a snack and a drink regardless.

When the check in counter finally opened 1.5 hours before our flight, we were told it was free-seating and we were eager to get through the immigration gates ASAP so we could get some air-conditioning because it was just so warm.

But when we tried to get through, we saw the immigration officer at the bag checks asleep. Her colleague called out to wake her up several times but she was not roused 🤣 we were then told to wait a bit more before we enter.

Finally now on the plane back to Yangon! Started boarding the flight 6.30pm (for a 6.20pm) flight through a departure gate that seemed to be shared with many other flights so you had to listen closely to the flight number announced to make sure you board the right plane and don't just follow the crowd. They'd check your boarding pass but it doesn't seem very thorough and seemed to be just glancing whether it's the right airline.

Nyaung-U Airport

Myanmar (Burma)MM

Yangon International Airport

Myanmar (Burma)MM

City Hotel Yangon

Myanmar (Burma)MM

We got to our hotel to find that most massage joints are closed, not because it's getting late, but because of Thingyan. The hotel reception seemed surprised that we would even think of doing a massage during Thingyan 😂 oh well. It has been a pretty simple day.

DAY 4

Apr 15 2018

Alright. So the day started rather frustrating. We didn't realise how hard it was to find somewhere to eat. We were also up rather late and missed hotel breakfast (which we had to pay extra for anyway... though a buffet breakfast was going to only be 3000 kyat). We looked out our window and saw everything closed - just trucks filled with rowdy teenage boys splashing water and pumping horns.

So we didn't know where to go. We wanted to check out Nourish Cafe which is a social enterprise and had nice reviews but found it was closed (thankfully that was indicated on their Facebook page, it's actually hard to find such updated information!)

A quick Google search on what's open during Thingyan was not particularly encouraging but still gave us some leads. We thought that Rangoon Tea House, which was also very well-reviewed and had very tempting dishes. When we found out that it was a mere 5 minute walk from our hotel, we were down and already craving some of their dishes and the selection of tea!

That 5 minute journey turned out rather... emotional. With Thingyan going on, I was expecting to get wet but wasn't ready to be soaked. The mere 5 minute walk left us very vulnerable... The thing was, there is a lot of spraying and splashing or water in a joyful and open way, but my first soak was jarring because a dude snuck up behind me and poured a pail of water over my head.

I will not hide that my instinct was one of reflexive cursing. I do wish I was able to embrace and engage with this cultural celebration more readily but it took me a while. I only wish I had a water gun to attack them with and perhaps join in the fun. I'd engage in a water fight if I was prepared because it's simply not in my nature to take things passively!

Eventually, only after really ensuring that my electronics and my passport was in water-resistant bags, I was ready to embrace it because I knew I'd eventually still be a vulnerable open target if we got on the circular train.

Well, in that initial frustration, all I wanted to do was get to a safe place, the Rangoon Tea House, and was afraid we'd be denied entry if soaked. I was just starving. Unfortunately, we got there to find it closed. We were exasperated. Especially because that mere 5 minutes to somewhere closed made me feel so attacked. There was also frustration amongst us because Melchan felt that we shouldn't be frustrated and should wholly embrace the celebration, which I wanted to as well although it didn't stop my reflexive combative mode when someone sneaks up behind me rather than joyfully and openly pouring water on me. So let's just say it was a rather emotional few minutes that took some emotional regulation before accepting the situation.

After resting on a bench outside Rangoon Tea House, we found somewhere else that could be open over Thingyan. It was merely across the street (still 3 minutes of feeling vulnerable) and appeared to be in a historical colonial building called the Sofaer Building.

After some exploring and asking the staff, we were disappointed to find that the circular train had already stopped running (it was about 1.15pm). While disappointed, it wasn't a wasted trip. It was clearly much less busy because of Thingyan but there were still many stalls by the tracks. And just the architecture, local bustle and the vibe of the Yangon Central Railway station was fascinating in itself. I really felt like it was such a pity to have to leave without getting to be on the circular train and really wanted to just soak in the atmosphere of the station for longer.

Bye Myanmar, we wish we got to spend more time to really explore the country if not for Thingyan and I know Melchan left her heart there too and will be back.

Yangon International Airport

Myanmar (Burma)MM

Changi Airport Singapore

SingaporeSG
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