February 13, 2017

Arrival. Airport hall. Money Exchange. Dollars for Kyats (Be careful, you can exchange maximum of 100 dollars per person. However, more stalls with a very similar exchange rate are along the way, so two of you can exchange up to 1000 dollars. But that would mean an extra bag just to carry the money:) 1 dollar is approximately 1350 Kyats and they’ll give you the money in thousand-, hundred- and smaller bank notes. Fortunately, they don’t have coins here:) Quickly buying a SIM card, leaving the airport. And we are in the country of the most smiling people. 

GoodToKnow: One way downtown from the airport costs 10.000 kyats. It’s a flat fee so no need to negotiate.

Yangon will forever stay in my mind as the city of taxis. Everywhere. Everybody. Scooters are prohibited since 2003 due to traffic problems and road accidents. Yangon is therefore crowded with cars and taxis only. They are driving on the right side, which would not be surprising at all. If the steering wheel wasn’t on the right side as well!

GoodToKnow: Myanmar was an English colony until 1948, and therefore: steering wheel on the right side and driving on the left side. The former Burmese rulers were superstitious and put particular emphasis on numerology and astrology. General Ne Win changed left to right-hand traffic in 1970. Because he had a dream. The second version is that the woman was the reason for the change. General’s wife was an astrologist and she said that the right-hand driving would be better. The power of women..

Sule Pagoda can be found easily. This “roundabout” is the center of Yangon and all of the distances in the city are measured from here. Another must-see pagoda is Schwedagon Pagoda, which can be found near the lake Kandawgyi, a little further from Downtown. When you look at Schwedagon Pagoda, you suddenly understand why Myanmar is said to be the “Country of Gold”. This nickname is quite absurd, while Myanmar is the poorest country in Southeast Asia. Twelve thousand golden bricks were used to cover this 99 meters high pagoda. On the very lies a 76-carat diamond to capture the first and last rays of the sun.

HistoricMust: Shwedagon pagoda is the most sacred and most cherished Burmese temple. According to a legend, eight hairs of Siddhartha Gautama are hidden inside. What is perhaps even more symbolic is the fact that during the protests and fighting for democracy, all the opposition followers gathered here. 

Buildings from the colonial times are the things which will catch your heart. Fading shades of blue, green and red, with small balconies. Burmese people chewing betel leaves sitting in front of small electronics shops found on almost every corner. You will notice the influence of the British colonisation on the public buildings as well. For example, the Town Hall and the Supreme Court can be found right next to the Sule Pagoda.

Burmese week has 8 days. Really. According to the Theravada Buddhism, Wednesday is granted for two days – divided into morning and afternoon. It took me some time to figure out what the names of days above the Buddha statues mean and why praying people pour water over these statues. I’ve never noticed this ritual elsewhere in Asia. It goes back to numerology and astrology. Burmese people always pray to Buddha statue by the day in which they were born. They pour water on Buddha exactly as many times as their age and add one more extra pouring. For luck. The Burmese also believe that the day in which a man is born greatly influences his life. For example, a person born on Tuesday is honest, if the day of birth is Sunday, it means stinginess.

Our first meal in Yangon is a great choice! Traditional Mi-Shay noodles and Tea leaves salad Laphet Thouq. Small noodle shop with a little absurd name “999 Shan Noodle Shop” hidden in the streets of Downtown.

And another (much more trendy and hipster) tip. Rangoon Tea House. You feel like in a London café when you walk in. Try Myanmar traditional black tea with milk and condensed milk (you can choose the ratios yourself) and from the local cuisine – go for Mohinga. Traditional breakfast meal can be ordered here all day long. My samosa salad was also excellent.

TEjST: 999 Shan Noodle Shop (130/B 34th Street) & Rangoon Tea House (No 77-79, Lower Pansodan)

If you would like to experience a little bit of higher gastronomy and to taste a piece of French atmosphere, take a taxi to the lake and dine in a beautiful Le Planteur restaurant. Lake with an illuminated outline of the boat, big garden with lanterns on the trees, colonial villa in the background.. What else could I tell you – romance. The Le Planteur restaurant is rated as the best restaurant in Yangon and Michelin-starred chef Felix Eppiser confirms the excellence of his French-Asian fusion. We could not start the New Year more tasty than here.

TEjST: Le Planteur, 80 University Avenue, Bahan Township, Yangon

More about Burmese cuisine soon! 

PS: 2sleep: Hotel Bahosi was a pleasant choice. Nice staff, good location, quiet at night. Overall, the accommodation in Myanmar is more expensive compared to the other Asian countries and certainly there are fewer choices. Although we were used to look for the place to stay on our own already at the place during the traveling, my advice is to book the room in advance.

Bahosi hotel: No.63/64,Bahosi Housing Estate, Lanmadaw Townish, Yangon downtown

Photos by Tino’s Analog camera Olympus Mju:

SchwedagonSuleIn the streets of Yangon

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