I’m in Burma, can you believe that??!! I barely can. Kyrgyzstan feels worlds away. But here I am, suddenly transplanted from Central Asia to Southeast Asia, from winter to summer, from 8:30am to 9:00am, from greasy food to…slightly less greasy food. Yangon…I’m already loving you! With so many places to visit in Yangon, and only 3 days to do it, I needed to get walking!
After a flight from Almaty, Kazakhstan to Bangkok, Thailand, an Amazing Race worthy taxi ride across 50km in downtown Bangkok traffic, a run through the other airport in Bangkok…(yes there are two airports in Bangkok, who knew!?)… a flight to Yangon, and a taxi ride across Yangon traffic, I arrived in my hostel in Yangon. Exhausted. Sweaty. And starving. And thrilled.
What to see in Yangon Myanmar
Very glad to have arrived in the heat of Yangon, I peeled off my made for Kyrgyzstan wool socks and thermal long johns, put on a hippie dress and flip flops, and hit the streets for some food. Didn’t take long, as Yangon is the apparently centre of Myanmar for street food. Within minutes I was sitting on a tiny plastic stool at a tiny plastic table eating noodles with two ancient, and coincidentally also tiny, Burmese women. Paradise. After all, eating the local fare is the #1 Thing to do on this list of 5 Things to Do in Myanmar! #1? Check!!
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the streets and eating on the streets of Yangon, which from here on out will be known as ‘streating’. I’ll call the Websters dictionary peeps later. I ate avocados the size of a baby, strawberries, mini quiche greasy things, and whatever else looked interesting. I also got lost, classic, but that was fine, because I just kept streating and all was well. I staggered back to the hostel and fell asleep at 7:30pm. I was a happy person.
The next day I woke up late, after falling into an air travel exhaustion coma ( my dad probably would have asked if I had wet the bed I slept for so long), I put on my sunscreen since my appendages have not seen daylight in 5 months, and went out to town. A great way to really see Yangon is to take a ride on the Yangon Circle Train, an old school (and very slow) train line that goes around the whole city and takes about two hours.
I hit a few different pagodas and walked through a few street markets. If you have been with me in a market before you know I’m fascinated by the meat section, something beautiful yet fascinatingly grotesque about that bit. I saw my first pig face. Yes, just the face, hanging on a hook. Don’t get me wrong, the pagodas are golden coloured and beautiful…but a pig face?! That’s true gold.
And now some hard truths. Some “I know it’s hard to hear but you need to know” realities. I’m now going to tell you, the world, how it is that you come to find random things on the ground, in bizarre places, where they shouldn’t be: playing cards, underwear, single shoes…
Theft at the Botataung Pagoda, Yangon
After seeing the Sule Pagoda and then a really clean park, I set forth for the Botataung Pagoda, which sits on the Yangon riverside. I entered via a side entrance, and duly took my shoes and socks off. I went off and enjoyed the pagoda, where there were turtles (???) and many ladies with towels on their heads(??…so many questions in Burma…). I walked around the rather large pagoda complex until I started to get hungry, and let’s be honest it doesn’t take that long for that to happen. So I went back to my entrance to exit. Unfortunately, one of my shoes had already exited the complex. Just one.
Hello, my name is Emily, and I’m a victim of single shoe theft. I was victimized by a Buddhist dog in Burma. I am no longer the owner of a complete pair of shoes. This is no small crime, yet goes largely unpunished and unavenged. Each dog looked guiltier than the other, and after an hour of looking, by which time I was really hungry, I had to forfeit my right to wearing two shoes. Kick in the pants was that the shoes are my running shoes, so guess I’m going to have to put off getting in shape even longer! There were some great kids who helped look for the shoe, but I have a feeling that the shoe is slowly going through a canine digestive system. God speed shoe. And canine digestive system.
Thankfully, I bought some velvet flip flops. I know, velvet, because I’m classy like that. Which were surprisingly hard to find. Tiny Burmese women have tiny feet, and while I don’t have skis at the end of my legs or anything, I do need a little coverage. Velvety coverage.
Ever resilient, I had some lunch, more noodles on a tiny plastic stool, and kept going. Looking in every single dogs mouth for my shoe.
I flip flopped my way to a massive market, and then onwards via city bus to the Shwedagon Paya temple, the huge pagoda that is one of THE go places to visit in Yangon. I responsibly ‘donated’ a dollar to have my footwear safely stored in a cubby hole, and climbed the 100 steps up to the terrace of the pagoda. Which is where I was told as a foreigner I had to pay $9usd to enter the holy site. Mmmm, I had to buy new foot wear, I don’t have that kind of money on me…the girl was very gracious about it. She said with a smile, “that’s ok”‘ and pointed me back down the stairs. Ooooook indeed. Denied. No world Famous Temple for this girl.
By this time I wad ready for some food, air conditioning, and a shower. FYI, it’s hot in Yangon! I was expecting my lovely friend Lizzie that evening, so I cleaned up for her arrival, and perched myself on our balcony watching the alley, drinking beer, hoping every taxi was her. Finally, I had a good feeling about one taxi, and then was confirmed when the passenger getting out of the back seat opened the door, and smacked that door straight into the backend of an adjacent automobile. Yep, that’ll be Lizzie! And it was. We went for food and mimosas, learned that everything in Yangon shuts down at 12:30am, and laughed and laughed and laughed.
Shwedagon Paya Temple, Yangon Myanmar
The next day we met up with two of Lizzie’s friends from home, Jess and Mat, and all together set off to the market, and then onto the Shwedagon Paya temple, again. This time we all knew better, carried our shoes, had our $9 ready, though do note: I still got in trouble and had to wear a wrap skirt that I rented for $5 because my knee length shorts were ‘very short’. Basically this temple hates me.
But we did get in, and we fully checked out the gorgeous and massive complex. I poured holy water over Buddha at my Saturday Corner, because I was born on a Saturday. We sat in the shade and listened to a group of school girls chanting.
We felt we had done more than enough sightseeing in Yangon to deserve some ice cream, so Lizzie and I devoured a half pint faster than you can say Buddha and we took a taxi back to the guesthouse. Aircon was required. So hot right now.
Yangon Street Food
That evening after a rest, we returned to the street for more streating, and we found ourselves a BBQ place. Basically, you go up to a buffet of veggies, meat, seafood, and assorted animal body parts on skewers, you pick a few out, they go into baskets and disappear somewhere to be barbecued. Unless it was visibly obvious, like asparagus, we didn’t really know what we were choosing, but just gave ‘er. Yes, I ate asparagus. Drool. Asparagus and avocados in one day, be still my Kyrgyzstan oppressed palate. Street BBQ skewers are amazing.
Bus from Yangon to Mawlamyine
The next morning we four got up early to get to the Yangon bus station, which is not located centrally to say the least. But we got there early enough to have some noodles for breakfast and find our lovely bus that was going to take us south and out of Yangon. We were entertained for a while by the blankets that were provided, as well as the travel pillows, until we actually used the travel pillows and disappeared into individual feats of slumber. Onwards to Mawlamyine!!
Points of Interest in Yangon Myanmar
So as I may have mentioned, I ate a lot in Yangon. I even had a tummy ache for part of it, and i still ate a lot. I love eating things on sticks that were cooked on the street, there is something so real about it. The fruit and veggies are crazy in Yangon, especially to me coming from winter in Kyrgyzstan. I was like a carnivore losing their green virginity. And yes, I ate the avocados with spoons. Like a boss.
I became a pseudo regular at a little stand where this lady was making the greasy little quiche things. Still don’t know what they were, but they were delish!
I have yet to eat inside a physical restaurant.
Taking the public transport bus in Yangon city is a delight. We took the bus to the pagoda and the bus full of women erupted in laughter at the sight of foreigners riding public transport in Myanmar. So we laughed, and then they laughed more. There was much laughter.
The first person I met in the hostel was an English guy who said he was having a rough time in Asia because he didn’t like ‘Asian food’. …..! I didn’t ask him to explain what ‘Asian food’ is, but I did ask what the hell he was doing in Asia…
True to what everybody says, Burmese people have been very friendly and welcoming to me. Smiles when you meet eye contact on the street, when you have any interactions, and really just in general. And the kids, dang they be cute!
Traffic in Yangon is insane. Thankfully Burma is a Buddhist country so people are at least nice about it and there isn’t the road rage one would expect in lesser Buddhist places, like Vancouver.
Regarding the two airports in Bangkok, yes. That was fun, freaking Thailand. My taxi driver was amazing though, and definitely captured the urgency of the situation. Absolutely threw himself passionately into getting me to the other airport in time for my connection, which I was about 10 minutes away from missing all together. I tipped him.
I know no Burmese language. Thus I am responding to greetings with Kyrgyz. Because why not.
That’s it for this Yangon travel blog, enjoy the pictures, especially the pig face! Next blog from the Worlds Largest Reclining Buddha!!!
Where to Stay in Yangon
Agga Guest House, stayed one night in a dorm for $12 and shared a double with Lizzie for $25. Good dorm, double was awesome with a balcony, shared bathroom.
The Sleep Inn, double room for $30, spartan, windowless room, but the aircon works like hell.