This year we decided not to participate in the Water Festival celebrations in Cambodia. Instead, thanks to a gift from our parents and the last of our savings, Seyla and I embarked on a trip to my Grandmother’s hometown of Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon).
We stayed in the heart of Chinatown at the Best Western. Located on a busy corner, there was a street festival four out of the five nights we were there. Although the noise went on until midnight, the gorgeous view of Shwedagon Pagoda from our hotel room made it worthwhile.
We made the most out of our four full days in Yangon, and although I will post separate blogs about each attraction, I wanted to post our itinerary here. The internet failed me on this trip, as a lot of information about entry fees to different places was incorrect. These are the correct prices as of November 2016, when $1USD = 1,200kyat.
Flew into Myanmar at 5pm. The new international airport was incredible. It was incredible quick to get through customs, the baggage pick up was swift and the toilets were very clean. There was a stunning sunset on the way into town, which was fortunate, given it took us one and a half hours to get to our hotel due to the traffic. My cousin and her boyfriend kindly picked us up, so the ride was free. Dinner was at a newly opened restaurant near our hotel called ‘Yummy Time’, and cost 12,000kyat for three main meals and two drinks.
We took a taxi to Kandawgyi Lake, costing 3,000kyat. The taxi driver didn’t know where he was going, and we were dropped at a hotel then had to walk to find the entrance to the lake. We paid 300kyat each to enter a park, and opted to fork out an additional 500kyat for permission to take photos.
We then took a taxi at a cost of 2,000kyat to Bogyoke Aung San Museum, the house where General Aung San lived until his assassination in 1947. The entry fee was 5,000kyat each, which was a bit steep, though I understand they must maintain the house. A taxi back to town cost 4,000kyat, where we ate room service then had a nap.
In the afternoon, we headed on a 3,000kyat taxi ride to Shwedagon Pagoda, where the entry fee was 8,000kyat each, plus a donation for a plastic bag to carry our shoes in (we quickly learnt to always carry plastic bags when going to pagodas). We stayed until 6:15pm to get some night shots, then headed to People’s Park for dinner with my cousin and her boyfriend. They paid, so it was free again!
We slept in, then walked to Bogyoke Market which was a 20-minute walk from our hotel. We spent around 100,000kyat on presents for Seyla’s family and our workmates at Human and Hope Association, then headed next door to Ya Kun Coffee and Toast, splurging 8,500kyat on our meals and drinks. Afterwards it was a trip around the very expensive Parkson Mall, then a 2,000kyat taxi ride back to the hotel.
After dropping our bags at our hotel, we headed out again on a 2,000kyat taxi ride to the National Museum, where entry cost a steep 5,000kyat each. The museum was large, dark, empty at times and gave off an unpleasant vibe. There were some good displays, though the bad outweighed the good. We headed back to the hotel after a couple of hours, and rested until my cousin and her boyfriend braved the horrendous traffic to pick us up for a Burmese buffet dinner at a cost of 12,000kyat each.
We awoke early and walked to Sule Pagoda, taking in the morning market action along the way. The entry fee was 3,000kyat, which wasn’t worth it as we didn’t spend much time in there. We then made our way over to Maha Bandula Park to look at City Hall and the Independence Monument. After stopping at a convenience store to buy some Thanaka to protect my face from the sun, we caught a 2,500kyat taxi to Botataung Pagoda.
It cost 6,000kyat to enter Botataung Pagoda, and as we visited on a public holiday, it was packed full of locals. We headed back to our hotel at the cost of a 3,000kyat taxi ride, and got ready for lunch with my cousins.
Lunch was back at Kandawgyi Lake, however it was a different section to where we had visited on Saturday. Afterwards we walked over to the Yangon Zoological Gardens and paid 3,000kyat entry fee each. After 15 minutes, we realised the animals were not in decent living conditions, so we left. It took us awhile to bargain for a taxi, and eventually made our way to Ta Win Shopping Centre, where I spent 3,000kyat on a milkshake I didn’t finish and browsed around, not to buy anything.
We spent 3,000kyat to get back to our hotel, and spent the afternoon and evening resting.
We were determined to make the most out of our final day in Yangon. We started the morning by taking a 30-minute taxi ride at a cost of 4,000kyat to Kabar Aye Pagoda. The 3,000kyat entry fee was definitely worth it. Afterwards, we caught a taxi for 3,000kyat to Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple to see the reclining Buddha. Entry was by donation, so we gave 2,000kyat. We then walked (getting lost) to Nga Htat Gyi Pagoda to see a tall Buddha statue. Entry was free, though we gave a donation of 3,000kyat.
After trying to bargain with several taxis, we successfully made our way to the Minister’s Building at a cost of 3,000kyat. Although this building is abandoned and you can only view it from the outside, it is worth a visit when you understand the volatile history of Myanmar. We headed across the road to Father’s Office and forked out 15,000kyat on lunch, then walked 300 metres down the road to St Mary’s Cathedral.
After spending time walking around the exterior of the building, we caught a taxi for 2,000kyat to Bogyoke Market to buy some last-minute gifts and some cheap pearl earrings (4,000kyat per pair) for me. We bargained hard to catch a 2,000kyat taxi around the corner to our hotel, then rested until we headed out for a final dinner with my cousin and her boyfriend, at a cost of 34,000kyat for all of us.
Awake at 5am, we paid 8,000kyat for a taxi to the airport. Since it was early morning, the trip only took 20 minutes. I bought a book for 12,000 kyat and we spent 25,000 kyat on breakfast, leaving us with a grand total of 25,000kyat left over from our initial funds of 600,000kyat for our holiday.
We are already itching to go back to Myanmar, for my fifth trip and Seyla’s second trip! Stay tuned to my blog for entries about the places we visited in Yangon along with a great selection of photos.