Sep 24, 2018
A First Timer in Yangon, Myanmar
Location: Yangon, Myanmar
Airline: Air Asia
Airport: Don Mueang Airport
Flight: FD 253, depart BKK 4:10pm, arrive RGN 5:00pm, $62.18 (Baht 2010) via skyscanner.net
Money on Arrival: $50 (Baht 1600)
Cheap Air Fare and Cheap Lodging
My only experience of Myanmar was Tachileik, which doesn't really count. Travelers have told me Yangon is a lot better destination. However, my experience with Myanmar is that it's expensive like Laos - so it didn't interest me to get there. However,with the cheapest air fare from skyscanner.net to Yangon from Bangkok at $61.91 (including 20kg check-in luggage), it was an offer hard to ignore. Further, when I checked out lodging, I found a $3/night lodging including breakfast in a dorm room at a hotel in downtown Yangon. That pretty much clinched the deal for me.
Don Mueang Airport
I left Bangkok by MRT train coming from Hua Lamphong (B5, no kidding!) for the one hour ride to the airport. From the train station, it was a short walk to the airport. It was my first time to fly out of Don Mueang Airport. The airport was crampy. Check-in was painless except for luggage check-in. It wasn't clear that there was a separate line for those who have already web checked-in. Many still lined-up along with those who didn't do a web check-in - beating the purpose of it all.
I was prepared to wait long at the airport (instead of whiling away the time at the hostel) so I came prepared with my buttered whole wheat bread and grilled satay which I bought from a street vendor. I always carry water with me.
Air Asia is handy as a budget airline company. You don't feel any perks but they deliver on the basics. My only noticeable complaint is the tight leg room. If anyone from the window wants to get out, everyone has to stand up and go out the aisle. But for what they charge, I'm not complaining. At least they are professional about their service unlike SpiceJet which gave me a horrifying experience.
The first thing that got my attention upon landing was the heat. Yangon is hot. It reminded me of the sweltering days I spend in New Delhi when normal temperatures were in the 40s. To my dismay, Yangon Immigration only gave me 2 weeks on my visa-on-arrival. Not much I can do with 2 weeks - I have to cancel whatever plan I had about going to Bagan. I exchanged a little of my Thai Baht for Burmese kyat to pay for the MMK 500 aircon shuttle bus from airport to downtown Yangon. My hostel was just around the corner from Sule Plaza, where I got off. That was painless.
BeautyLand Hotel II
Using Agoda, I only paid $7.88 for a pre-booked 2-night stay in a dorm room (all in) at BeautyLand Hotel II. At that cheap price, it still included a grand breakfast! It was unreal. My room was on the 7th floor - no elevator! But that's part of my tapas (an Indian tradition of doing things the hard way even if there is an easy way) so it wasn't big deal - I've stayed 15 days on the 19th floor of Golden Peak Hotel in Cebu and never once used the elevator. My room was spacious and I was on a real bed - not a bunk bed! Cross ventilation was a problem, but when I talked to the owner about it, measures were immediately done to cut-away a portion of the plastic screen to allow air-flow. Wow! That's what I call responsive. Wifi was decent but only on the lobby. What really blew me away about this hotel was the breakfast. For the price I paid, they even include breakfast! So, I thought it would be toast and coffee. Wrong! it was 2 bananas, real coffee, fruit juice, toast w/ butter & jam, scramble egg and mangoes! Whoa! I felt like Alice in Wonderland.
Hotel Barter Deal
I had a chance to talk to the owner. It was immediate connection. He was a smart guy, my age, highly educated, articulate, speaks Burmese, English, Japanese and French and can do a discourse on Burmese history. I was impressed. We share meditation as common ground among other things. I like his hotel and I like him. That was enough to make me want to have him as a client too. I offered him a barter deal - free lodging until my visa expiration in exchange for increased exposure on the internet for his hotel. All he had to do was say yes. No, he even added I could include my laundry in the deal! Whoa...is this guy for real?
Not even 24 hours into Yangon and I already felt why I was brought here by my universe. Such validation can only be its telltale signature that I am where I am supposed to be. I don't really know what awaits me here in Yangon, but everything else is promising. Given that assurance, it didn't matter to me that I landed in Yangon with only $50 cash.
The following day, I met up with a chef buddy whom I met in Dumaguete back in the day. He has long invited me to visit the place but it never happened. Now, without planning for it, it did happen - that's life. We met up for lunch where he introduced me to an unpretentious Shan restaurant serving authentic Shan food. It was great catching up with him and hearing his fascinating global journey about being chef to international companies.
Myanmar Opening Up
From what I gathered, Myanmar has been rapidly opening up to the outside world. The locals say that Myanmar 3 years ago is radically different from the Myanmar of today. And the change is for modernization and opening up goes unabated. Already, from my lenses, lodging prices are cheaper as expansion is creating a glut in the housing system. So far, everything I've seen, heard and experienced about Yangon is positive and lends an air of optimism.
Just one day into Yangon and I've already had an incredible start. I can't wait how things unfold. Later, I would be joining a social language group made up of travelers, expats and locals - Mundo Lingo Yangon. That's a great way to meet new friends. Let's see what else is in store!
YOGA by Gigit | Learn English | Travel like a Nomad | Donation Bank
Reader Comments:Tatiana-Maria Comerzan
(Sep 25, 2018) Enjoy Myanmar Gigit! Hope to see you again when you next come to Bangkok!
(Sep 30, 2018) Did you notice the plant mixed with the Mohinga Soup..it is circular, no curved....bani sa saging!!... Banana Tree Stem... used to be eaten in Cebu a long time ago
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Next stop:: Mundo Lingo Yangon at 50th Street Cafe
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- A First Timer in Yangon, Myanmar Sep 24, 2018
Yangon (city), Myanmar
Yangon International Airport
How to Get to Downtown Yangon from the Yangon International Airport (RGN)
- take the shuttle bus from Airport to Downtown Yangon, it costs MMK 500. It passes through the main artery of Yangon.
Yangon Travel Tips
- useful site: Wiki Travel Yangon
Myanmar Travel Tips
- as of Sep 19, 2018: $1 = MMK 1,569.96 | 1 THB = 48.1581 MMK
General Travel Tips
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
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