Sept 24 - Oct 8, 2018
14 Days in Yangon
Location: Yangon, Myanmar
Almost a Mini-Life
14 days was almost a mini-life. I still wish I was given 30 days on my visa. 14 days felt rushed and cramped. I came to Yangon not knowing anyone (except David) and not knowing the place. Arriving with only $50 on my pocket, I had no expectation but I was gung-ho to make the most out of what's on the table. As always, I had to wing my survival. This time though, I wasn't as worried as when I was in Bangkok about the money issue. The last time, I landed in Bangkok with also just $50.
It felt a scene from Mission Impossible. Upon landing in Yangon, I come upon a recorded message saying,
'Good morning LoneRider. You are now in Yangon for the first time with only $50 and 14 days to stay. You don't know anyone, you don't speak the language and you are unfamiliar with the place. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to initially survive and then thrive in your new environment. To meet people and touch their lives. By the time you leave, Yangon should be a better place than when you first arrived. Should you survive this mission, your next destination after Yangon will be revealed to you.'
BeautyLand Hotel II
When I checked-in at BeautyLand Hotel II, I didn't move anywhere else. BeautyLand was my home for the entire 14 days. With its central location near Shangrila Hotel, I had access to all the buses. It wasn't perfect, but for the price I paid and the perks I got, it was the best value in Yangon. Even dorm guests like me were entitled to the same big breakfast given to guests in expensive rooms. Laundry was also included. You simply cannot beat that deal. Sure, my room was 7 flights up but with careful planning on what you bring with you, you don't have to keep going up and down. Mosquitoes were a problem too, but until they put screen windows, mosquito nets or a/c the room, a repellent spray will do. The staff were helpful and friendly. They can also understand basic English. I made friends with the owner and his family, who were all hands-on and approachable.
As a fellow Vipassana meditator, Tin (the owner) and I became fast friends. We didn't have to explain ourselves. His heart is in the right place. He is an astute businessman, but he doesn't allow money to get in the way of Dhamma. Every Wednesday, he holds a staff gathering where they watch spiritually uplifting films or Dhamma talks by a monk. When I offered to conduct yoga for his family, he brought the whole staff with him. He takes some promising villagers into his care and fold. It is not surprising that when he visits a village, a lot of people offer him their children for caretaking. He even tagged me along to his weekly Vipassana sit and took the trouble to explain to me Buddha's teachings. He surprised me one day by giving me new shirts and even underwear - all still inside their packaging. He gave me an open invite to be his guest whenever the wind takes me back to Yangon. He is one of many people who have shown me kindness and generosity.
I like him and it's good to hangout with him. He has depth and dimension but doesn't take himself too seriously. And like Mike of Chiang Mai, I was looking for ways to say Thank You. Luckily, I closed a web-deal with The Social House. This allowed me to invite him for eats and beer. I also invited him to come along for the Mundo Lingo weekly social gathering - he enjoyed that. He was born and raised in Yangon but attending a social gathering of expats, travelers and hipster locals where you are immersed in an instant community is rather new to him. During the International Coffee Day where Mahlzeit Cafe offered free coffee, we took the long trip just for kicks. I will miss his wonderful energy when I leave Yangon.
With only $50 upon landing, I was hoping to make some cash but it didn't happen until my last few days when I closed the Social House deal. I tried making my rounds but didn't get to talk to business owners - just the help. My email pitches were mostly unanswered. As such, I had to be frugal with my expenses. Only essential food. I wanted to invite a few friends for coffee but until Social House, that didn't happen. Luckily, good food can be had on the streets. I could get a nice meal for $.32. With my grated carrot added to it, it made for a nutritious meal. In my calculation, overall, in the 2 weeks I stayed in Yangon, I spent a total of $30. Without the hotel deal (which included breakfast), I would have starved in Yangon the first week. It is uncanny that in the 6 years I have been living life so close to the edge as this, I have never slept on a sideway or gone hungry. It is clear in no uncertain language my universe is telling me that it has me on its back. At this point, I already know that.
I believe it is only in Myanmar where the steering wheel is on the right side of the car but driving is also on the right side of the road. I don't know how they are able to drive the streets, but they do quite well. When I asked how, they just said they are used to it. Surprisingly, now that newer cars are sold with their steering wheel on the left side, no one's buying.
For a few months now, I have already opened myself up for abundance beyond basic need - but it's not really happening. But I wonder...what's taking it so long? The abundance comes in trickles. Is it because it wasn't meant to be? Perhaps I'm just too impatient? Usually, all I have to do is desire something bad enough and I get what I wish for. My universe delivers in ways that defy imagination. If this is all I get, I'm also thankful, of course. I'm good with life on the edge. My universe has never allowed me to miss a meal or sleep on the sidewalk in the 6 years I had been living this renunciate/nomadic lifestyle. I think I'm just expecting when I should have no expectation.
Back to Mission Impossible. How did I fare? Obviously, I survived. Given the many people I met (mostly from Mundo Lingo, CouchSurfing and at BeautyLand Hotel), the free movies, the barter lodging + breakfast + laundry, the free yoga class I gave and received, the barter deal with Social House, the little cash from Social House and the hotel staff donation, and lastly having $35 more in my pocket that when I arrived, I guess I can say I thrived - not just survived. Perhaps I touched lives. Perhaps the younger ones were inspired to see what a man my age can still do. Perhaps those who wished to be more free were inspired by the freedom I exercised. Is Yangon a better place now? Ha-ha. I wish I could point out to a bridge and say, "Hey, I built that." - then I can say the place is better now. But Yangon is very much still the same. I'd like to think instead that I made a difference one life at a time. There are connections that need to be pursued and nurtured. I will do that. Like I always say, the next magnificent life you meet is just around the bend. As for my next destination, it was made clear for me by skyscanner - Bangkok!
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Next stop:: A Web Mandate in BangkokYANGON
- 14 Days in Yangon Sept 24 - Oct 8, 2018
- Chillin' at The Social House - Kitchen & Tap Oct 4-7, 2018
- Abs-Yoga with BeautyLand Hotel II Staff Oct 3-7, 2018
- CouchSurfing in Yangon Oct 6, 2018
- Vipassana in the Tradition of Sayagi U Ba Khin as Taught by U Ko Lay Oct 6, 2018
- Sunrise Yoga with Jerome at Yangon Yoga House Oct 5, 2018
- Stumbling Upon the Shwedagon Pagoda Oct 2, 2018
- Movie Review: The Divine Order (2017) Sep 29, 2018
- 'Clean Yangon Green Yangon' Street Clean-Up Sep 29, 2018
- Movie Review: A Serious Game (2016) Sep 28, 2018
- Movie Review: Amy (2015) Sep 28, 2018
- Movie Review: In The Fade (2017) Sep 27, 2018
- Movie Review: Perfect Strangers (2016) Sep 27, 2018
- Movie Review: Little Wing (2016) Sep 26, 2018
- Mundo Lingo Yangon at 50th Street Cafe Sep 25, 2018
- 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
USEFUL INFORMATION(as of Jan 2020)
Myanmar FYI / Travel Tips
- accommodation - not all destinations in Myanmar can accommodate foreign travelers. Walk-in hotel guests could be refused. Better make an online booking, or make sure the hotel you wish to stay, at is listed in the online booking sites (Agoda, Booking.com, etc.)
- local time - adjust time 30 mins behind from Thailand (if arriving from Thailand)
- Burmese people - Burmese people are new to what's happening to Myanmar - being opened-up to the rest of the world. They remain friendly, helpful and curious. Tourism being new, the culture is not yet corrupted by it.
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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