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Inaccessible Myanmar Myanmar round trip April 2011

Yangon round with a 90 USD guide

MYANMAR | Monday, 4 April 2011 | Views [3161]

The breakfast buffet at the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel was out of this world. Local Myanmar specialties, Chinese buffet with all kinds of food, Indian dishes, a fruit buffet, a pastry section that could feed an elephant and two chefs standing by to fry omelettes and chapattis. Crazy! The best buffet I've tested so far in any Asian hotel, by far!

Today we booked a guide, Joe, for 90 USD. The whole day with air cond car, guide and lunch. The itinerary was quite impressive:
- Kaba Aye pagoda
- The bigt marble Buddha image
- White elephant
- Monastery and nunnery
- Jade shop – tourist trap
- Reclining Buddha image - Chaukhtatgyi paya
- lunch
- rest
- St Anna church
- Chinatown
- Shwedigon pagoda

WE created the itinerary based on the things we've already seen so that was excluded. We started with exchanging the money. We went to the same place but today I got 850 to 1 USD. Our guide also changed his own dollars there so the place seems popular. The place was a small room in a labyrinth of bamboo shacks with tin roofs. An old Chinese lady sitting on the floor with a electrical money counting machine and gave out stacks of Chats in exchange for Dollars. What a place bhahahahahha like picked out from a B-movie. Great stuff!
First we went to the Kaba Aye pagoda - world peace pagoda. Supposedly all the Buddhist countries’ monks gathered in this place some time ago and had some get together singing Kum Ba Ya or something. The Myanmar Buddhism is supposed to be the purest and most holy version of the Buddhism and encouraged people to not wait for the coming of Buddha but live as close to his teaching every day OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT...I don´t remember the details but we were in Buddhist hard core heaven in Myanmar. Around the main Buddha image in the pagoda, there were statues of Buddha from all the Buddhist countries. Very nice to see how much they vary. Not single one was similar to the other country´s style. They also made a huge 3D map of all Buddhist countries and you could throw money at the map if you wanted to.
After that we drove to see the biggest marble Buddha image. Outside the image there were stall of salesmen selling everything like food, clothes, umbrellas, donkeys etc. A bit strange but we learned later that this is how it is all over the country. Every temple is a "super marker of junk". The statue itself was very nice, on a hill, like all the other Buddha. This one was glassed in so that the birds and bats don´t shit on the Buddha. The lackerware roof was impressive. We learned why the stupas have the shape that they have. One of the kings hesitated about the shape so he asked a monk. The monk folded the banyan tree leaf and said, make it like this, hence the shape.
From the marble Buddha it was a short ride to see the three "white" elephants. Why did we have to see that? They were supposed to be holy in a way and only recently it was OK to photograph them. We saw 3 elephants from a designated watching podium, some 25 meter away. The elephants scratched their heads against huge wooden poles and just stood there. They were kind of pink in colour, like pigs and were chained to thick poles. They were only brought to this place an hour or two a day. Rest of the day they were free to run around in a nearby forest. I´m not sure elephants run but anyway...not really worth looking at them if you are not a hard core Myanmar Royal House fanatic.
Next stop was the monastery and nunnery. That was interesting! Up to 1500 little monks were living together in the monastery. We arrived just as they had their lunch so we saw their prayer before the meal and saw where they ate. They eat and learn in the same huge room. There was a volunteer teacher walking after us and telling some stuff to our guide. We made a small donation, which is really not mandatory, like 2000 chats but the teacher seemed pissed of and wanted more. For what I don't know so we left him and went to the nunnery just down the road. The girls accommodations were much more simple but here too we matched their pre-lunch prayer. Their singing was so much nicer than the boys :).
On our way back to the city and we stopped in a Jade workshop. I guess most tourist have to to get the guides a commission. It was semi-interesting to see the production process and something tells me that most of the work is done in a factory outside the workshop. The prices they charged were out of this world. I bought some natural medicine supposed to cure everything :) and that was it. Kanok it´s called.
Next stop - the Chaukhtatgyi paya. The reclining Buddha image. A HUGE BUDDHA IMAGE! I mean it. Just the feet were like 8 meters high! There is a small tablet with all the Buddha body parts measurements. Every body part is measured. As one of the few or the only Buddha image, this one had glass eyes. The inscriptions on the feet were very nice. There is a small watch tower close to the Buddha feet where you can climb up and watch the whole image from a little higher up. The whole place had a special aura about it. Really nice place to visit. Oh, you could have your name on the wall for one year if you make a donation. Many people do. Even saw some Russian names on the wall. Well, they do need all the help they can get so let´s hope the donation was accepted by more than the monk.
Lunch time. We got an option to lunch with at a "tourist restaurant" or a "local restaurant". We choose the later of course. I guess the guide occasionally has some backpacker guests that like to eat pizzas while abroad. (Actually the only time we ever saw anybody ordering pizzas or burgers in Myanmar were backpackers so they are spreading that culinary shit culture around the world it seems).
The guide picked the lunch restaurant. FEEL, on the 124 Pyihataungsu Yeik Thar Street. A place packed with locals and a massive selection of Myanmar dishes. A really huge selection of Myanmar curries and salads. We ordered some fish and mutton curries and some salads. DO NOT try the bitter leaf and avoid the red chilies. Had a chili contest with the guide...we ended up sweating like pigs from the heat of the chilis. I ordered so many beers  and so many extras just to try the food that we felt stupid and ended up paying for the lunch. No biggy and we felt sorry for the guide. The food was excellent!
After lunch we headed back to the hotel for a refreshing swim in the hotel pool and some rest. Rest in this case means beet at the pool. Another snake fell from the palm tree into the pool! Probably was chasing for small birds or eggs in the nests. I was getting used to that now.
Enough resting. The afternoon started with a visit to the biggest Catholic Church in Yangon. The St Anna church. A really nice red/white/green church in gothic style. It was located in a part of the city where most of the huge colonial mansions were situated. A short stop in the church and off we went to see the river. Since the port occupies most of the river front, there is only a small section in the Yangon old town that allows you to see the river front. Close to the Strand hotel, the river view was not really as beautiful as you would expect. The ferry terminal is a short section of the river bank that is not walled in by a metal fence. A lot of people come here, to the ferry terminal to feed the seagulls. We watched some monks feed seagulls with chick peas. Falafel loving birds J. You could also take the ferry  to the other side of the Irrawady river if you are fed up with Yangon city.
After the river view trip, a very short one, we took a walk around the Chinatown. The streets lined with vendors selling all sorts of veggies, fruits and all kind of ready to eat food. Everything from stinky tofu to grilled rats was on the menu. And guess what. It started to rain. We are talking tropical rain! It rained frogs. All the vendors along the streets had already their umbrellas up to as protection from the sun so we had to snake our way along the broken pavements and opens sewer holes while bending way to much in order to fit under the umbrellas. We got a tip about the 19th street in Chinatown. Supposed to be a great place to eat grilled food and drink beer. Always important to know where the water holes are.
Shwedagon pagoda - the final sight on the itinerary. We had to pay the 5USD entrance fee to get in. I told the guide that when we´ll arrive at the Shwedagon it will be sunny again, and it was. The golden pagoda was flooded with sun rays from the setting sun. We actually took the elevator(!) to the top since we parked the car just under the elevator entrance. That´s something new, to take an elevator to the church instead of walking up all those stairs. At the top, to see all that gold in the holiest of the temples in the country really impressed. Walked on cool wet marble instead of skipping on hot sun baked marble. The pagoda is not just one huge pagoda on the top but rather many small pagodas around the big one surrounded by many building for different purposes, like housing bells and smaller shrines. One cool thing was to see the photos of the "umbrella" that crowns the top. It´s being exchanged with even intervals and there is a small photo gallery showing all the jewellery and the huge diamond that is mounted in the umbrella. We also saw some small kids being prepared to enter a monastery or nunnery, all dressed up with their proud families celebrating the occasion. The kids go to the monastery for a week or a year whatever they like but all kids are going. It´s a very important moment in a kids life and it´s celebrated by the whole villages in the countryside. (We saw that later).
Enough with all the pagodas! We asked the guide to drop us off at a shopping mall, since the market was closed today. Taco win centre and Sein gay har shopping mall was the goal. The malls were modern with escalators and very high tech-toilets. The toilets were spotless! Electronic soap dispenser and photocells for water in the sink. The music at the entrance was deafening. Even the guards at the doors sat with the hands covering their ears. The annoying thing was that the personnel attack the customers once you enter the shop :D. You could not look around before at least 5 clerks showed up. Not so aggressive as on Silk Market in Beijing but never the less, once you enter the store, they are on you like a leech! Regarding the goods, well, basically the same stuff as at the markets, maybe a little better. Most of the stuff was a direct import from Thailand or China.
Hailed a cab. As soon as it gets dark, all the taxis cost 2000, minimum. During a day it´s possible to catch a ride for 1000-1500 chat. We took the cab to the Monsoon restaurant, closed. I mean really closed and it was supposed to be open until 22:00. Took the cab to another, even that one looked very dark & closed. We jumped off the cab and walked to around Chinatown and ... got lost! Hahahah suckers! And believe me, yes, you can get lost in a grid oriented city. At night with a few street lights and tired as hell. We managed to get back to 19th street, to the beer & barbecue street. What a great place, what a CHEAP place! Bought a couple of beers and a whole grilled fish for 8000 chats. We sat on plastic chairs, in a narrow street lined with grills and pubs, between two 8 story buildings and had a very good time. Old Chinese men happy to see a guy wash down 6 beers - wot! I'm Polish! And it was hot! I was carrying 8kg of photo equipment in my bag all day long on +42C. The local guys drink rum in beer glasses. The sous chef from the Shangri la in Dubai sat at our table and we had a lot of laughs. We got the feeling that the rest of the city seem to sleep as soon as the sun goes down. Except the 19th street! It´s the place to go!
Was it worth taking the guide? Well, yes, in that time we would never managed to see all that stuff by ourselves and we only had two days in Yangon. We told him what we already have seen so the itinerary was created from that in mind. We also got a chance to talk some shit, like getting to know that he had two girlfriends and the driver had just gotten married. You can guess who was laughing most of the time!
OH, My SonyEricsson Bluetooth watch was supposed to manage 3 ATM. Around 3 meters if you don't hit the glass under water. Well, mine got filled with water in a 1,5m pool. :D. Priceless.



Tags: china town, jade shop, kaba aye pagoda, monestary and nunnary, recling buddha image - chaukhtatgyi paya, shwedigon pagoda, st anna church, the bigt marble buddha image, white elephant, yangon

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