We landed at around 9am in Yangon after a smooth flight from Bangkok. Once we passed through the long queue at immigration we grabbed some money from the nearest ATM. The ATM had only 1 thousand notes (€0.80) so we could barely close our wallets leaving the airport with our wads. We hopped in a taxi and made our way to my friend from my DCU days’ house, Elaine, who is living in Myanmar. We dropped the bags off and decided to see a little of the city so went for a stroll. The map we had was not exactly to scales so we ended up strolling for a few hours in the extreme heat roasting our arses off, before we made it to the infamous Shewdagon Pagoda which is stunning. After a quick walk through the People’s Park we decided to taste some of the local cuisine and stumbled upon a place called “Spaghetti Italian Restaurant”…delish! After a quick meal, we decided to head back to the apartment via the local supermarket as we were filthy from the few hours of walking. During the walk back it felt like being in South America again with all the stares. Cheers for the confidence booster! All showered, we met up with Elaine and some of her work mates for some dinner and a couple of beers, but nothing too wild as these people had this strange thing called a job.
We arose with very heavy heads the next day but decided to make the most of our time in Yangon and just get on with it. After a very quick gym session we headed backed to the Pagoda as we were told it was more impressive face to face. After a short walk up we spent a few minutes walking around it with some locals helping us with some additional information before the heavens opened again. So we camped in a prayer hall with the rest and tried to keep our heads down. With this weather, there will be nothing left of our tans by the time we are back!
After a bit of a lie in the next day, we headed to the Asian version of KFC, Lotteria, for some much needed cure. While there we met a young lad who was sporting an Irish soccer jersey and it turned out his mum was from the North and that he was going to live there in a few months. Maybe we will see him once day lining out for the Boys in Green…God knows we need the help. A quick chillax was on the cards before we grabbed a taxi and headed towards the bus station to catch our overnight bus to Bagan, which is famous for its hundreds of temples. The traffic was bleeding awful and we made it with just 3 minutes to spare.
We rolled into Bagan at 3.50am having been told we would arrive at 6am, after one of the worst bus trips of the journey for me so far. It wasn’t too bad for the lads as they were sitting together, but I managed to get some homeless lad who was absolutely pissed drunk and was chasing his bottle of vodka with water for the first 4 hours. He offered me a swig too…”You’re alright mate!”. He eventually fell asleep on me after a few hours and only a few swift elbows managed to warn him off for the rest of the journey.
So we grabbed a tuk tuk and made the journey to New Bagan. As we had only planned on staying for the day we had no hotel to go to so killed some time asking hotels there prices and just using their Wi-Fi. While on a Wi-Fi run we met some English people who were going to the temples to see the sunrise. So we all got a taxi and made the short journey to the temples, climbed one of the biggest and waited for the sun to show its face. After about 20 minutes the entire area began to come to life showing us just how many Pagodas there are located over the small area. That or we were seeing double due to lack of sleep.
We boarded the bus like three zombies at 4pm and were in and out of consciousness until we rolled into Mandalay at 9pm.
We were dropped off outside the city so another taxi was on the cards before we made it to a street with a few hotels on it. After shopping around a bit we found a place for a pretty decent price, dropped our bags off before grabbing some food. We were absolutely shattered watching Man City win the league and headed back to the room for a much needed sleep in a bed. Before nodding off, I listened to the Robbie Williams song, “Road to Mandalay” to get me in the mood for the city. After listening to it, I realised it has feck all to do with the city and is just a very depressing song. Cheers Robbie!
We were up bright and early the next day to see what Mandalay had in store. After a quick bite to eat, we had the map in hand and were on the road ready to soak up some much needed sun too. One of the main attractions in Mandalay is the Royal Palace which is located in the middle of a 2 square mile fortress surrounded by a moat. On the map it doesn’t look that big, but by God when you have to go all the way around it to get in at 40 degrees it’s a killer. After an hour walking with many stares, waves and blown horns at us by the locals, we made it in paying $10 to access all the sites in the city.
Although we only got to spend 6 days in Myanmar, the country and its people made a great impression on us. The natives are without doubt the friendliest people in South East Asia and genuinely just want to chat to foreigners with no ulterior motive. The country is absolutely beautiful and should be visited before tourism becomes a lot more popular and some of the cities become rammed with foreign tourists. A big thank you to Elaine for putting us up in Yangon and showing us around the town with the ex-pats. If you want more information on the Myanmar Celts Gaelic football team just click here.
See ya in Bangkok,