Final stop in Burma – Yangon. And our mode of transport? Overnight train from Mandalay to Yangon. I’m pretty comfortable with such sleeper trains and the ones in Burma are similar to those in India. So as long as you have a good support system (snacks galore, good company, strong thighs for hovering in the loo on a swaying train) you’re good to go. Thankfully I was was equipped on all fronts :). Another reason to be thankful was that the train station was a lift away from the hotel – so we got there (via a supermarket stop) and found our berth for 4 with enough time to spare.
The train ride itself (I will not mention the heat again – it was hot but that little rotating fan worked very hard), bumpiness aside, was a lot of fun. We spent the night eating, drinking, laughing hysterically – but I was glad to be off it in the morning. We got into Yangon at 8.30am (not 6am as informed), ready for a day of sightseeing.
Where am I staying?
Hotel Panda, a fairly nondescript Yangon city hotel that is using the WWF logo as their own (is that allowed?). Big rooms, lots of space (for my laundry to be strewn about.. hahaha), good enough for one night before I leave the country.
- Grubbiness factor – low but a tired room.
- Bed: 7/10. After the bumpy train ride, the bed was very welcome!
- Shower 7/10. Powerful and hot for long enough to wash me and my clothes. The water was tinged orange and had a rusty smell though. I’m still alive so it can’t have been that bad.
What did I eat?
Breakfast in the hotel was alright. Lots and lots and lots of options but not much for me – but what they had was good enough – tofu, vegetables and papaya, all washed down with a green tea. No pic.
On another day we went to a typical Burmese tea house for breakfast. Lucky Seven is a popular chain, all staffed by young school boys (supported by the restaurant to stay in school). Lovely Chinese tea and a lemon soda to start. There was only one thing I was going to order off the expressive menu – yep. Aloo Puri. Again. Good choice. It was excellent – crispy, light, nice potato curry – perfect breakfast. This was such an excellent experience – I loved it! No other lunches for me – too hot to eat!
Dinners? Well, after our epic lunch in Mandalay to prep ourselves for the train ride, my ‘dinner’ consisted of nuts, local crisps, Oreos (coconut flavour – they were alright, but wouldn’t buy them again!). And local Mandalay rum with warm coke. The rum was cheaper than most of the food we bought! It was very pleasant and went down very very well! We also kept hydrated….as for the names of the water.. lol, very macho!
Our final dinner in Yangon was at New Doreen where the menu made me chuckle. Lemon soda and a stellar tofu, spinach and pineapple (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it) dish with rice. Most enjoyable, but not as much as reading the menu.
What did I do?
While on the train? Not much other than eat and laugh and check out people at station stops. There wasn’t much sleeping, and before it got dark we did see a lovely sunset. We did have the local train lads popping in a few times to practice their English and get us cold water. Very entertaining!
In Yangon? We went to a couple of highlights for me in Burma. One was the Shwedagon Pagoda. Slap bang in the middle of city, it is a sprawling temple complex with lots of mini temples and stupas – all blingy, but this time, not a bad thing. I walked around taking in all the temples (there is a handy temple map) and even went to the onsite museum. Primarily because it was air conditioned but once I got there I was genuinely interested. My kind of museum – not too big, full of interesting stories about the Buddha, rooms of relics and mini stupas – very good. I also people watched for a long time. It was interesting to see how people used these temples – sleeping, chatting, praying, chanting, having picnics under the Buddha – very informal and relaxed. I really liked this place.
The other place that was excellent was the reclining Buddha. Now everyone who goes to Wat Po in Thailand is impressed with the statue there. I thought that this was much better – less people for starters, and the Buddha’s feet were particular impressive. What I also loved were the little Buddha statues surrounding the big one – all holding various mudras. We are all the same!!!! The only thing that I wasn’t sure of was the effeminate face of the Buddha. Other than that – all very amazing.
We also wentaround the city centre and were taken for an obligatory tourist stop – the Scott/Bogyoke Market. Was it worth it? Hell NO. Don’t go, unless you want to be be bored out of your mind seeing stall upon stall of the same jewellery, jade and wood carvings (made in China, of course).
However all was not lost. I found a cool little shop outside the market called Yangoods – full of quirky Burmese momentos, but most were made of leather – which I wasn’t going to buy. I did find some beautiful ceramic coasters – job done.
So that is all of Burma done and dusted for me. Bagan and Inle Lake were amazing – but I would go back when it is cooler. You can layer up and get warmer, but when you’re baking and there is no way of cooling down you’re fried. Pun fully intended. So it won’t be country I will come back to, but really glad I visited it.