An interesting travel story from Myanmar

Yesterday, I stumble upon a travel blog named Oh, Matero. It is a personal blog of a person with many travel blog interies. Recently, he traveled to Myanmar, and stayed there during New Year’s Day. He wrote quite interesting account of his visit to Myanmar. He came to Myanmar from Thailand on 12 December, 2008 and arrived at the Yangon International Airport, he noticed this country is

“very low-key and quite pleasant. I don’t see crowds of people rushing everywhere, I don’t hear car horns, and taxi drivers aren’t bothering me too much.”

The next day, he traveled around Yangon on foot and later riding on a passenger pick up truck. He notice men

wearing a type of skirt here called longyi. Next thing you notice is monks walking barefoot on the city streets. This morning I decided to take a walk and see some sights. It was interesting to see how they deliver newspapers. There are strings hanging down from each apartment. A man clips the newspaper onto the end of the string, gives it a shake which sounds a bell, then the person inside pulls up the string with newspaper attached.”

After Yangon, he traveled to Kyaiktiyo (Kyaik-hti-yo) by bus. On the way up to Kyaiktiyo was

in a big pickup truck that will drive me to the top of the mountain. It is hard to believe, but there were about 50 people in one pickup truck. I was at the back and they made me stand up while there were rows of people in front of me sitting on planks.”

The next stop after Kyaiktiyo is Bago (Pegu) 50 miles north of Yangon. There he stayed in a guest house for $5. He find that the shared bathroom is

so dark since there is no electricity or window. There was a driver who wanted to take me around to all the sights, but I said I would try to rent a bicycle the next day instead. He wasn’t too happy.”

He also learned the entire city has a rolling blackout in place. This means

there is 6 hours of electricity and then 12 hours of no electricity. During my stay in Bago the 6 hours will be from 11PM-5AM. Convenient!

In Bago, he was interested to see how the road construction is done here

as there is little machinery. Many women are involved, putting rocks into baskets, then placing the baskets on their heads and dumping somewhere else. Then other women arrange all the rocks for a stable foundation of the road.”

From Bago, he took a bus to Taunggyi, Shan State. He visited some places where no foreigner has ever ventured in Taunggyi. From Taunggyi, he took a 1 hour truck ride

to Inle Lake. We found the truck and I got in to wait for enough people to show up. The driver kept talking to me. Niilar said “The driver is a little drunk.” I said, “Ok, I’ll just put my seatbelt on.” But there were no seatbelts in this truck. Then I was thinking I have no heath insurance if we crash, so maybe I have to draw the line here and keep my mom happy.
I decide to not take the truck to Inle Lake. Even though I’ve been waiting 20 or 30 minutes for the truck to leave, as soon as I get out, tons of people jump on and the truck leaves. I learn they were trying to get me to pay more money to get the truck to leave sooner. They were trying to make it look like there weren’t enough people to go. So instead I find a cheap hotel for tonight and try again in the morning.

In Inlay Lake, he hired a boat together with one Spanish and one French man. After traveling around the lake the group tried to have lunch at the place where

the boat driver dropped us off, but we found the prices were 4x the local rate. So we decided not to eat there. Inle Lake is big for tourism, so this kind of thing happens. Up to this point, I’ve only seen one restaurant in the country with posted prices. Everywhere else, they get to choose any price depending on the customer. Later we found another restaurant with more reasonable prices and had Shan food (Shan is the name of the people in this part of the country).”

From Inlay, he took a bus ride to Mandalay which was going fine the first couple hours until

the bus stopped at one of the rest stops where there is a store and restaurant and I think they decided to rebuild the engine or something. There were at least 5 men working on the bus engine, from the top, sides, and behind. It looked like they were getting pretty deep into the engine, and I didn’t understand why since it seemed to be running ok.

Three and a half hours later the engine finally started and we were ready to go. By this time it was getting late at night and I was feeling cold and hungry waiting outside and in the store. Throughout the night the bus would stop for a while and they would check the engine. So not the most enjoyable bus trip. The bus arrived about four hours late. About 14 hours instead of 10 hours.

In Mandalay, he traveled in and around the city, as well as near by places – Sagaing, Inwa (Ava), Amarapura and U Bain Bridge and Mingun after which he took a relaxing boat ride back to Mandalay. From Mandalay, he took a 3 and half hour bus ride to Monywa, where he stayed in a hotel. After visiting a couple of pagodas, he returned to hotel, after which he walked around to have lunch and ended up

eating dinner at a small table next to the road. I don’t think they’ve ever served a foreigner before, so they were excited and kept giving me so much food. I was getting a little nervous thinking I might have to pay a lot since they keep refilling all the plates, but it was only 1000 kyat ($0.83).”

He also met a guy on a motorcycle who stops and asks if he can

talk with me and I said ok. He said he is an English teacher and he drives around the city looking for foreigners to practice English with. He seemed very enthusiastic about language.”

The next day, he took a bus back to Mandalay where the bus starting going with

the very few unlucky passengers, there was so much vibration and the ride was not comfortable at all. Two guys would yell at everyone they past on the side of the road trying to get them in the bus. After a half hour, they stopped the bus, turned off the engine and the 5 guys went for a morning stroll. After a while they came back with no passengers and this continued for a while. It wasn’t pleasant when the bus was moved or stopped, I think the worst bus I’ve ever taken and I was so angry at these guys. But I was thinking it was my fault, I could have walked to the bus station when I had a chance.”

In Mandalay, he visited the Royal Palace and a couple of famous pagodas. Frome Mandalay, he took a 5:30 AM boat ride to Bagan (Pagan) which took around 15 hours. In Bagan, he checked in at Golden Myanmar Hotel which was recommended by a friend. The next day, he traveled the ancient city of Bagan on a bicycle to see hundreds of ancient pagodas and temples scattered around Bagan. The next day was New Year’s Eve and he had a nice dinner at the hotel. He talked to a few other tourists here. Some said they were

caught up in a scam where a local person invites them to their home for dinner and then asks to borrow like $50 for rent. They said these people would chase you on motorcycles. I noticed these people and saw they were aggressive and I stayed away already.”

The next day, he decided to try some food at a Myanmar restaurant. He ordered

a vegetable dish and some rice. The waitress asked if I wanted some curry, like chicken or pork or vegetable. She said she had a lot of vegetable. I said I’ll try a vegetable curry, but I was kind of shocked when all was finished there were 16 plates on my table! There were 10 plates of different curries, soup, a second soup because I finished half of my first soup, salad, fresh vegetables, rice, and the original dish I ordered.

I was panicking because I just ate an entire pizza three hours ago. I was thinking now it is my turn to get scammed. I asked the waitress if I have to pay for all of this or only what I eat. She said all. I tried to eat as much as I could , tried everything. I wish I was with someone else to share this meal and the whole time I was fearing the final price.

When I asked, she said 1500 kyat. I was shocked. That’s $1.25 and there’s 16 plates on my table? Well, it wasn’t a scam, I got the local price. They even gave me some small dessert snacks.

These are some of the accounts of the interesting story of Matero’s visit to Myanmar. I highly recommend you to read his story of Myanmar visit at his blog Oh, Matero.

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