36 hours in Yangon: Arriving in Myanmar

In Yangon we arrive directly from Singapore, and feel relieved we can finally breath, even though it is a very hot summer-like  day of… November. After having prepared this trip to Myanmar for about a whole year, I knew it was the best period to visit: the dry “cold” season. This post is about how we spend the first part of our 36 hours in Yangon.

36 hours in Yangon – Part I

We arrive at the Airport

At the Yangon International Airport we have to pass security checks in order to have our visa stamp granted. The officials don’t ask many questions, they just review our online profile and check our papers before putting the stamp on our passports.

Then change money

Passed the security, we are in a hall where we can change money, so we do exactly that. The exchange office employee is meticulously checking all the euro notes we want to exchange. Some microscopic defaults on one note; we have to provide another one.

Book a cab

With the Myanmar money in the envelope, we head to the taxi desk and order a taxi. All prices are already written on the boards. A taxi ride to Yangon Downtown is either 8 USD or 8000 Kyat. We just saw the exchange rate for the USD too, so we know that is more interesting to pay directly in Kyat. The girl at the front desk provides us with a order ticket, but we don’t pay a dime to her. We have to pay directly the driver when we gets us at the destination.

And boy, those cabs are old!

So now that we kinda booked the taxi, another girl accompanies us to the parking, at the exit of the airport, so she tells the driver where to drop us. Seeing those cars, a shock: I could say I was 20 years back in time, in Romania. Not in my hometown, but to the countryside, where people still used very old cars they’d repaired. Old stuff, like Lada, Skoda, or even the national Oltcit.

With a quick addition (it’s 20 years ago during my childhood plus minimum another 10 years), Myanmar seems at least 30 years back into the past.

Enjoy the taxi ride to the guesthouse

But the shock doesn’t stop at the cars in the airport’s parking. During this 20 min log taxi ride, we see all kinds of buildings with their façade ready to fall off, sooner or later. But that’s not the reason I am in a bit of shock. It is the urban jungle that shocks me! People crossing the streets wherever they feel like, cars honking nonstop all around us, and our car too. We aren’t going too fast, we’re advancing rather slowly with lots of little sudden breaks and honks.

By the time we get to our guesthouse it’s already past noon, so starting here is where our 36 hours in Yangon adventure begins.

And check in the guesthouse

The driver drops us in front of our guesthouse, in the Downtown of Yangon. Downtown… The Downtown is… a sequence of one way little streets, loaded with cars and people and more supply delivery cars. The same chaos we’ve seen on our way here.

Spotting our guesthouse, we start climbing the stairs up a narrow building. The place is simple, but the reception warm and welcoming. We have one night here.

They show us our room

The garçon shows us the room that is surprisingly big. Two bottles of water on the table, nice. Toilets and showers on the hallway, not bad. “Neighbour” enters our room when we aren’t paying attention. Looks around and hides – purrrfect! – it thinks to itself. It’s decided! We have the best room and this cat approves, since it doesn’t want to leave.

We get some info at the front-desk

No rush. We’ll wait for you to get out, don’t you worry, kitty. I love your purr and your fur. Meanwhile, we unpack some things and take a well deserved shower. Whow, that feels good!

I pack my camera gear and we’re off exploring the Downtown. We stop at the front-desk so we ask for some information regarding what to do and see in Yangon. They provide us with a map! And they kindly let me borrow the phone so I can book the next guesthouse to Bago for the next day.

And go visit Sule Pagoda

We are going for Sule Pagoda before the sun sets. It’s the first pagoda we’re visiting in Myanmar, during our 36 hours in Yangon. It’s pricey, though. We pay, I cover my shoulders and we take off our shoes. Entering this Pagoda feels like stepping into another world. Everything is clean, quiet and luxuriously kitsch looking. Despite the kitsch of the gold-like material cover, we like it, take plenty of pictures and take a moment to enjoy this place.

Then stroll towards the banks of Yangon River

In the evening we are headed towards the Yangon River which is in the South of the Downtown. We pass through many streets, a market, and we walk for a while before reaching the river.

There is a harbor with plenty of loud, polluting ships, and we cannot breath. I take a quick picture of the sunset over the water and leave this place.

And end up exploring Downtown by night

It’s only 6 pm, around 30 hours from our 36 hours in Yangon still remain. We want to see Bothataung Pagoda on the Yangon River, but don’t find it while we still have light. By the time we find our way out of the harbor, it’s already pitch black outside. Not much street light, but Rémi has brought his flashlight.

Reaching Downtown, we are amazed by how much people are on the streets. This is the China Town part of the Downtown, with many shops, many street food vendors and many people trying to make room for themselves.

A stop at Linkage

Of course, we are not very enthusiast to try the street food. I don’t want to take a risk. Frankly, I am not sure how clean everything is. I have read many blogs talking about how cheap and good the food is in Myanmar. I didn’t find it. The cheap food wasn’t good nor clean, and the good food wasn’t cheap.

We go to a restaurant recommended in our guide. Apparently, all French people converge here. The place is called Linkage and the young girl speaks French. I am amazed.

The food is delicious, especially the crispy tea leaves salad. But what I like the most is that the owner promotes local artists on the walls of the restaurant.

The first part of 36 hours in Yangon ends here, as we roll our way back and slither in our beds. Goodnight, Yangon!

And the next day we wake up at 4 am to visit Shwedagon Pagoda at sunrise.

In the next post I’ll talk about one of the bucketlist worthy place to visit in Myanmar: Shwedagon Pagoda.

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13 thoughts on “36 hours in Yangon: Arriving in Myanmar”

  1. This really answered some of the questions I was having on the airport transfer to Downtown and how to change money; I also have Euro and was concerned I might lose too much with the double-conversion, thank you!

  2. Thanks for the outstanding information, it actually is useful. I am planning my visit in Myanmar for this December. There are lots of info on your blog about Myanmar. And budgeting tips reaaally helped me to have an idea.
    Now I’m catching up on your stories.
    Thanks,
    JT

  3. what an adventure! the green decadence building reminds me of some backyards in Kyiv 🙂 and I love how you organize the article 🙂

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