Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Myanmar Travel Tips

I recently visited Myanmar. It's my first time there, and as a new destination.. I really didn't know on what to expect. That plus the fact that not many friends have visited here.


Well, here are some travel tips that I have on my very first trip to Myanmar (and as far as I know, the first amongst many friends).

1. Currency Exchange
Rude shock - Malaysian money changers do not carry the Myanmar currency, Kyats. Not even the popular money changer in Mid Valley.

So what I did was to change the Malaysian Ringgit into US Dollars first. And I also carried some Singapore Dollars with me.

When I reached Myanmar, I could then change these currencies into Kyats.

Oh, one more thing to know - the money changers there give different rates not based on the total amount of money you are exchanging, but instead based on the value of each note. That means a USD100 note gets a higher value as compared to a USD20 note!! Also, they only accept 3 currencies - USD, SGD and Euro!

Kyats will be a good way to use in the country, though at certain places like the hotels and tourist places - they do accept US Dollars too.


2. Transportation
Taxis charge a flat rate of about 2000 Kyats, but depending on where you flag down a cab, the price may vary. This especially happens when I flag it from my hotel - which is a more high end hotel... hence the price is usually 3000 - 4000 Kyats per trip.

For short distance like from my hotel to the Shwegadon Palace, I actually walked.. it's only less than 1km, but weather is rather hot.


I also tried the bus - which is really those old school (antique type) buses. It's way cheaper (bout 200 Kyats per person). It's open air but I don't mind for that short distance.


3. Food
Local food are quite delicious and fits the Malaysian taste buds (this might differ if your taste buds is not so open to Asian taste). I like the local noodles but don't dare eat the ones at the street as most of them use their hands to mix the noodles, with no pipe water around (instead clean their hands in pails).


I however found some at a "coffee-shop" on the way to the Shwegadon Palace. The noodles were tasty.




I also tried the local pea pratha.. which is like "roti canai" but the dhall is more raw, and yummy too. It's probably my best local food in Myanmar, though the local mangoes come a close 2nd!

On a note, I had a lil tummy upset upon returning home, so I'd just like to warn other tourists to be a lil more careful.


4. Hotel And Accommodation
At this point of writing, Myanmar don't seem to offer much here. It's 2 options - either the very high end or the "lower end" ones.

I having traveled a fair bit, do like to stay in budget hotels but that is not available here. And while there seem to have a few cheaper hotels but the reviews online are not convincing... for they usually have some bad reviews amongst the other reviews.


This being the first time visiting Myanmar, I took a safer option and stayed in probably the top 3 hotels there - the Kandawgyi Palace. The hotel is 5 stars, and have good facilities plus a nice room. The only setback of this hotel is the swimming pool which the pump didn't seem to be working when I visited.


5. Sight Seeing


Pagodas are the main attractions here - like the Shwedagon Pagoda. Now, this is a huge place and can take up to a few hours to fully cover it.


The other Pagoda I visited is the Bohtataung Pagoda, which I got lucky as managed to visit it at night (for it was Wesak).



Yangon is also famous for its lakes - and I visited the rather huge Kandawgyi Lake. It took a good 45 minutes (slow walk and taking pictures) to reach from one end to another - and I actually just covered part of it.

These places do have a cover charge (USD5 for Shwedagon Pagoda and USD2 for the Kandawgyi Lake).


6. Shopping
While malls are starting to sprout out in Yangon but they are really not in the same league as yet to what the other cities in Asia has to offer. The range is a lil limited and prices are a lil steep.

I bought some longyi from this pretty lady seller :)
The better option would be to visit the Bogyoke market. Despite it being quite a huge place but still options are a lil limited and are more of the cheaper stuff. But still, one can find some gems in between - like postcard paintings at cheap price.

I also bought some longyi (aka sarungs).. which I've seen many Burmese men wear. However, I doubt that it's made locally and believe that they are imported from Indonesia or Malaysia (?)


7. Dressing
I visited Myanmar in May, and it was hot.. though it had some rain in between. I was happy that I opted for tops, singlets and short pants as much as I could.. However, I realised that I was the only one wearing the singlet around!

I actually read a sign that says that tourists are advised not to wear sleeveless shirts nor shorts into the Shwedagon Pagoda, but somehow I managed to get through. Luckily on that day, I wore long jeans.


Btw, I saw many Burmese men wearing the longyi (aka sarungs) and I got one myself. I actually wore this to the club too! Again, I was the odd one out here as just like I read, not many actually wear longyis when they club. I was of course allowed entry.. and err.. actually managed to dance in it too (yes to the amusement of some local fellow clubbers).


I hope my insight and tips on traveling to Myanmar is helpful. Yangon and Myanmar is still a good place to travel now, despite its limitations. As I can see, this place will be changing really fast as the city is opening up. By the next 5 years, some info on this posts may probably change..

2 comments:

Caroline Ng May Ling said...

OMG so mafan one to change money only. :o seems like u enjoy ur trip there! ok la, not too bad. hahaha

cheap hotel in Dhaka said...

wonderful travel place Myanmar, i like Myanmar,Myanmar is our neighbor county, hope i will visit there very soon thanks a lot for sharing