Mine and Harri’s latest adventure took us from West London, after a week in the Lake District, to Yangon (Myanmar/Burma) via the old British outpost Hong Kong. After a 13 hour flight we landed in Hong Kong in the early afternoon and after the usual arrival procedures we hopped on a bus and went to explore one of the regions of the country nearest to the airport.
We caught a bus to Lantau Island, which despite being a couple of Kilometres away, took 50 minutes. When we arrived at the main bus depot we wandered around and enquired about how to get to the Tian Tan Buddha, a 34m high bronze statue atop a nearby mountain (it would be considered a hill to most people). There was a cable car which took 50 minutes to get up there and despite the prohibitive cost ($32 per person) we made our way to the desk. Unfortunately, we had arrived just a few minutes late as although the cable car was open by the time we reached the summit the Buddha would have shut. We then enquired about the bus but that took substantially longer but ultimately with the same outcome. We gave up and went in search of food instead and ended up in a massive shopping complex which had a food market type thing on its ground floor, the noodles were better received than the Octopus balls…
Another flight later (thankfully only three and a half hours) we landed in Myanmar, after very little sleep, at 2330 (local time). It was surprisingly one of, if not the, easiest entries into a country either Harri or I have ever encountered. There was one person in the queue at immigration, our E-visas were barely glanced at and we were swiftly waved through with a new stamp in our passports. On the other side we changed $100 into kyat (Burmese currency), jumped into a taxi and drove to our hostel. Not one did the driver need to stop and ask directions or take us to the wrong address. Everything went smoothly, which was just as well as we couldn’t wait to get to sleep.
Our hostel was sold as ‘pods’ which basically meant a large room split up with plywood divides and curtains as ‘doors’. It was perfectly adequate but not too inspiring. The following morning we got up, had breakfast and spent the day exploring the city. Yangon is renowned for its history and is full of impressive colonial architecture which was really interesting to see along many of the main streets. Another impressive feat of architecture was the Sule Pagoda, a large Stupa in the centre of the Old Town which we walked around and looked inside although we didn’t actually go all the way in because the cost of entry however we continued on and ventured into a food market and then into Bogyoke (pronounced: bo-cho) Market which is ‘the place’ for souvenirs, we bought a traditional umbrella/parasol and some lunch.
Shwedagon Pagoda is a larger version of Sule and is the most important Buddhist structure in the country. It was such an impressive sight – 99m of golden stupa. We wandered around the inside bare foot and tried desperately to avoid the scorching hot tiles which had been baked by the sun and still retained their heat but ultimately failed miserably and ended up dashing across open areas on the courtyard. The last thing we did was watch the sunset over Kandawygi Lake with Shwedagon Pagoda in the background, a memorable evening to our first day in Burma. We had rice and noodles for dinner at the bus park before departing on an overnight journey to Bagan. Harri was really excited by the luxurious bus, which fed you free (included in the price..) snacks and water, a blanket, actual leg room AND reclining seats, Harri has never been so excited before.