Yangon is a city of gold and an amazing travel destination.
Nothing too exciting here - we're looking to see the top sites of the city. Since many of the most recent guidebooks are already out of date, owing to the many changes Myanmar has experienced in the past year, I've been relying on a lot of blog posts to get up to date information.
We booked our guest house, Mother Land Inn 2, well in advance. By all accounts there is a shortage of high quality, low price accommodations in Yangon and MLI2 really stands out in an otherwise mediocre pack. They book solid and they book quickly - we were glad to have made our arrangements far in advance.
We really have no idea how to get around Yangon. Walking? Taxis? Public buses? I'm so used to mapping out every step of the journey it seems a bit strange to go in slightly unprepared. In all honesty, I've scarcely looked at a map and I only have a vague idea of where everything is.
Our guest house includes a complimentary shuttle to the airport, leaving us with one less thing to worry about.
Everything! If all goes well, these may be the least expensive days of our trip.
Splurges and Souvenirs:
None! We were all splurged out in Bagan! This is absolutely a budget leg of the trip.
SOOO.... How Did It Go?
Entering the complex is part of the adventure, as you walk barefoot up a large staircase, with dozens of vendors set up along the side. The walkway was surprisingly clean and, despite the many vendors, it was relatively quiet.
The Lonely Planet guidebook describes the museum as containing absolutely spectacular treasures that were appallingly lit and horribly labeled and this proved to be very accurate. Sadly, the spectacular ivory chairs, solid gold bowls, and gemstones the size of marbles look somewhat dull in the lighting of this government building.
In many ways it was an exhausting place to visit. We had to check everything, including wallets and phones, in a storage locker. No cameras, no photos. Note: unlike the Shwedagon Pagoda, the museum accepted only Kyat, no dollars allowed. We were given admission passes that warned us to be prepared to present them on demand to museum officials. It's hard to imagine a scenario by which someone could sneak into the museum and, as we were only 2 of 6 people in the building, there was no chance of being lost in the crowd.
We enjoyed the exhibits and appreciated learning more about Myanmar, but it was a challenging environment. The bad lighting made looking around a bit of a chore but we are hopeful things will improve in the future. There seem to be many projects planned for the days ahead and the museum is currently renovating all of its washrooms.
Yangon is a mix of crumbling buildings and the smell of fresh plaster. While I hesitate to use the proverbial travel cliche of "a city of contrasts", it really really was. Men in longhis and flip flops cram onto diesel burning buses with their suit-clad colleagues. We hopped cracked paving stones and open sewer drains while visiting one of the city's first ATMs. You are just as likely to hear pulsing hip hop music as the enthusiastic crow of the rooster.
While the city intrigued us, the people captivated us. Yangon residents were kind, reserved, helpful, shy, hospitable, modest, impossibly stylish, proud, and good humored, all mixed together in equal doses. In a city of constant change, I hope they always stay the same. We were leaving Myanmar, but the people won't ever leave us, and we both hope to return one day soon.
Next Stop: Bangkok
More About Myanmar:
Kipling, Orwell, and Harry Potter: A Day in Mandalay
Getting To and From Mandalay Airport
Sailing Down the Irrawaddy: Traveling by Boat from Mandalay to Bagan
The BEST Travel Experience of my Life: Balloons Over Bagan
The WORST Travel Experience of my Life: The Overnight Train from Bagan to Yangon
Besotted with Bagan: Day 10 &11 of Our Round The World Trip
Guest House Review: Yangon's Motherland Inn 2