Friday, June 7, 2013

Day 1: Yangon - Sule Pagoda, Maha Bandoola Road and Anawrahta Road

12 May 2013 (Sunday)

11 May, the day to fly to KL for the flight to Myanmar the following morning had finally arrived.

I called White House Hotel to confirm my booking. I wrote to them on 12 April 2013 and was advised in the reply email to confirm my booking intention one day ahead of my arrival. I emailed to White House Hotel and called, just to make sure today.

At 5:30 p.m., a close friend came to fetch and send me to Sibu Airport. The flight was at 7:00 p.m. but left ten minutes late.

I stayed overnight at LCCT as usual for this kind of early morning flight, which was at 6:55 a.m. to Yangon. We landed in Yangon International Airport as scheduled at 8:00 a.m. local time (9:30 a.m., Malaysia time), and waited for about 5 - 10 minutes before the plane taxied to its parking bay.

Yangon International Airport is not very big, but brand new and modern. It is about the size of Kuching Airport.

The Arrival Hall has an open space and feels very spacious. Going one level down were the Immigration counters manned by pretty young things - that's a positive impression.

Going down to ground level for Immigration and Customs checks

Arrival hall at Yangon International Airport
Further down the arrival hall was the Myanma Foreign Trade Bank money exchange counter. I changed USD200 to crispy new Kyat (pronounced as "chet"). The rate was USD1 to MMK896, and I got myself a small bundle of Kyat. Only three currencies were available for exchange, namely USD, EUR and SGD.

Only three currencies are accepted for money exchange

My little bundle of 5,000 Kyats and some smaller change of 1,000 Kyats
A custom officer was standing at the Customs green lane to collect the custom declaration forms from exiting passengers. I told him that I have three items for temporary admission, namely my DSLR Nikon camera, my Sony Xperia P smartphone and my Garmin eTrex 20. He said that there was no need to declare them.

The customs declaration form
Outside the arrival hall at the public area, there were a few counters, including money exchange counters and transport counters. I inquired with a lady at a transport counter for a taxi to White House Hotel. The cost was USD10. That was it. I was not asked to pay anything but a man standing near the counter was given some verbal instructions and he led me to a taxi parked outside the building on the road. They were very polite.

The taxi service counter outside the arrival hall at Yangon International Airport
The taxi driver spoke limited English and on our way to White House Hotel, he pointed out Inya Lake and Shwedagon Pagoda to me. I paid the taxi driver on reaching White House Hotel at 9:00 a.m.

The right-hand drive taxi on a right-lane drive road

White House Hotel at Konzaydan Street
Room 301 had been reserved for me. It was on Level 3 and it was being cleaned by a team of 4 - 5 young girls. I was shown the room by an attendant and I was to confirm that it was okay before taking the room. It was fine with me. The rate was USD25 for the air-conditioned ensuite room but without windows. Outside the room was the hotel laundry and ironing area.

My bed in White House Hotel

The bathroom ...

The laundry outside my room
Then, I went down to the reception counter to register my name and pay USD25 for the night. The man there (I later found out he was the co-owner with his brother) told me to go up to have my complementary breakfast at Level 8. Free breakfast was between 8:00 - 10:00 a.m. Except for bread, there was really not much left of other food.

These notices were posted at every floor and the entrance door. He needed to rest too and could not be expected to man the door all day and all night.
Since I have only a week in Myanmar, I didn't want to waste time and went out to see down town Yangon. This was the old Yangon and I have come to see old crumbling relics of the past.

From Konzaydan Street, I walked to Maha Bandoola Road and strolled eastwards to Sule Pagoda.

Konzaydan Street between White House Hotel and Maha Bandoola Road

Daddy's Home Hotel was just 50 metres away from White House Hotel on the same street

Street food at Konzaydan Street

Street hawkers at Maha Bandoola Road east of Konzaydan Street

Sule Pagoda seen from Maha Bandoola Road

Street food near Sule Pagoda

Private telephone booth. Booths like this could be seen all over the downtown area

Konzaydan Street between Maha Bandoola Road and Anawrahta Road. The single storey market on the left was closed before I had the chance to explore inside

Konzaydan Street between Maha Bandoola Road and Anawrahta Road. What was the wood for?

Konzaydan Street between Maha Bandoola Road and Anawrahta Road

City Center Supermarket marks the end of Konzaydan Street
Anawrahta Road - I bought three pieces of these DVD, and none was able to play on my PC or DVD player

Hotpot Myanmar style at Bogyoke Aung San Road

Strange food at a Bogyoke Aung San Road hawker stand

Bogyoke Aung San Road - antiques

Bogyoke Market, formerly Scott Market

Bogyoke Market entrance
I still haven't bought my air tickets to Heho yet. That afternoon, I decided to search for a travel agency. I went to Anawrahta Road and found Golden Air Travel and Tour. The door was opened and I entered but the lone officer told me that it was a Sunday and I needed to come back the next day at 10:00 a.m. to book the tickets.

26th Street between Anawrahta Road and Maha Bandoola Road

Cooling water over a piece of ice for sale

26th Street between Anawrahta Road and Maha Bandoola Road

Anawrahta Road west of 26th Street

20th Street between Anawrahta Road and Maha Bandoola Road
Maha Bandoola Road west of Konzaydan Street

Maha Bandoola Road west of Konzaydan Street

Maha Bandoola Road west of Konzaydan Street, in front of a Chinese Temple

Maha Bandoola Road west of Konzaydan Street

Maha Bandoola Road west of Konzaydan Street

Maha Bandoola Road west of Konzaydan Street

Maha Bandoola Road west of Konzaydan Street

Maha Bandoola Road west of Konzaydan Street

Maha Bandoola Road west of Konzaydan Street

At mid-afternoon, vendors started to display their goods on the street at Maha Bandoola Road

Maha Bandoola, Anawrahta and Bogyoke Aung San Roads were crowded with street hawkers selling all kinds of things all day and night. The area was like a large market but instead of housing all these hawkers in a proper building, they were free to trade on the pavement, five-footways and roads.

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