Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Day 6: Back to Yangon - Encounter with a Timid Taxi Driver; Buying Red Ruby and Blue Sapphire

17 May 2013 (Friday)

The arrangement with Remember Inn was for a taxi to pick me up at 7:30 a.m. My flight was at 9:45 a.m. It would take about an hour to reach the airport in Heho.

When I failed to see the taxi driver at about 7:30 a.m., I got a little worried. The hotel boss assured me that the taxi would be there. Finally, the driver showed up. We walked over to his taxi and when he started the engine, it failed. It was already 7:30 a.m. and I was really worried.

He called for backup and we waited. No taxi came after 10 minutes! The hotel owner raced off on his motorcycle to call him. The taxi finally came, racing towards the hotel. It was a relief. This must be a fast driver, speeding like this. I should be able to make it in time to the airport, or so I thought.

The good feeling lasted only a few minutes. This driver was so timid that even when the road in front was clear and there was only a motorcycle to overtake, he would slow down and horn. Since there were vehicles coming and going all the time, he drove very slowly and practically horned all the way from Nyaungshwe to Heho Airport, horning at buses, cars, tuk-tuks, motorcycles, ox-carts, pedestrians, dogs, cats, mouse and snails. He probably feared that the vehicles or people or snails in front would suddenly swerve into his path and caused an accident. I was very irritated with his slow driving and thought of taking over the wheels from him. Didn't he know horning like that reflect very poor road courtesy? I expect a driver holding a valid driving license would know that.

Fortunately, it did not take one hour but 45 minutes only to reach the airport. I was just in time. I later realised that Myanmarese have a habit of exaggerating the time needed to travel between two points. At Yangon, I was told by OK Travel and Tours that it would take one hour by taxi from White House Hotel to Yangon domestic terminal. The White House owner told me it would take 30 minutes because there was no traffic jam early in the morning. In actual fact, it took only 15 minutes.

Scenic road from Nyaungshwe to Heho Airport

Almost at Heho Airport now ...
Heho Airport
Air KBZ check-in counters at Heho Airport
Inside the departure gate area
Departure gate. Instead of using a public address system to inform passengers it was time for boarding, the placard and an announcement by mouth were employed
The plane took off at 9:30 a.m., earlier than the scheduled time of 9:45 a.m. This time, the plane was at least half-full (or half-empty), not almost empty. Unlike Bagan and Yangon, the passport needed to be checked and boarding pass to be stamped by the Immigration officer to be validated.

Boarding pass which has been stamped by Heho Airport Immigration
Air KBZ crew
The breakfast from Heho to Yangon. The same pastries were served on the Yangon to Bagan Air KBZ flight. It was quite delicious.
Airside of Yangon International Airport
At the Yangon International Airport domestic terminal, there was no transport counter at the arrival hall. I exited the building and someone came over asking whether I needed a taxi. I inquired how much and he quoted me 9,000 Kyat. I agreed and was led to a taxi driver who took me to White House Hotel.

The room I reserved at White House Hotel before I left was not available to me. The owner was fully aware that I would be coming back. The excuse given was the person who was supposed to leave did not do so because tropical storm Mahasen was affecting the weather in the north. I was told there was one last ensuite room on the fifth floor, with windows and was air-conditioned. The price was USD30.

This was the low season and I could have walk out and search for another hotel. Daddy's Home Hotel was just 30 metres away. However, considering that the hotel owner was quite nice and it was only an additional USD5 for one last night, I decided to take it. The room was worse than the already old room I got during my earlier stay, and I have to walk five floors up.

During my earlier stay, I had explored practically the whole stretch of Maha Bandoola Road from 14th Street to Sule Pagoda. At Anawrahta Road, I had explored west of Konzaydan Street. This time, I decided to walk on Anawrahta Road east of Konzaydan Street. What a discovery as I explored the area.

The pink route indicated the streets that I explored in Yangon. The total distance I walked was close to 20 kilometres, based on the record indicated in the tracks on my Garmin eTrex 20.
Sule Pagoda seen from the overhead bridge at the junction of Sule Pagoda Road and Anawrahta Road
The first thing I did was to take my lunch at a Muslim restaurant with no English sign.

The Muslim restaurant without an English name
As I continued walking east, I saw Innwa Cold Drinks and Confectionery restaurant patronised by a young crowd and went in for my second lunch. Next door was a fully crowded Shwe Htoo Restaurant, patronised mostly by older men. A well-patronised restaurant meant the food must be good, cheap and fresh. I have to come back to this restaurant that night.

Shwe Htoo Restaurant was a really popular place for the ordinary Myanmarese
As I continued walking east, I saw the famous Nilar Biryani and Cold Drink Restaurant. I have been looking out for this restaurant since Day 1 and now that I have found it, I have to come here the next day.

That afternoon, I went to New Bogyoke Market. Most of the stalls were selling pharmaceutical products. It was located directly opposite Bogyoke Market across Bogyoke Aung San Road. Later, I went to Bogyoke Market to hunt for souvenirs and cheap ruby and sapphire to take home.

"Common Mistakes in English" was a gem. I relied on it with another grammar book
to improve my English in lower secondary school.
Most stalls were selling pharmaceutical products at New Bogyoke Market
New Bogyoke Market
The overhead bridge links New Bogyoke Market to Bogyoke Market
During my earlier stay in Yangon, I had asked the White House owner for tips about buying ruby and other precious stones and their prices. He told me that jewelleries sold at Bogyoke Market come with genuine precious stones, not imitations, but the prices could be cheap because of their inferior grade (I was told by Aung Su Wint, the co-owner at Mya Thida Hotel in Bagan that it cost more money to produce artificial stones than genuine stones!!!). For a non-expert, it would be impossible to know the quality of the stones. He told me the best stones are kept in the showrooms of the company owners in their mansions and only oversea gem traders and experts with millions of dollars to spend would get to see these high quality stones. Those sold at Bogyoke Market and the Gems Museum were of lower quality. Most stones were mined around Mandalay.

First floor, Bogyoke Market
Jewellery shop at Bogyoke Market

Along the central aisle at Bogyoke Market, both sides were lined with jewellery shops
Outside Bogyoke Market
Abandoned Yangon Railway building

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