Day 8: Entering Country 53, Myanmar! Relaxing at The Strand Hotel, touring Yangon, and a meet up with a friend for a taste of the nightlife.
After a short uncomfortable nap in the lounge, we caught our early Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Yangon, Myanmar. We had the whole day to explore the city.
With our visas in hand, we got our entry stamp making country 53 official!
Besides a hiccup of an ATM swallowing my debit card, everything else was smooth and we caught a taxi (7,000 kyats) to downtown Yangon. Since we were coming back to the airport tomorrow, I could pick up my card from the bank’s counter then.
Tip: If an ATM machine’s screen is flickering, DON’T put in your card.
The driver was suspiciously friendly and polite, chatting about Obama’s visit and how the people wanted him back. The tourist shirts with “Oburma” seemed to convene the same.
We arrived at our hotel on the river bank and found that the taxi was indeed just very friendly.
We checked into the historic hotel where Rudyard Kipling and George Orwell once stayed. The colonial building, service, and rooms were all very impressive.
We went for lunch at Monsoon a restaurant serving Burmese and other Asian cuisine. A short walk away and we were inside the stylish restaurant filled with foreigners and locals alike. We ordered soup, a curry rice with a fresh-squeezed ginger carrot juice.
After lunch we jumped in a cab to avoid the rain to our next stop.
National Museum of Myanmar
Though not far, it took awhile to get to the museum with the surprisingly bad traffic.
At the entrance we paid for our tickets ($5 ea.) and had to store our phones and cameras in the provided lockers. I happened to “forget” my iPhone in my pocket.
Founded in 1952, the exhibits were spread across five floors and grouped according to the items. The Royal Lion Throne was the center showpiece which was related to the Royal Regalia hall displaying the gold ornaments used by the kings. Besides that, the Burmese artifacts, artworks, and musical items, such as the Myanmar harp and puppets, were interesting. There was a small souvenir section at the entrance. Overall, it was a bit disappointing and lacking in upkeep.
From the museum, we ran through the downpour to find another taxi. We asked him to take us to what we thought was the antiques market, but found it to be just a local market for appliances, clothing, and food. We knew we were in the wrong place by the stares of all the shop owners. It wasn’t very comfortable to say the least, so we soon left.
Fortunately, we were right next to a famous lake.
This artificial lake had a park where couples seem to gather. The rain stopped so the views and atmosphere were serene. The orate Karaweik was also located here which I was surprised to find now houses a restaurant. It was built in 1972 to replicate a Burmese royal barge.
Nearby were a few shops, where we stopped for a coffee.
As it started raining again, we decided to call it a day and headed back to the hotel. We got an informative tour of The Strand Hotel and relaxed before dinner.
We had arranged dinner with my friend Vorana who is living in Yangon. We met in the lobby and took a taxi to a restaurant he recommended.
Kachin Land is a restaurant specializing in cuisine from the northern ethnic group of Myanmar. The small restaurant served some delectable dishes. We tried their “hot and strong” spirit as well as the milky rice wine.
It was great to catch up with Vorana over a special meal and learn about his experience in settling into Myanmar while building a business.
After dinner we went to the newly opened Union Bar, which I found was the same chain as the one in Beijing. After some more jovial conversation over drinks, we bid Vorana goodnight and went back to the hotel.
What a great start to Myanmar!