Yangon – Airport Rides and Botataung Pagoda

After our 36 hours of flying through 6 airports, we finally landed in Yangon, Myanmar. It took probably 2 hours to get through immigration because all information at customs was being entered manually.

Jet-lagged and delirious, the 10K drive from the airport to our budget inn took an hour.

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Compared to any other Asian city, you will notice no motor bikes and instead old 90s? 80s? Toyotas living out the rest of their lives. Motorbikes are illegal, and there’s various rumors of why. One version about the ban is that a person on a motorbike made a threatening gesture to a military general; another is that a motorbike rider distributed pro-democracy leaflets, and the third is that a general’s son was killed while riding a motorbike.

Furthermore, in May 2003, a ban on using car horns was implemented in six townships of Downtown Yangon to reduce noise pollution. In April 2004, the car horn ban was expanded to cover the entire city which is why in stand still traffic, on a hot regular day, it is still fairly silent.

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I heard that Yangon, had some colonial architecture, but compared to what I saw in South America, it was decaying at best. Although, I heard most of the property is being renovated as foreign investment grows. Maybe in half a decade, they’ll be colonial buildings worthy of a photograph beyond a depressing, neglected sight.

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The exchange rate at the airport was about 970 Kyats for $1 so when we exchange 100 dollar bill, we got 97 single notes, making Tony feel like a baller.

We stayed at Hnin Si Budget Inn. We paid about $27 for a double room, but the current rate is now $35 or maybe even more since we left in November. The room is bare at most, kinda like a box with a shared mixed gender bathroom. As mentioned before, lodging in Myanmar is disappointing at best where you have two options, a $300 hotel, or an overpriced (by Asia standards) simple guest room. We opted to save money on lodging so we could travel more.

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By the time we got settled in, the sun was already set. Walking around the barely lit streets was a challenge. There wasn’t sidewalks where we were, as much as just concrete slabs to cover up sewage, so instead you walk besides the cars, hoping that there’s way too much traffic for the cars to go fast enough to hurt you. We walked by this tree house looking thing that I thought was cool.

We walked around noticing, a high rate of donut shops around us, but besides that, limited eating options near by. While I can be pretty adventurous with food choices at times, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my trip in a bathroom so we opted for the most cleanest, western friendly place we could find. “Japan, Japan” was to be our dining of choice before we passed out into sleep. Probably our most disappointing food selection of the trip since we went in blind.

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The next morning we woke around 6, had some basic breakfast at the inn (fried egg and worst toast ever). I’m not sure if locals ever eat bread in Myanmar because the only thing worse than crappy wifi in the country, was the crappy bread. But it was free and with no food poisoning history, so I’ll take it. IMG_9589

It was around 6:30 AM and we walked over to Botataung Pagoda, about a 15 minute walk. Already, the locals were out and about. I guess there’s no such thing as lazy Sunday?

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Fun or sad fact, but the original Botataung Pagoda was actually destroyed in WWII, and this amazing structure we walked around is a replica.  Within the stupa was this hall of mirrors that also holds some ancient relics from the original pagoda. It might also hold an ancient buddha hair or something.

Entrance for foreigners is $3 USD, where you must walk barefoot and I scared together whatever clothes I had that covered my knees and shoulders, not an easy task when its already 90 and humid by 7AM.

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Above are just a few shots out of the 300 or so I took within the span of 2 hours we walked around. Although Botataung Pagoda is only the third largest in Yangon, it was the first one I saw on this trip, so everything amazed me. Even reflecting back on everything I saw during my trip, this was probably one of my favorite Pagodas that I visited.

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After the morning visit to Botataung Pagoda, we took a cab to the airport for another flight to Mandalay. Above and below are just some snapshots I took from the car as we drove.

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Besides buses, most common mode of transportation are pick up trucks.

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We got to the airport a little bit early so we snacked on some dim sum bites while we waited.

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