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10 days in Burma (Myanmar) - men in sarongs (longyi)

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RooFlyer

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Opportunity came up not long ago to go to Burma (Myanmar – I’ll stick with the old name) for 10 days, intersecting with some friends who were going to be there.

The travel budget was just about skint, so I raided the Aeroplan cookie jar and booked MEL-BKK-MEL on TG business, and BKK-RGN/openjaw/MDL-BKK in economy. Unfortunately I missed out on day flights to BKK, so it was an over nighter. Can’t be too bad, right?

The trip for me is going to be:

* Three days in Yangon
* Then a 6 day private tour, starting with a 9 hour drive to Bagan (that’s one way to see the country!)
* Day in Bagan, including early morning balloonride over the temples (I hope)
* Visit to shrines at Mt Popa;
* Three days around Mandalay
* Airport transfer, back to BKK, overnight and home

The trip begins, as always at HBA. And as always, the in-bound flight (VA) is late so we are late boarding but a nice J seat awaits me. This is a Virgin points flight as well. I know there are those that would be horrified at redeeming points for a short domestic flight, but this is what I use my Virgin points for – a nice start to an o/s holiday!

After checking-in, I notice hoardings were up and my heart fluttered wondering if this was evidence of the lo-o-o-ng awaited VA lounge at HBA. Alas, no. Just new security area; the plans don’t have any evidence of a VA lounge being added subsequently in the old security area, which would do nicely. No doubt another shop. Bollocks.

Lunch was good – choice of 2 hot mains or a salad. This was the meatballs. The cheese was soft and went really well with the quince paste on flatbread!

Virgin lunch.jpg


After killing some time in Melbourne, and having dinner at Lygon Street with a mate, I checked in and proceeded to the SQ lounge, ignoring the invitation to the ANZ lounge on the BP!. Lots of people have been there, so just a couple of gratuitous pics:

SQ MEL.jpg


Oh dear, the ‘sparkling' was out, flat and dreadful! Lucky I wasn't hungry or thirsty ;)

SQ MEL 2.jpg


Boarded about midnight and departed about 00:30am onschedule. A 777. Gawd, I hate these full after-midnight meal services. BKK is only about 3 hour’s difference. C an’t they make do with a snack or something? I was dead tried and just put the bed down and went to turn in.

Horrors! :shock: I hadn’tresearched the bed, as there wasn’t much choice of carrier via Aeroplan points and I’d done TG in J before (but, I then recalled, that was a 747). The bed was atrocious! First world problems I know, and “lucky to bein business” but still .. narrow, lots of things sticking out, NON flat and angled! I took 2 temazapan and hoped forthe best. I guess I slept some, but didn’t feel like it when they started breakfast, 2 hours out of Bangkok.

I had ordered the pancakes the night before and here they are. They tasted as horrible as they look; dry and stodgy. I took half a dozen bites to provide the ‘fatty meal’ to go with my anti-malarial tablets, but then I downed tools. Probably the worst J meal I have EVER had.

TG breakfast and landing.jpg


Of course we de-planed onto a bus. Of 4 landings at BKK in the past 18 months, everyone has been onto a bus, followed by Tour d’Airport.

I loath BKK airport too. Too big, poorly signed, grossly overcrowded TG lounges. Sorry to start the TR off with a whinge, butI swear that’s my last trip on TG. It is an economical J trip to Asia or Europe, but even so, it’s just not worth it.

It was a nice morning at BKK though, but the Royal Orchid Lounge near pier F was just ridiculous. I got a shower OK, but then it was a fight for a seat and then for some tucker to replace the stuff on the plane.

BKK and ROL.jpg


Fresh fruit and crap coffee – oh, well, its soon onto Yangon!
 
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smit0847

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I've taken loads of TG J flights (incl the midnight departure from MEL) and must point out:

- departing from MEL at night does have the benefit of being very very quiet meaning no lines, crowds etc.

- the SQ MEL lounge is a pretty good J lounge

- yes the angled seats aren't great for overnight flights- they are slowly upgrading the Australian routes with fully-flats.

- I've never found the TG lounges to be crowded early morning- there's about 5 of them at BKK! The SQ lounge at BKK is always very pleasant- very quiet, great food and staff.

Looking forward to the rest of the trip but I would rather travel TG J than the best Y+ in the world!
 

RooFlyer

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<snip> I would rather travel TG J than the best Y+ in the world!
Oh, I'm with you there and I didn't mean it to be a bagging-out of TG. I was tired :eek: . I think the TG lounge in question is the only one at the F Pier end of the terminal? I know there are 3, including the big one, at the other end. But this morning they did have hostesses shuffling people so they could sit, people standing trying to juggle some food etc.
 

amaroo

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Looking forward to this report.... one of the few countries we are yet to visit in the region.
 

RooFlyer

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Boarding TG303 for RGN was, predictably, by bus.But it all went pretty efficiently and we took off at 8:00am, on time.I didn’t realise until boarding that my requested and ‘confirmed’ aisle seat on the window side had been switched for an aisle in the centre block, but no worries.
TG Y.jpg

Served a snack for the hour long flight.At this point I began to wonder what drronand mrs.drron might be sampling on their TG F flight! I have a feeling it may have been better than butter less cheese sandwiches!
TG Y snack.jpg

Smooth flight to RGN where we pulled up to the sheer luxury of an air-bridge! Fairly normal procedure; into immigration hall (hint – look for the booths set back from the front;after the queues formed, some-one noticed the ones at the back and we got 2 new lines formed, with 4 officers serving!).

Customs form, arrivals card and the Visa letter I got by e-mail after my on-line application. Magic!US$50 and an on-line form, including uploading a passport pic.Got it processed in 3 business days. Through immigration in about 15 mins (queue of 5 in front of me); bags are there by that time, through customs and out.

I had arranged a ‘limo’ from the Sule Shangri-La to meet me for US$45. Arriving at new places and working out which ‘taxis’ are scammers, which are expensive and which won’t getlost is my #1 pet hate and I nearly always pay more to get a good ride the first time.

Met easily, hotel rep; driver and guy for the bags.Went to an ATM first and got 100,000 kyat(abt $100) using CITI debit card.Will report fee / FX when I see the transaction on-line. So my crisp US$ went un-used. There are lots of ‘money changers’ (FX desks) there too, but mostly they had significant queues.

So out to the outside where the driver disappeared to get the car.Pretty chaotic, but I’ve seen alot worse.

RGN arrival.jpg

The ‘limo’ turned out to be a plain sedan. Never mind – it was clean and the guy drove safely. The promised wi-fi wasn’t there; will mention to the hotel. But we did have 4 Buddas on the dashboard, including a sporty rotating version!

Limo.jpg


First impressions – the roads have heavy traffic, but not choked (it was about 9:30am).Not much litter around the streets; most people seemed to have something to do; place mostly well-kept with lots of tree lined streets etc. Cars seem in good nick and modern-ish. In fact the traffic would flow much better still if it wasn’t for ridiculously long traffic light times.Took an hour to get to the Shangri-La (usedto be Traders, but recently up-graded). Telling lack of tooting of horns (some, but reasonably well restrained). Cars have RH drive, but drive on the RH side of the street, too! Just like in Nassau, Bahamas.

Met at the door by hostess, confirmed my ID and we went straight to the room (10:30am by this time – thank goodness it was ready).In-room check-in. Second time I’ve had this and I don’t like it.Last time they took my credit cardand passport downstairs. This time she photographed them with her iPad! Both sides of the cc. It was all over by the time I realised what she was doing.It pizzed me off a bit –how secure is that?

Lobby is dignified and tings are easy to find

Shangri La inside.jpg


Anyway, I’m here.Rangoon, Burma! :mrgreen:
 

RooFlyer

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I chose the Sule Shangri-La sort of on a combination of Trip Advisor reviews, price and location. Its downtown and has been recently refurbished and upgraded from a Traders. I was tempted to go for a Club Room, but in the end the subsequent tour got pricier than I hoped and I squibbed it. Just an 'ordinary' room, on the 12th floor. Its quite nice.

Shangri La room.jpg


Views aren't anything to write home about. The best aspect is the other side. Here we just look out over greater Yangon on the left and over 'Scotts market' (known today as Bogyoke Market) to the right. Looks like its closed today.

Shangri La views.jpg

Here's the pub from a pedestrian overpass down the road, and looking 180 degrees the other way, the Sule Pagoda. Legend has it that this Stupa was built during the time of Buddha - 2,500 years ago - and contains a hair from Buddha's head. More on it later.

Sule.jpg

Now - men in sarongs (I was going to say men in skirts, but that would be unkind) - a longyi is a male garment worn throughout Burma. And you see it on all age groups - young dudes, older guys, even businessmen. Its just wrapped around the waist and held in place without a knot. Thongs are all the go, too.

Longyi.jpg


And lastly - now for something completely different. I bet you didn't expect the Spanish inquisition OR the Anglican Church in Yangon - but on the other hand you would, seeing it was a British colony for so long. This is Holy Trinity Cathedral, just along the street from the Shangri-La

Holy Trinity.jpg
 

drron

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Just 12 days behind you and looking forward to your reports.
Yes a TG F daytime flight does mean better meals.The caviar was nice.Thought I was doing well getting half a jar of the stuff until mrsdrron got a whole jar.Didn't come with a mother of pearl spoon but I preferred that they got the chilled vodka right.
We also scored a remote stand.At least F pax get their very own bus.
 

burmans

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Yes indeed the market is closed on a Monday as I found out after rushing around town to get there. While the colonial part of old Yangon is interesting it wasn't my favourite place in Myanmar, but you have some great things in store in Bagan.

Apparently about 3 years ago you could stay at Traders for about $50, gone up a bit since then!
 

TomVexille

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Now - men in sarongs (I was going to say men in skirts, but that would be unkind) - a longyi is a male garment worn throughout Burma. And you see it on all age groups - young dudes, older guys, even businessmen. Its just wrapped around the waist and held in place without a knot. Thongs are all the go, too.
Quite a popular garment in Southern India as well.
 

RooFlyer

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I did my usual recce walk yesterday, with no specific targets in mind, just to get the fee of the place. As I mentioned, I'm staying down town. Crossing the road here is like many places in Asia. its the 'just walk out and dare them not to stop' technique. I'm quite used to that, although it usually helps to be down-traffic from a little old lady who is also crossing :) . But here - sheesh! They've got 'playing chicken' down to a fine art. A few close shaves, and they weren't at a slow speed, either.

Here's the High Court from the Mahabandoola Gardens (talk about an oasis of serenity!), and the other side:


High Court.jpg


City Hall, with detail of peacock ornamentation:

City Hall.jpg

Tea time!

Tea time!.jpg


More colonial buildings. Most of downtown is in dire need of restoration - most of the private buildings certainly. Nature has started to take back the LH building, already with some respectable trees growing on it! The RH building "Government Telegraph Office". Reminds me: internet is slow here; its quite OK in my hotel, but lots of entreaties not to hog bandwidth!

Colonoal.jpg


More buildings; the RH on is the Australian Embassy, quite close to the Strand Hotel (pics next time). Thumping big satellite dish on the roof. Didn't the ABC have a show 'Embassy' years ago, that was based in Rangoon? Never watched it myself - just a memory ...

Embassy.jpg
 

RooFlyer

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Day 2 in Yangon. Its an early start to avoid the worst heat of the day. I tend to walk everywhere and in moderate climates I can go all day, but in the tropics, its a morning then a late afternoon shift, with some re-hydration in between. ;)

On the walk to the Shwedagon Paya, the main attraction in Yangon, I pass some old colonial relicts; some might describe me as an old colonial relict (boom-tish!), but how I wish some-one could restore these beauties ... there seem to be quite a lot of them about.

Relicts.jpg


The Shwedagon Paya is reputed to have been begun about 2,500 years ago and is one of Buddhism's most sacred sites. According to Lonely Planet, the 'dome' or zedi is covered with 27 tonnes of gold and has about 5,448 diamonds, 2,317 rubies and 1,065 golden bells. At the very top is a 76 carat diamond. The structure houses 8 strands of the Gautama Buddha's hair. I should say at this point that I haven't yet understood much of the local culture or the Buddhist religion, so can I trust everybody not to take offence if I "say the wrong thing". My understanding will come and as readers of previous TRs of mine will attest, I love to share the history and culture of places.

There are 4 covered walkway entrances, with the south one considered the 'main one. One is met by a pair of giant chinthe or half lion, half dragon beasts. Shoes and socks off, minded at the entrance and a chit for them given. Hmmm, the stupa on the right doesn't look all that shiny if its got all that gold ...

Shwe south entrance.jpg


Of course, the Paya is on a hill, and there are many steps to climb, but the undercover makes it OK. Shops are along each side, mainly selling flowers and other votive type offerings. But there are elevators as well!

Shwe steps.jpg


At the top, you come out from the covered walkway to be met by a stupendous riot of colour (mainly gold) and magnificent carvings / statuary. And a disappointment. The stupa (bell shaped, gold covered tower) and the uppermost hti part are being renovated! Great for the temple, a shame for the tourists - I'm being selfish of course, but it is a bit of a blow. One of the most unique sights in the world is shrouded in gold-painted sheathing and up top, a bamboo lattice work.

Shwe stupa renos.jpg


Its a very large complex of maybe hundreds of individual pavilions and temples around the central stupa, most with statues of Buddha in various associations. Most people are believers, there to pray and give offerings; probably less than 10% are people like me with little stickers on them to show we are tourists. Oh, there is a 8,000 kyat (abt $8) fee to get in (foreigners), but you get a good map with explanations on it. Don't let anyone tell you that there aren't ATMs in Burma! One at every entrance, along with currency exchange. And the locals seem happy to help you out with a happy snap.

ATM.jpg
 

RooFlyer

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We can call this set 'critters and welcomings' . Unfortunately I haven't been able to identify all the critters - or part critters - but I expect our guide for the next phase of the trip will fill it all in.

The snake/dragon like creatures would be called a Naga in Laos, I think. All these pictures were taken in and around the Schwedagon Pagoda /Paya

Critters 1.jpg


Critters 2.jpg


Critters 3.jpg


Couple of my favourites - from the grounds just west of the main stupa hill.

Critters 4.jpg


A couple of guys here welcoming one into their pavilions at the Pagoda.

Welcome.jpg
 

Major

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An interesting Country with lots of history and intrigue
 

LadyC

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Enjoying the TR so far. The gentleman and I did a whirlwind 24 hr stop in Yangon 2 years ago - staying at the Traders as well. It was very popular with the UN - there was a dedicated UN desk when we were there!
 

RooFlyer

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Just some more pics around the Shwedagon Paya/Pagoda. Of course it cannot begin to show the size and grandeur of the place.

Shwe decor 1.jpg


Shwe decor 2.jpg


This is an interesting set up. On the left is a tent where they were blaring out some message. Sounded like at a show in Australia, where they are hustling passers by to side show ally. People were sitting patiently in chairs. Then I think I figured out what was going on. A little basket on an overhead rope would trundle upwards from the enclosure, over the various shrines etc around the base of the stupa, and disappear into a portal way up high - with clouds etc presumably indicating it was the sky (~'heaven'). I think people were paying for prayer cards to be delivered up into the stupa, presumably to be better read by the 'gods' (again, religious insensitivity disclaimer :cool: )

Shwe decor 3.jpg


Don't know why - but I just loved the Buddha on the right. Just seemed a friendly chap.

Shwe decor 4.jpg


Shwe decor 5.jpg
 

RooFlyer

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Yesterday I took a bit of a meandering walk to see some of the sights off the main beaten track. And of course I was confronted with some of the reality of Burma - the poverty and living conditions of the majority. I still think Yangon is well in front of many similar Asian, and for that matter, African cities, but that doesn't help the locals much. I should say that I walked up all sorts of backstreets trying to find stuff on bad maps, and never thought threatened in the slightest. A smile and a "Ming Ga la Ba" ("Hello") nearly always brought the reciprocal in anyone I passed. And its evident that the trains aren't express.

Backstreet.jpg


In 1858 the last Mughal emperor of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar II was exiled to prison in Rangoon and he died there in 1862. He was buried anonymously within the prison grounds. A mausoleum was later built over the site. The grave was discovered in 1991 and the site is now a pilgrimage place for Indians and Muslims. Its on a side street and given the colour of the outside, I had some difficulty in finding it :) Its called the 'Dargah of Bahadur Shah Zafar'

Dargah outside.jpg


Inside is fairly plain but there is now a 'well' (there to the left), with the body (presumably now in a coffin of some sort) covered with silk and strewn with petals. His wife and children are also similarly displayed, in an adjacent room.


Dargah.jpg


Adjacent to the Shwedagon Pagoda is the 'Peoples Park' a very large, well maintained park with plenty of trees and flowers. Would be nice to cruise around if it wasn't so hot. But look at this. Aren't these the coolest tree-houses you have ever seen? Rope walkways between them.

Treehouses.jpg


Various sculptures, statues and other exhibits (see the Fokker in the AV Geeks thread). Views to the Pagoda. Imagine if was the shining pure gold, not gold painted shrouded version!

Peoples Park.jpg
 
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