This is how a moment of obtuseness got me to save US$150 from my supposedly USD250 budget trip in Burma/Myanmar.
It all started after my 3hrs flight from Changi Airport. Lack of sleep, anticipation, and excitement must have a lot to do why my brain seemed to stop functioning when I heard “One passport, one bill” at a money changer booth in the Yangon International Airport. There were 6 or 7 other money changer booths at the airport, until now I still can’t explain what came into my head that made me think I can only transact with one at that time. Good thing the lady chose the USD100 instead of 50. Ha!
And so my adventure officially commenced as I walked out of the airport with 100,000 Kyats on hand.
If it wasn’t drizzling, I would have walked my way to Wai Bar Gi Station and took the train to the Yangon Central Railway. It would only have cost me 200kyat to the city center. But it was drizzling so instead of walking for 20-25mins, I hailed a taxi. From the airport, I paid 8000kyat/8USD to Shwedagon Pagoda. On my way, I did not spot one motorcycle on the city streets unlike Vietnam.
The taxi driver stopped at the pagoda’s West gate entrance. The gate’s gate had elaborate golden carvings while the gate itself had gargantuan sculptures of mythical Burmese lions.
The entrance fee was 8000kyat/8USD. After paying, I put my sandals in my bag as walking barefoot on the pagoda ground is a must. The walkway up to the hill had interesting and elaborate decorations on its big windows, posts, and ceilings. Going up is not that tiring as the West walkway have escalators. It also have shops on both sides. Aside from souvenir pieces, the vendors also sell flowers, gold leaf and other items for worship.
I took one full turn around the golden stupa before deciding to have my lunch. I’m starving and my shoulders and feet were killing me, so I decided to check in at Thamada Family Hotel. The hotel’s close proximity to the pagoda was the only reason I booked it for a night, though the hotel had bad reviews at Agoda.
I hailed a taxi outside the West gate, initially I agreed to pay 2000kyats/2USD. But I gave 3000kyats instead. (The driver had to stop and ask several times around the area where my hotel is, so instead of 5min drive from the pagoda, it went close to 20min ride).
Though I wanted to try some Burmese cuisine, there were no resto/food stalls in sight except for the Thai restaurant so I had my lunch around 3pm at the only restaurant near my hotel. The food serving was large enough to feed 3 starving me, so I brought half of it back to my hotel before I walked towards the pagoda’s Southern gate.
I didn’t take the elevator. And just like the West walkway, worship paraphernalia and souvenir shops abound on both sides of the stairway going up to the golden stupa.
Thank God for the rain clouds covering the skies. It would have been one uncomfortable afternoon if the sun displayed its majestic glory. I can only imagine how scorching hot the marble tiles must be if it didn’t rain!
The following morning, I hailed a cab and headed to Aung Mingalar bus station. Paid 7200kyats to the driver (7000kyats to Mr. driver, 200kyats for the bus station entrance fee)
Paid 8000kyats for 4.5hrs bus ride
While on the road, bought 1 corn on the cob for 300kyats. After 3hrs, our bus stopped at a food house so we can eat lunch, have a bio break or simply stretch our legs.
The bus driver’s assistant (Win Express bus) told me I had to get off (Kyaikhto area) and ride a “taxi” to the base camp. It was not really a taxi cab, but a motorcycle! Anyhow, I paid 4000kyats from Kyaikhto to Kinpun.
Since it was drizzling, I bought a raincoat(1000kyat) and paid 2500kyats for the carnivalesque open-truck ride to the mountain top.
Paid 6000kyats for the Golden Rock entrance and continued my short hike to the hotel. I was shivering when I reached the hotel’s reception area. Hot tea was served as a welcome drink and I was ushered to my room after checking in.
Though it was foggy and raining plus the cold wind was blowing really hard, that didn’t stop me from my goal: see the golden rock precariously balanced on the edge of a boulder.
Few people roam around the area, probably because of the weather. Had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant before calling it a day. Hot shower is really a life saver. My room did not have any AC but who would need one with the kind of weather the place has. The wind was howling outside and rain drops make noises as it fell on tin roofs.
The next morning, I was up early and though it was drizzling, I had my last glimpse of the Golden Rock, had breakfast buffet before going back to Yangon. Arrived at my 3rd hotel and had my late lunch around 4pm. Had snacks before retiring to bed.
The next morning, had another buffet before heading to Yangon International Airport for my Singapore flight. Spent a couple of hours walking around Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, headed back to Changi Airport for my flight to the Philippines.
4D3N Budget Breakdown (Kyat)
8000 taxi (airport to Shwedagon pagoda)
8000 pagoda entrance fee
3000 taxi (pagoda to hotel)
7200 taxi (hotel to Aung Mingalar Bus Station)
8000 bus to Kyaiktiyo
4000 cyclo to Kinpun
2500 truck (Kinpun to Golden Rock Pagoda
6000 entrance fee to Golden Rock
2500 truck (Golden Rock to Kinpun
7000 bus (Kinpun to Yangon)
3000 taxi (Aung Mingalar to hotel)
2500 taxi (hotel to airport)
6000 Airport fee
500 extra bill
Yangon and Kyaikhto did not have the Old-world feel I was longing for. Definitely i will be back for Bagan. 😀