The alarm felt very early at 07:00 (even earlier for Katy when Craig's went off at 06:20 for him to get up and watch the Packers game) and after getting ready and packed we headed out for our last meal in Thailand, breakfast at Nai Wiang. The taxi picked us up and in no time at all we were checked in, through security and facing immigration.
Confession time, when we had booked Thailand we had miscounted our days (we worked on 4 weeks from the date of entry plus 2 but that didn't count the day we arrived) and that is important when you only have a 30 day visa! To be honest, we had spotted we would be overstaying by a day when we were in Ao Nang over Christmas but all guidance online had suggested we should be okay as long as we paid a THB500 fine each at the airport. Faced with the agents it was a bit more nerve wracking however we fessed up to our mistake straight away and we were allowed to leave without spending time in Thai prison with Bridget Jones (and her bras & bars of galaxy chocolate) and even got away without paying the fine!
Our propeller plane catapulted us over to Yangon and after quickly getting through immigration we met our guide, Wayne. We were driven to downtown Yangon as Wayne told us about some of the recent history of the city and his country which was absolutely fascinating as he was in his 20's. Katy's favourite fact was learning that the city used to be called Rangoon and had been developed from a fishing town by the British to a major trading hub. Craig's was hearing that when the military took power in the 60's, they changed all the roads to be driven on the right hand despite all of the cars being right hand drive. Apparently, when driving in Myanmar, a lot of people had a driving assistant who would sit in the passenger seat and help guide the driver. This is still prevalent today with only recent government guidance to start importing left hand drive cars. This leads to lots of people peeping as they pass other people's blind spots which you can hear pretty much all the time in the city. We were dropped off at our hotel for the next 2 nights, The Hotel Mawtin and checked into our room.
After some down time we walked further into downtown. The experience was very different from Thailand in that most people stared at us as we walked by with people stopping their conversations, just to have a look. On the other hand, the markets spilled out onto the main road, some people hurried along in different directions, others dawdled as they admired the wares of the market and Craig continued to be too tall and broad for S.E. Asia. We also witnessed someone trying to steal a phone straight out of someone's hand which put us on high alert (and spooked Katy). Guide books suggest that petty crime is near zero but, in a city of 7 million people, they can't all be good! The gold tower of Sule Pagoda then loomed ahead and so we hurried on. It's a very bizarre pagoda, as it sits in the middle of a roundabout, surrounded by a colonial style building, in the middle of downtown. We walked around it but didn't go in (we weren't dressed appropriately) although we did see a shrine to Buddha that had a halo of colourful, flashing neon lights.
The next stop was to the Sakura Tower where we took the elevator to the 20th floor and then climbed another flight of stairs to the rooftop bar, Yangon Yangon. We paid our admission that granted us a free drink and we took a seat as the sun began to set over the city. The views were amazing and we enjoyed 1 (cough, 4, cough, each, cough) drink before heading back to the hotel.
The next morning started with a breakfast at the hotel and Katy was assisted by a very helpful waitress in making a traditional Burmese breakfast. A coconut soup with noodles, chicken and various vegetables, it was delicious!
The morning was spent catching up on some administration tasks before we set off on our tour tomorrow with Enjoy Myanmar Holidays (EMH). We decided to do this leg of the trip slightly differently to the rest, whilst researching we decided that Myanmar was very virgin territory for a lot of backpackers therefore it was difficult to gauge how easy travelling around on our own would be so we opted for a semi-guided tour. (Not normally our bag, but thought we'd give it a go!)
For lunch we headed to Burma Bistro, a restaurant that Craig had found and wanted to try that offered traditional Burmese food with a modern twist. It was absolutely delicious and fairly different from both Thai and Indian food.
After Craig's chai coffee and Katy's latte we carried on a block to Phandeeyar co-working space on Merchant Street. If we are being honest we needed to print out visas for countries we are going to be visiting and this seemed to be easiest way to achieve this. The staff were absolutely lovely and very accommodating for the couple of hours we needed to work on the blog and print our documents. We would also recommend them if anyone is ever looking for a co-working space in Yangon!
For dinner we headed to Hello Xiang Guo, just down from our hotel. We were served a bowl of Xiang Guo that had been prepared by the chef (you could pick your own salad and meat if you wanted) and shared it. We didn't manage to finish it but it was absolutely delicious! They also served a thermos of tea with our meal which we did manage to finish and were given a 2nd thermos!
We returned to the hotel and packed and got ready for our very early start to Bagan in the morning.
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