Monday, May 27, 2013

on the road from yangon to bagan

prior to this trip, we already imagined ourselves taking the 16 hours public train trip from Yangon to Bagan. we've thought of bringing bingo and playing cards as we expected it to be a sleepless trip. but the time of 16 hours was literally estimated. which meant it could extend to 20 hours or probably more.  
so with just days in Myanmar, we opted to rent this three-rowed tourist van for our trip to Bagan and we owe that to Melo's  impressive negotiation skills. this meant comfort and flexible stop-over intervals. the train trip would have been more of an adventure something that we still want to do some time but not over a limited time.
Melo took the front seat, Gay, little Luna and Monette on the first row, Marky and Ron on the second row while Rob, Jerome and i took the back seat. since the second row only has two seats, i had my spot like a that of a business class. extended leg-room that is.
majority of the trip was along the expressway, road was good like. almost endless views of rice fields, flat dry plains and few hilly views like one would see when traveling from Pampanga to Tarlac via SCTEX. first half of the trip we spent time joking around while taking photos of a reddish sunset caused by the dust.
first stop
we only had two stops on this 11-hour road trip, first stop was in search for a quick snack stop over at a seemingly isolated gas station with just a mini store selling fruits and the usual sari-sari store one would see in the Philippines.
this was a typical old style gas station, where the way to check the level of gasoline on its underground tank is through a long wood inserted on a hole. while a motorcycle can be gassed up using a large container and a funnel. 
second stop
still full from our lunch, we had our second stopover to take light meal but ended up ordering for salad. this little town in Taungoo is rustic and in contrast to Yangon, here motorcycles are allowed. i saw several motorized industrial carts which looked like the kuligligs in the Philippines. from here, we had slept almost the last remaining hours to Bagan.
arriving at central bagan
we thought that this trip would bring us to Bagan early morning, but our driver said that we will most likely be there by around two in the morning. so we had to find a sleepover accommodation. something good enough for a sleepover. our guide recommended Bagan Central Hotel.
arrived at New Bagan around 2:00am. we were expecting a typical backpacker's block structure with small rooms and small hallways but to our surprise, the place was cozy. just the right reward after that long trip from Yangon. we ended up spending some time drinking coffee and chatting around this space infront of our rooms. no better reward for a very long day.
yangon to bagan options:
plane: daily flights are available from Yangon to Bagan (Nyaung U) via Mandalay Air (1hr 20mins) or one can also fly from Yangon to Mandalay (1hr 30mins) then bus trip to Bagan (2hours).
bus: there are several available bus liner that serves this route.
van: you can find van options at the airport through travel agencies. you can negotiate from there. make sure to check the van capacity and assure air-condition is good. (8-9hrs)
train: has daily scheduled trips (16h-18rs)

Myanmar related posts:
First Day in Yangon
Travel Guide to Myanmar
Why am i going to Myanmar?

Friday, May 17, 2013

el encuentro: paul y flip

it has been a while when i last had this feature and just in time to return as here's a head to head encuentro to two great travel bloggers who explores beyond the usual travel spots. both has an interesting weekly special post. paul has his "why travel tuesday" while flip has his "photo thursday". i haven't met both of them but their blog reveals the Filipino's heart for adventure and finding new great places.

                                                    "el encuentro" 
paul xymon garcia                              blogger                                              flip nomad
walkflypinoy                                          blog                                                  flipnomad

beijing, china                                 farthest north                                   beijing, china 
singapore                                       farthest south                                  bali, indonesia       
bukidnon, philippines                     farthest east                                   tennessee, usa
india-pakistan border                     farthest west                                       paris, france

mui ne to hoi an, vietnam             longest road trip       beijing, china to hanoi vietnam
paracale to calaguas, camnorte     longest boat trip                             manila to caticlan
kuala lumpur to delhi                    longest plane trip                                  manila to usa
varanasi to delhi, india                 longest train trip                          udaipur to chennai

annapurna base camp, nepal            highest point                                           khardung la
el nido, palawan                              deepest swim                       kayangan lake, palawan
annapurna sanctuary trek, nepal      longest trek                            mt banahaw traverse
annapurna sanctuary trek, nepal      hardest trek                                          klbber to ki

umbrella, lost 4 so far                   item/s lost in a trip          belt, money, credit card, atm
tibetan prayer flags                      item given on a trip traded a watch for a metal bracelet
tiny silk worms and crickets         worst food eaten        crocodile, snake and grasshopper  

travel feature questions:
dong ho: An unexpected travel experience where you thought would be a bad day but turned out to be a great experience.
paul: We waited for our train to Jaisalmer in the New Delhi Railway Station by queuing to buy all our other train tickets in India that we would need. Twenty minutes before the train departs, train station porters informed us that trains to Jaisalmer leaves not from New Delhi Railway Station, but rather from Old Delhi Railway Station, a few kilometers away.
We had 15 minutes to get there and it was evening rush hour in the fourth most populous city in the world. Our Indian host drove us as far as a few blocks outside Old Delhi Station. We strapped on our bags and ran through Delhi's chaos only to find the train has already left and we were 15 minutes behind it.
Contingency plans made and we headed up to Dharamsala, the Tibetan enclave in the Indian Himalayas where his holiness the 14th Dalai Lama fled 50 or so years ago to escape Mao's persecution. We discovered that his holiness, who for the better part of the year travels the world keeping a candle burning for the Tibetan cause, was actually in town and he was giving a lecture open to the public.
It was his holiness after all who said in his writings, “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck." He is right.
flip: An unexpected travel experience where you thought would be a bad day but turned out to be a great experience. My trip to Nubra Valley, I was so grumpy because I got dizzy and sick sitting at the back of the car but it was one of the most amazing places I've ever been to.

dong ho: Why people should go beyond the usual path/route/trails?
paul: It is because the real magic of travel happens not in the places you mapped out in your itinerary. What leaves a lasting impression on you are those you discover along the way. It all has to do with the limitless possibilities being on the road offers. Knowing that tomorrow is going to be a lot different from today should be reason enough. It is for me.
flip: A lot of off the beaten path destinations are cleaner, cheaper, less touristy but at the same time less convenient because of the lack of facility that caters to visitors. It's both challenging and rewarding to go to an unpopular destination, but it's always worth it.

1. farthest places reached are referenced from Manila (with Manila to Europe as West and Manila to Guam as East).
2. records here are subject to update. as we know travelers break their records from time to time. records here are updated as of this posting

previously featured:
lois yasay and monette fernandez
jerome baluyot and marky ramone

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

first day in yangon

forget ice cream. forget taxis with air-condition. forget fast internet connection. for now, Yangon may lag in many aspects but the way this country is changing in the past months would make our experience different when one comes in the coming years. 
on our first day in Yangon coming from a flight via Kuala Lumpur, we managed to get a van that would bring us around the city before heading far North to the historical site of Bagan. our goal for day one was:

- to get some of our US Dollar bills converted to Myanmar Kyat.
- to buy longyi and htamein - traditional Burmese under garment
- to buy souvenirs as we might miss out dropping by these shops on our way back
- to make a quick stop at some tourist spots within the city.

we made three quick stops. a pagoda, a local food shop and a bazaar. 
Kaba Aye Pagoda 
built in commemoration to the 2,500th year of Buddha's nirvana in 1952, this pagoda remains a solemn place for worshipers. from a small parking area it leads to a long walkway of shops. like all the pagoda's in Myanmar, one has to walk barefoot when entering the walkway. 
the pagoda is composed of an outer and inner area for worship. the outer area has Buddhas on its corners with tables for offerings and donation glass box. the inner area is a more solemn area where a neon-lighted Buddha halo becomes the center of meditation. 
Kaba Aye Pagoda
location: Kaba Aye Road, Mayangon township, Yangon
GPS: 16' 51" 24 N, 96' 9" 16 E
height: 111 feet
date built: 1952
this is in between the airport and the city. so you can make a quick stop to this pagoda. might not be as grand as Shwedagon Pagoda but the place is solemn. though taking photos is allowed, please respect the worshipers by turning off the flash option of your camera.

Hla Myanmar (Shwe Ba) Restaurant
after a walk around Kaba Aye pagoda, we had to stop for lunch and we requested for good local food. our guide recommended us this somewhat isolated food shop but was full of locals.
our guide though got us a semi-private area reserved when we got to there. the place looked like a typical carenderia in the Philippines where one would order from pre-cooked meals. 
when served, a large vegetable salad comes first with condiments. since i'm not really into the kind of vegetables served, just few bites was fine. i picked this sweetened corn in tandem with spicy meat balls which turned out a good choice. 
Hla Myanmar (Shwe Ba) Restaurant
location: No 27, 5th Street, West Shwegonedine, Bahan Township, Yangon
GPS: 16' 48" 13 N, 96' 8" 44 E
specialty: local food
ice cold Myanmar beer was good. also dont forget to try those fermented fish sauces. most meals comes with overflowing oil and less spice.

Bogyoke Market
reminded us so much of Ho Chi Minh's Ben Thanh Market where tourists would spend an hour or more moving around bargaining for souvenirs and antique items. a tourist landmark of the city of Yangon which name comes from the former general Aung San. formerly known as Scott's Market.
going around was easy with a main hallway from the main entrance which leads to several clusters of shops. the preferred currency is its local Myanmar Kyat (MMK) when buying items but most shops would also accept it in US Dollars (USD). 
the closest resemblance to this market in the Philippines would be the Zamboanga City barter shops. including the way one would bargain for the items. the famous local longyi and htamein would remind us of malongs.  
Burmese jade bracelets, rings and small figurines are among the most famous buys as these stones are considered precious and known as Myanmar gems. apart from these, the usual ref magnet, t-shirts, postcards and paintings are also available. so it's worth dropping by this market when you're in Yangon.
Bogyoke Aug San Market
location: Bogyoke Aung San Road, Pabedan Township, Yangon
GPS: 16' 46" 49 N, 96' 9" 20 E
date built: 1926
Bogyoke market is closed during Mondays. among the best items to buy here are longyis and htamein, jade items, lacquerwares and souvenirs. we bought really cheap items at this shop whose owner can speak a little of Tagalog: Heyday Gems and Jewellery Shop. it's at the inner portion of the market.  
even a half day in Yangon can bring you to interesting spots. we did all these on less than 8hours. after buying items in Bogyoke market on our first day, around 3pm we started our trip North of Yangon to the historical site of Bagan. coming up next.

other helpful posts:


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