Thursday, April 4, 2013

mingalaba myanmar



"Mingalaba!" best way to greet the hospitable Burmese people. they will return you with the same greeting but with a genuine smile. before we share our experience of our trip, i hope that this guide will somehow help you prepare your trip to Myanmar through its main trade and transport hub, the city of Yangon.

why go to Myanmar (Burma)?
as it is now an open country, take advantage of exploring Myanmar as it is continuously growing yet has preserved its rich cultural heritage and natural resources. among its most important landmarks includes the temples and pagodas of Bagan and Shwedagon Pagoda. a country of hospitable people and in some ways unique even to its neighboring Southeast Asian nations. something you will discover when you'll be there and that there's still a lot to discover.


why go to Yangon?
the country's most sacred Buddhist site, Shwedagon Paya (Pagoda) lies on top of Singuttara Hill just within the city. i should say is also the most impressive landmark. though dominated by Buddhism, Hindu temples and Islamic mosque can be found around the city. it is also believed that Yangon has the most number of colonial buildings in Southeast Asia.


what to see in Yangon?
Shwedagon Pagoda* - most sacred and the grandest Buddhist Pagoda in Myanmar 
Sule Pagoda* - most accessible pagoda right at the city center is of political importance
Karaweik Hall Barge* - palace barge now a restaurant
Kandawgyi Nature Lake Park - a beautiful nature park where the Karaweik Hall is located
General Aung San Monument
National Museum of Myanmar
Yangon City Hall
Independence Monument
Mahabandoola Garden Park
Bogyoke Market
Old High Court Building*
St Mary's Cathedral
Rakine Jame Mosque
Mogul Shiah Jamay Mosque
Central Railway Station
*highly recommended sites when in Yangon (walking around Yangon will be posted soon)

when to go to Yangon?
not so different with Manila, dry season from November to May rainy season from June to October. special festivals:
March - Tabaung Festival (Nationwide Pagoda Festivals) including Shwedagon Festival
April - Burmese New Year

how to go to Yangon (by plane)?
most usual route are via the following regions and airlines:
Malaysia* - AirAsia
Singapore* - Silkair, Singapore Airlines
Bangkok - Thai Airways
Ho Chi Minh - Vietnam Airlines
*most preferred routes if coming from the Philippines via these countries

going around Yangon:
most preferred way for tourists to go around the city would be by taxi. there are no standard rates so the payment will be agreed prior to reaching your destination. going around within the city with a taxi would range from 3,500-5,000kyats (PHP150-250) there are no motorcycles within the city but bike is allowed. 

how to get a visa? 
for Filipinos it is required to get a visa to enter Myanmar with one month validity. no appointment required to go to Myanmar Embassy in Makati. visa processing is 3days. 

requirements:
1. passport
2. one photocopy each of two valid IDs. passport can be counted as one valid ID.
3. 2 passport photos 4x6cm (hard copy to be attached in the visa form) and a soft copy placed in a CD.
4. travel itinerary
5. visa application form (to be provided at the embassy)
6. entry waiver (to be provided at the embassy)
7. PHP1,100 visa fee

Myanmar Embassy (Philippines)
8th Flr Gervasia Building
Amorsolo St., Makati City
Tel: 02-8931944
-This is just right across Makati Cinema Square along Amorsolo St.

visa application tips:
1. best to have the passport photo and soft copy taken at Kodak (Makati Cinema Square branch) since they already know the Myanmar visa requirements. the shop opens at 10:00am but the photo can only be processed after an hour. after you get the photo, proceed to the embassy immediately so you can submit requirements  before noon time. 
2. one portion of the visa form will require your hostel/hotel address in Myanmar.

where to stay in Yangon?
high end: The Strand Hotel, Traders Hotel, Chatrium Hotel, Inya Lake, Park Royal Hotel, Sedona Hotel
mid: Green Hill Hotel, Clover City Center Hotel, Panda, May Shan Hotel
budget: Motherland Inn, YMCA Yangon, Ocean Pearl Inn

other essential information:
currency: Myanmar Kyat or MMK (pronounced as chiyat)
estimated equivalent: USD1 = MMK870 = PHP42
plug type: European Plug, Schuko Type
power supply: 220-240V (same with Philippines)
drive: majority of the vehicles are left-side drive but road follows right-side traffic

important tips:
1. majority of the money changing booth and banks would only accept crisp, stamp-free and no fold USD bills. preferably USD100 bills to get a better exchange rate while smaller bills might be changed but with a lower equivalent.
2. it is best that you find these crisp, stamp-free and no fold US bills while you're in the Philippines. i recommend Czarina Foreign Exchange over Sanry's Foreign Exchange. if in case you're already in transit, you can check Forex shops in the airports of Malaysia and Singapore. 
3. money exchange booth at the airport are reliable. as of our visit there were three and just pick with the ones that offer the better rate.
4. don't change all your money to Kyat (MMK) as hotels and some establishments would still require USD. for souvenirs, local restaurants and transport, Kyat (MMK) is still preferred but USD is also accepted.

i hope that this will help you plan your trip to Yangon. up next, our experience of going around Myanmar.

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