Thursday, March 6, 2014

PLACES: Myanmar - Yangon

Yangon is THE place if you like big, busy, chaotic cities. It's again typical Asian with areas full of foreigners, expats and an american athmosphere (especially because you can pay with US$) and on the other side there are areas where locals stare at you like you're an alian selling food by the street walking around bare foot and chewing beetle nuts and spitting everywhere. It's a bit difficult to get used to these cultural contrasts in this city which has rapidly changed. Forget the prices in Lonely Planet and adjust to minimum the double of what that travel guide says (Lonely Planet, please publish a new Book about Myanmar!!). The best way to get around is by taxi or foot. Don't forget to bargain, try to get down to 1000 Kyat lesser and you've got the fair price. Be aware of beeing charged more money than locals because you are a foreigner. If you want to get around with the circle train you can do that aswell. Although I havn't tried it, it's supposed to be veeeery sloooow. So only take it if you are not in a rush. 
Looking for a cheap (I'm talking about cheap as in Thailand) hostel is almost impossible. There are no hostels, only guest houses or hotels (don't stay at a fancy hotel or do group tours, you will just support the government not the locals. Travel individually!!). I only know of the Okinawa Guest House in Chinatown that charges 8 US$ per night for the cheapest room. Or if you want to save your money and get to learn local people you should try out Couchsurfing. YES, Couchsurfing is not only possible in cities like Berlin or Barcelona, there are also Couchsurfers in Myanmar, believe it or not. So that's what I did and it was the best idea ever. Living in downtown where all the accommodations and touristic sights are is very convinient, I agree with that. But living outside of downtown in a local area can be so much more interesting and people are more curious to make friends with you and want to know why the hell there's a foreigner in their district. Don't be shy and just talk and make friends. Burmese people are so friendly and open and they do speak a bit english, so communication is not a problem. Add them on Facebook, exchanged e-mail addresses and you've made their day. 
I stayed in Yangon for two days which was just right. I'm not really into big cities especially not at that moment due to three full days in Kuala Lumpur before Yangon. 
Visit the Shwedagon temple, walk around downtown, spend some time in a Burmese tea house and have a drink in the northern part of the city when evening comes. 

- AJ -

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