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A trip to Myanmar (Burma) - SK, TG C, LH C (w/pics)

A trip to Myanmar (Burma) - SK, TG C, LH C (w/pics)

Old Aug 1, 13, 7:42 am
  #1  
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A trip to Myanmar (Burma) - SK, TG C, LH C (w/pics)



Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is still one of the least visited countries in Asia. For me it has somehow been the embodiment of “exotic”, and a place where the atmosphere of old Asia prevails. I have for many years been thinking of visiting Myanmar, but have like many others avoided it due to the political situation and international sanctions.

The positive development in the country the last couple of years, has led to lifting of sanctions and the tourist boycott. Sure there will be changes in the coming years, some for the good and some for the bad. I wanted to visit while Myanmar still is “young” as a tourist destination, and decided that this was the time to go.

From Oslo, Norway, I travelled to Myanmar via Frankfurt and Bangkok.
Oslo – Frankfurt (SK Plus)
Frankfurt – Bangkok (TG C)
Bangkok – Yangon (TG C)

Return trip
Yangon – Bangkok (TG C)
Bangkok – Frankfurt (LH C)
Frankfurt – Oslo (SAS Plus)

In Burma itself, I had a 9 days roundtrip including Yangon, Bagan, Mandalay and Inle Lake. I used a travel agency in Burma to book hotels and flights, including transfers from airports to hotels. This worked very well. I had no problems with the flights, hotels and drivers picking me up what so ever. On the destinations I made the arrangements myself, either by renting a guide for the day or find the way around myself. I paid the travel agency 30% deposit upfront, the rest in cash when I arrived in Yangon. There are now some ATM’s is being set up in Myanmar, but not sure which cards that will work on them. I therefore “loaded up” with new pristine US dollar bills before I left. It is actually important that the notes are fairly new and in good conditions, or you may find that they not are accepted.

It is still not possible to get a tourist visa on arrival. I had the visa issued by the Myanmar embassy in London (organized by a Norwegian company specializing in visa applications).

Note: there will not be too many pics from the flights itself; this is more of a destination report than a flight report.

The journey started in SAS Eurobonus lounge at Oslo Airport Gardermoen.



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Old Aug 1, 13, 7:49 am
  #2  
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Oslo – Frankfurt
Airline: SAS
Class: SAS Plus (former Business)
Aircraft: Boing 737-800
Configuration: 3+3
Seat: 2F
Delay: nearly 50 min out of Oslo, ca. 30 min at arrival Frankfurt (no consequences for me as I had plenty of transfer time)

On flights inside Europa SAS has abandoned the former Economy and Business class and instead introduced SAS Plus (former Business) and SAS Go (former Economy). SAS Plus still gives perks like fast track, more luggage and lounge access. Inflight the SAS Plus passengers can chose item (one food and one beverage) from the applied menu for free. The food is served the same way as for SAS Go. No more white cloths and silverware... I had the salad and some orange juice. The salad was quite good. Coffee or tea is free for all passengers.







On the flight to Frankfurt the middle seat was free. But it doesn’t seem to be the norm. On the return flight Frankfurt – Oslo all middle seats on the SAS Plus rows where occupied. In these cases there are actually no difference in comfort inflight between SAS Plus and SAS Go.
SAS still has the usual Economy and Business classes on intercontinental flights though.

For the time being I’m a Star Alliance gold card holder (SAS Eurobonus) and I therefore had access to the Lufthansa Senator lounge in Frankfurt. Nice lounge. Didn’t eat too much, but had a class of good Riesling.



View from my seat in the lounge



Thai Airbus 340 Frankfurt - Bangkok

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Old Aug 1, 13, 8:02 am
  #3  
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Frankfurt – Bangkok
Airline: Thai Airways
Class: Business
Aircraft: Airbus 340- 600
Configuration: 2+2+2
Seat: 12B
On time

The Rully La Bergerie Domaine Roland Sounit white vine



How to become more stylish according to Gentlemen Quarterly Magasine.



Otherwise I was entertained by Dr Sheldon Cooper & Co in several episodes from the hilarious sit com “Big Bang theory”.

Menu:





The servings started with chicken satay. Very good.



First course (Duck liver pyramide, Wasabi Mayonnaise, Smoked tuna, Vegetables). Ok



I had the chicken with eggplant in green curry and steamed thai rice as main course. Good



Cheese and fruit. Good



At dessert there was coffee and coconut cheesecake. Just ok.



Not the best inflight meal I have had, but satisfactory in total. The service was good and friendly.

There was no flat seat in this business class. I had some problems finding a comfortable position when going to sleep, but managed to sleep for a few hours on the way to Bangkok.

Before we arrived in Bangkok breakfast was served.

At Bangkok airport I had several hours transit time before the flight to Yangon. After explored the transit area to stretch my legs a bit I headed for the Thai Royal Silk lounge for rest of the transit time. Nice selection of food and beverages. Not too many people while I was there.





Bangkok - Yangon
Airline: Thai Airways
Class: Business
Aircraft: Airbus 330
Configuration: 2+2+2
Seat: 12 A
On time

Even if the flight to Yangon only takes a little over an hour, there was a full serving. The grilled chicken Vietnam style was delicious.



The menu for beverages was the same as for Frankfort - Bangkok.

Arriving in Yangon the time was early evening. One of the advantages of flying Business is that you get to disembark first and get in front of the line in immigration. Immigration went without problems and pretty quickly.

Outside in the arrival hall the driver and a representative for the travel agency were waiting for me. The drive from the airport to the hotel took almost an hour.

I only had one night in Yangon at the start of the trip. It was spent in Central hotel which is located (you guessed correctly) in the center of Yangon. Entering the hotel the interior felt like stepping back a couple of decades in time (except for the TV’s of course). But the hotel was very clean, had a shower and a welcoming bed after the long journey. This first evening I only had a quick walk in the area and then dinner at the hotel.

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Old Aug 1, 13, 8:28 am
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Yangon - Bagan
I had to get up very (I mean very) early to get 06:30 AM flight from Yangon to Bagan. The domestic airport terminal is next to the international airport building. The flight was with Air Bagan, operated by Asian Wing Airways. The flight was with an ATR 72-500. This propeller aircraft has around 70 seats in a 2+2 configuration. The aircraft looked fairly new. The flight, W9-143, is actually a roundtrip with several legs (Yangon – Bagan – Mandalay – Helo – Yangon). At each stop some people disembark and some board the aircraft. Passengers not aimed for this stop are waiting in the aircraft. At each stop the aircraft is on ground for not more than about 15 - 20 minutes. There seems to be several airlines operating the same way (Mandalay Airlines, KBZ and others).

Boarding on domestic flights is pretty much a person walking through the waiting area holding up a sign with the flight that are about to board. Below is an example of these signs at Heho airport.



The flight Yangon – Bagan took 1 hours and 15 min. Some mineral water was offered at the beginning of the flight. There was also serving of breakfast. Not bad.




ATR 72-500 at Nyaung U Airport/Bagan

Bagan
Bagan is one of Myanmar’s wonders. Bagan was the capital of the first empire, and at its peak between the 11 th and 13 th century more than 4.000 temples was built within an area of 40 km2 (16 sq. miles). Still there around 3000 temples scattered around the plains of Bagan next to the Ayeyarwady river.

I stayed at Arthawka hotel in village of New Bagan.


Hotel room

Old Bagan is 2 miles further North. A very convenient way to explore Bagan is to rent a bike and make your way around, and make your own itinerary as you go. It was very hot though, almost 40 C (104 F). Still I was able to visit all main temples.




Wooden figures in temple






Public transport by Gawdawpalin Paya


Myanmar petrol station


Horse cart; alternative way to get around if not you not want to bike



Old Bagan is next to river Ayeyarwady river






Biking sure makes you hungry after a while. A typical Burmese meal will consist of rice and a main dish like Chicken curry as in this case. In addition an array of side dishes is included like soup, vegetables, dried fish and some spicy dips. The food is not as spicy as Thai food. Some unfamiliar tastes, but overall it was quite tasty.


Chicken curry, the Myanmar way

Last edited by broenor; Aug 26, 13 at 1:59 pm
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Old Aug 1, 13, 8:54 am
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Bagan, continued

Ananda Pahto is one off the largest, well preserved and most revered off all Bagan temples. It is thought to hve been build between 1090 and 1105 by King Kyanzittha.


Ananda Pahto


Standing Buddha at Ananda Pahto



Shwesandaw Paya (Paya = "sacred place") is one of the structures you can climb to get a view over the plains and the temples of Bagan. It is most visited by sunset. I was there mid day, and had the place almost for my self (except for the souvenir sellers of course...).





No shoes or socks are allowed when entering a temple.


Entrance to Dhammayangyi Pahto


Buddha statues inside Dhammayangyi Pahto

My favorite was the Sulamani Pahto, constructed 1181. There is much to see inside as well, statues and paintings on the wall.


Sulamani Pahto, viewed through the gate


Sulamani Pahto






Flowers outside Sulamani Pahto


My bicycle in front of a temple
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Old Aug 1, 13, 9:16 am
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Bagan continued 2

There is also a morning market in Bagan. As seen on the picture below, most all Mynamar women and some men wear Thanakha "make-up" . It is made by thanakha tree. Thanaka cream is made by grinding the bark, wood, or roots of the thanaka tree with a small amount water on a circular stone slab called kyauk pyin. It is used for sun screen (and for decoration I would guess).





The traditional dress for men is the skirt like Longyi. It seemed still to be used by most Myanmar men (at least the older generation).



Images from Bagan


Outside each main temple there a stands selling different kind souvenirs, water and food.


View over temples, North plain


Horse carts


Flowers, New Bagan


More food, Sweet and sour chicken with a Burmese twist. It vas very, very tasty.


New Bagan, at night.

Bagan was an amazing place with its ancient temples and friendly people.
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Old Aug 1, 13, 9:45 am
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Mandalay
The flight from Bagan to Mandalay took about 30 min, and was still with Air Bagan, operated by Asian Wings Airways with the same ATR 72-500 aircraft.

Mandalay is regarded as the cultural capital in Myanmar. It also was the latest royal capital of the former Burma (until 1885). Being the second biggest city in Myanmar and rapidly growing, Mandalay is much more intense than Bagan.

Many of the main sights are outside the city center itself. These are best explored with car and a driver.

One odd thing you notice related to driving in Myanmar is that most of the cars are right hand driven, but still drives on the right hand side of the road. Not so practical when it comes to traffic safety, for example when overtaking others cars (which they tend to do all the time…). You get a little nervous when your car is trying to overtake a truck that is overtaking another truck while a lorry, that the driver can’t see before the car actually is in the left lane, is headed against you in the opposite direction. To the driver: “This might not be a good idea…”


Amarapura (“city of immortability”) once was the royal capital. It is known for U Bein’s bridge, the world longest teak foot bridge. 1300 yard long crossing the shallow Taungthaman Lake.


U Bein's bridge


Selling souvenirs


Buddhist munks at U Bein's bridge


Boat on Taungthaman Lake





Here is also Maha Ganayon Kyang, a buddist monestry, home to several thousand young monks. Once a day they line up for food.










Inwa also has a history as royal capital. In fact it was royal capital for half the period of the past 650 years. Today it’s a quiet backwater that can be explored by horse and cart. Among the sites are wooden monastery Bagaya Kyaung and some old temples.




Bagaya Kyaung wooden monestry




The world's most persistent souvenir seller is found. She lives in Myanmar :-)


Girl at Inwa


Sagaing Hills has numerous white and gold stupas scattered around on hills.


Buddha statues at Umin Thounzeh


From the stupas on the tops of Sagaing hills there are great view.


Soon U PonyaShin Paya


View over Sagaing hills

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Old Aug 1, 13, 10:04 am
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Mandalay continued

I stayed in the city center at Mandalay City hotel. The hotel is tucked away from the main street and is so a retreat from the busy streets.


Entrance to hotel


Hotel room


Wooden figure; room decoration


Traffic on the 26 th. street

To get around the city center I either walked or took motor cycle taxi. There are quite some distances in the city and the heat (up to 40 degrees C) makes it a little strenuous to walk all the distance. A better idea, despite the traffic, may be to rent a bike. Otherwise there is no problem finding motor cycles taxis that you can rent for the day to take you around.

In the city center of Mandalay it self one sight is the royal palace, surrounded by moats. It once was an enclosed “forbidden city”. It is today mainly used by the military and only the palace itself is accessible. The original palace was destroyed in the Second World War, and the present structure is a replica from the 1990’s.


Bridge over moat to the royal palace


Entrance to the royal palace




Overview of the halls in the royal palace complex


Mandalay hill is reached by a 45 min barefoot walk from the entrance at the foot of the hill. On the way up there are several temples, vendors and small restaurants. Once on the top you are rewarded by a magnificent view over Mandalay and its surroundings.


On the way up to Mandalay hill



View over Mandalay, including Sandamuni Paya, on the way up






Fried rice with chicken almost on the top

View from Mandalay hill




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Old Aug 1, 13, 10:14 am
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Mandalay continued 2

I was a bit “templed out” after Bagan so I didn’t visit so many temples in the center of Mandalay. Actually just walking around looking at street vendors, pavement restaurants and people doing their daily business was very interesting. Mandalay has an afternoon market (near the river) and a night market held on a street near to my hotel.

Images from Mandalay

Public transport in Mandalay


Chicken with cashew nuts


Selling books at the night marked






Restaurant at night market






Afternoon market


Loading bananas





Inle Lake and Yangon to follow soon...

Last edited by broenor; Aug 2, 13 at 10:17 am
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Old Aug 1, 13, 11:40 am
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wow...fantastic photos. love shots of seeing how people go on about their days. keep er coming...i hate the old LH C seats. they suck and i can not sleep at all on them. i refuse to fly anywhere on business on them again.
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Old Aug 1, 13, 12:05 pm
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Fantastic report so far. Did you encounter any notable issues in the course of your trip, or did everything go according to plan? I am also curious how you were treated as a tourist-- are the people honest, helpful, and know any basic English?
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Old Aug 1, 13, 12:37 pm
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All those Bagan photos brings back alot of memories.
I went with jfkeze + 2 others in late June for 2 days, its a real big eye opener plus less crowd due to low season is fantastic.

How did you find walking around the temple barefoot, we kinda gave up in the end when all the tiles were starting burn our feets
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Old Aug 1, 13, 12:39 pm
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Inle Lake
The nearest airport for Inle Lake is Heho. The flight from Mandalay to Heho took about 30 min, and was still with Air Bagan, operated by Asian Wings Airways with the same ATR 72-500 aircraft. From the airport there was an hour transit to the hotel in the small village Nyaungshwe near Inle Lake. Both Bagan and Mandalay is in Myanmar’s dry zone. The scenery in the Inle Lake area is more mountainous and lush with (luckily) a cooler climate. Rice fields, marshes and mountains make a very nice landscape.

In Nyaungshwe I stayed at Amazing hotel. This was the most stylish hotel I stayed at in Myanmar.








Outside dining area, for breakfast, lunch and dinner


Colorful markets are rotating between several villages in the region. Among them is the village of Shwenyuang.






Kitchen at market restaurant






Colourful fabrics




Transport to and from the market

I really enjoy walking around in markets when I'm travelling. Espesially when it is so different from what you are jused in your home country. (My local supermarket is somehow a little dull in comparision. But who knows, soon there may be loads of asian turist touring the supermarket and taking photos of me and the vacum packed salmon in my shooping cart... :-))

To explore the area around the village, I rented a bike. This was a great way to get around and to see the scenery.
















Last edited by broenor; Aug 26, 13 at 2:01 pm
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Old Aug 1, 13, 12:58 pm
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Inle Lake continued


View over Inle Lake


Street in Nyaungshwe near my hotel


Time for some food pictures
This is curry and fish with the normal array of side dishes from a restaurant serving Burmese food.



But it was possible to have Italian food as well. I had to try some other food than asian at least once. This tagliatella with Bolognese sauce. It was surprisingly good.



A boat trip on Inle Lake is mandatory. It is an immensely beautiful place with floating gardens, stilted villages and waterside temples. A flotilla of long and slender wooden boats is transporting goods and people to and from the villages on the lake. The lake is famous for one leg rowing fishermen where one leg is used to row the boat while the fishing net or fishing basket is pushed to the bottom of the shallow lake.






Good leg space...


The Phaung Dwa Oo Paya temple is the holiest religious site in the area, Southern Shan state. The temple houses 5 ancient Buddha figures. It is possible to buy gold leaves and apply them on the status. Only if you are male though…




"Parking lot"


Appling gold leaves to the Buddha statues




Nga Hpe Kyaung temple (Jumping Cat Monastery) is known for monks that have been able to train cats to jump through loops. No show of these tricks when I was there; the cats where sleeping…


Buddha statue Nga Hpe Kyaung temple




There is also a lot of crafts on the lake, both sliversmiths, carvings and weaving.





Plus the making of cigars.


Last edited by broenor; Aug 4, 13 at 2:09 pm
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Old Aug 1, 13, 1:11 pm
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Inle Lake continued 2

Actually I found Inle Lake to be the highlight of my trip. This due to the vibe in Nyaungshwe, the beauty of the lake itself and the surroundings. As everywhere else in Myanmar the people was friendly and gentle.

Images from Inle Lake

Looking after the floating gardens


Stilted village














Spices, from a market on the lake


Vegetables etc, from a market on the lake


My boat driver for the day (Barcelona fan (soccer) by the way...)
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