20 pairs of Burmese eyes stare at me as I stumble on a public bus in Yangon, Myanmar. I point to my crumpled photocopied map and smile big, “Shwedagon Pagoda?” The bus attendant shoos me forward and makes some sort of joke at my expense.
I curse myself for being too cheap to take a taxi.
As soon as I pay the $0.10 bus ticket, a shy young woman with very good English informs me that I am on the completely wrong bus. So that’s what the joke was about. She points to the other side of the street and instructs me to take the #28 bus. The advice is well-intentioned but utterly useless given that none of the city buses have roman numerals on them. All I see are the loopy loops and defined curves of the Burmese alphabet.
But I have help. A woman with a woven basket balanced on her head clucks at me to follow her. I allow myself to be led into the raging sea of Yangon’s smoggy traffic and mangled sidewalk shores. While multiple people do their best to help me, it is no use. Like an untrained street dog, I have no idea what I’m supposed do. I decide to fork over the $2.50 and hop into a cab.
This is how I start my 10 day adventure to Myanmar.
The Shwedagon Pagoda
The Shwedagon Pagoda is absolutely AAAA-MAZING! White marble and golden leafed zen. I walk clockwise around the golden dome and take it all in as my first temple in Myanmar. The best part about all this gold is that you can tell that this is a very important pagoda for the Burmese. Everywhere there are people mediating, praying and making offerings.
There aren’t many Western tourists, so a lone female backpacker invites looks of parental concern and questions like “You are only?” It’s ridiculously cute.
Truth be told, I feel completely safe traveling alone in Myanmar. People are very friendly. The biggest pain about traveling on my own is that guest houses are expensive, $20 for a single in Yangon.
How Did I Get Here?
Visa: I paid 1,500 THB ($50 USD) and waited 3 working days for a travel agency in Bangkok to my visa. I filled out absolutely no paperwork. It was very, very easy.
Flight: Air Asia $160. Bangkok –> Yangon, Mandalay –> Bangkok
Money: International ATMs are showing up in Myanmar but most travelers bring crisp $100 USD notes to change for kyat. You can exchange money at banks or informal money changers.
Main Point: Go here.
Author’s Note: My camera’s memory card has somehow been corrupted so I’m having problems uploading photos 😦 I will try to get more photos up soon but If anyone knows how to fix this, please let me know!