Ngwe Saung – Myanmar Travel Experience (Part 1)

When researching for a places to visit in Myanmar, the obvious options were Bagan, Mandalay & Yangon. I was about to do the same but the thought of traveling with many other tourist around did not appeal to me. A quick search on beach options gave me Ngapali, Ngwe Saung & Chaung Tha. A random analogy to describe the three would be: too hot, just nice, too cold. (not in literal sense)

I would not say Ngwe Saung is as beautiful as some of the beaches in Thailand. This place has its own charm, laid-back, not crowded and faces the Bay of Bengal.  It was just nice.

GETTING THERE FROM YANGON
Taking a flight would be the fastest option but taking the bus would be the cheapest.
Cost: 9000 Kyat (S$12 / USD$7)
Duration: About 5hrs
Location: Hlaing Thar Yar Bus Terminal or ask your taxi driver. They will drive you there and point to counter. There will be vague signs around so keep your eyes open. If you want to get to Ngwe Saung early, get to the terminal at about 5.30am to secure a seat. My bus left on time at 6.30AM. They have different buses leaving at different time so do enquire.

Bus Ticket

Bus Ticket

THE EXPERIENCE

I set my alarm for 4am on vibrate mode, worrying that I would wake others up (I was in a hostel and was sharing a room with 3 others.) Turns out that I was waking up to the sounds of people heading to the toilet or dogs debating by the streets. I was at the top of the bunker bed and I managed to give myself a wedgie while climbing down. I hope the hot girl below did not see my exposed balls but realised the room was dark and I was dark…..so do the math.

The taxi ride to the bus terminal was about 30 minutes and cost 5000 Kyat. After purchasing the tickets, I had about 45 minutes to spare so I ploughed myself down in a dingy looking eatery. Actually all the shops there looked the same. Managed to order 2 oily bread rolls and a bottle of water through sign language. English totally did not help.

Dingy Shop

Dingy Shop

While the flies and I were eating to our hearts content, a local man walked in looking at me. He sat at a table behind me and ordered a glass of whiskey. 5 minutes into his drink and I heard him puke on the floor. No one seemed to be bothered. He came over to my table and looked at me. I looked at him. He bent down and took a bin from under my table and went back to puke. I was impressed. He looked sober and was able to navigate around well.

Bus scenery

Bus Scenery

Bus ride was like any other. They provided us with a bottle of water and a strong-scented wet tissue. There was air-condition. Ride was bumpy at some points but I was able to get some sleep. There was a 20 minutes break to have some food and toilet stop.

But there was one problem. The locals seem to get motion sickness easily. Throughout the journey, you would hear a cacophony of people vomiting or forcing their vomit out. Every seat has a small plastic bag for this definite occasion. At some point someone might tap you shoulder asking for that bag. I was very lucky to get a pregnant lady to sit beside me. She puked into her bag an orange concoction. She kept going at it and when she was done she held the bag near me. I tested my mental ability to control myself but I gagged a little before the bus stopped and the driver said it was my stop. *Thank you God*

Step foot out of the bus and I was swamped by a group of guys wanting to take me to my hotel. Just what I needed but there was a problem. I forgot the name of the hotel and I think I didn’t write it down (what was I thinking!?) Those guys were resourceful. They showed me a map and I easily pointed out the Shwe Hin Tha Hotel. I thought it was a car ride but nope, it was a bike ride without a helmet. My left leg was used to support my bag with my left hand. Journey was about 10-15 minutes. Cost was 1000 Kyat.

Click here for Part 2

Bus scenery

Bus scenery

bus3

Traffic

 

Myanmar (Yangon) – Getting In

After days of finding for a place to travel to, I found a cheap flight with Jetstar to Yangon, Myanmar. If you think this is going to be some comprehensive guide, nah. I did not do any major research before heading there. Just spent my time reading information from internet without taking down much notes.

Myanmar Header

VISA
I am a Singaporean and the privilege of traveling to many countries without applying for visa is not applicable here. If you are a Singaporean, be warned, you need to go down to the Myanmar Embassy to apply for a visa. Click here for more information.

So imagine the panic I was in to apply for visa the day before I flew out. I was able to get it within a day.

FLIGHT
Landed in Yangon on 18 March 2014, 11AM-ish. Airport looked new. Head down the escalator to clear the immigration and you would be able to see families/friends waiting for their loved ones through the see-through glass. It was weird because they could follow and watch every step you take. They will be watching as you queue to clear immigration.

MONEY
There are money changers at the baggage claim area and out at the arrival-waiting area. I changed my Singapore Dollars to Burmese Kyat (At about 1SGD = 756MMK).

TAXI
You can book a taxi at the airport if you have not arranged for airport transfer with your hotel. It is hard to miss the big yellow sign which says “TAXI”.

After reading all the information online, the average rate is US$10.  If you want to get a taxi on your own by bargaining with the driver, you may get away with US$8 (It would be better if you could find others to share it with). I was quoted US$8 at the taxi counter. When I got to the destination, the driver asked for US$10. I wish I could just walk out giving him US$8 but I did not have smaller change so made it 9000 Kyat.

ACCOMMODATION
I had my first try of a hostel. A search on Agoda.com brought up this new place, Humble Footprints Hotel / Hostel. Whats good about it? Its new. Anything that is supposed to be white is really white. Click here to read my review on TripAdvisor.

I would not recommend the hostel if you want options on sight-seeing or food within walking distance.

RECOMMEND
One of the must-sees is the Shwedagon Pagoda or also known as the Golden Pagoda. It took me about 15-20 minutes to walk there. I did not need a map because I could see it from afar. It is one of the most sacred Buddhist pagodas and it literally covered in genuine gold plates. It was mid-afternoon when I got there and really wanted to see it at night after having heard about its light displays but time constraint denied me that chance. I am still grateful to have stepped foot there.

Golden Pagoda

Shwedagon Pagoda


 Next article would be about my experience at Ngwe Saung – Myanmar.

What You Should Not Do in a Foreign Land : Getting Drunk

I was a virgin. She was standing there in full glory. Her high heels were piercing every step she took. I did not know where to look. Staring at any part of her made me feel guilty while not looking seemed rude. And then it began…

“At first I was afraid, I was petrified, kept think..” the speakers blasted while Oak the flamboyant drag, started dancing on the floor, lip-syncing to Gloria Gaynor.

I was a virgin, no more. I had seen my first drag show. My friend and I sipped on our Vodka Redbull with a huge grin because we found seats by the bar in the crowded shoebox sized bar.

What I was really not expecting was to be barked at by the bartender to remove our drinks from the bar top. The rest happened very fast. Before we knew it, we were listening to Its Raining Men by the Weather Girls or in this case, Oak and her two male backup dancers on the bar top.

I blinked my eyes and Oak was on her back on the bar top with one guy humping on top of her (with clothes on). All these might not seem like a big deal to some but I was sort-of a conservative boy. (Note the “sort-of”)

At the end of the show, as the crowd was dispersing, something in me came alive. Before your pervy minds think what you think I might be thinking of, I will say it was the adrenaline. The sudden realisation that  my family was not around me. I did not have to be the goody boy. I had just seen a drag show which meant I have just seen the world! So I celebrated by ordering a cocktail. Then another and then a third. My friend, a seasoned drinker was warning me not to mix my drinks and he did try to stop me from ordering more drinks. But I had to have this moment. I was a grown-up!

Fast forward 1 hour later.

Yours truly was puking by a side of a road alone at midnight in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I was holding on to my handphone on one hand and using the other to prevent anybody reaching into my pockets to access the cash I had in there. I was practically an easy target with invisible neon signs inviting people to rob me.

And people did come. First a guy,  a woman and then another guy. My friend was a few steps away at a night stall waiting for his food to arrive. He assumed that I went to the toilet. He could not see me from where he was seated.

I was holding on to my phone for my dear life trying to control my vomit. I felt a hand on my back. That hand was patting me. Another hand gave me a tissue. I looked up at them. They had a look of concern and pity. When I felt like nothing else was left to crawl out of my mouth, I stood up and gave them a thumbs up sign. I got one in return with smiles. I staggered back to my friend who was happily eating.

I have learnt from this episode. I was lucky. I learnt to never do something God-Damned stupid like that again. Future travellers out there, never get drunk. If you insist, do it within four walls. Do it with a non-drinking buddy you trust.

I underestimated Cambodians. Given for a fact that you would get swamped by beggars or peddlers trying to sell you goods at every corner you headed to, these three individuals snapped me to reality (the next day that is). God knows if they had any malicious intent but they proved that one should not judge anyone. Thank you strangers.

Have a limit. Be the limit. (Terms and conditions apply)

DISCLAIMER:

I have travelled with my family to some countries till when I was about eighteen years old. Started doing trekking trips to Malaysia with school mates. Exploration trip began with Bangkok-Pattaya where I just did normal touristy stuff and then this Phnom Penh trip. Any trips after this did not involve me repeating the same mistakes again.