A sleeper bus from Inle Lake to Yangon is quite a bumpy ride, especially for the first few hours. It can cost anything between 20000-27000 Kyat (£12.50-£16.80) and takes around 12 hours, 11 on a good run. We obviously chose the cheapest option and the bus was surprisingly OK. The seats reclined a long way, yet there was still room for your legs if the person in front did the same. We were also given a neck support pillow, a blanket, a bottle of water, a can of coke, three pastries and at the end before we got off we were given a toothbrush with toothpaste and a cold refreshing towel. To be honest it is one of the best bus services I’ve had in the last 5 months. The can of coke and pastries aren’t the best thing for a diabetic, but the custard tart was lovely and luckily I’m a king at carbohydrate guessing and counting now. I kept the can of coke for back if my sugar level goes low. I ran out of my last pack of dextrose tablets in Laos whilst tubing, when my waterproof bag turned out not to be very waterproof at all, destroying my final pack.
We were picked up from our hostel in a rickshaw at 17:00 and shuttled to our main bus, which departed on time at 17:30. We made 2 short toilet stops along the way and arrived at Yangon International Bus Station at 05:00, a full hour early. Four of us split a taxi to downtown Yangon, for 2500 Kyat (£1.50) per person and we arrived at our hostel at 06:00. From there we headed to the Indian Embassy to apply for our Indian visa and found out we would have to spend more time then we originally thought in Yangon, 2 whole extra days in fact. This was annoying at the time because we wanted to move on, but it has in fact been great. This is the first big city since Ho Chi Minh where I feel like I have discovered it properly, not just seen the sights. To be fair I haven’t visited many big cities since Ho Chi Minh. I took my time researching the best coffee shops, best places to eat, best parks to relax in and the top things to do and we had 5 fun days of relaxed exploring.
The food in Yangon has been excellent. I didn’t fancy eating the street food as I was recently ill at Inle Lake and heard a lot of similar stories from fellow travellers. The hygiene is really not the best at the street stalls and I personally wouldn’t recommend it. However there are some lovely restaurants around. My favourite is probably the Rangoon Tea House. This serves lots of different local foods but in a clean and tasty environment. The food has heavy Indian influences, great for preparing for my trip to India, their vegetarian potato samosas are fantastic. The also do their own variety of curries, tandoori wraps and many other wonderfully flavoured dishes, along with some of the best smoothies I’ve ever had, where you can pick up to 3 different fruits. I would highly recommend the banana, pineapple and dragon fruit mix, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Another fantastic restaurant is TinTin’s. Now this isn’t a restaurant serving local food but is probably one of the best Mexicans I have ever had, granted I haven’t been to Mexico… yet. Their crispy sweetcorn to start with is dipped in some amazing spices and served with some really fresh sour cream. To follow either try their pulled pork burrito or the refried bean wraps which are all spiced to perfection. I’ve always enjoyed my food but I’ve never really written much about it, but having the time in Yangon to really explore has been great. There are also lots of cafes and bakeries around where you can get nice, cheap coffee and freshly baked cakes, buns and doughnuts and savoury snacks, my favourite being Parisian Cake and Coffee. Their Parisian coffee costs 700 Kyat (£0.43) and is lovely and strong. They also have a wide variety of bakery good available, including pizza made up on loaves of bread, and bread coated with egg which when you take up to the counter to pay, they will blast it in the oven for you. Gorgeous.
The main temple in Yangon is called the Shwedagon Pagoda and it is absolutely huge. Apparently it is best to see the temple at dusk as the fading sun turns the pagoda into a majestic golden bell. We set off around 11:00 and first visited the Kandawgyi Lake, situated in a park the other side of the roundabout from the pagoda. The lake itself is huge and has a wooden walkway, which is in very bad condition in parts, that takes you half way round. Along the way there are plenty of temples to visit and places to chill and relax in the shade. Once the walkway comes to an end you can’t continue round the inside of the park, you have to leave and follow the fence round the outside to continue your loop, before entering again and arriving back at the start. There is a lovely restaurant to grab some refreshments after the very long walk. From there we headed over to the Shwedagon Pagoda around 16:00. Unfortunately I couldn’t go in. I was wearing shorts, the same shorts that have allowed me in every temple so far in the last 5 months. There was the possibility of renting a longyi but I was on a strict budget due to the fact I was having to spend more days in Yangon than originally planned. If I would have rented the longyi, at a later date I would have had to withdraw more money and get charged for doing so. However Holly paid the 8000 Kyat to enter as she really does love a temple and spent some time taking pictures and looking in awe at the big golden bell.
On another day we tried to go to the National Museum as I was very interested in the history of Myanmar, considering it had been through a name change, a flag change and a change in capital cities in the recent past. However, the day we chose to visit the museum was on Myanmar Independence Day, a national holiday meaning that it was shut. So I’m afraid I am none the wiser about Myanmar’s interesting history, only what I have learnt through Google, which isn’t quite the same. It wasn’t a bad day in the end, me and Holly went from coffee shop to coffee shop sampling the best Yangon had to offer. We eventually collected our Indian Visas 5 days after arriving in Yangon and have chosen to visit Krabi, Phuket and Kuala Lumpur before arriving in India near christmas. I’m very happy we had to spend a couple of extra days in Yangon, most people only spend 2 days here and perhaps don’t see it in the same way I have, capturing the different charms round every corner.