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Thread: Mingalabar Yangon (Mini Trip Report Nov 2014)

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    Mingalabar Yangon (Mini Trip Report Nov 2014)

    Mingalabar Yangon (Mini Trip Report Nov 2014)

    I’ve lost count of how many trips I’ve been to Myanmar since 2010, for those interested can look back through my timeline at the more significant trips.

    Here’s a snapshot of how things stand as of November 2014.

    Money: exchange rate USD1 = 1040 Kyat.

    There is still the need to take pristine USD 100 bills for the best exchange rates, but now EUR, AUD, SGD and JPY are widely accepted as well, and in some places even GBP.

    But none of this matters so much anymore as some ATM’s will dispense up to 300k Kyat (for a 5000 Kyat fee plus what ever exchange rate). I used the CB Bank ATM at the base of Sakura Tower successfully. 10,000 Kyat notes are now common place, so cash is less bulky to carry around.

    I feel the Kyat is now under valued and will probably strengthen into next year, but should USD/JPY continue its slide to oblivion the Kyat will remain weak.

    Getting there (and away) ….

    I flew with GMA (Golden Myanmar Airlines) which use new ATR 72 aircraft – for the 70 min flight to/from Chaing Mai this is fine, and the cost starts from US$ 59 each way inclusive which is great pricing compared to Air Bagan which had a monopoly on this route. Bangkok Airways has also started a CNX-RGN and CNX-Mandalay service, so the options are improving all the time.

    I hope soon to be able to drive to Yangon via Mae Sot, I have heard its doable but requires plenty of documentation currently, perhaps post ASEAN 2015 things will become easier.

    Visa – I used the online e-Visa service which for US$ 50 gets you a single entry 28 day tourist visa. I found immigration in Yangon very busy, but the e-Visa results ina little stamp in your passport rather than the full page hogging sticker the standard visa takes up.

    [Special Note: The Thai Embassy will only issue SINGLE Entry Non-Immigrant O visa’s to non [Myanmar] residents].

    Yangon

    My first trip in 2010 I stayed at the Thamada Hotel, so I thought I’d stay here again as booking via Agoda was £37/night (ex breakfast). While I like the location very much, especially being next to 365 Café – the rooms could do with a revamp – the staff however remain excellent.

    If wanting somewhere chic and very nice then The Loft Hotel on Yaw Min Gyi Street at ~ £100/night would beat the faceless chain hotels by miles. Also not far from here on Nawaday Street is the Alpha Hotel with its roof top bar overlooking Shwe Dagon, great for sun downers.

    New finds …

    Gekko (37th Steet) – if you have deep pockets then give this a go – perhaps Yangon’s best restaurant at the moment. Japanese theme (English owner) – but is very very well done indeed and the food was superb. Live band Friday evenings.
    Nawaday St/Bo Yar Nyunt Junction Café’s

    Myanmore magazine is a weekly guide to what’s going on in Yangon – there is a a small cluster of café’s and bars around this junction. I suspect this zone will become a central chic area in due course. I did not have time to eat in these places but they did look worth exploring further – namely Easy Café, Fat Man Steak Bistro and Myanmar food at Thu Kha Yeik.

    Tech

    Just in case you are ever in need of tech need (dead phone etc) then I found these shops knowledgeable.

    i-Tech, Yaw Min Gyi Street – honest and good place for phone repairs.

    AMT Mobile Mart, No A7 Aung San Stadium – genuine main brands and cheaper than Thailand.

    Technoland, 36th Street – Yangon’s Panthip Plaza – the most trusted place for tech in Yangon, but a litte on the expensive side.

    Other

    Shwe Dagon is being refurbished/re-gilded and work should be complete by Thingyin (April 2015).

    I think Yangon is becoming more used to foreigners – inevitable but a little sad. Taxi’s are reasonable – highest fare charged was 3000 Kyat within the city and its still 6000 Kyat to/from airport.

    It’s little secret the affection I hold for Myanmar and I’m fortunate to have some special friends there – for me 3 or 4 days is plenty in Yangon and knowing of what lies far to the north (Kachin’s mountains) and south (Mergui’s islands) is so tempting if only time and ease of travelling permitted I’d love to be back there.

    Chezu ten bah deh.
    Last edited by K2; 30th November 2014 at 14:08.
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    Thanks for the updates, and insights, Kev; always interesting. Sounds like Burma is developing quickly now which will be good and bad I guess, I hope the tourist dollars find their way into the pockets of the regular folk who have it so tough over there.

    We only had a few days in Yangon but the people seemed great, very friendly and welcoming and genuinely interested in us. I would very much like to spend some more time there.

    There were challenges though as I recall, hotels for sure were expensive and thin on the ground so £37 a night sounds like an excellent find. The internet was non-existent too, literally not present, has that changed yet?

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    @ Steve ... hotel prices are falling, this years >2000 rooms have been added to the market in Yangon with many more under construction at all ends of the spectrum. I think with some searching most should be able to find a decent room in the $30-$50/night range now ... making it onlya little more than the equivalent in Thailand.

    Internet ... continues to improve with Telenor now covering Yangon and several others. Myanmar is leaping straight to smartphones/tablets and largely by-passing PC based computing with many Internet cafes/shops closing down.

    I found hotel internet stable and fast enough - perhaps in next 12/18 months even stable enough for me to live there!!
    Its My Life .....!

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    To me the internet was going to be the key development, businesses can't operate without it these days so Burma was going nowhere without it.

    Are long term visas available now then? Maybe when the ridiculous visa restrictions in Thailand grind people down there will be more and more seeing Burma as an option?

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    Here in Yangon now, it's our first trip to Myanmar/Burma, and first impressions are that the Burmese are generally a pretty friendly lot, and that most of the things a person might want are here to be found. Hotels generally are more expensive than say Bangkok, on a feature for feature basis, but we booked in to the Panorama Hotel on Pansodan for about $70 a night (US), and it's a decent enough place. The internet is generally pretty slow, and I haven't yet found a cheap burner SIM card with 3G/4G internet available. The girl at the shop said not available, but I could,t tell if that meant not available, or just not available from her...

    Food is cheap, decent and pretty acceptable, not as good as Thailand, but lots of variety, and stuff we haven't really encountered before. Haven't tried the high end joints, but haven't felt the need either, so we'll see how it goes...

    We're going to hang around Yangon for a few more days, and try to get the feel of the place, then take the overbite sleeper train up to Bagan for some obligatory ancient temple gazing, then by river, bus , or train (don't know which yet), on to Mandalay for a bit before flying out to Chiang Mai. A week or so visiting friends in Chiang Mai, a few days in BKK, then back to Patong.

    Impressions so far… It's a nice little country, and developing at a pretty quick pace, but the currency is a mess, and it takes way too many (wads of) bills to get the job done. Infrastructure well behind Thailand, closer to Cambodia, (in fact it reminds me of Cambodia a lot) I think if a person were to relocate here, he could get it all worked out OK, but I sure can't see any reason to at the current time. No motorbikes in Yangon by government edict… It's a dictatorship so I guess they can do that if they decide to, but it's so strange being in a large Asian city without the sound of motorbikes as the constant background soundtrack. It'll be interesting to do some train travel and see more of the rural countryside…. more will be revealed, but I've got the feeling now that about 2 to 3 weeks in Burma is going to be enough for a first visit, and by that time we'll be happy to get "home" to Thailand.
    LivinLOS and K2 like this.
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