Most people enter Myanmar (Burma) through the Yangon Airport and proceed to a local guesthouse to settle into the country and find their bearings. It’s immediately after exiting the Airport that you realise that Myanmar is locked in a different time to the rest of the world and that travel here is going to be more difficult than most SE Asian destinations.
The roads of Yangon are rickety, ramshackle affairs giving a feel of neglect and austerity. But these roads, the poorly constructed buildings and the vast array of businesses plying their trade on the streets give the town a character that I’ve never experienced anywhere else. There is charm amongst the poverty that makes Yangon not too unpleasant to hang around for a few days.
The main attractions are all listed in the guidebooks, as are the guesthouses and restaurants and these are pretty much on the mark. We stayed at Motherland Inn 2 and despite its location, we loved our experience there. Better yet was the fact that they seem to have a free bus from the airport for anyone wishing to inspect their rooms – a saving of $7.
A good place to gain information on buses, trains and other Burma-specific travel information is the MTT counter at the train station. This Government-run service asks for no money and is happy to hand out maps, book tickets and give out free up-to-date information about the country. We found this service necessary as the first move out of Yangon proved to the most difficult logistically.
Travel to Bago can be done by Bus or Train. The train journey is longer than the bus journey, but is an activity in itself. The journey takes 2 hours and costs $2 for ordinary class tickets. We booked a day in advance and I would recommend this journey as a great way of seeing the countryside.
There are trishaw drivers waiting at Bago train station to take you to all the sites. We had worried about where we would store our luggage, but the drivers insisted on carrying it with us on the trishaw to all the sites.
The Bago sites generally revolve around the religious and as such you will see a bunch of pagodas and a big snake at a monastery. The activities can be completed on a day trip and there really is no need to stay for the night.
The number one question people asked us about Golden Rock is whether it is worth it. There were rumours swirling all throughout Myanmar that Golden Rock is hopeless and not worth the hassle. But we only met one other person that had been there and they enjoyed it! We decided to go anyway despite the runaway rumour mill and enjoyed ourselves.
The truck ride and trek to the top were fun. The rock itself was Golden… And that’s about it really. But if you travel to every destination expecting the Grand Canyon, you are always going to be disappointed and we accepted the rock for what it was and got the hell back down the mountain and out of the heat. All in all, it was worth the effort.
Been to Burma? Want to go? I’d love to know your motivation!