Friday, 25 July 2014

Yangon trip – Prologue

Tiger Airways was having promotion to Yangon and return fare including credit card surcharge is S$136 over the Hari Raya Puasa weekend. There is rarely promotion fare over public holiday weekend and I guess it's because Yangon is not a popular destination for Singaporean yet. To my surprise, Singaporean require visa to enter Myanmar. However the visa can only be collected during weekdays which is the reason why we did not booked the Tiger Airways ticket on the first day of promotion. By the time I called Myanmar's embassy the next day and checked if the visa can be collected on behalf by another person, there is no longer cheap airfare for departure. I knew that Jetstar fly to Yangon so I did a check at the website and discovered that the return fare is S$155 which is S$19 more. We decided to book Jetstar, departing on Fri and return on Mon hence applying only 1 day leave. However there was a change of timing in the flight which resulted in only 2 full days there hence we changed our flight free of charge to departing on Sat morning and returning on Tue night.

Myanmar or Burma is the 2nd largest country in Asean and it was once the richest country in Asean before it closed it's door in 1962. Myanmar has reopen it's door after 60 years and with the US lifting sanctions on Myanmar, it is expecting a tourist boom. Myanmar has 3 distinctive season: Hot season from Mar - Apr, rainy season from May - Oct, cool season from November to February which coincide with the peak travel season.

I find that spending 4 days in Yangon is too much and decided to allocate 2 days 1 night at Bagan. Bagan is an ancient capital with remains of over 2,000 temples and is seen as an equal in attraction to Angkor Wat. The fastest way to travel from Yangon to Bagan is take a domestic flight. There are various airline flying daily and I have booked my ticket online at Air KBZ website. Ironically, a return domestic ticket cost US$210 ~ S$260 cost more than the return international ticket. At first, I have booked my ticket through Air Mandalay but I have to collect the ticket at the ticket office one day before departure which I find it pretty troublesome. Since Air KBZ allows online payment and issues etickets, I decided to book through Air KBZ instead.

Myanmar is the only country in Asean which requires a visa for Singaporean and this can be applied at Myanmar Embassy in Singapore. However I find it very troublesome as I have to apply a day leave to submit the documents in the morning and return in the afternoon to collect the visa. Hence we applied through Sin Myanmar Travel Agency at 4th floor Peninsula Plaza. The agent charges S$60 which is the cheapest while other agencies charge S$65. The documents required are: 2 passport photo with white background, photocopy of NRIC and passport. The passport can be collected after 2 working days.
Map of Myanmar (Source: Lonely planet)

I have booked 2 nights accommodation at 30th corner boutique hostel in Yangon. It is a new hostel situated at downtown 30th street and the interior is unlike those typical Yangon guesthouse photo which I have seen. An ensuite room cost US$65 ~ S$80 which is not very cheap compared to the neighboring countries such as Thailand and Cambodia. 

Bagan accommodation is split between 3 areas: Nyaung U, Old Bagan or New Bagan. Old Bagan is dominated by the government owned hotels which cater to the luxury travellers. New Bagan has the mid range which caters to tour group and Nyaung U is where budget accommodation can be found. I have booked a night stay at Zfreeti Hotel in Nyaung U through and a night cost US$50 ~ S$60.

At first, I engaged a driver through the hotel but I found a driver with a cheaper rate from tripadvisor forum. His name is Nyunt Win ( and his rate for 4 person is as follows:
Full day tour: Kyat 40,000
Half day tour: Kyat 30,000
Airport transfer: Kyat 5,000
Sunrise: Kyat 10,000

USD is widely accepted in Myanmar as the local currency Kyat is a restricted currency. I have heard from my friend and read in forum that it is possible to change SGD to Kyat at the airport. I decided to bring a mixture of USD and SGD as it is advisable to pay for accommodation and admission in USD and meals in Kyat. The money changers in Myanmar are very strict on the quality of USD notes which should be crisp free, not torn or ink written on the notes otherwise the value of the note will decrease.

Itinerary for this trip:
Day 1: Reach Yangon @ 10.30am (GMT +6.5), Yangon City Hall, Sule Paya, Musmeah Yeshua Synagogue, Strand Hotel
Day 2: Reach Bagan @ 7.50am, Thambula Temple, Paya Thone Zu, Leimyethna, Dhammayazika, Manuha, Nan Hpaya, Gubyaukgyi, Mingala Zedi, Ananda, Bulethi, Sulamani, Shwesandaw, Shinbinthalyaung, Dahmmayan Gyi Phaya, Myauk Guni
Day 3: Shwezigon Paya, Htilominlo, Upali Thein, Nat Taung Kyaung, Maha Bodhi Phaya, Bupaya, Gawdaw Palin, Nat Hlaung Kyaung, That Byin Nyu, Shwegu Gyi Phaya, Tharabar gate, Depart Bagan @ 5.40pm
Day 4: Shwedagon Paya, Bogyoke Market, Massage @ Inya Spa, Depart Yangon @ 7.15pm

Budget for this trip is S$410:
- S$60 for visa
- S$100 for accommodation
- S$50 for transport
- S$25 for admission
- S$100 for meals
- S$25 for massage

- S$50 for souvenirs

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