I segregated my travel experiences to several categories namely, ASEAN, ASEAN Plus Three, Wonders of the World, landmarks of the world (usually seen during the weather forecast), etc. For ASEAN, i had been to all ASEAN Member States with exception of two countries, Myanmar and Laos. That was 2013. The target for this year is either to complete the ASEAN experience or go to one of the countries. I had been lucky enough to be able to go to Myanmar this year for working purpose. Never that i had known that i will be going back and forth to Myanmar for 4 times. Yup. 4 times as of August 2014. I might have to go there again maybe for another one or two times before the year ends.
Two out of these 4 times required me to have a short transit in Bangkok (4 hours) and straight to the new capital of Myanmar, Nay Pyi Taw. Owh yeah, many people out there still thought that Yangon is the capital. But as of 2005, Nay Pyi Taw has replaced Yangon as the capital of Myanmar. One time transit through Yangon to Nay Pyi Taw, and another one time full week in Yangon. All of these are for meetings, so i hardly had the time to go out with exception of the short transit in Yangon.
Myanmar is the only ASEAN country that required Malaysians to applied for visa beforehand. Yangon International Airport is just a small airport that caters for all international airlines to Myanmar. Nay Pyi Taw has bigger and much advanced airport compared to Yangon but we will get back to that later. The local currency for Myanmar is Kyatt (phonetically pronounced as ch-at). Anyone who wishes to fly to Myanmar are advised to change their money into USD then change the money to Kyatt at the airport (it is one of the reputable money changer). The exchange rate is roughly about USD1~965 kyatt.
Yangon, what can i say about Yangon. It is a very unique city with its own identity and character. I love city with character. Yangon is no exception. Most of the male in the city wears sarong (affectionately known as longyi) with its own way of wearing it. Ladies also wears it, but the ladies' longyi looks like a skirt about 2 meters long with its unique design.
What to see in Yangon. There is the famous Swedagon Pagoda. Stood majestically in the middle of the city with its golden shine. It was made with pure gold. Wow. We went to the pagoda at night and it was raining rather heavily but it does not deter us from enjoying the view. There is also Suu Kyi's house near the lake. The house where she was placed under house arrest. Just manage to see the front gate.
As for shopping. Well, Bogyoke (phonetically pronounced as bo-jok) Market is the place to be. Myanmar is known for its stones, jades, rubies, sapphires, all the semi-precious stones, you name it. I am not the one who know how to appreciate stones, so i give it a miss. What i was interested in was the paintings. It was reasonably price and plenty to choose from.
That is Yangon, now move on to Nay Pyi Taw. Nay Pyi Taw is relatively new city. Modeled after Putrajaya, it boasted dozens of hotel. But it was a really quiet city. Huge roads, big resort-like hotels, huge convention centre, but i am not sure about the government buildings as i had never been to that side of the town yet. Nay Pyi Taw has two malls, selling groceries and stuffs. It has beautiful and huge international airport but also very quiet. By road, it took 4 hours from Yangon to Nay Pyi Taw, by air, it took about 30-45 mins depending on the type of plane that you fly with. There is nothing much i tell about Nay Pyi Taw.
In Myanmar as a whole, i do not know why, but the Beriyani Rice is exceptional. Huge portion, good taste but it was oily like a soup. Nevertheless, it was good. For USD2, you will get a big portion of beriyani with chicken. Most of the beriyani shops are halal. Owh yeah, Myanmar also has its own halal certification body. Cool huh. In Yangon itself, there is this place called Yuzana Plaza. Similar to Bogyoke but it does not have paintings sold there. Around the Yuzana Plaza area, there are many muslims around. So finding halal food in the city is not that tough. But if you are the picky type kind, well then there is nothing i can say. Hahaha.
As these trips are for work, there is not much exploration can be done. But my ASEAN experience target is almost done. With one country left to complete. Eventhough it was limited exploration done, i think that Myanmar still has a lot to offer to its visitors. There is more cities to be explored such as Mandalay and the old ancient city of Bagan. For now, i had been to Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw. Perhaps next time i will be able to go to other cities. The country is fascinatingly unique and for me it is manifold Myanmar.