Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Myanmar ~ So Delightfully Different!

Myanmar, the country’s lyrical name, Mee yan Mar, simply sounded so,. . .well. . .so foreign and exotic. Even “Burma” its long-ago name and now a parenthetical reference, was equally enticing when we booked our 34-day spring cruise from Bangkok, Thailand to Istanbul, Turkey.

It was‘different’ we wanted – and Myanmar didn’t disappoint!

P1000452
Land of Buddha - Yangon, Myanmar
Even better was that Oceania’s Nautica would stay in the port city, Yangon, for three days and two nights. A definite plus for this cruise.  And in keeping with their flexible approach to travel, we could take ship’s tours, arrange our own, or go it alone. 

P1000353
A city street - Yangon, Myanmar

We opted to go it alone. We booked ourselves a room on shore*, packed a carry-on bag and were off to explore as soon as the ship had cleared local customs.

This short stay was a good way to test out our abilities to get around and explore this city with a population of more than five million; a place where ornate buildings that harkened back to the time of British colonial rule stand next to sleek, modern high-rises.

Located in southern Myanmar, Yangon (once called Rangoon) is the country’s former capital and its main point of entry (a number of Asian airlines land at its airport and cruise ships dock here).

P1000501 Actually the town is an hour’s drive (35 km or 22 miles) from where we were docked near the mouth of the Yangon River at the Thilawa Container Wharf.  The ‘cruise ship port’ is still a part of an industrial area, much like our experience in Bangkok.

The cab we shared into town with another couple from the ship crept along the narrow port road made even more narrow with oil trucks waiting for their turn to fill up the many containers ships in port.

P1000341
The port road was a parking lot at times as we drove toward Yangon, Myanmar
The congestion at the port was a good foreshadowing of what was to come when we reached the city:

P1000418
Traffic was simply crazy in Yangon, Myanmar
Our destination was The Strand Hotel, Myanmar’s oldest hotel. Its lawns once fronted the Yangon River. Now it stands just across the street (pictured above) from the river’s bustling Pansodan Ferry Terminal (pictured below). Our stay at The Strand, one of the Leading Hotels of the World, was nothing short of spectacular – a step back into a genteel time. . . morning coffee and afternoon tea served in our room’s sitting area by our floor’s butler, for example. Such a remarkable stay it was, that next week’s post will focus on this Grand Dame of the Far East.

PicMonkey Collage
Pansodan Ferry Terminal alive with activity - Yangon, Myanmar


P1000351
Burmese Kyat - local currency
Settled into the hotel, and money exchanged (here the currency is the Burmese Kyat – $1US = 1,070Kyat) we set off with a city map bearing the name and address of the hotel and a hotel umbrella to use for protection against the sun’s intense rays.

We left our bottles of water in the room, planning to buy some along the way. . .

. . .and that would be our first ‘lesson learned’ and reminder that we weren’t ‘in Kansas anymore, Toto’!

We’d walked a couple of miles through the city teeming with people when we agreed we were not where we thought we were headed. Problem was, we didn’t know where we were – and we disagreed about where we thought we were. It was hot - 95+ degrees under the mid-day sun. We were thirsty. It was time to buy that water, only there was none to be purchased, because drinking water was made available for free throughout the city:

P1000366
Drinking water was free - and communal - in Yangon, Myanmar

None of the small markets that lined the streets we walked sold bottled water – people simply sipped out of the communal cups.

P1000440
Local shopper taking a water/shade break -Yangon, Myanmar
Luckily, we learned quite quickly that a large number of people here speak English. As we paused on a congested sidewalk to ponder our map for the umpteenth time, a young man selling vegetables next to us asked, “Where are you trying to go?”  Within seconds he had us pointed in the right direction (we’d only been a few blocks off course).

The city was definitely a study in contrasts as within a few minutes, we left the congestion of the sidewalk markets to find ourselves sipping ice tea in the luxurious lobby café at the Shangri-La Hotel, while locals like the lady above quenched her thirst from the public water bottles.

PicMonkey Collage
Top, lobby bar; bottom first floor bar - Shangri La Hotel - Yangon, Myanmar
The contrasts, the reminders of British colonialism, the pagodas, temples, Buddha’s, the congestion, the kindness and the welcome were nearly overwhelming – we found ourselves retreating to our room after a few hours just to regroup (and cool down) and to savor the delightful differences we were finding at every corner.

*Note: While the cruise line allowed you to stay on shore if you chose to do so, there were no refunds for the night not spent on the ship. Seemed fair enough as just being allowed off the ship for independent overnight stays was a first for us! Their only request was that you notify the ship in advance so your passport (they are held by the ship) can be returned to you and that you leave contact information and your anticipated location while on shore in event of any emergency you might have or any change in the ship's departure time.

Speaking of time, thanks for the time you spent with us today on our Magic Carpet Ride to and through the Middle East.  Hope you’ll be back next week as we tour The Strand Hotel.  Until then, happy travels to you~

Take a moment more and drop by these blogs for more travel and lifestyle inspiration:

Travel Photo Thursday – Budget Traveler’s Sandbox 
Our World Tuesday
Travel Inspiration – Reflections En Route
Mosaic Monday – Lavender Cottage Gardening
Mersad's Through My Lens
Photo Friday - Pierced Wonderings
Wordless Wednesday

73 comments:

  1. Thrilled I came along! Thanks for finding me :-)



    ALOHA
    ComfortSpiral
    =^..^=

    ReplyDelete
  2. Cloudia, I too am happy I found you out there in the blogosphere! Thanks for stopping by; hope you'll be a regular!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello Jackie and Joel,
    I loved hearing about Myanmar. A dear friend's mother haired from there and then lived in Calcutta for many years before coming to Canada. We were regular visitors to her home and she was an exceptional cook. Hope you are having a marvellous summer
    Helen x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Speaking of cooking Helen, we had some of the best food ever during our stay in Yangon. I'll show some photos next week! Thanks for stopping by - and happy summer to you! J.xxx

      Delete
  4. I've heard nothing but amazing things about traveling there. Your pictures and words make it sound great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We tourists haven't yet over-run the place, so it really is a gem hidden away in Southeast Asia just waiting to be discovered. Thanks so much for the visit Sallie, glad you enjoyed the post!

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. It was a fantastic adventure - we'd love to return and explore further and longer! Thanks for the visit. xxJ.

      Delete
  6. A lovely insight into Burma. I think the fact that they don't sell water in bottles is a fantastic eco solution. And now that you have told us about it we can come prepared with our own reusable bottles. Loved this post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our hotel provided bottled water for use in the room as well as to take with us. Lesson learned was don't assume things like bottled water will be for sale. . .leave those old notions in the suitcase! Glad you enjoyed the post, Jan.

      Delete
  7. A lovely insight into Burma. I think the fact that they don't sell water in bottles is a fantastic eco solution. And now that you have told us about it we can come prepared with our own reusable bottles. Loved this post.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Good to know you had plenty of time to discover the city. I visited Myanmar from Thailand and, let me tell you, it was very different. It was kind of a crazy adventure full of a lot of memories. One of them was the local market full of all sorts of creatures (dead and alive).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our routing took us from Thailand to Myanmar and you know that as much as we've liked Bangkok in the past, we preferred Yangon and would go back there before Thailand. It was that 'different' that made it so interesting for us. Thanks for visiting, Ruth!

      Delete
  9. Such a wonderful visit you have had. It is in my list though not sure when it will work out. Water free yet communal, that was a shocker.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you make it to Myanmar, Indrani, because you would be in photographer's heaven. I am not going to start drinking out of communal cups no matter how free that water is, however! Thanks for the comment - see you soon!

      Delete
  10. What an incredible place! You captured it beautifully!

    Stopping by from Travel Photo Thursday - would love it if you joined us at Photo Friday ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jen, I missed this Friday, but I'd love to join you next Photo Friday! Thanks for stopping by~

      Delete
  11. I wasn't able to convince my family to visit nearby Myanmar, so I'm glad to have a chance to see it through your eyes. That traffic at that intersection looks crazy. Even though I feel like I've traveled rather extensively throughout SE Asia, I'm still surprised by the communal water cups. It totally would not have occurred to me that bottled water would be hard to find. I'm glad that the ship docked in Yangon for so long.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too bad you didn't get a chance to visit this amazing place! We would love to return to spend more time in Yangon and then venture out into the country as well. Wish it wasn't so far away!

      Delete
  12. I love your photos! It must be a really welcome relief after a foray into the chaos of the city to be able to retreat into a nice hotel like that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was good to cool down from the heat and sip that ice tea in an elegant lobby setting; a definite contrast to the street life in Yangon!

      Delete
  13. I loved your opening sentence because Myanmar has long since tempted me with its exotic and mysterious stories, history and culture. It's at the top of my must-see list and I'll be looking forward to your posts about this fascinating country!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anita - it was an amazing place. For fear of sounding cliche, it was simply so wonderfully foreign -- everything, everyone looked 'different', we didn't know our way around so everywhere we went was a new discovery. You will love it there!

      Delete
  14. Wonderful trip you had. It's in my wish list but....

    Communal water is a common thing in India too. But one is free not to use the cup.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a fabulous trip and this place was definitely one of the highlights! Thanks for stopping by TravelnWrite - hope to see you back again soon!

      Delete
  15. What a wonderful tour. It does look like a crowded and busy place. The first image of the statues is awesome! Have a happy new week ahead!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I may have to do an entire blog post on just the Buddhas and the temples - I felt like Alice in Wonderland as she tumbled into a new world. . . Thanks for stopping by Eileen and happy new week to you Eileen - hope it is filled with wonders and wanders!

      Delete
  16. How nice to have the option of an overnight stay on a cruise!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a real selling point for Oceania cruises, Irene. We over-nighted in Egypt, Jordan and Israel. Thanks for stopping by~

      Delete
  17. Water is always an issue in Asian countries, and often when you buy sealed bottles it is because local people have bought a sealing machine. I watched them do it in Vietnam. Myanmar is one of the last countries we have to do in Asia.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I trusted the water bottles in the hotel and did start taking those with us when we set out on foot. Myanmar is definitely a place we'd love to see again.

      Delete
  18. What an interesting stop on your trip. How nice to have the option of staying overnight off the cruise ship.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by Donna. It was a fabulous stop and so glad we opted to get off the ship and spend additional time on shore.

      Delete
  19. Very different images of the place that I have seen before.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a complex, multi-layered city which provides similar experiences to its visitors, I think, Rajesh.

      Delete
  20. Thanks for the quick visit to Myanmar! Happy Monday!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And thank you for joining us on the quick trip through town. Hope you'll come back for a tour of the historical hotel where we stayed while there!

      Delete
  21. That is a very nice post. I enjoyed my quick trip to Myanmar with you. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Come back, Maya, as I still have to show you the hotel and we've got a few more streets to wander before heading to Oman!

      Delete
  22. Looking forward to hearing more about your Myanmar visits, looks really up and coming and I want to hear more about the famous Strand hotel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Noel, OMG, what you and your beautiful photos could show of Myanmar. I can only image the scenes you would find to highlight.

      Delete
  23. What a fascinating country to visit! The streets look as crowded as those in New York City! It is nice that water is available for free--I'm sur ein that climate it is well needed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was amazing - congested both streets and sidewalks, hot, crazy, confusing - and we can hardly wait to go back again!

      Delete
  24. Excellent travelogue. Thanks so much for linking up with "Through My Lens" photo meme.

    Mersad
    Mersad Donko Photography

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And thanks to you, Mersad, for organizing another group of wonderful travel blogs to allow my armchair travels to expand!

      Delete
  25. A fascinating, "different" kind of trip! I enjoyed your account of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for taking time to read the post and comment, Marie! Look forward to future comments from you~ have a great week! Jackie

      Delete
  26. Myanmar doesn't look as lush as I was expecting, but I did love the elephant on the currency!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The city has some lush parks (I'll show those in a future post) but in general it is about as 'lush' as LA or New York -- lush here, is found out in the countryside.

      Delete
  27. I think I would be retreating to my room with all that heat and congestion. I don't do well in the heat and humidity. Note to bring own water bottle! Thankyou for the insight, and happy travels. And thank you for stopping by my blog this week.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Jill, I don't think this is for you if you don't do heat and congestion - both were at all-time highs for us! Thanks for the visit - come back soon.

      Delete
  28. We ran into quite a few travelers in southeast Asia who urged us to visit Myanmar "before it changes". It sounds like the change is underway, but from your description, it also sounds like we might still not be too late---except that we don't have any travel plans for that part of the world and time is ticking.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Myanmar has a long ways to go to be tourist-friendly, but maybe that is why we enjoyed the stop so much: it was worn and crusty and a bit on the edge of uncomfortable, but so absolutely amazing that we want to go back again! thanks for the visit, Suzanne.

      Delete
  29. I will probably never be there so it was lovely to see it through your eyes and lens

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Margaret, thank you for coming along with us. Hope you'll come back for more photos and tales of our travels through a most amazing part of the world!

      Delete
  30. These are beautiful photos with details about the country.Interesting post,I enjoyed reading the details including info about free water...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed the post Amila! Hope you'll be a regular at TravelnWrite. Happy travels to you until our paths again cross.

      Delete
  31. So exotic and striking!
    I hope you'll come by and link up your wonderful photos at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2015/08/say-yes-to-neigh.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the invite to link up! I will come by and if I miss this week will make sure I visit next week!

      Delete
  32. I have to give you credit Jackie as you two are not afraid to embark on an adventure in a new country, I would have stayed close to the ship. :-) So, did you sip from the communal water cups? Such a different accepted custom!
    I'm looking forward to next week's post at the hotel and some of the food?
    Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Actually the ship was docked an hour from anything other than the container port here Judith so staying near the ship would have been rather boring and tedious. We didn't drink from the communal cups. . .the country is still on the edge when it comes to tourism so we also didn't eat at any of the street vendors either. I will show hotel and food (delicious, wonderful food, by the way) soon! Thanks for the visit and the link up opportunity!!

      Delete
  33. What a practice of drinking in communal cups! And being allowed onshore for 3 days is a great benefit. Gotta look for that liner Oceania's Nautica! Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Carol, we had a superb trip on the Nautica. Love the freedom the cruise line allows for on-your-own outings like we had in Myanmar. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  34. Jackie, We have not gotten to Myanmar yet. It's high on the list for our return to Asia trip whenever that is. I can't wait to go. Your photos are amazing@

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't wait too long as the country is on the cusp of breaking into full-fledged tourism. . .and it will soon lose its worn-around-the-edges charm. Thanks for your visit~

      Delete
  35. Myanmar does seem delightful and magical, indeed! I've never heard of communal water drinking before - what an idea! The people are certainly lovely and friendly and yes, your report and pics definitely illustrate the differences that exist in this exotic land.

    Looking forward to more helpings of Myanmar, topped with Jackie's genuine appeal!

    Happy weekend, my friend!

    Hugs,
    Poppy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Poppy what a joy to see your name and comment! You have been missed !!! Hope to hear more from you~ hugs, Jackie

      Delete
  36. It surely does sound like a different and exciting place to visit. It is funny how some names affect our visions and expectations -- Myanmar = very exotic! Great following along with you there. The traffic looks pretty scary -- scarier than Rome!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, Cathy, I would say this was the worst traffic we've ever experienced, and that includes our experiences in Naples where everyone drives when and where they feel like it! Thanks for stopping by!!

      Delete
  37. Thanks for the visit to Myanmar it looks like a wonderful place to visit. I'll really be looking forward to your review of The Strand as well.

    ReplyDelete
  38. This was a great introduction to Myanmar. I had no idea you could book a hotel on land while on a cruise. I'm keeping Oceania in mind for future reference!

    ReplyDelete

So happy to see you took the time to comment. We read them all - and each is much appreciated. We hope you will be a regular here and comment often!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...