After months and months of travelling we ended up waiting till Myanmar for our first train ride, and because it was indeed Myanmar we decided to travel first class (the alternative being a seat on a wooden bench). Our 18h journey from Bagan to Yangon took us through the beautiful countryside with sights of palm trees, dusty mountains and the sun setting over small villages with eager kids waving their little hands at the many passengers. The train wasn’t full so we were lucky to have an entire 4 people carriage to ourselves with two bunk beds and a private toilet, all providing for a fairly comfortable sleep.
Yangon was also our first airbnb experience in Asia which proved to be a highlight. Our young American host invited us to his birthday party where we got to meet a bunch of expats and the token Myanmar guest. It was particularly insightful because for once we could have conversations with people about the country’s history and current situation without receiving confused looks.
We probably socialised with more westerners in Yangon than anywhere else in the country; indeed, we also met with a friend of Annalie’s sister who’d recently moved there from the US. Tom took us to the Drug Elimination Museum, a gigantic building repurposed to be a museum that tried to explain how the country had been afflicted by drug cultivation and abuse, and what has since been done to eradicate the issue. The museum was completely empty and therefore quite eery, and it displayed a very weird collection of exhibits which made for an odd and quite entertaining visit (but not hugely informative).
With Tom we then went to a local BBQ spot where we chose our skewers and ate them fresh off the grill with some ice cold beers. The atmosphere was very warm and welcoming and, despite being the only tourists there, we felt at home. The food was exceptional and a particularly interesting appetiser was a dish of fried cashew nuts with a dip of salt.
As per the rest of the country and region, Yangon has its fair share of temples, so a visit to Shwedagon Pagoda was obviously on the cards (woooop). It’s the biggest complex of pagodas in Myanmar and considered a Buddhist mecca. We thought we could stroll there from our home but highly underestimated the heat so it took us over a couple of hours with timely breaks in the shade to recover from the sun.
Our last day in the capital was a Sunday so we went to mingle with the locals at the People’s Park – a huge park with a number of attractions, food stops and entertainment. We even had a ride on the park’s rollercoaster but sadly had to skip the waterpark as we didn’t have any swimming gear (which however didn’t stop the locals who happily went swimming in their jeans).
The city is very large and with a population of 7 million (and growing) we only managed to skim the surface, but overall had a pleasant stay and enjoyed some pretty good food. I tasted a delicious Myanmar curry (twice it was so good) which had heavy Indian influences and Annalie had our first experience of Mohinga, a fish noodle soup often eaten for breakfast.
Next we are heading east to a small put apparently very picturesque town called Hpa-an.
Ciao for now xx