We woke up early on Monday morning to catch the sunrise of Old Bagan. We’d previously made arrangements for a ride to bring us to Shwe San Daw Pagoda. It was only MMK15,000.00 for the car, which is approximately around PHP552.00 or USD10.00. Since there were two of us, it was even cheaper per head.
Two things to note: that was one heck of a steep climb (and in the dark, since we arrived pre-sunrise, obv), and the place was jampacked with tourists. If you were hoping to go there to pretend to be all peaceful and zen, don’t count on it. That said, it shouldn’t be a deterrent, and with a few well-placed angles of your camera and/or selfie stick, you can give the illusion that you have the place all to yourself. Just don’t fall off any damned ledge, and you should be good. It’s also nice to meet other backpackers from all over the world.
Gives a whole new meaning to “catfight.”
Continuing the travel tradition of “why can’t we have nice things back home in Manila?” we boarded an express bus from Yangon to Bagan last Saturday night and found ourselves in a bus with better service and facilities than the local airlines we have in the Philippines (side-eye towards PAL, CebuPac, and AirAsia).
The JJ Express Bus we pre-booked online – JJ apparently standing for “Joyous Journey,” because why not – was designed for optimal comfort and experience, as was preferred for a nine-hour trip. The reclining seats were large, with more legroom than most airlines’ economy class, and there were only three passengers per row (2 + 1, aisle between). We had video entertainment available individually, and blankets, drinks, and snacks were also provided. We also had a stewardess and a steward who functioned pretty much as our, umm, travel attendants. We had a couple of half-hour stopovers along the way, and we slept pretty soundly that the long trip didn’t feel long. All in all, a pleasant experience.
We arrived at our destination on Sunday at 5:00AM sharp – timeliness in public transportation being another thing that’s woefully short back home. Although Old Bagan is our ultimate target, we actually checked into a guesthouse in Nyaung-U, a small and quaint town about 4km northeast of our goal.
We arrived in Myanmar last Friday evening, and it was disheartening to realize that even Yangon had a better airport than our own back in Manila. This, after experiencing Kuala Lumpur’s amazing airport. Step up, Philippines!
The country formerly known as Burma has apparently undergone significant improvement since my friend Bj was here last 2009. Although perhaps still not as cosmopolitan as Manila, Bangkok, or Kuala Lumpur, the former capital of Yangon (i.e. Rangoon) has had increasing development in the last few years, with more and more infrastructure and such popping up. There were actually a number of buildings being constructed when we were there. Also, you know you’ve “made it” as a metropolitan city when you have a Shangri-la Hotel (and Yangon apparently has three of them, one of which is a service apartment type place).
So I finally got to see the famed Petronas Twin Towers. They used to be the world’s tallest buildings (from 1998 to 2004), and they remain to be the tallest twin structures. Well, until Orthanc and Minas Morgul prove otherwise.
From afar, they didn’t seem all that tall, but then you come closer and you realize, damn, those things are freaking massive. I went last night after checking into my hotel. I could only view it from outside from the surrounding KLCC Park, along with possibly hundreds of other tourists, but it was gorgeous against the KL nighttime skyline.
We grew up on Sesame Street. It was life, and who could forget this one?
Happy Valentine’s Day!
In more ways than one.