50 things we’ve learnt during our 27 days in Myanmar.

1. They drive on the right but it’s 50/50 what side the steering wheel is on. 

2. If the vehicle is not air conditioned, expect everything open… Including the boot. 

3. Rickshaws have 2 seats in a side car – one facing forward and one facing backwards. In Mandalay, these rickshaws are motorbikes. 

4. There is a brand of ION drink called ‘Pocari Sweat’. 

5. There is a device used in the bus station to stop exhaust fumes going into the waiting area (it’s half an oil drum on its side!). 

6. The underside luggage compartment on a bus is used as a seat for fruit and food sellers until it has to leave. 

7. Music videos in Myanmar feature torture with quite high frequency… 

8. You make a kissing noise to get people’s attention… Waiters, shop keepers, taxi drivers – anyone!!

9. Lychee Fanta is incredible and is definitely THE drink of our Myanmar trip. 

10. Children in Myanmar stare at you as if you have five heads until their parents hit them (gently) and tell them to wave hello. 

11. Stay away from green fish on a stick – my tummy turned funny just looking at it!

12. Tourists walking around a local market get treated like royalty. 

13. Some men don’t wear anything under their longyi (we’ve seen far too much!!)

14. Women and children rub thanakha (yellow sandalwood like paste) on their faces to protect themselves from the sun. 

15. Why drive your scooter to your destination when you can tie it on top of the bus and relax instead?!?

16. Discounts are offered in Bagan for every occasion – Rainy day discount, sunset discount, first/last customer discount, ’cause you are beautiful’ discount… The list goes on!!

17. Tea mix in a sachet… Jayne is in heaven!

18. Hotel owners are fully aware that there is limited accommodation choices and price their rooms accordingly… We’ve paid more for a room here than we did in the Maldives. 

19. Food, on the other hand, is very cheap!

20. You have to let your motorbike cool down in the shade for 5 minutes if you’ve been driving too long. 

21. If you miss your stop (or need to transfer to a different bus) the driver pays your fare. 

22. It’s perfectly acceptable to stop the entire bus so you can do some pottery shopping. 

23. Being a passenger on a non-air conditioned bus is similar to sitting with a hairdryer blowing on your face… For 6 hours. 

24. Thunder and lightening is called ‘electricity in the rain’.

25. The only food available to you in a restaurant is the one that the waiter knows the translation for. 

26. The speed at which you visit a temple is dependant on how much of it is in the shade. Temples are also hazardous zones during rainy seasons with super slippery marble floors. 

27. Police are more concerned with you having an actual helmet rather than if it fits and is functional. 

28. We’ve been hassled for money by Buddhist monks in Myanmar more than anywhere or anyone else. 

29. School uniform – it doesn’t matter what they wear as long as it’s dark green on the bottom and white on top. 

30. The toilet paper and napkins remind me of crepe paper we used at school for arts and crafts. 

31. A hard hat is a suitable alternative to a motorbike helmet…

32. When driving an ebike uphill, the passenger may have to jump off and run – husky sleigh dog style.

33. A rain storm brings out hundreds of insects, frogs, lizards and giant snakes!!

34. It is perfectly acceptable to park your motorbike inside a temple if it is raining. 

35. Motorbike license plates are in written in Myanmar… Car license plates are in English… Large vehicles have their license plates also written on the sides!

36. Around 4 out of 5 tourists we met were planning to deliberately overstay their visa as it was only a $3 a day fine. However, the amount of times we had to show our passports at police check points, I’m not sure either of us would feel comfortable/confident doing that!

37. Fresco peanut butter wafer sticks are dangerously addictive. 

38. Sunflower seeds are the snack of choice in the cinema – and the seed shells get thrown all over the floor. 

39. Myanmar is the first country we’ve visited where tattoos have been common and visible – on the young and on the old, on men and on women. 

40. Firemen sit on top of the engines not inside and the truck siren sounds like a sick and dying bell. 

41. Sidewalks/Footpaths stink and are wobbly. They are effectively just a piece of concrete slab over the sewer. You only choose to walk on them when cars are parked too far on to the road. 

42. Myanmar beer is a chaser. They add Johnny Walker Black Label to their beer and can finish a large bottle quite easily in one sitting. 

43. They have a Myanmar version of some English songs – Ronan Keating and Westlife are popular!!

44. We’ve heard (but not seen) that they shoot fireworks into clouds to make it rain. 

45. The need for pristine US dollars is no longer necessary – there are ATMs everywhere – and whenever the price was in dollars, we were able to pay in kyat. 

46. Water is called ‘PH7’ on menus and hotel mini bar price lists. 

47. Our ‘Point It’ illustrated dictionary and a notebook have been the best (and sometimes only) tools of communication. 

48. Trains on the Yangon circle line don’t stop at all the stations… Sometimes they slow down just enough for people to jump on and off. 

49. The smallest denomination of money is 50 kyat but prices can be in denominations of 5. Supermarkets and restaurants just round your bill up or down (usually up!!). 

50. Haggling is not a custom in Myanmar – the people are so nice and honest, you are usually always given a good price – and it’s lovely! 

Travelling – day 245

Isn’t it always typical that the one morning you have to set an alarm to be awake at 7, the hostel staff decide that it is also the day they aren’t going to sing Buddhist chants from 6am onwards?!? Got up and showered before having a leisurely breakfast. Finished packing and headed to the Main Street to get a taxi to the airport. I was put in charge of negotiating the price (and as everyone knows, I’m rubbish at this!!!) so I was completely shocked when he offered 7,000 kyat – 3,000 less than what I was prepared to go to and 1,000 less than what Jayne wanted me to aim for… Score!!! He seemed slightly worried that we were going to take a long time to get there due to heavy traffic but we had given ourselves plenty of time and, knowing this, he relaxed!! Took us over an hour to get to the airport and it was plain sailing getting checked in, dropping off our main bags and heading through immigration. Scary looking staff were pulling people aside who had overstayed their visas… Used up the rest of our currency on some food and last minute presents before boarding the plane back to Bangkok. Having promised Jayne a Burger King all throughout our travels in Myanmar, we had lunch at the airport before getting a taxi to the hostel. Stayed at the same hostel we used the last time we were in Bangkok (3 years ago) and it hasn’t changed one bit – if it’s not broke, why fix it?!? Used the super fast wifi (ahhhhh… We’ve missed you decent wifi!) to upload various photos to blogs and do some research for the next few days in Thailand. Our stomachs started grumbling so we headed back out to the street to try and find our favourite street restaurant from 3 years ago… Clearly doing much better, the three tables we were used to, had spread to 22! The food was, as we remembered, phenomenal and we gorged ourselves on chicken Pad Thai noodles, chicken green Thai curry and spicy papaya salad. Lips slightly red from the spices, we stopped via the shop to grab some water before heading back to the hostel to Skype parents and go to sleep!

Wednesday 8th June 2016

Yangon – day 244

Although Jayne still wasn’t feeling 100%, I was going slightly stir crazy in our ‘cell’ of a bedroom so convinced her to do something low key in the morning. After breakfast, we headed to the train station to get on the Yangon circle line train. The nearly 32 mile trip is slow moving, taking us over three hours to travel around Yangon and the neighbouring countryside. The train shook at times so much that we almost slide off the benches, whilst the cockerel onboard crowed constantly at his discomfort of being tossed around like he was in a washing machine on full spin cycle! The journey was actually really nice, full of commuters and food venders, passing through different parts of the city which are off the beaten track. It got particularly busy and interesting when the locals boarded the train, chucking their produce from the main market through the open windows and immediately began re-bundling it to sell on when they got closer to home. Arriving back at Yangon main train station, we quickly popped back to the hotel to use the toilet before returning to ‘999 Shan Noodle’ for a late lunch. 

After that, we got in a taxi to go to the Shwedagon Paya – think we paid too much at 2,500 kyat but at less than £1.60 it seemed silly to argue! Considered one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites, you can see this massive gold pagoda from almost everywhere in Yangon. Dropped off at the Eastern stairwell, we climbed the long staircase lined with shops, which reminded us of the first Myanmar temple we visited in Pyay! Paying our entrance fee, we were given a map of the temple complex. Deciding that we wanted to just explore by ourselves, we put the maps away and wandered slowly around the 325ft pagoda which is believed to enshrine eight hairs of the Gautama Buddha as well as relics of three former Buddhas.As we walked, we saw people pouring water over various statues, which we later realised were the different Buddhas and animals that represent the day or, in my case, the time of day on which you were born! I was born on a Wednesday morning which is apparently significant as Buddha was born on a Wednesday morning, so I have an elephant WITH tusks as my animal. Kept walking, finding hundreds of nooks and crannies filled with Buddha statues and images. Sheltered from the rain for a while before continuing to wander looking at how the bright gold pagoda, decorated with 27 metric tons of gold leaf and thousands of diamonds and other gems, changed colour in the fading sunlight.Got chatting to a Buddhist monk in one of the halls who seemed incredibly well travelled (or very handy at Photoshopping himself into famous landmark photos!). We chatted about Myanmar, religion and our respective jobs whilst he told us how it was too difficult for him to get a visa for the UK. Took our time visiting more of the Temple before downpours and Jaynes level of fatigue made us call it a day (at over two hours!) and we got a taxi back to the centre of town. Grabbed something for dinner before heading back to the hotel to pack our bags, ready to fly to Bangkok tomorrow.

Tuesday 7th June 2016