Wednesday, November 25, 2009

2: An Unchartered Territory - My Sojourn To Myanmar: Day 1 Story 2

Day 1 Story 2, Yangon, Myanmar

Hell Drivers and Dare-Devil Pedestrians
If you think that Bangkok traffic is scary and awful, and their drivers terrible, wait till you experience the traffic in Myanmar, and meet the hell drivers and dare-devil pedestrians here.

Oh my God, Win (the driver assigned to me for my duration of stay in Myanmar) was driving like a fiend but I reckon he's so used to it that even if he closes his eyes, he'd bring you safely to your destination.

And the pedestrians!!! Oh my!!!! They criss cross the roads at their fancies. What I realised is that in Myanmar, pedestrians, saykal riders (trishaw riders), and peddlars on carts are the Kings of the Road, unlike in Malaysia.


In Malaysia, if you so much as dare to zig zag to cross the road, in no time you will be a "mechanic" and a another statistic in the number of road deaths!!! 

Plaza Yuzan
My first stop was at Plaza Yuzan. This Plaza reminds me of Pratunam in Bangkok and S&M in Kuala Lumpur. Nothing much fancies me, although May and Sharon, and her mum, thought they could interest me to buy Myanmar's traditional dress (a sarong and a short blouse).

We just did a lot of window shopping. However,just before we left the Plaza, I saw this pretty twirling black and white skirt, fell in love and bought it without much hesitation. If truth be known, I have a really soft spot for anything which comes in black and white. That was my first purchase in Myanmar and the only purchase at  Plaza. 

Sayasan Plaza (Sculpture Creation From Fallen Trees By Nargis )
Next, I was taken to Sayasan Plaza, a Plaza where they house and sell Myanmar crafts and the very famous Myanmar jades and pearls. And more recently, they added wood carving stuff.

What was simply amazing about those wood carvings was the fact that the Myanmar government decided to turn a tragedy into a profit-making business. In May 2008, Nargis typhoon hit Myanmar. The cyclone made landfall in the country on May 2, 2008, causing catastrophic destruction and at least 146,000 fatalities with thousands more people missing.

However, what the government had ingeniously done was to capitalise on the fallen trees and made amazing and breathtakingly beautifulsculptures out of them.

Myanmar Jade
I'm one female shopper who's not really into decking myself with jewelleries, though I don't mind simple rings or pendants. Hence, pearls and jades are not really my cup of tea. But, Sharon and her mum thought that my trip to Myanmar would be incomplete if I don't bring back Myanmar jade so her mum bought a complete set for me, one each for ring and pendant and two for earrrings, and a big one for bracelet. 

Halal Food and Halal Hotel
I had agreed to put up at Panorama Hotel when told that food served there was halal, despite the higher hotel charges (double the price I paid elsewhere in Yangon).

I was kind of excited coz rarely did I get to savour halal food in a hotel when I'm abroad. I was planning to order room service for dinner. When I opened the menu, I had the shock of my life.


Suffice to say, I ended up eating maggi in a cup!! And for desert, I had plenty of fruits which Sharon's mum had asked Win to to buy (he actually bought so much banana that it could feed almost a household of people). I also had a slice of durian cake which I had brought from KL. Thank God.

And that night, my sleep was fitful.  The aircon had malfunctioned earlier and when they came to repair it became too cold. I was tossing here and there, and ended up falling asleep only at 5:00 a.m. And before I realised it, it was time to perform my subuh solat (in Yangon, subuh begins at 4:30 a.m) and sun rises at 6:01 a.m.! 

Points to note when you're in Myanmar
1/ US Dollars vs Kyat vs RM
Most (maybe all) budget hotels only accept US dollars. They don't even accept kyat (their own currency, which I find highly perplexing).

And when you take delivery of the US dollars at your money changer, be VERY SURE to check that the notes are in PERFECT condition.  There musn't be the slightest damage or tear, coz it'll be rejected.

However, if you look at the kyat in circulation, oh my!!! Even though it's torn and tattered and falling apart, it's still in circulation and still deemed legal tender. What an irony!!! And I left all my kyat in Myanmar (exchanged and donated almost half of them to May) as kyat is not accepted at money changers in Malaysia.

2/ Never believe everything they say
What I've learnt from the episode at Panorama Hotel, especially as a Muslim, is not to believe everything they say.  Thank God, I'm rather inquisitive, hence discovering that the food served at the hotel was not halal despite them trying to convince me otherwise.


  1. Sorry ye Polis pencen dh nak interogate. Y in the 1st place u ke Myanmar Wan?. Wah, menarik tul menu dia, tapi exotic food include kalu cukup lah syarat dia tu. Convince ape ke bende. Tgk menu pun nak muntah. Agaknye klu I kat ctu, balik Msia turun 10 kg. Dh maggi pun I x mkn.

  2. I ke Myanmar - saje jalan2... cari pengalaman. Tengok negara lain, fikiran lain, cara dan gaya hidup lain, culture lain, makanan lain.. cara dan berkelakuan lain...You will be amazed how civilized they are compared to msians!!!

    As for food, banyak halal restaurants kat sana, so takde masalah. kalau yg serve babi, hanya orang yang tak beriman yg tergamak makan kat tempat tu kot, wallahualam!!!

    Eventho Mynamr is 40 years backwards, tapi their people's mentality and behaviour is 100 years lebih advanced dari msians Kita moden tapi kolot dlm pemikiran and our crime rate is very high. Sana takde crime. U should take a trip there to see for yourself.


  3. Hi
    Baru je baca about your trip to Myanmar. Kalau kita kenal senang saya nak beritahu mana hotel yang betul betul halal. Antara nya ialah Micasa Service Appartment, 80% guess adalah orang Malaysia, dan makanan disediakan adalah Halal sebab tukang masak dan pantry staff adalah orang dari Malaysia. Hotel Appartment ni tak jauh dari Inya Lake. Dan banyak lagi restorant dan kedai teh tarik di kawasan bandar. Saya memang biasa di Yangon dan beberapa tempat kerana memang pernah bekerja di Yangon dan berkahwin dengan orang Yangon (isteri saya seorang jurutera di Telekom Manyanmar). Sekarang kami sudah berada KL, setelah berpindah pada bulan November 2009. Isteri saya seronok sebab ramai orang Malaysia yang ingin melawat Yangon.

  4. Alidyangon

    Thanks for your comment. Maaf kerana lambat reply. Baru sedar ada komen from you. I have been very busy.

    Despite the little hiccup about the halal food, I had an AMAZING time di Myanmar. It's an awesome place and I was TREATED very well by my ex-student and her family. Kirim salam to ur wife.