The last morning at Inle Lake started with everyone taking their luggage to the hotel lobby then to the dining room for breakfast, since we had to catch a morning plane, the hotel served breakfast a little early.
On the bus it was a short 35 kilometer drive to the airport in the nearby city of Hero. We were booked on Mandalay Airways, but other airlines also flew from Hero to Bagan, Mandalay, and Yangon: Myanmar Airway, Air Bagan and others. Most were flying Boeing 737 jets or ATR turboprop aircraft. We flew in an ATR turboprop, I don’t know the aircrafts age but the interior was clean and well maintained; I saw nothing on the ground or in the air which caused me concern about the airplanes safety.
The flight to Yangon took only about 40 minutes so we landed before noon and after collecting luggage quickly found the bus to our hotel. Until that morning we weren’t sure what hotel we were going to; hotel prices and policies are changing quickly and the tour agency was scrambling to find rooms for the tours. In the end we went back to the same hotel we’d used before in Yangon, The Yuzana Garden Hotel; the next tour however would use a different hotel.
When we checked in I was assigned to a huge suite, to bad I would only be there one night. There were no scheduled activities on our last day so everyone in the group headed in different directions for their last sightseeing in Yangon. After cleaning up in my room I walked to the center of the city. It wasn’t far, not even a 15 minute walk from the hotel, but it was miserably hot and humid.
The center of the old British Colonial City was a huge 5 lane traffic circle around a huge stupa, Sule Paya, said to be 2200 years old; I am sure it’s been restored or rebuilt many times since it seems in excellent repair. Near there was a large park, across from and facing the park were many of the major Colonial era buildings, most still in use. They seemed in good repair and the park itself was undergoing a face lift. I strolled around the park, enjoying the majesty of what remained of the colonial city. I stopped in front of the red brick High Courts Building then headed across the park. About half way across, a lady ran up to me waving to catch my attention. Oblivious to the ticket booth at the gate, I didn’t pay the small fee to enter the park. She was nice about it, just took my money and gave me the ticket.
From the park I headed back to the round-about and took another street to find Yangon’s famous public market. Built by the British, it was originally named Scott’s Market in honor of the city engineer who had it built. After independence it was renamed Aung San Market, to honor Aung San Suu Kyi’s father after his assassination.
The market is classic colonial style with two levels, with small shops looking out onto the colonnaded walkways in front. I really didn’t need any souvenirs, but checked out a couple of tailor shops, antique stores, etc. then decided to try looking at Jade one last time. The jewelry stores were more upscale than any I visited before, I knew that meant prices would be higher but the odds of their merchandise being genuine were also higher; some even took credit cards. Looking through one display case, I saw a magnificent imperial jade stone in a silver ring; exactly the type of stone I’d been looking for, although I wasn’t interested in the setting. I asked to look at it and the lady gladly took it out of the case for me; it was priced at 1.2 million Kyat which converted to $1500, a lot more than I wanted to spend. My tastes in jewelry didn’t match my wallets ability to pay so I said thank you to the jeweler and walked away, headed back to the hotel, my souvenir shopping complete without any jade to my name.
I’d seen all the sights I was interested in and didn’t want to spend any more time in the heat and humidity. My route took me past the Traders Hotel, one of the 5 star hotels in the city and I went inside to look for the bar to enjoy a tall gin and tonic. The hotel was hosting some international conference, there were men and women from all over the world with their little name tags and dressed for formal meetings. In my safari shorts, t-shirt, travel vest and Tilley hat, I felt a little out of place and didn’t go up to the second floor to the bar but went outside to resume my journey to my hotel. I felt out of place, but I seriously doubt anyone in the hotel cared how I was dressed.
Around the corner from Traders Hotel was the Malaysia Airlines office, I was flying with them out of Yangon the next day and I wanted to make sure I had an aisle seat, so I went in. There was only one person in the office, a nice young lady behind the desk and no other customers. I didn’t have my ticket information with me but she just took my name, checked the flight schedule and verified I was assigned aisle seats on both legs of the flight to Manila. It was nice to know that was taken care of, and I enjoyed sitting in the air conditioning for a short while.
From there it was straight back to my hotel. Getting there I felt a bit hungry. Hot and tired of walking, I stopped into the small café across the drive way from the hotel. I’d passed it many times and never saw anyone inside eating, the young man and woman working there seemed excited to have a customer. I ordered a milkshake and club sandwich; after two weeks of curries I wanted a change. They were a little slow in serving, and I think the young man had to check the recipe book on how to make a milkshake, but it tasted very good. Air conditioning, cold sandwich and milkshake made for a very, very nice lunch.
After eating and back at my room, I spent my time relaxing, repacking and staying cool. My group planned a last night out for dinner so at 7 PM we met in the lobby and took taxis to the “50 Street” restaurant. Famous in Yangon for Pizza, Pasta and Steaks, I was tempted to order a Porter House Steak but my frugal nature overcame the hunger and I opted for the cheaper pasta. But the good news was they served gin and tonics; I ordered two tall doubles before happy hour ended.
As the last dinner together, everyone was talking, telling stories of the tour and enjoying ourselves. It was a great tour group, total strangers two weeks earlier; we were now friends who shared a magnificent adventure. I think every one of us wished the tour was continuing, at least for a little longer. But that wasn’t to be, so we passed the envelope around for Con’s tip and everyone applauded when it was given to him.
After dinner we retreated to the bar for a couple rounds; I had a tall beer then a bottle of hard cider. That night I regretted it, I don’t think the Gin, Beer and Cider mixed well, but that was later. We talked about our journey through Myanmar and what each of us was doing next. Some were going straight home and others were to stay in Yangon a little longer or fly off to new adventures in Thailand, Singapore, Nepal, and myself to the Philippines.
It was getting late and some of us went back to the hotel while others stayed for a couple more drinks, I went to the hotel. I’d packed everything during the afternoon so tried to go straight to bed but my stomach was a little disturbed most of the night.
The last morning in Yangon, I was ready for Breakfast about 06:30, taking my bags to the lobby on my way to the dining room. Most of the others in my group came and we sat and chatted until it was time for each of us to head to the airport. While waiting, Stephanie, the young lady from the Netherlands but living in London, gave me a small bag of school supplies to take with me to the Philippines. She brought them to give to a school in Myanmar but the opportunity didn’t present itself. I’d told her about the school in the Philippines which I help sponsor so she asked me to give them the supplies; I agreed and they fit neatly into the bottom of my backpack.
About 9 o’clock I took a taxi to the airport and after a short wait, boarded my Malaysia Airlines flight and continued on my way to the Philippines with a short layover in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. With that my adventure in Myanmar came to an end. The people of Myanmar were wonderfully friendly and its one of the safest places on earth for tourists. The government and social changes taking place mean it’s rapidly becoming a prime tourist destination and prices are rising. It’s more expensive to travel there than some other countries in Southeast Asia, but still a good place to visit, I highly recommend everyone travel there and Discover Myanmar for themselves.
Thank you all for reading my stories, I will let you know when I take my next adventure, so until then, Farewell.
Enjoy the Journey to Ithaca