Myanmar Day 12: Yangon

Today is our last full day in Yangon. We didn’t really have a plan so much, and we weren’t sure there was enough worth doing. But with Jenn still sick, we didn’t want to have much on our plate. She seems to have turned a corner.

We have breakfast at our hotel on the 9th floor. And I know I said Merchant had the best view, but I was wrong. Esperado does. It’s not as close to the massive golden pagoda that dominates everything in Yangon, but sits across Karaweik Lake from it. The distance actually gives perspective on how huge it actually is. Sure it sits on a bit of a hill, but it’s still taller than we are, or the buildings around it.

We didn’t sleep especially well, so after breakfast we take a short nap. But by 10 we’re ready to go!

We walked down the street and tried to find the entrance to Karaweik Gardens, which should be right in front of us and holds this strange “royal ship” structure that is supposed to look like a Burmese ship. It’s conspicuously gold sitting on our end of the lake. I thought I’d read there was a museum there. We took the long way around as it turns out, and paid our entrance fee and walked around. Karaweik itself turns out to not be a museum, but a restaurant and show space. Jenn though decides she wants to go, so we buy tickets for tonight’s dinner and a show.

We continue our walk along the lake as far as we’re able, which isn’t very, then return to our hotel. It’s about lunch time now, and I’ve been wanting to go to this French restaurant Le Planteur which is rated Myanmar’s best restaurant from a few different sources. It’s a beautiful old colonial building on a lake next to the University of Yangon, so we catch a cab.

It’s hard getting a cab and telling them where you want to go, they need street addresses and can’t do maps. Having a business card for the place you’re going makes the process much easier, and Esparado has taken it a step further with information in English and Burmese, one on each side of the card. Google though was enough for me to get an address for the restaurant and we’re on our way.

Le Planteur is as pretty when we arrive as we’d hoped, though the neighborhood is a little lacking. When we’re seated we’re giving a fixed price lunch menu that was $12-18 and a little gazette with interviews from the staff. The Executive Chef used to work as a Chef at a 2 Michelin Star restaurant in France before becoming the Executive Chef for the Moroccan royal family. Quite the pedigree. The lunch was delicious, Jenn won with her greek salad and beef stew. I had the paella stuffed full of seafood of various kinds, but hers was just that good. And then as the final course espresso and little sweets. I don’t normally drink coffee but managed today. Poor Jenn who LOVES coffee, couldn’t really drink any of it because of her stomach and not wanting to irritate it further.

By now we were tight on cash wanting to keep just 10k for the taxi to the airport which left us with 11k for the remainder of the day. We want to go see the national monument. I’m not sure we can get down and back for that much, so let’s see what the taxi says.

Walking out to the road a taxi asks if we need a taxi. We show him where but he turns us down. Then he motions for us to get in the car. We’re confused and then he says road, so we get in, and he drives us just out to the main road to save us walking. And then he’s off.

We manage to then flag down a cab. I’m expecting like 6k, but the guy says 3k, so we jumped in and drove to the other side of Yangon.

We’re let off at Sule Pagoda, which is the second largest in Yangon, and sits in the middle of the city’s biggest roundabout. It’s pretty novel for that reason, but not remotely the size of Shwedagon. We walk around it to the Nation Monument that was the site of quite the party last night. Outside the streets are lined with vendors and I feel like I’m seeing more local Yangon than I’ve seen so far. The monument is a brick obelisk painted white with lion statues flanking it. One two of the four sides are government buildings in colonial architecture. There was supposed to be a great rose garden, but strike 2 for our info as it appears to have been removed for a children’s playground.

From there we went to grab a cab. The first one wasn’t interested, but the next was. I asked how much and he said “two five” and I motioned with my hands to confirm and he nodded yes. Wow that was a lot cheaper than I expected, so we hopped in. I stepped on Jenn’s foot getting in adding some other pain for her to think about… Our route wound through downtown and we got to see more of the normal life in Yangon. I saw multiple people dressed in Muslim garb you might see in Pakistan or India, and they didn’t seem to get any particular looks, so perhaps things aren’t too bad with religious tension in Yangon at least?

Back at our hotel we arranged for a massage. When she asked “Traditional” it was asked kind of like “are you sure? It’s traditional.” Not like there were more options to follow so I said yes. I think both of us would have preferred an oil massage instead of something like a Thai massage. So we rinsed off and changed into fresh clothes before heading up.

I was pleasantly surprised to get a couple’s massage. We change into PJs they laid out for us, mine too short. My masseuse laughs when I lie down and my PJs barely cover my calves and my feet hang over the end of the pad. I have to direct her not to do anything with my busted toes but that wasn’t too hard. She giggles some more talking to Jenn’s masseuse throughout the 1 ½ hours. This is probably how AK and Suchet felt on the cruise. We had a brief power outage in the middle but no one seemed to pay it much notice.

After the massage we got ourselves ready and headed to the dinner. The food was buffet style, and Jenn tentative of it and the water claimed to be bottled. I forgot the battery for my camera so I rushed back to our hotel, grabbed it and bug spray and rushed back. The food was ok, good in variety and quantity, but nothing special in quality. The music and dances were from different regions though shared a lot. I see a lot more similar between Burmese and Thai culture than differs between them. The music doesn’t seem to have rhythm, and the singing doesn’t seem to rhyme. The highlight was a dance with an elephant with 2 guys in a costume, and at several points they would lift each other off the floor to make it look like the elephant was standing on his front or hind legs. The whole thing was more casual than I expected with people coming and going throughout the show. We left maybe 30 minutes early ready for bed.

Back in our room we read for a little bit, I’d finally figured out why I couldn’t seem to find where to buy the Expanse novella “Drive”. Apparently it’s being given away for free by Syfy as a promotion leading into the second season starting the first week of February. I’ve now read every bit there is from the series, and I’m looking forward to the show’s return.



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