Inle was our last stop before returning to Yangon. The night before leaving Inle, Eitan, our 6-year-old, came down with what seemed to be a severe gastric illness. Our medication didn’t do much for him, so we felt it was just as well that we were going back to Yangon anyway.
The flight back to Yangon was like watching our trip rewind. In Myanmar the airlines usually fly in a clockwise direction starting in Yangon. The same aircraft typically flies to Bagan, continues to Manadalay and then Inle, before repeating the stops on the way back to Yangon (there are also direct flights – just less frequent). It was strange to see those familiar airport buildings again, after just a few short weeks. We flew all our domestic flights on Air Bagan – we found them to be good – most flights were on ATR turboprops, though our last flight was on a Fokker jet. On landing in Yangon we saw a 737 in Air Bagan colors, so they are probably bringing that into service soon. Flying in Myanmar is a pleasure – it is quick, not too expensive and saves tons of time.
In Yangon, we checked in to the Summit Parkview. It is a good midrange hotel right near the Shwedagon. We liked it – it had a good pool and gym, and nearby were some good restaurants. It’s about a 10-15 drive to downtown Yangon.
For lunch we went back to the Biryani place downtown that we had visited earlier in our trip. It was as good as before. We visited the Bogyoke Aung San market (Scotts Market) which is the main market for souvenirs in Yangon – impressive, but we had seen all the goods on sale around the country at better prices. Nevertheless, the market in Yangon is a good one-stop shop if you are not traveling much or if you prefer to do all your shopping just before you leave.
Daniel and I went back in the early morning to the Shwedagon. It was peaceful and almost empty, with just a few monks around and some locals paying a quick visit to pray for some good luck before starting their day. The ticket office was closed when we arrived, but soon enough we were approached by a team of ticket sellers on the Pagoda terrace itself. You can’t escape them – if you can’t produce your paid sticker, they’ll hit you up for the fee.
Eitan’s condition had not improved – we took him to the International SOS clinic where he was seen to by a very efficient French doctor. They did some tests, and gave him more medication. We were warned that if there was no improvement within the next day, he would need to go to hospital – in Bangkok, not in Myanmar – as he was showing signs of dehydration. Since we were off the Bangkok the following day anyway, this would not be a major problem for us.
We also visited the Gems Museum – not because we were interested in seeing the displays, but because Hilit and Gal wanted to see some jewelry. Myanmar is one of the biggest producers of gemstones in the world, and is especially famous for its rubies. The Museum has two full floors of jewelry stores – rings and necklaces ranged in price from less than $100 dollars to nearly $100,000!! (yes, US dollars!). We bought some very small articles – we were not the big customers they may have been hoping for. But I did see someone else bargaining over jewels priced at about $80,000! Gems are available for sale all over the country – we preferred to go somewhere that was officially licensed – we felt more confident that whatever we bought was more likely to be real.
With Eitan feeling sick, we skipped the few parks and other sights we had planned to see in Yangon and took it easy at the hotel.
The following day, it was off to the airport to catch our Air Asia fight to Bangkok. We were sad to say goodbye to Myanmar – our trip had been incredible.
(My next blog entries will summarise our trip, give useful facts and tips etc).
(PS: I am now custom-designing trips to Myanmar. For more details click here).