Sunday, January 29, 2017

Up Up and Away... New Year in Bagan, Myanmar

2016 has been one of the biggest years in my life. From launching "my baby" that almost turn one year this March to visited about 15 new countries, found myself a new home and moved into new apartment, discovered new passions, reunited with my Disney's family in Bangkok, Orlando and New York, not to mention how I just simply love spending the past 365 days listening to countless music and created cool things with my dream team at work. Life is truly amazing. If my life could be a movie, I think Monster University, The Devil Wears Prada, How To Be Single would best describe my life's most memorable moment. Wait, I think I'll add La La Land too, because I was one of those girls who left home to pursue my dreams, getting rejected but never give up. And to celebrate all those good and bad times, the achievements, how incredibly good God is, I decided to finish 2016 and start 2017 with a bang ! I knew from the beginning I wanted to see the first sunrise in 2017 in a quiet, peaceful place - so I can really take my time flashing back to what happened the past year and give thanks. What better way to celebrate the end of the year and start fresh than in Myanmar, Bagan ? As I've always wanted to experience Myanmar since years ago, to explore Bagan and maybe take a hot air balloon, I thought the last week of December would be just the perfect time to go.

So I booked my flight tickets and hot air balloon with Oriental Ballooning. It was expensive but it was worth every penny. I left my laptop back home, packed two or three clothes enough for 3 days in Bagan. Maybe few days wouldn't be enough but heyy that makes it another reason to come. Feel free to scroll down til the end of the post for explanation from Yangon International Airport to Bagan.

Always love the feeling stepping into a new country. Everything seems strange and confusing but as you keep walking, you'll start to love it. Yangon reminds me of Saigon and Phnom Penh, it's hectic. I cant remember how many times I stopped and asked people how to get to Sule Pagoda Road where you can catch the next bus to Aung Mingalaar bus station, they were all so nice and helped me to get to places I wanted to go. From the lady I met at the airport who drew me map to get to the bus stop, a lady at travel agent who patiently described me the way to Se Mi, bunch of guys on the street who pointed me to Sule Pagoda Road, oooh the sweet teenage boy who worked at JJ Express Bus walked me to another travel agent  ( so basically JJ Express Bus was full that night so I had to find another bus company, but the problem was all the travel agents were written in Burmese and I didn't want to get scam, the boy was so generous to walk me to another travel agent. ) Then I met a lovely Brazilian girl, we shared dinner and bus ride to Bagan. Left Yangon at 7pm, the bus ride was smooth, I actually slept the whole night. 

Arrived in Bagan early morning, I shared a taxi with few travelers. Can't remember how much it was, later we realized we could have paid a lot here's a little tip : always bargain ! I stayed at Ostello Bagan, well it was a smart decision to book in advance as you could guess it'd be full during the peak season like Christmas and New Year. While waiting to check in, I rented a bicycle and ride around Old Bagan. Another tip if you're planning to visit Bagan and survive on the dusty roads : bring a bandana, a respirator or dust mask. Riding my bike early morning exploring Old Bagan, life once again remind me that I am completely loved, and called to a mission greater than my wildest dreams, just don't be ungrateful. 
Another highlight, was so happy to share my room with fearless ladies from Holland, and ended up celebrating quiet New Year with new friends from around the world. 15 minutes before midnight, me and Analice actually ran back to my room due to her big trauma of fireworks and we just continue talking about life, what we want to achieve this year, places we want to go next... Oh it's small talk turns into pillow talk. 

The next morning I woke up about 5am. Someone was a little too excited for her balloon ride, on the very first day of 2017. The Oriental Ballooning staffs picked me up about 5.30 am and after we picked up some more passengers, we all got together at a large yard, ate small breakfast while waiting for the pilots to let us jump in the basket. Everything happened that morning was just...unreal, magical. Perfect sunrise, smooth ride overlooking 2200 temples. It was one of those moments when you feel soooo tiny, humble, your dreams are bigger than the universe. I feel so blessed with what life has given me, my wonderful family and friends who always being supportive...the right people stays, the negative ones fortunately had to go. Now talking about a picture is worth a thousand words, I'm just going to let the photos below tell you the whole story. 

Visiting Myanmar for the first time even just a short one has been an incredible opportunity. Filled with a spectrum of moments, humbling and momentous, uplifting and exhilarating. People said travel is leaving pieces of yourself in one city only to look for the missing parts in the next. So there I was, once again left a piece of myself in little town of Bagan, bring back some memories with me and decided to continue exploring...celebrating life in any and every possible way.

Cheers to more dreams come true in 2017 !

PS : Thanks to 30 something strangers I met along the way. Those who helped me to find my buses and way to Bagan, those whom I shared dinner,room, New Year's eve, boat ride and bus back to Yangon. You were all my favorite thing about Bagan. With love, G.

From Yangon International Airport to Aung Mingalar bus station :

From the airport, I decided to take public transportation ( it's complicated but FUN ). Exit the arrival/departure, turn right and walk about 15 min to the bus stop called Se Mi. From your arrival terminal, turn right and keep walking til you leave terminal 3..or basically you're leaving the airport. Keep walking under the shade until you'll see the big roundabouts, turn right and about 5 min from there you can across the street. Okay, here's the thing..bus number in Myanmar are written in Burmese, but if you ask people around, of course they'll be kind to help you find ones ( bus number 51 ) Don't worry, people speak English s you'll be absolutely fine. Otherwise, listen to people say sulay or means into town. I actually asked about 15 people which bus heading to town. When one guy finally said sulay, I just jumped in. In my head was, my mum would freak out how her daughter just got on the bus in a foreign country, who knew where this bus would take me, but one thing she'd be proud of how far i walk..including Myanmar. 

One way bus  #51 to town : 200 - 300 Burmese Kyat

Then from Sule Pagoda Road, you can either continue exploring a little bit of Yangon. Remember the bus to Bagan leaves only at 7 pm so you have plenty time to explore Yangon. But if you want to go straight to Aung Mingalar Bus station, ask people again the bus or minivan to Aung Mingalar Bus station. They will point you the bus stop, again it's so confusing but trust me it's fun.. a part of adventure. 

Okay I couldn't find the bus to Aung Mingalar bus station. BUT, I found a minivan, it's basically a private company running a shared cab heading to Aung Mingalaar. If you're not so sure or worry, you'll see a big sign of the minivan company heading to Aung Mingalar on the minivan window. Besides, trust me, Myanmar is sooo safe, people won't try to trick you... Just ask question whether the minivan will take you to Aung Mingalaar, otherwise, ask again which bus heading to the bus station. One way ride will cost you $1.. the best thing about this shared cab, they have AC on it ! Yay !

Then in Aung Mingalaar bus station, you can find JJ Bus Express. The bus station is sooo huge, with lots of different sections, so please be patient finding JJ Bus Express. In case if they're full, the staff will be more than happy to help you getting another bus tickets leaving at 6 or 7 pm.

Same thing on the way back to the airport from Aung Mingalaar, keep walking til you leave the bus station. Across the street, then either you can take a minivan until Sule Pagoda Road or ask people the bus heading to town.
Good luck on your adventures, if I can make it...of course you can make it too !


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