Let's hear it for two factor authentication
Yangon started with a rather unpleasant experience: Upon arrival, we managed to escape the evil taxi drivers and found a shared minibus which drove us almost directly to the hostel, but when we got off, we realized that Johannes was missing his mobile phone and even though he managed to catch up, by the time he found the bus at the final stop, his phone was gone and somebody must have taken it. The consequences of this was bigger than at first expected, as nowadays everything is linked to your mobile phone and we pretty much depend on it. So, making a transaction all of a sudden does not work so easily anymore, as the TAN are sent to your mobile. Also, opening your Gmail account tends to be a challenge because it will ask you to send a text to your phone if you log in from an unknown location, same for Paypal. So we ended up having to joggle money around in order to sort our finances.
On the circular train
Yangon was different from what we had experienced so far. On top of the thousand smells the city has to offer (especially in china town where everyone is cooking something close to the street and especially intestines are creating quite an intense fragrance), there was a constant heat in the concrete jungle which made one longer for a getaway to the beach. We had our accommodation in Chinatown and our room holds the record for the tiniest place we have been on this trip. There were no windows, no space for your luggage and Johannes could reach all four corners of the room with his hands and feet at the same time by stretching out on the bed, THIS is how tiny it was.
As we were roaming the city in the scorching heat we once again saw the streets being covered in red spots pretty much everywhere you go. Those spots stem from the ubiquitous habit/addiction Myanmar's male population has... chewing betel nut. After they chew it for a while they just spit out a spate of red goo pretty much everywhere, indoors in bus stations on the street out of car windows. This mix then slowly dries and colors the ground red - how pleasant.
We figured that the best way of exploring the city would be by using the circular train. It is no only very very cheap, but it drives around the suburbs and the more rural areas of Yangon and is used by both tourists and locals. It drives among others right through a market with stalls lining up to the left and right straight up to the tracks almost touching the passing train.
Charging our Batteries at the Beach
After this, we got on a bus to Ngwe Saung and drove overnight the beach, where we arrived at 4am in the morning. As our accommodation was not ready, we decided to go and sleep at the beach until we could see the sunrise and so we did.
The Northern part of the village is rather touristy with several sellers and motortaxis, but once you get to the Southern part, where there are no restaurants, hardly any sellers and fewer people, relaxing is made easy. One can go snorkeling to the lovers island or just hang out at the beach. And Myanmar continues to amaze us with their beautiful sunsets. Other than splashing in the sea on tires and occasionally losing your bath suit while doing so, the activities were set at a minimum and the goal was charging our energy before continuing our journey.
An unforeseen twist of fate
Eventually, we made it back to Yangon after one of the more unpleasant bus journeys on this trip. Apart from being shock frosted - we were already used to that - it was also a really windy and at the same time terribly bumpy road that challenged our stomachs. The last day we had left in Yangon was planned for seeing the Shwedagon Pagoda, the religious center of Myanmar and the most opulent with 60tons of gold and 4000 Diamonds weighing 1800 carats covering stupa and tip. Because who needs welfare programs if you can just invest your money in building crazy churches.
On that occasion we also realized why some of the monks would wear orange cloth and others pink... it wasn't in fact monks but nuns who as well have their heads shaved clean. It takes a second look to realize that.
But before visiting the temple we had to prepare mentally for Christmas in a wonderful bamboo cottage right on the beach on a remote island in the sun... or so we thought. Upon checking the weather we realized that the Monsoon was not yet over or just about to hit again. The forecast for the following week was rain mixed with thunderstorms, possible flooding and warning for smaller and medium range boats to better stay in the harbor - So much for Christmas at the beach. An alternative had to be found and as the tropical rains were haunting not only the Philippines but also Indonesia and Malaysia, we had to broaden our search perimeter and ended up deciding between Sri Lanka or Australia for Christmas.
After careful consideration, we figured that Australia would be the more charming option as it was on both of our bucket list. On top of that, we would be able to visit friends in Melbourne and Sydney, whom we had not seen for years now. However, booking flights and online visa with the hardly working Internet in Myanmar was rather challenging and had ended up taking almost half a day of our precious time, but in the end, we got it all figured out and continued our journey from Myanmar to Kuala Lumpur just to prepare for our next trip to Australia.
And by preparing we obviously are referring to soaking in a rooftop infinity pool overlooking Malaysia capital right in front of the Petronas Towers. Nothing to add to that.