Having purchased the ITX tickets the day before, we made our way to Yongsan station (Line 1) early in the morning. From Myeongdong (Line 4), we took the subway towards Seoul Station, and transferred to Line 4. There were no problems finding our way to the ITX train platforms as the signages were clear. However, we could not locate the transfer machine where we were supposed to tap our T-money cards when transferring from subway to ITX (to be honest, we were so busy talking and engrossed in finding our way to the ITX platforms, we forgot about tapping and therefore were not on the look out for the transfer machines). Accordingly, one is supposed to tap the T-money card during the transfer, since the subway leg of the journey has ended, and the correct amount can then be deducted from the card. We further made the mistake of tapping the T-money card when we exited at Gapyeong. But things were made right when we approached the station masters at Gapyeong, and they did a refund.
The ITX train was right on schedule, and arrived at Yongsan at 0800. Seats were preassigned and printed on our tickets. The train is very comfortable, and comes fully equipped with reclining plush seating, stow table, plenty of leg space, rest rooms and vending machines. It is also possible to purchase snacks on board from the crew who occasionally come pass with their snacks trolley. The 55 min journey was sufficient for us to enjoy our breakfast and coffee, and to catch up on some sleep. Tip: Bakeries can be found at all major subway stations, for one to conveniently grab their breakfasts and coffees before boarding the subway and/or train.
Arrival at Incheon, Sejong Hotel @ Myeondong, Banpo Rainbow Bridge Fountain
China Eastern airline flight: Singapore – Shanghai – Seoul. SGD$604.70/pax. Departure: Midnight; Arrival: Noon next day.
Purchase of T-money card from Incheon Airport’s convenience store. The cards saved us the hassle of queuing to purchase subway tickets each time. It can also be used on buses, as well as on the subways and buses in Busan. A deposit of KRW 500 is non-refundable. Tip: For Wifi connectivity on-the-go, it is possible to rent a wibro egg at the airport. We survived by using the Wifi available in hotels and Cafes.
Took the Airport Limousine Bus (No. 6015) from Incheon Airport to Myeongdong, where we were staying. The bus-stops for the various buses are clearly labelled and are situated at designated areas across the entire level. The route for 6015 includes Seoul Station, Namdaemun Market, Ibis Myeongdong and Sejong Myeongdong. You can find out from your hotel which bus arrives at your hotel. Duration of journey – 75 min. One way bus fare – KRW 10,000/pax
Sejong Hotel. Conveniently located at a corner of Myeongdong, with a subway station and entrances, and bus stop for the airport limousine bus just outside. SGD$431.50/pax for 5 nights.
In our research for the Myanmar adventure, Inle Lake was one of the highly raved destinations. And we fully concur that if one is looking for a laid-back and countryside atmosphere, away from all the bustling cities, Inle Lake definitely fits the bill! The picturesque setting of the lake and its surrounds was definitely a highlight of our trip. Note: not suitable for fanatic shoppers and anti-dirt/anti-mud/anti-sun people!
From Yangon to Heho
We had made prior reservations with Air Mandalay for a morning flight out of Yangon to Heho. There are a number of domestic airlines that fly between the major cities in Myanmar – Air Mandalay, Air Bagan, Yangon Airways, Air KBZ to name a few. One valid concern was of course on safety of the air crafts. Indeed, there had been a number of air traffic accidents in Myanmar. You can read more about the incident reports here. Google search on the reviews of the airlines led us to some tripadvisor’s posts. Other ways to get to Inle lake were by bus (13 hours) or train (full day of train travel plus overnight at Thazi). We had planned to take the train from Inle Lake to Mandalay. Besides, we were still in the beginning of our travels and didn’t think it’ll be wise to rough out too much too soon. Continue reading Inle Lake 4-days itinerary→
Our 2 weeks adventures in Myanmar was challenging. No longer as nimble as we once were, we’re glad we’ve made it through the obstacles and experienced beautiful Myanmar. With her doors just opened, we felt that it was a good time to visit before the throngs of tourists descend on the exotic country.
In a nutshell, two pseudo-backpackers (no, we wouldn’t even consider ourselves of that. Pseudo-wannabe-flashpackers, maybe) had survived local train rides, boat cruise down the Ayeyarwaddy River, internal flight, and food poisoning episodes. And it was all worth it.
Yangon is a bustling city, but without the tall skyscrapers. Rows of old shop houses nestled within some modernised buildings. Some of the common sights included Myanmese clad in their traditional longyi-s, men chewing on betel nuts, men spitting red betel nut juice onto the roads, the Myanmese ever-ready smile (teeth stained red from their years of betel nuts chewing), and lots of pigeons.
We did a self-walking tour around Yangon during our 2 days. Armed with the map taken from the airport and our handy guidebook from Insight Guides, it was pretty easy finding our way.
The shining stupa at the heart of the city’s centre, the Sule Pagoda, was the most distinctive landmark. It also serves as a round-about, in the centre of the city’s Victorian grid-plan system.
Nearby the Sule Pagoda, sit other landmarks such as the City Hall and High Court building. The architecture of these grand buildings demonstrated strong British influence during Myanmar’s time under British control.
The most famous market to do some shopping would be the Bogyoke Aung San Market. Stuff and service that were found at the market: jade, jewellery, longyis, cloth, shoes, bags, tailors and seamstresses, art galleries.
A trip to Yangon will not be complete without a visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda. The giant golden stupa was magnificent, and we stayed a couple of hours to wait for night to descend on the stupa.
Read more about our full Yangon 2 + 1 -days itinerary here.
Inle Lake was definitely one of YM’s favourite places (can’t say the same for CL, especially since he came down with fever and food poisoning here). The tranquillity of the lake and the areas around it makes it the best place to de-stress and unwind.
From Yangon, we took a domestic flight with Air Mandalay to Heho. We stayed at Nyaung Shwe, one of the oldest and most accessible settlement around Inle Lake. There were plenty of guesthouses in Nyaung Shew, and finding a decent restaurant or local coffee shop was no problem.
The highlights of our stay in Inle Lake included the scenic bicycle route that brought us to the Hot Spring, across the lake, and to the Red Mountain Estate Vineyard and Winery where we witnessed an awesome sunset. Our day trip around the various villages in the lake, and spotting the famous leg-rowing fishermen and floating gardens were also beautiful and memorable. Just sitting in the long boat, and drifting gently through the streams leading to the lake was already more than satisfying.
Read more about our full Inle Lake 4-days itinerary here.
From Inle Lake, we took a train (Shwe Nyaung station) to Mandalay, stopping at Thazi for a night. The ‘Slow Train from/to Thazi’ was quite an experience. The journey was so long (about 11 hours for the first leg, and another 4 hours for the second leg) and tedious (because it was YM’s turn to suffer from food poisoning). “Will the train derail?” was a constant thought during the very violent rockings of the carriages (we have not yet figured out whether it was due to the tracks or the train itself). Granted, there were awesome views of the mountains and crop fields during the first part of the journey, and interesting sights of the locals at the various stopovers in the mountain villages.
During our planning for the trip, we had only allocated 1 day for Mandalay. From our readings, the city did not appeal to us. Looking back, we probably should have at least stayed 2 days to explore Mandalay. In fact, we both agreed that we enjoyed Mandalay more than Yangon. Mandalay was definitely cleaner and more modernised than Yangon, with many Chinese entrepreneurs setting up businesses there.
In our short stay at Mandalay, we visited the Mandalay Hill and U Bein’s Bridge, both of which we highly recommend for the aerial view of Mandalay and its plains, and a magnificent sunset over the Taungthaman Lake respectively.
We took a 9 hour boat ride from Mandalay to Bagan. Since YM was still suffering from food poisoning, we deviated from our initial plan of taking the 14 hour public boat ride, and chose to spend more on a tourist boat that was more comfortable.
The plains of Bagan or the Bagan Archaeological Zone is by far the most tourist populated place in Myanmar that we’ve visited. It is not difficult to understand why these 3000 over temple ruins set in the shadows of the mountains attract much attention.
In our first 2 days, we hired a car and driver to bring us around the various villages in the Bagan plain and also to do a side trip to Mount Popa. We then did a walking tour around Old Bagan, selecting interesting temple ruins to explore on our own. We spent our last day in Bagan doing a walking tour to Nyaung U, a busy little riverside town.
Discovering climbable ruins, scampering up the brick and stucco towers, and witnessing the most amazing sunrise and sunset were arguably the most memorable experience of the whole trip.
Read more about our full Bagan 5-days itineraryhere.
We have also compiled some general tips for travelling in Myanmar. Read them here.
CL and YM.
Travelling the world to see the flies and lizards … and much more!