I woke up to the overlapping sounds of people chatting, luggage wheels whirling, and the blaring airport PA system announcements of found passports. My vision was blurry from removing my eyeglasses to get a good sleep in a couch of a cafe in Changi International Airport, so I scrambled for it inside my backpack and checked the time on my phone. 5am.
The airport is alive again. The empty seats next to us suddenly filled up with other travellers in transit, not minding they have two girls sleeping next to them. The airport lights seem to have gotten brighter to welcome the new day, I saw my travel buddy Ruth who was sitting right in front of me took out her sunglasses and wore them to catch a bit more sleep. My earphones masked the noise of a busy airport, BUT I can't do anything with the smell of coffee and breakfast at a distance. I decided that it's time to get up.
It's another 3-hour flight to our final destination to Myanmar. The moment Ruth and I sat on our seats at the plane, I was able to sleep more soundly. I didn't even noticed our plane taking-off.
I woke up when the flight attendants started distributing hot towels and breakfast. Singapore Airlines' economy passengers always get 2 options, for this meal I picked the one with hash brown.
Mixed fruits, bread with jam and butter, coffee, hash brown, scrambled eggs, sausage, veggies, and orange juice:
I slept again for the most part of our flight, then finally....
We are in Myanmar! Forms were filled and submitted before and after the immigration, then we waited for a while to get past another scanning zone with our luggages. It was tedious especially with the lack of sleep. At the final exit, men in skirts (longyi) will mob all arriving guests offering their taxi services. Ruth and I just walked along and went to the very helpful tourist information box. We learned that they also have UBER and Grab in Myanmar, so we opted for that!
First things first: Have our money exchanged!
We had our US Dollars exchanged to Myanmar's currency at the airport para sure legit. All online tips will remind Myanmar travelers to make sure your US Dollars have no folds and creases as the currency exchange centers are very particular and OC about this. I had 200 USD (Php 10,000+) exchanged to Myanmar Kyats, which lasted me for the whole 5-day trip (inclusive of night bus fares, meals, entrance fees, and a few pasalubong shopping). I realized that they don't have coins, and most of their bills look alike in color so make sure to check and double check whenever you make a payment. Meanwhile, unless you're going to ride the hot air balloon, it's easy to travel in Myanmar even on a budget. Food and going around are very affordable.
Next agenda: Get a local sim!
Since I am a social media girl, prior the trip I was already Googling for ways on how to stay connected while in Myanmar. My usual go-to pocket wifi doesn't serve in Myanmar, so buying a local sim is my best option. Based on my online readings, one of the recommended networks is MPT. True enough, I had good internet service in both Yangon and Bagan with them.
Here's MPT's price list. I can't understand what the seller gave to me, I just told her that I needed a tourist sim for an iPhone, and we're staying for five days, and that I want internet access. She took my phone, placed the sim, and set-up everything for me. I paid a total of 10,500 Kyats or just Php 395, which is already inclusive of 2.5G data. I used it for my IG stories, IG postings, answering my Viber and FB Messenger, and for browsing all my social media pages. Didn't need to reload it for my whole stay, and just made sure to use WiFi whenever I'm in our hotel. I was also able to text our driver-guide in Bagan with the local sim so acquiring one for me is a must!
After that, we headed out to book our UBER. They also have a nearby taxi stand if you don't want to wait for your car. It always takes us long waiting time whenever we get an UBER here.
Drive from the airport to the hotel took us barely 30 minutes, which was a relief. They also have heavy traffic flow here and there, but nothing like Manila! And just like the UBER here in Manila, you have an option to pay in cash or via credit card so it's very convenient.
Where to Stay in Yangon: Novotel Yangon Max
After sleeping in the airport, I can only dream of a cozy room with comfortable bed and a nice bathroom... And that's exactly what I got from staying in Novotel Yangon Max. We all know about Novotel hotels because of their different branches here in the Philippines, but the difference with Novotel in Yangon is its 5-star rating. Thus, expect nothing less from them: best in service, great staff, complete facilities, everything considered to a T... I will definitely stay here again if I see myself back in Yangon!
For full disclosure, our stay in Novotel Yangon Max is sponsored but this will not in any way affect my opinions from my experience with them. We were given an Executive Twin Room, and upon checking their rates via Agoda, this room costs just around Php 8,000+ / night. Take note that this is already a 5-star rated room and also inclusive of breakfast buffet for two. Lowest price available via Agoda is around Php 6,500+ for a Deluxe Room, not bad!
Let's go in!
As usual, upon entrance, there's a space for your carry-on bags along with the full length mirror and cabinets. Aside from the usuals, I also spotted an umbrella! Super useful and thoughtful add-on since it's rainy season in Myanmar. Our luggage came in shortly.
Inside the cabinet, they have robes, hangers, extra pillows, iron and board, bedroom slippers, laundry bags, and is that an insect spray??!
On another corner of the cabinet are the teacups, mugs, packs of tea and coffee, water heater, a few munchies, and cold drinks in a small refrigerator:
Across the cabinets is another cabinet door which turns out to be our bathroom! One of the best, for me! Well-lighted, complete toiletries, hair dryer situated where it should be, water bottles with clean glasses, plus so many clean towels and accessible rods where you can hang them neatly!
Bonus points for using Fair Trade products! Imagine all the products consumed in hotels on a daily basis, seeing Novotel Yangon Max support bath products with a worthy cause says a lot about the company.
Lastly, there's a separate door for the toilet with bidet, where you also have a phone access, and two rolls of tissue:
Ahhh... The beds! They look so tempting I was hoping we can sleep some more every time we're inside the room! Individual lamps are placed on opposite sides, plus we both have our own sockets for charging our gadgets! They use same electrical plugs (2 pins) so it's easier.
Right in front of the beds are info materials about the hotel and about the city, which are definitely helpful for travellers. They also have a flatscreen TV, a bluetooth speaker which we can connect to our phones, a cool coffee maker, and our favorite--- a gold fish!!! Learned later on that each executive guests receive this personalized welcome treat!
Ruth and I took turns in our couch by the window with a view of the hotel's pool, tennis court, and even Yangon's famous Shwedagon Pagoda!
We had the fresh fruits and local pastries as snacks, yum!
We were heading to Bagan that night and had no bus reservations yet. This was brought up while we were checking in at the lobby, and they right away offered to book our night bus for us at no extra cost! This is superb service at its finest, it's the little details that made us travellers feel a bit more assured and comfortable in our stay that makes Novotel Yangon Max unforgettable for me!
Heading out for lunch!
Since it's our first meal for the trip, we asked the hotel for a recommended and nearby Burmese food place. We went to Feel Restaurant which is just about 15 minutes away from the hotel. From the outside, I knew the place is legit as it is bustling and filled with locals.
We went to the store front where different local dishes were laid buffet style. They have a lot of selections, it can get confusing! There are also no name plates on each dish so I had to ask a lot. I picked 3 vegetables before heading for our table, payment was done after eating.
Saw this sign near our seats, "Best Casual Dining Experience in Myanmar".
Here's our order: three veggies for me, and curry with rice for Ruth. They also served us hot tea.
We were taking photos of our orders, when more "freebies" arrived! They served a full plate of vegetables with sour sauce, and small pans of sweet jelly with sago dessert! Dapat hindi na pala ako umorder masyado, haha!
When we got back in our hotel, Ruth and I decided to just rest before our night bus. Amanda of Novotel Yangon Max also invited us for a hotel tour, so I am sharing some photos that I took!
Every corner of Novotel Yangon Max shows different artworks from paintings to intricate chandeliers. It is really a tastefully designed hotel for me:
They have a huge ballroom for events such as conventions or even weddings, and (not in photo) 9 meeting rooms for business or small seminars!
The Square, where we had all our breakfast buffets. Food and selections are always excellent! Staff were all attentive, and go the extra mile by offering a drink or dessert. I can go on and on with my raves, but more on the breakfast buffet on my next post!
Around the hotel, they also have FOUR restaurants serving international and Asian cuisines, plus FIVE bars!
For fancy nights, try their French wine bar and restaurant Le Cellier. It's in the same floor as our room (Executive Floor), and has beautiful dining rooms, private rooms, and open terraces. I enjoyed a quick wine break while taking in the view of city lights:
For casual and chill nights, I imagine having a bottle of beer at the Time Out Sports Bar. They have a beer pong table, billiards, and other gaming zones, ideal for when you just want to let loose!
Novotel Yangon Max's pool is HUGE, has a pool-side bar, and a nice place to catch Yangon's sunset:
Right next to it is a tennis court, which, during our whole stay, I never saw without any players!
They also have a very lively gym with different scheduled classes:
And a spa for your relaxation and wellness needs while on vacation:
Sun has set when Ruth and I finally got back to our rooms and prepare to leave for our night bus, huhu. I really didn't want to leave anymore, but our trip was just about to start! Haha! Thank you Novotel Yangon Max for accommodating us on our unusual check-in just to rest and freshen up! I was ready for another night on the road.
At the lobby, they have this touch screen device where you can easily book a taxi ala UBER. Service is called OwayRide.
We allotted around an hour allowance from our hotel to the bus terminal. Ruth and I arrived on time and were able to settle in our assigned seat numbers before departure. Bus ticket from Yangon to Bagan costs 18,500 Kyats or Php 690 only. It is a fully-airconditioned bus with toilet, and each guests were provided with a neck pillow, a blanket, a small vanity kit (with toothbrush), and some light snacks (canned soda, bottled water, one pack of hopia) aka my dinner. Estimated travel time is around 9 hours, so it's really the perfect time to sleep.
Downside of this experience is the crammed seats, as in super sikip! Most especially since the couple in front of us maximized their reclining seats, huhu! I had a better experience on our second bus ride from Bagan going back to Yangon since we opted for the solo window seats and Ruth was right in front of me.
Overall, though, I will recommend this than flying most especially if you're on a budget. First, it saves you one night hotel room and way cheaper than airfares. And second, it's also an experience to sleep on the road! When the bus started to move, I was too tired and just fell asleep... with my legs fully stretched out with no-shame, occupying the aisle in front of me. 😴
To be continued....
Watch my Myanmar Day 2 IG Stories here:
Special thanks to Amanda of Novotel Yangon Max for taking care of us during our whole stay! Stay update with Novotel Yangon Max happenings by following them on FACEBOOK and Instagram @novotelyangonmax.
Novotel Yangon Max is located in 459 Pyay Road, Kamayut Tsp Yangon, Myanmar.
For more information or to book your stay, visit their WEBSITE or check out the discounted rates via Agoda.com.
Read more on my Myanmar 2017 trip HERE.