Waking to the unmistakable sound of rain hammering on the window was not how I envisaged my day starting when I fell asleep the night before. But this is Myanmar in August. And that means one thing. Monsoon.
Rubbing my bleary eyes, I reached for my phone to call Mark. Was the day a go-er or would we have to rearrange. The response was blunt and to the point. “See you in the office in 30 minutes”. I guess we were on.
Having joined the Thahara team only 2 weeks ago, I was very excited when Mark first announced that we’d be heading off to try out Thahara’s latest Experience. Since launching the new website in July, the team have been working hard, adding original experiences weekly for locations across Myanmar.
The Experience in question, was Thahara’s new Day Trip to Kyauktan Pagoda. Situated over the Bago River, Kyauktan Pagoda is famed for being constructed on an Island in the middle of Yangon River. We’d spent the previous couple of weeks researching the route, talking to various guides, and looking into how we could make this Experience one of a kind. Now it was time to put all of this to the test.
Last one to arrive at the office, entering wet, but eager, I was kindly informed I had been selected to go and buy the coffee while we waited for Frances, our driver. Entering the office a second time, slightly wetter than before, but with 4 coffees in hand, we were ready to go. Frances by now was waiting outside, so myself, Mark, Theo and July scampered out to the waiting car (sheltering the coffee of course).
Having thought carefully about what time to depart, we had settled on 08:30, so to avoid the morning traffic and to get us back before the evening rush. Crossing the Bago River after only 15 minutes, our decision looked sound.
The one hour drive to Kyauktan passes along roads crammed with all sorts, from sellers bringing their wears to Yangon, college students heading to university and local stalls with an incredible amount of bananas and coconuts on display. The main difference I noticed straight away was the presence of motorbikes, something which is banned in Yangon.
After arriving in Kyauktan, we treated ourselves to a Burmese specialty and one of my favourite dishes in Myanmar, Mohinga. A classic Myanmar breakfast dish, made of rice noodles and fish soup. It is a must for anyone travelling here, and with my stomach growling, a much needed stop on our trip. The restaurant we stopped at, 999, did not disappoint, with a freshly made batch brought to us within minutes of sitting down.
From here, we made our way to the jetty, to board our small covered boat to Ye Le Pagoda (the name loosely translates to “Pagoda in the middle of the water”). With hawkers selling goods ranging from flowers, to popcorn, to plastic bags, it can be a bit overwhelming. My advice would be to pass most of these by, but do pick up some popcorn which will come in handy later on.
The pagoda itself really is a joy to walk around. Having left our shoes onboard the boat (shoes and socks are not permitted in religious sights in Myanmar), we began our exploration of this sacred sight which dates back to the 3rd century BC. A highlight was the sacred stone, located down a short passageway away from the main stupa.
If the stone appears to be lighter then when you first weighed it, then your “wish” will come true. Unfortunately however hard I tried, it seems my wish just wasn’t meant to be. Mark however swears that the rock was lighter when he went to give it a go.
We spent around 30 minutes walking around the site, chatting with some of the locals, and watching two little boys play around in the rain. As with most things in Myanmar, it is the people and the atmosphere which really brings the country, and locations, to life.
Our final act before leaving, was to feed the gigantic cat fish which live in the river. Using the popcorn we’d brought earlier, feeding the cat fish is obviously a nice thing to do, but it is also seen as an offering to the pagoda, which in turn is said to help cleanse your soul.
All too soon it was time to leave, so we headed back across the river to enjoy some well-deserved coconut water at a local restaurant. People watching is always a great past time, and in Myanmar this is particularly the case. Sipping coconut water, on the banks of the river, watching the world go by. Perfect
On the way back to Yangon we made a quick stop at Kyaik Kyauk Pagoda, which provides some great views stretching out onto the horizon, and also checked out Dream Garden Beer & Restaurant, which is a good choice for those seeking to grab some lunch. The resident turkey here is quite a character.
One sight I would highly recommend in Thanlyin are the ruins of a Portuguese Church, dating back to 1750, and the first Catholic Church ever built in Myanmar. The church has now been reclaimed by the forest, and provides dramatic photo opportunities, while the area is surprisingly tranquil. After spending longer than we expected here, we finally got back in the car returning to the office tired, but content.
All in all, even with the torrential rain throughout, our day was truly memorable. The trip was a great way to get to know everyone at the office better, while also finalising the details for our latest Yangon Experience. If you have any questions about this tour, then please contact us, we are always happy to help. For ideas on where to stay during your visit, check out our carefully selected Yangon boutique hotels for special rates.