There are no direct flights to Yangon, Myanmar from the Philippines so I had to make a couple of flights to get there. First step was to get Bangkok, the closest possible airport to Yangon. I was lucky to get a cheap flight there through an introductory promo fare from Seair/Tiger Airways from Clark. On the rainy morning of November 2, 2011, I made my way to Megamall which is only 15 minutes from home. The Philtranco Bus (P400) headed to Clark was ready for its 7am departure. It’s been a while since I travelled by my lonesome and that familiar feeling of fear and excitement crept in. I don’t know what to expect of Myanmar except that I would be cut-off from the rest of the world for two weeks.
Clark Airport (DMIA)
We reached Clark in over an hour. I remember Clark to be the first airport I flew out with in 2005 via AirAsia to Kota Kinabalu and then my last flight there via Tiger Airways to Singapore in 2006. I remember then they have no X-ray machines and we had to open our bags for security to inspect. The airport basically looks the same as before but what I liked now is the number eateries available at the departure area. And best of all, the prices are not ridiculously high.
Sleeping Again at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok
Flight to Bangkok took 3 hours and 15 minutes and I arrived mid-afternoon in Thailand time about 3:30pm. Initially I was planning to fly that afternoon to Yangon but decided I can’t risk being delayed and not making it to my flight on the little leeway I would have between flights. So I have more than 12 hours to kill and what do I do?
I grabbed a trolley and dumped my bags there and went around all floors of the airport like crazy. Those trolley escalators are very convenient going up and down the floors. I changed a few of my Hongkong and Singapore Dollars there to Thai Baht so I have some spending money at the airport. There weren’t any major changes here aside from the constructions at the top floor and also now a train connection to the city at the basement. In between having meals, reading and watching a few TV series from my laptop, I was also looking for a potential place to sleep. Last time I slept at the far end of the 3rd floor near the restrooms. This time I found a cozy dim spot under the escalator at the basement near an electric outlet. It wasn’t too cool, flat and the dim lighting was conducive to sleeping. I got a nice rest there and when my sleep was interrupted I saw a few people sleeping at the area. My malong, jacket and inflatable pillow helped me keep comfortable and warm.
Welcomed at Yangon International Airport
Freshened up, I went up to the top floor and checked in for my 7am flight to Yangon. At the waiting lounge, a guy was talking to me but I couldn’t understand and told him to speak English. He looked very Asian, about 30-40 years old and somewhere about 5’5 in height. We chatted and I found out he is Burmese and was looking for his right departure gate for a Malaysia bound flight. He was lost but he chatted a bit about Myanmar and how he was now travelling around the world as a seaman. I thought he was really fortunate to be out of his country. He also had a chance to stay in Manila for a few months. Aside from the tips I got from him like where to change money, I thought it was a nice preview of what’s ahead on my trip.
My 1 hour and 15 minutes flight to Yangon on AirAsia was pleasant. I made sure I grab a few bites from their inflight meals. Yangon International Airport surprisingly looks modern and new. An American struck a conversation about photography with me while I was in the queue at the immigration, seeing probably my Kata Bag and Tripod hanging was a dead giveaway. He said he’ll be there for 8 days and contacted a local photographer to be his guide. I gave him my card in case he visits the Philippines.
At the Arrival area, I saw a couple of young boys wearing clean white polo shirts and red longyi (a sheet of cloth worn from the waist running to the feet traditionally worn in Myanmar) holding an a3 printout of my name. They were the welcome party from Motherland Inn II waiting for their hotel guests. At that time, it seems I was the only guest as some would come in later. They led me to the car park and I was amused to see a vintage Hino Mini Bus as our service vehicle.
I finally made it to Myanmar after at least a day’s journey. As our mini-bus was rolling my senses were heightened by the new environment. I just can’t wait to start exploring.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.