Thursday, March 3, 2011

Today is our last day in Myanmar. We woke up to another hot and sunny day. We will miss spending time at our hotel - the place really does grow on you. We had breakfast on the patio as usual and a number of the waiters came by to say goodbye.

At 9.00 am we met up with U Bo Ni for some last minute sightseeing. He took us to see Ananda Pahto - this was the most impressive of all the temples we visited in Bagan. Four giant golden buddhas stand facing outwards in the direction of north, west, south and east. The exterior of the temple is also impressive.

After walking around the temple, we visited some nearby souvenir stands and met one of Myanmar’s most celebrated photographers - Bagan Mg Mg. His work is outstanding. We bought one of his photographs and one of his books. He signed them for us and posed for the obligatory photograph.

We then took a short walk to view the ancient wall murals inside Ananda Ok Kyaung and finished our visit here with a look inside the monastery nearby. It was neat to see where the monks lived and the sleeping mats covering the floor.

Following the temple tour, U Bo Ni took us to the town of Nyaung U, where we confirmed our Air Bagan flight for later in the day and paid a visit to the local marketplace to buy some of the groundnuts and tea that we really enjoyed on our travels around here. 

On the way back to the hotel, we made one last temple stop but didn’t stay long as we were getting quite tired of all the vendors trying to palm off their wares. 

We had time for a swim at the hotel, a quick nap and some lunch and then it was time to leave for the airport. We settled our hotel bill in cash since they do not accept credit cards in Myanmar and paid U Bo Ni for his excellent guiding services. With all these bills paid, we realized we had very little cash left until we could replenish our stash in Thailand. We figured US$70 would be plenty to get us back to Bangkok.

We arrived at the Bagan airport, checked in and said our goodbyes to U Bo Ni. Our flight left on time and it was off to Yangon. When we arrived in Yangon, we had to transfer from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. This entailed a long walk on some dirt roadways and parts of the main road. Fortunately, we enlisted the help of an able-bodied young man to assist with the dragging of our suitcases. When we got to the international terminal, we paid our departure taxes and headed to the Thai Airlines check-in desk.

We checked-in and were asked to produce the credit card that we had used when we first made our booking. I handed over my Visa card and the agent advised that the last four digits did not match what was on the booking confirmation. It was then that I realized I had made this booking about eight months ago and that my credit card number from back then had since been changed. I explained this to the agent and was told that unless I produced the old credit card, the tickets could not be issued. Since there was no way I could produce a credit card that I had destroyed months ago, there was nothing we could do. The only way to get on the plane was for us to buy two new tickets for US$800. I reluctantly handed over my credit card only to be told that credit cards cannot be used in Myanmar - we have to pay cash! This was a problem, because now we only had less than US$50 after paying for our departure tax and tipping the luggage carrier from the domestic terminal.

After a great deal of discussion, Thai Airlines agreed to take us to Bangkok provided we paid for our tickets on arrival. However, we had to surrender our passports and credit card to one of the flight attendants as security! We got to our departure gate just in time to board the flight and we were finally on our way to Bangkok.

Upon landing in Bangkok, we were met at the plane door by a representative from Thai Airlines. The flight attendant handed over our passports to the Thai Airlines rep and he escorted us to one of the airport buggies. We were chaffeured off in the buggy to the dismay of several onlooking passengers and just as we arrived at the passport counters, Catherine realized she had left her purse on the plane! We drove all the way back to the plane and the purse was recovered.

We cleared immigration with our escort, picked up our bags and went to the Thai Airlines ticket office to pay for our tickets from Yangon. At this point, Catherine remembered she had left her ipad in the ladies washroom while we were waiting for our bags! We mentioned this to the Thai Airlines staff and they luckily recovered it for her. We paid for our tickets and were finally free to go. Funny thing is - I suspect the refund on the unused ticket may be more than we just paid.

A bank machine was the next stop to restock our cash supply for Laos and then I went to Bangkok Airways to check the credit card information they had on file for our flight tomorrow. Thank goodness I have that credit card in my wallet.

With everything back on track, we headed over to the Novotel Hotel at the airport and finally got an internet connection! All is well in the world again!

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