I can’t believe it has been a month since I have written anything on here. That is of course an all out lie. I know it has been a month. I was kind of hoping Iris might write something to fill in the void but both of us have been very busy! The last month has been crazy, at least by our standards. (Keeping in mind that last Saturday we stayed up till 10pm watching Game of Thrones and I thought that was like being a teenager again…ironic if you knew what my teenage years were really like…anyway)
First was India, which I have already written about. Then Iris’s Aunt and Uncle came to visit. That same weekend, I got to attend a Yemeni wedding. That means it was just the men on Friday night, and then only the women on Saturday afternoon. No drinking. Some good food and a whole lot of dancing though. I suspect I am slightly famous now in the small world of my students. I wore a traditional style thobe to the wedding and danced my big old white butt off. There are more than a few videos of my doing so floating around on the internet somewhere.
Then we had a few days before we left for Myanmar and that’s where this blog post finds us today.
We picked Myanmar for what feels like very western reasons: With a new democratically elected government in place, it feels like soon everything will change in the country. In a few years tourists will be flooding Yangon and in Asia that means there is always a slight concern that it will turn into the next Bangkok, for better or worse. It was easy to see the makings of this when we first landed in Yangon. The airport is not that big, but they are building a big new terminal. Maybe a year or two ago you would be hard pressed to find a hotel with reliable internet. Now, no problem. The power however, did go out citywide several times while we were there. So while they are making progress to becoming a more modern city, at least in western terms, there are still a few problems.
Our first stop was to the Scott Market. Or at least that is what it used to be called, and what it was called on our tour book so that is what I am used to calling it. Unfortunately I do not have any photos of it because I deleted them by accident. The main reason for going was for me to pick up a longyi, the traditional style sarong that most Burmese wear. Funny though, it is not that old. It is essentially a sarong and was brought to Myanmar when it became part of the British Raj 130 years ago or so. I found them to be very comfortable and have even started wearing them here in Kuala Lumpur.
It is a good thing I picked up a nice breathable longyi that covers my my knees, because that night we went to the Shwedagon Pagoda. It is the holiest site for Buddhists in the country. The story is that two brothers went to India and met Buddha. He gave them two strands of his hair. Upon returning to Yangon they put them in shrine and built a pagoda over it. This was over 2000 years ago. The current structure, as you can see in the pictures, has gotten a big bigger over the years.
Obviously it was a beautiful and wonderful site to behold in person.
The next day we decided to take a ride on the rails. This had been recommended by pretty much every website we checked out before we went on the trip. The ride in particular was the circle line. It is a three hour trip all around the city. It was equal parts interesting and boring, but boring in a way that was interesting. That is to say that the city fades away pretty quickly into rice paddies and nothingness. It was not much to look at but at the same time something so new and interesting. Also I made a friend on the train. Or I tried to make a train. He just would not smile no matter how hard I tried. His younger brother was the same way.
Later in the afternoon, once the temperature dropped enough to be able to step outside again, we headed for the colonial district and Sule Pagoda. Yangon has the most British Era Colonial buildings left of any of the old British cities. Most of them are decaying because if you are Myanmar, why would you spend money restoring the legacy of your old masters? It is a shame to see some of these beautiful buildings fall into disarray but I understand their logic for not wanting to bother with it. The old court house and city hall however were just fine.
The next day we flew to Bagan. Thank goodness for videos, because otherwise this blog post would be REALLY long!
After Bagan we hit up Inle Lake. The less I say about Inle Lake the better. Our hotel was out over the water, and our room was it’s own little hut. Well…our hotel would have been over the water if it was not the dry season. Instead it was over the mud. But you know what, that is our fault. We chose to go there during that time of year knowing it was the hot dry season. So overall I give the hotel a big thumbs up. We took a “day long tour” the next day that was disappointing. The local roving market we went to was great, as was a side trip we asked to go on to see the floating gardens of the local people. Other than those two places, everything was touristy. Case in point: We went to a place where the tour guide assurred us we could take a photo of one of the famous long necked Kayan women. Well, we could have done that, because the souvenior shop we went to had a Kayan women who was just kind of sitting around out front. Overall Inle Lake was very beautiful but it gets a “eh” from me. Next time I would opt for trekking around the hills surrounding the lake, which by many accounts sounds wonderful. But alas, our time was limited this trip so we hit what we thought the highlights of the country are.
Okay so back to Yangon. We decided to stay in Yangon again instead of using it as a base of operations for a side trip or two. There were a few things we had not seen yet that we were interested in. One being the tomb of the last Mogul Emperor, something a history nut like me just had to see!
So obviously this is a different kind of blog post from me. Usually I am full of profound statements, or at least I make an attempt to do so. I will do that now, but first a few random comments on Myanamar:
-Everyone was SUPER nice there. When they found out we were American they would smile and say something about how Obama was awesome. Many think that by visiting Myanmar, something people in America gave him grief for, he helped push the country towards democracy.
-A lot of places wanted crisp, clean USD instead of the local currency, kyat. And when I crisp and clean I mean it. Any kind of little mark or little tiny wrinkle and they would not take the money. Very weird. But then again, AT machines only became widespread recently. ( please note my spelling. Because ATM is already plural right? Since it is an acronym the ‘s’ is part of machines, the ‘m’….anywho…)
-The food was okay. I think if I was coming directly from America, I would have loved the food. But coming from Malaysia, I had to just kind of say “eh”.
-Overall it was a wonderful trip, an opportunity we would have never had if we were living in America. If we were going fly half way around the world there would have been a few other countries on our radar first.
Okay, that is all for now. Hopefully I will get inspired to do a food porn posting about India and Myanmar soon!