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Welcome to Myanmar

MYANMAR | Tuesday, 2 September 2014 | Views [425]

Yangon, aka Rangoon

Yangon, aka Rangoon

I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING.  “Why would anyone fly on Malaysia Airlines, especially to Myanmar — wherever the hell that is?”  The truth is that Malaysia Airlines had the best deal from Hong Kong.  And with their recent troubles we are pretty sure they will be very careful.  After all, what are the odd of losing THREE planes??

tempting fate

    Playing the odds

As for Myanmar, well . . .  For us it is an opportunity to visit a country before it has been taken over by tourists.  And it looks like we timed it right. There are no KFCs, Starbucks or MacDonalds (yet) but there are decent hotels, ATMs and Wi-Fi.  The United States refuses even to call it Myanmar as a protest against their repressive human rights policies, preferring the British colonial name Burma.  Boy, that’ll show ‘em!  Even the Lonely Planet authors go out of their way to dis the system (using aliases, naturally) which makes me wonder why they even publish the book.

friendly

     Friendly people (with funny make-up)

At first glance you might think you are in Indonesia, except that Myanmar is mostly Buddhist.  But it’s as lush as Java, as hot and humid as a suana and the skies are likely to open up at any moment.  Yangon (formerly Rangoon) is disheveled like many former colonial cities but it isn’t filthy like India.  The people look a bit like Thais and the men wear skirt-like longis, much like in Bhutan.  They drive on the right in Myanmar but with right-hand drive cars, making taxis and adventure for the newly arrived.  The food, so far, is cheap and pretty good, especially the Chinese dishes.

We’re staying at the Grand Hotel in Chinatown is just a dumpling’s throw from the busy Yangon River.  It isn’t anything to write home about but the staff is friendly and helpful and the rooftop breakfast is surprisingly good.  Wi-Fi could be better but the TV has both CNN and BBC.  We spent our first morning at the travel agent next door booking flights to Bagan and Inle Lake so we are all set for the rest for now.

paya

    Shwedagon Paya

It’s a short stroll from our hotel to the Lonely Planet recommended walking tour of central Yangon.  If you’ve seen one former colonial city, you’ll not likely be impressed.  But the people are friendly and curious to see westerners.  We’ve seen only a few foreigners; a couple of Aussies and a few of the ubiquitous Dutch but we are the only Americans.  The big attraction outside the center is the Shwedagon Paya Buddhist temple with the golden dome that dominates the city.  It’s the most sacred site in Burma — if you are Buddhist — and a nice photo op if you are not.  We spent most of our time wandering the nicely manicured park looking for (non-existent, it seems) birds before the rains sent us to hail a taxi back to the hotel.

 

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Easter Island, 2012

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