Published: November 20th 2007November 23rd 2007
Burmese beauty and child
"Thanakha" from the local Avon lady
Hey Ya All,
(I wrote this entry about a year and a half ago - and find it politcaly incorrect to publish it now under the new unfortunate sircumstances in Myanmar - a great reason for you to enjoy it even more)
I'm back from Myanmar, a few days earlier then anticipated, in order to confuse you and the authorities, and to get a good place to stay in Bangkok, for Loi Krathong - the "Festival of Lights" that takes place on November 16Th, at full moon.
YELLOW FACE PAINTING
Fast and to the point - most women in Myanmar, and some kids, spread "Thanakha" (a Yellowish powder made from some tree bark) on their faces in thick layers of goofy designs. I know it is an old tradition, and it has some questionable medicinal and sunscreen qualities, but PLEASE guys - it looks horrible. I recommend wearing this stuff only when applying for a job as an extra in "Tonto's Mom Rides Again" - a co-production of Bangladesh film committee and an exile Albanian documentary filmmaker. The oversensitive American Indians among you can file a complaint when I am done.
The kid on the right exchanging hair-cut tips from me
My friend Petr (yes he spells it like this - don't blame him - he is Czech) wrote to me "Zeev, you are up to something like “terrific encyclopedia of nations of the world by smile”. It is important book to write." Myanmar will take a very prominent place in chapter one of that book, and I traveled there from Thailand, who specializes in smiling tactics. I think that I got the warmest most genuine smiles in Myanmar and to summarize my 23 days there - the people are extremely friendly, polite, welcoming and helpful.
I just finished uploading and arranging 182 great pictures in 6 new albums, documenting a great trip to Myanmar. Hope you like.
YANGON (RANGOON) - TEA HOUSE
Early in the day, short time before the heat and humidity arrive at work,
I slumped my butt down onto a 12" high stool, and ordered a cup of hot sweet tea with condensed milk. A local drink influenced by the neighboring India.
I watched the city nudge itself into another day of work in the heat. Bare foot monks with rice bowls doing the morning rounds, begging for food. Nuns doing the same in
flip flops. Women's Lib at work. Overloaded buses that got the last paint job some time in the first half of the last century, and horse carts. In the countryside - oxen carts as well.
Yangon is a Capitol suspended in a time warp, somewhere in the 1930's, I reckon. Great colonial architecture thanks to the British Crown. Who said colonialism is all that bad? Maybe we should let them colonize Los Angeles for a few years to improve the architecture or even let the French take over California so we can find decent croissants and much better coffee for our morning commute.
I ordered another cup of tea and some delicious oily fried bread to slow the sugar rush from the sweet tea. The bread is made fresh to order within seconds.
Around me, Burmese, Indians, and Muslim men, all wearing the long traditional man's skirts (the Longi), stopping by for tea and a snack. Young waiters, some not more then 11 years old, bustle about like bees, all talking, and shouting orders to the kitchen simultaneously.
Child labor in Myanmar is more openly practiced then in any other place I've been to.
Regardless, I love it here.
5am chanting instead of early morning cartoons
Possibly cause I am a hedonistic byproduct of western upbringing indulging in pursuit of adventures and not a pre-teen hard working Burmese child.
I shift my weight on the tinny wiggly plastic stool -
Did they steal it from the local preschool?
Did the kids noticed or were they too busy at work?
60km TREK IN MYANMAR
In my second week in Myanmar, I hooked up with two other tourists, hired a privet guide name Kopa, and a cook name CheCho, and went trekking in the TanTauw mountains from Inle Lake to Kalaw. A three day, 60 kilometer walk that could have been relatively easy had it not been for the constant rain and the sticky mud this region specializes in. They should sale this mud to mud-cake factories supplying kindergartens in Europe. This was supposed to be "the dry season" alas the Gods trumped it.
Apart from the rain and the mud, it was a wonderful trek with colorful vistas both in vegetation and human scenery. We hoped to see poppy-fields and opium factories but the area is a few miles out of the infamous Golden Triangle, which conveniently is forbidden to tourists. The first night we
On the trek
stayed in a very poor monastery with 2 adult monks and 16 novice monks between 9 and 12 years old.
I was waken-up a few times during the night to the sounds of a novice monk sobbing. (Did he dream that he broke his rice ball? Did he dream of Michael Jackson?). The rest of the kids kept coughing and sniffling all night. I guess walking bare foot in soaking wet robs every morning, begging for food at the neighboring villages, does have its earthly price.
At 5am I was jolted out of bed to the sound of chanting. What's with that? Don't they know that Buddha needs his beauty sleep as well?
The next night we slept in a poorer monastery with 5 older monks, about 4 cats and countless flees. I know Buddha would have disagreed, but a little fumigation can do wonders to the peaceful rest of a wandering earthling
While on health and beauty - lot of men in Myanmar chew Betel nut. The combination of Betel nut, tobacco and lime smear, folded into a Betel leaf is sold on every corner, and reportedly gets you mildly high and densely awake.
That's the good news. The Bad news is that it produces horrific red juice that stains the teeth in shades of blood red. Permanently. Once again I strongly advice to avoid this disgusting habit unless applying for a job in the lead role of " The Myanmar Vampire studies dentistry" - a co-production of Calcutta film commission and a loser filmmaker from San Fernando valley.
I bet most of you, (like me- but I will not admit to it in writing) didn't know that Mandalay is in Myanmar. Oh well. The bad news is that the exotic name - inspiration for nightclubs, casinos, film studios and face-lifting-resort-spas has nothing to do with the city. In reality the place sucks. Tourists go there because it's on the beaten track, and it has a great name. Just to provoke more of my wrath, most tourists, including me (and I will not admit to this in writing either) take the overpriced government boat from Mandalay to Bagan. This is the most boring river trip known to man. Don't argue!
...Ok.. I'll take a deep breath and exhale. Take another deep breathy and relax.
Since I'm a
trek -almost stepped on
Luckily this one just "used" to be
little grouchy already I'll mention one more odd fact - The tourists to Myanmar, unlike the mixture of travelers to other Southeast Asian countries, are primarily old. Even the young tourists to Myanmar look like they study chemistry, ancient Mesopotamian corn agriculture or the psychological effects of wide screen TV watching on cross-eyed gerbils.
I’ll stop here.
Have a great week - and please don’t forget to check the windshield washing fluid level in your extra large SUV- We don’t want the excess number of squashed bugs collected on your front window to block your view of the smog.
Reporting from Myanmar
There are more photos below