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Published: March 5th 2011
Hi everyone, I am back and alive and well. Just spent a marvellous 4 weeks in Myanmar and seriously thinking about going back possibly in November when the rains stop. It was pretty useless getting on the internet over there because all the sites I use are blocked. The one time I did use a computer, to put some photos from my memory stick in the camera onto my USB drive I got a nasty virus on each and almost lost the lot. I have actually been back in Thailand for the last few days and took the overnight bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai last night. Hopefully it should only take about a week to catch up on my blogs and to fill you in on what I have been up to.
The flight from Bangkok to Yangon was a breeze being just over an hour and I arrived about 7.30pm. I had trouble booking anything over the internet, so I just gave up and thought it shouldn’t be too hard to find a room. I shared a taxi with 2 other guys who were in the same position as me. It actually was a lot more difficult than
I thought to find a place in this city, we tried about 5 places before I settled on one charging $25 a night for a single. A little over priced I thought because the room was quite dated. I also changed my first $100US to Kyat, which the hotel gave me a rate of 800 for each dollar. I was fortunate when they handed me the money in new 5000 Kyat bills which had just come into circulation recently. This meant that I if I change a lot of my other US dollars into these notes that I wouldn’t have to carry around large wads of 1000 Kyat notes. Due to the fact that there are no ATMs or credit card facilities in the country you have to bring all your money with you in crisp unblemished US notes. The ironic thing is that your perfect US notes can be changed into the most worn out notes I have ever seen, sticky taped together and torn in many places but the locals accept these Kyat notes without any problem. They also tape together very low denominations that are no use anymore to make a larger amount, ie 5 x 20’s
taped together to make a 100 Kyat note.
The first couple of things we noticed amount Yangon is the lack of motorbikes which are banned in the city, and the lack of street lighting. Most streets are not lit up and you have to navigate by the light of the shops that are open at the time. As we wandered down to a nearby restaurant we noticed a lot of people walking the streets in a very relaxed mood which gave this area we were staying in a very nice and safe feeling. After eating we decided to sit down at a local place just around the corner from our hotel for a couple of beers. We were just commenting how peaceful things were in this city when a nasty fight between about 8 young men and women broke out from across the road and was heading our way. A couple of the young guys broke beer bottles and threatened to stab each other with them. I really thought I was going to witness a murder or at least somebody getting badly injured but luckily it was a bit of a standoff until a couple of them ran away
and were chased by the other youths. This was the only act of violence I witnessed in Myanmar.
Next day I changed my hotel to one around the corner that was $20 a night for the same amenities. After that I walked around the city centre and changed some more US dollars at a gold shop in the market for 850 Kyat per US dollar. The city itself has a bit of an asian/indian feel to it. In the evening I went to the Shwedagon Paya which is a very large group of pagodas not far from the city centre. Although there were a lot of tourists around it still had a very local feel to it, and it was a wonderful time to be there while the sun was setting.
In Yangon and most of Myanmar there are very affordable tea shops everywhere. A lot of the times these are set up on the pavement. They are a great place to have tea or coffee, and a little local snack, while watching whatever is on TV. Most men where longis which are like sarongs, and it is quite strange to see them squat on the side of
the road during bus trips to take a pee. Also many buildings have large generators out on the street so when the power gets cut off, they can still operate as normal. Quite a few people chew on betel nut, men and women, and you see them quite often spitting out the red juice. There are a lot of little stalls around where you can buy it already prepared to go straight in the mouth for very little money. The most ridiculous thing in Myanmar is that they drive on the right hand side of the road, while almost every vehicle is right hand drive. This causes great problems of judgement especially for larger vehicles when they are trying to overtake other large vehicles. Surprisingly in my 4 weeks there I did not see one accident. All taxis are early 80’s model Toyota Corollas and very rarely do you see cars that are made after this time.
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