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Published: November 14th 2015
I arrived in Yangon after dark, exchanged money at the airport (not a bad rate, actually), and hopped in a cab. My taxi driver sat on the right and drove on the right, the first of many things that would baffle me in this new place. Along the way to my hostel, he pointed out a popular park, a university where someone he knows does something (he's a bit of a mumbler), and a few other sights. He helped me find my hostel since there was no sign, and I climbed a few stairs to wait for the elevator. Next to it a sign read: 4 people max. Either this was a very small elevator or I had better hold my breath and cross my fingers; I never did figure out which it was. My adventure had begun!
Some other guests and I went out in search of food, only to discover that most places in Yangon are closed by 9pm. We finally found a little bar, dark with murky corners, filled with people watching a football game and eating peanuts. They had a small menu, made smaller by the "no have"'s of the night; two of us got our
food, one of us didn't and was grateful to share ours; luckily, the beer never had a problem reaching our table.
I slept soundly that night in my private pod at the hostel, perhaps the best I'd slept in a month.
The next day I bought a sim card and sought lunch. Finding food is a lot easier during the day! I stumbled upon a small shop with tiny plastic chairs and no English. Perfect. The food looked great, so I went in. I wasn't sure what to order, and the staff spoke no English. (I'd been hoping it would just be the signs that were English-free.) Another customer came over and explained that the restaurant mainly served rice salad, and I could add veggies or meat, make it sweet or sour--whatever I like! She then gave me some of her lunch to try so I could make a better decision. I'd been told repeatedly about the kindness of the Burmese people, but this still blew me away. I paid 500 kyat ($.50 USD) for my salad and tea and went on my way.
I decided to visit Shwedagon temple, the most famous temple in Yangon, and
possibly all of Myanmar. A quick taxi ride put me at the bottom of a tall staircase lined with shops. I realized after climbing all the stairs that I'd forgotten to bring a bag to carry my shoes. (With four nearly identical entrances, it's smarter to carry them than leave them while you visit.) I'd also only brought a little water with me, unaccustomed to the Myanmar sun. Luckily, I met some lovely high school students who shared their water as well as their laughter with me. I also joyfully discovered that active temples (like many other places) have free drinking water, so long as you don't mind sharing a metal cup with strangers. I didn't. Some other Burmese at the temple shared fruit and cookies with me, as well, but they weren't looking to take photos with me like so many others were. I think for some I was more exciting than the temple!
I went back to my hostel to clean up a bit and grab some noodles with my new Dutch friend before a taxi would take us to the bus station outside of town. The bus station is a vast area, comprised of lots of
mini bus stations, and easy to get lost. Luckily, our VIP bus was one of the nicest I've been on in Asia, and we had a smooth ride to Bagan.
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Maybe you should update to the current Myanmar flag (horizontal yellow, green and red tricolour with a large white star). Looking forward to reading about Bagan!
The flag is generated by my host site and there's no way for me to change it. But you're right, it should be updated!