Goodbye Myanmar

So today is our last day here. As I had said, one day would’ve been enough to cover Yangon, but this is our third day here. So to kill time, we lounged around until 11 AM in the cool, airconditioned hotel, spent an hour brunching, and finally were picked up by our guide for a trip across the river to one of the nearby villages.
We did what the locals do and took a ferry across the river, the only difference being us paying $5 a head to their 5 cents. Foreigners are a more precious cargo here, I suppose.
One thing about the Burmese I noticed is that they are more respectful of each other’s space than some other Asians (and I won’t name the names). WHere those other Asians butt into your space pushing and shoving, the Burmese maintain a distance. They were getting on and off the ferry in an orderly fashion, keeping a distance from each other.
Once off the boat, we climbed into trishaws – they are like rickshaws, but tricycles, and were driven around the village. It never ceases to amaze me how calm and friendly the people are here! We are butting into their lives, take their pictures, and they wave back and smile.
The village was quite primitive and very poor, but we’d already seen even more primitive and more poor villages during this trip, so this did not shock.
Back in Yangon, our guide took us to the area where she lives, which is more like a low middle class neighborhood. It was shockingly more upscale than the village. There was a nice teashop, a fancy bakery, and a beautiful garden with ponds and koi. Then we checked out the nearby mall (clean and brightly lit with stores selling merchandise making Kmart look like Neiman Marcus), and after, were invited to visit the guide’s house.
We drove into a narrow alley that was once paved, but now had only the remnants of this luxury. Kids were playing soccer in the middle of the street, the guide’s mother and her three-year-old daughter came out to greet us. The girl was wearing a gold ring, gold bracelets, and a gold chain, her thanaka was applied to her forehead in the shape of a Mickey Mouse head.
We were invited into the living room where we sat on a mat on the floor, cross-legged, and were served traditional tea-leave salad. In addition to the mat, the room contained two plastic chairs, two child-size chairs, a TV set, and a whole bunch of stuffed toys. Next door, there was a bedroom with one bed taking up most of the space, then a tiny kitchen, a squatting toilet and a crude shower. There were wooden stairs leading up to the second floor.
Thus ended our visit to Myanmar.
So for future travelers I recommend that you keep your visit to Yangon to one day, go to Mandalay instead, upgrade your hotels, and be prepared to get sick (we all had stomach problems). But go there while it’s still pristine. It’s a wondrous country with sights blowing your mind and rare beauty. And go there sooner rather than later, you won’t regret!

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