Lauz, P and I were originally planning on going to Cambodia for our visa run but in the end we settled on Burma. They had some friends in that region and it would be a good opportunity for them to practice their language skills with the locals.
I had absolutely no idea what to expect, I didn’t even look up the city we were going to prior to arriving. At first I expected us to land in some dirt village town in the middle of nowhere. As we were landing late at night, I realized quickly that it was in fact a big city. My immediate thoughts were that it would be a grungy, dirty, busy city like Bangkok (which I don’t like). Man was there more than met the eye!
As it was already late in the night when we arrived, we couldn’t actually see what the city looked like as we were pulling up to our hotel. It seemed as if my suspicions were true; looked like a busted uninteresting city. We walked around the streets of Yangon for about 30 minutes looking for some sort of 7/11 but found only weird snacks that I couldn’t stomach. As we walked back to our hotel we came across some guy that was selling roasted peanuts, corn and some weird white looking carrot thing that we tried. As I was busy trying to communicate with this guy, P later tells me she saw cockroaches crawling around the corn. This was after I bought it. Yuck. We ate some of the peanuts and went to bed hungry.
The next morning as I walked out of the hotel, I got a proper first look at the city and the people and it was not what I expected. It was bustling with people that looked Asian/Indian and there was an abundance of color contrasted by the cold concrete of the buildings. There was smoke from the street vendors and the smell of Indian food in the air. We found a little shop that was filled with people around the corner from where we were staying. We took a seat and had Indian food for breakfast amongst locals, strange Burmese writing and loud conversation. It was awesome, and delicious.
We then spent the afternoon perusing street markets, buying both food and longyies for the girls. Later that night we met up with a friend of theirs and called it a night.
The following morning we found our way to the Thai Embassy and applied for our visas. After this, we strolled the streets of Yangon and took in the sites and the people. It felt like what I would feel India would be like mixed with grungy city vibes. There is something uniquely different about the people though. It’s like they still have an identity of who they are as a people. I believe this to be the case possibly because the borders were recently opened to foreigners not that long ago. I think this in a way preserved their culture, unlike Thailand were you can see the western influence more prominently.
The people are incredibly beautiful, I found it hard not to stare at them as they walked past. Most of them seem to have really healthy skin and hair and the way they dress, particularly the women, is very respectable, modest yet attractive.
That afternoon we found ourselves at a park and even then, when the families were relaxing together, mostly all the woman were still dressed in really nice clothes. The common dress they wear are a type of dress called a longi (check out the pictures below). They can have very intricate patterns and many of them are made from very bright/ vibrant colors.
The following day, we met up with some young need-greaters that are currently serving in Burmese congregations. We started with a 3 hour train loop that felt like it was straight out of some Bollywood subtitle indie film. There were farmers, monks, people selling stuff (a lot of quail eggs), students etc. I butchered some Burmese presentations but had two interesting conversations with a student and a monk.
At one of the stops, there was this market that looked like it was built on top of an abandoned section of railroad tracts. I jumped out hoping I could make it back on before it left me. I quickly grabbed some shots and just barely jumped back on as it started moving haha. Sketch.
That afternoon we picked up our visas and then headed to a Ferry that took us across the Yangon River to the other side of the mainland. I got a free ticket because of my Japan blood, no joke. Apparently Japan gave Burma the boat, thus all Japanese ride for free. Thanks mom.
This territory consisted more of villages and was quite different from the city. Once we got off the boat, the 5 of us squeezed into a little motorbike taxi. Half of my body was hanging out of the cab. It was a struggle just to make it to the village we were going to without getting thrown out. Sketch. Awesome.
We eventually ended up in a place called Tsunami village that even the friends we were with hadn’t been too. The kids couldn’t get enough of the videos! It was crazy. I felt like I was in one of the “save the kids for a $1” commercials haha. They kept asking for more and there was a literal crowd of kids within seconds.
As the sisters played with the young girls and showed them videos, Sam and I played Sepak Takraw with the local guys. I rolled up my slacks, took off my service shoes and played with them for the like 2.5 hours.
As the sun started to set and cover everything with it’s beautiful golden light, it almost felt unreal. As I looked out in the distance all I saw were grass fields, shack houses, ponds and smiling faces. I had no idea were I was and I loved it.
I hope to make it back there sometime soon, as a few days was definitely not enough time. There are also some really awesome young people out there giving it their all which was such an encouragement to me. Til next time!