Travelblog: Myanmar

While I went to two cities here, Bagan and Yangon, the country's vibe would run throughout. There is really no place on the planet like Myanmar; for now.  The reason for this is that tourism hasn't ruined the country yet as it has only started accepting tourists in 2011. Myanmar's history is crucial to understanding the country as there are old British colonial buildings (when the country was Burma), Indian influx thanks to being brought over by the British, and a constant need to prove itself with indigenous tribes and against military rule that ran the country for sixty years. 

Anyways, due to my financial situations in Thailand, I knew I would have to bring some strict US$ over to prepare for converting crisp, unwrinkled, and new dollars (Myanmar is the craziest, but a few other SE Asia countries want the newest bills...I proceeded to tell many of them that in the US it is worth the same and that is ridiculous). As such, I had plenty of cash to convert to kyat. Myanmar is an expensive country due to there being a lack of competition in the tourist market to drive down costs, plus English is not widely spoken here. As such, you have to figure out a lot of situations on money and otherwise with gestures and charades. It ends up being magical though in how much we communicate to each other through body language and how the human condition is global rather than distinct per country. Lastly, make sure you have your visa ready before entering Myanmar as they are strict about the paperwork. 

Yangon is a whirlwind of senses because it is a SE Asian market extended to the whole city. No motorcycles, only cars that have both left and right facing steering wheels on right hand roads....Men rock larongs (getting one was hilarious with no English) and women wear dresses. The monks wear dark purple robes and are the nicest people ever. Theravada Buddhism also reigns supreme here. However, the pagodas in Yangon are exquisite and trump nearly any in Thailand. The wiring situation is also amusing as rolling blackouts occur, prompting generators while making internet connectivity a nightmare. My hostel was extremely fancy given the rest of the streets in Yangon, but I enjoyed it.

To get to Bagan I would take a flight in the morning and a night bus later on. Overall, Bagan would be one of the longest trips ever since I had to hop around the temples in a variety of means, wait forever for the bus, and experience the comfortable night bus (Greyhound could learn a lot from them with their personalized videos, accurate AC, and 2 v. 1 seating for comfort and no need to sit next to strangers). Bagan is costly for entry, but getting around was intriguing as I went in a horsecart while trailing a military convoy of young cadets.  I saw some of the best and most peaceful temples around the 3,000+, many of which you could go to by yourself on an E-Bike (lots of fun and I crashed too! Ankle injury). The highlights temple wise would be whichever one this guy talked to me about Obama (yes all the way out in Bagan Obama is beloved), Thatbyinnyu Temple - huge, Ananda Temple, the prettiest temple in Bagan, and Shewesandaw Temple - where they called me Obama and I saw the best views of the temples. Bagan is a must and on some days you can hot-air-balloon over it all (though I did that once and for all in Cappadocia). 

Food wise Myanmar was most likely where I got my case of worms (yes I had extended food poisoning, but it could've started in Bangkok). However, outside of sanitation concerns, Myanmar does a great job on food. Their self-titled Myanmar beer is glorious, mohinga (the national dish) which is a catfish stew, Kyay-Oh (Vermicellie noodles & Pork), and a few mixes of Chinese dishes along with some Myanmar mini-cakes made for a surprisingly formidable cuisine. They enjoy their spices and they enjoy their street food. However, if you do go to a restaurant, the whole place will serve you as they will refill your water, beer, rice and plate without you asking. For Kyay-Oh, one person did the bowl, another the chopsticks, and another the drink all in quick succession. It's a phenomena. Meanwhile in Bagan, I had a lunch menu of 30+ dishes including their excellent salads to sample the entire cuisine. Lastly, I have to tell the bakery story because the second time I went with everyone only understanding written but not spoken English the attendant flirted with me and the rest of the girls in the bakery got excited. The magic of attraction without words and a little bit of thanaka (interesting Myanmar makeup for women) powder. 

Myanmar is a treasure and many times I had no idea where I was going, but I didn't care as the people were wonderful and eager to learn about me as a few people had never seen a Black American before. You could always feel as if you were the only tourist in many places since many Myanmar people had yet to explore their own country.

Note: Myanmar/Burmese writing tattoos look amazing.