The suicide jungle trek

Catch up time!

We decided to make a few changes to our proposed route. It will now be:

Myanmar – Bangkok – Krabi (southwest thailand) – Ko lanta island – back up to Bangkok and then fly up to Vientiane, Laos. We’ll travel around Laos for 3-4 weeks, then head south into Cambodia, travel there for another 3-4 weeks then fly back up north to Hanoi, Vietnam, travelling down through the length of the country. From there,we’ll  probably head to south east Thailand before hitting Malaysia.

From Burma to Bangkok

Following our Burmese adventures, we flew to Bangkok. After spending a couple of vaguely horrendous nights there, not far from Khao San Road, (which is a perfect example of how mass tourism can utterly destroy a place’s soul), we escaped the crusty hippies and scammers to fly south to Krabi. Krabi sits on the south west coast of Thailand and is the jumping off point for a variety of jaw-droppingly gorgeous islands. First stop was Railay – a pedestrian only beachside town accessible only by long-tail boat. Driving there from Krabi is impossible because of the enormous limestone rock formations rocketing into the sky.

Railay was stunning – the western beach was a calm turquoise lagoon framed by a backdrop of jungle-clad karst cliffs. There are monkeys that tightwalk the low hanging tree branches, caves, warm seas and white Sands. We lucked out with our room, which had a wicked view of the incredible rock formations that the area is known for, with the sea beyond.

Climbing in an unusual place

Railay is a fantastic place to climb, so we of course gave it a go. (We met through climbing). We were taken by our guide to a series of routes set on a karst rock face on the southern beach. I managed to get 5 routes in, and tried out some new techniques and so was pretty pleased. Everything in view was what you’d expect from a Thai beach famed for climbing, except for this.

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Yes, it is what you think (or fear) it is: a cavern brimming with phalli… Some of which are startlingly detailed.

There are, in fact, two of these bizarre grottos on this beach. Phallic symbol enthusiasts should certainly visit. The two caves are places of worship to a female deity in command of fertility. Offering up what the descriptive tourist placard described as a ‘stick’ (i.e. model of a penis) brings the giver good luck and fortune. The deity also asks that worshippers help keep natural places clean and clear of rubbish. The faithful clearly still visit – each grotto was still full of burning incense sticks and candles. The religion seemed to be a part of the animist worshipping system common in this part of the world, which in many ways resembles paganism.

Modern Buddhism also still owes parts of its rituals to animism, especially in Laos. Their annual rocket festival involves launching fireworks into the sky, while waving more wooden penises around. This is in an effort to anger the gods, who are expected to retaliate by bringing thunderstorms and hence, lots and lots of much-needed rainfall.

Suicide jungle trek

After our climb, we had planned to visit a lagoon and trek up to a viewpoint nearby. We at first struggled to find the starting point. The sign pointed left to what we initially thought was a vertical cliff. But when we looked more closely, we realised that this indeed was the starting point for the trek. There were makeshift steps etched out of the clay cliff face and mangrove-type roots running down it which made for very nifty bannisters. We scrambled up and checked out the viewpoint first. It was well worth the climb.

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The difficulty of the climb was about to leap up from about 4 to 10 though, as we began our descent further into the wilderness towards the much-anticipated emerald lagoon. This part of our mission can only be described as a suicide jungle trek. Lowering ourselves down slippery vertical drops, clinging to equally slick clay-sodden ropes, and trying to gain purchase on elusive holds in the limestone rock was at times terrifying (sorry parents). We were as careful as humanly possible, and worked together to get through the trickier bits. The Railay suicide jungle trek is a great option for office team building exercises if you have (very) comprehensive company insurance.

After a good 40 minutes slowly edging towards our destination, during which we were transformed into strange slippery beings – coated in a thin layer of sweat and orange clay – we at last made it to the near-unreachable lagoon. Again, our efforts were well rewarded. Tall karst rock, covered in tropical trees and plants, jut up all round the enormous cool saltwater lagoon. It’s formed by underwater caves that let the sea water flow in. I floated in the middle of the lagoon looking up above me – an oval patch of blue sky edged with the slate grey rock, fringed with greenery. The peace and beauty made it seem like quite a spiritual place. There’s quite a bit of animist religion down here – the worship of nature and animals – and you can understand why. Spots as pretty as this seem almost sacred.

 

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Xav’s Interesting Transport, Infrastructure and Vehicle observations: Myanmar

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Image: Stefan Munder, CC licence: CCBY

I’m delighted to introduce a new guest blogger: Mr Xavier Lacey, aka Xav! Big warm welcome and round of applause please to blog novice, with extraordinary raw talent, Xav!

Honking and near-misses

I’ve seen many close shaves in Myanmar, and I’m not talking about the Buddhist monks’ hair cuts; the number of near misses, white-knuckle overtaking manoeuvres, possible accidents, eye-of-the-needle scooter weaving and trigger-happy horn honkers we saw while in Myanmar must be verging on the hundreds.

Our introduction to Burmese driving was thankfully tame, with only a teaser trailer of what was to come. We were picked up from the airport at about 9pm by a nice Yangonese taxi driver who let us practise our fledgling Burmese. The route from the airport to our guesthouse was quiet, with the roads in a state of soon to be uncharacteristic emptiness. Nevertheless, our cabbie was still taking part in one of Myanmar’s favourite past times: honking. Horn usage in Myanmar falls into one of three main categories:

  1. Telling people not to pull out. The most common horn blast is used to warn cars joining a road that you are approaching. A sign that no driver trusts any other road user.
  2. Letting people out. Used in the exact opposite way to the first one, when drivers are feeling nice, a honk will let the other driver know he can join the road in front of you.
  3. Overtaking other cars. If you are preparing for an overtake, simply toot to warn the vehicle in front that you plan to pass them.

Unhelpfully, there is no real way for the honker to differentiate which message he is sending to the honkee. This can result in some hairy situations.

Jam-packed: gridlock in steamy Yangon

Myanmar Portraits Numerology of Hate

Image: AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe

In Yangon, the largest city and ex-capital, the road network is essentially in a state of never-ending chaos. Saying that Yangon experiences gridlock is like saying that the general populous of Myanmar think that Aung San Suu Kyi is “fine”. In 2011, Yangon was home to an estimated 200,000 cars, both legally registered ones and illegal imports. After the military-backed civilian government was installed in March 2011, the law on importing cars was relaxed, making cars much cheaper. Four years on, in 2015, there were over half a million cars in the city. But, road infrastructure hadn’t been developed at all to accommodate the extra 300,000 new cars on the roads.

After the few enjoyable days we spent in Yangon, our guesthouse organised a taxi to take us from the centre to the coach “station” (really it is just a small town where hundreds of buses and coaches are parked). This journey is 15 miles and should take under half an hour; instead, we spent our first forty minutes sitting in the taxi within view of the guesthouse. Not just within view, but within earshot, a heavy stone’s throw, smelling distance. We had only moved two car lengths in over half an hour. The traffic at rush hour is appalling and residents can spend over four hours a day commuting just a few miles. They can’t simply cycle, not only because it would be super dangerous, but because biking, whether of the push or motor variety, is illegal in downtown Yangon. What isn’t illegal are taxis. There are allegedly 100,000 cabs in Yangon; compare that to the 14,000 in New York, a city with twice as many people, and it gives you an idea of the extent to which the road network is pushed.

How to be a taxi driver in Yangon

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Image: Samuli Kangaslampi, CC licence: CCBY NC ND

I would hate to be a taxi driver in Yangon, but it must be quite easy because you never have to move, just sit in the traffic for hours. After experiencing taxis all over Myanmar, I have developed a six step programme to becoming a Burmese cabbie:

  1. Buy a car. Your car will be right hand drive because it is from Japan. This would be fine if Myanmar didn’t drive on the right. Even this would be fine if drivers were content with not overtaking. N.B. We were often approached by a man on his scooter shouting “Taxi!”, so this step may be skipped if you own a scooter. We did not fancy perching ourselves on the back of his bike with our bags while weaving through the busy, dusty lanes of Mandalay.
  2. Remove, hide or just destroy all seat belts. No one wears them and after a while we gave up even trying to find the elusive Burmese seat belt. I noticed that some car owners would buy the metal clip that goes into the holder separately, which would act as a plug for the holder, thereby preventing the seat belt warning sign from going off. Some even had themed plastic tops such as matching Minions, one for the driver’s belt holder, and one for the passenger’s. (See image below to see what I mean).
  3. Practise horn skills. As mentioned above, Burmese drivers love nothing more than a good toot. Because the horn is used so prevalently, the thumb should always rest over the centre of the steering wheel as a quick and easy way to produce the most common sound of Myanmar’s roads.
  4.  Never be content with your current speed. Whether you’re taxiing two people, a hundred people or fourteen tons of animal produce, your aim should always be to overtake everything in front of you. It doesn’t matter if the road is only wide enough for the lorry that is currently on it, or if there is no room in front of the vehicle you are planning to pass, it is always worth a go.
  5. Leave plenty of time for your journey. This mainly applies to those wishing to become a taxi driver in Yangon. 
  6. Always carry spare water (and sick bags). Most of the taxis we went in provided free bottled water. One of the taxis we went in turned out to provide sick bags.

If you follow these instructions, I’m sure you will succeed as a Burmese taxi driver.

Stomach-churning: the journey to Maymyo

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Image: Marcel Oosterwijk, CC licence: CCBY SA

We encountered a range of cabbies from a quiet, caring, fashionista (his car’s interior had Chanel-printed seat covers) to a vomit-inducing boy-racer wannabe. The latter was on a trip from Mandalay to the relatively temperate ex-British summer getaway town of Pyin Oo Lwin. The road to Maymyo, as it is also known due to being founded by a Captain May, weaves it’s way up pine-lined mountain roads, bringing with it views of the plain on which Mandalay sits, the city with whose excruciating summers the British could not cope. Our hotel had organised a shared taxi for us, a cheap version of transport popular in Myanmar. After picking Lucy and me up, our new chauffeur drove around Mandalay collecting two women who had booked his services to Maymyo. These women were relatively well-off looking locals in their fifties. As we started our ascent up the mountain, one of the two women took a travel sickness pill, offering one to her peer in the front passenger seat who turned the pill down (big mistake…), instead opting for roadside pre-sliced crunchy mango, which she bought near the road toll booth. She was obviously hungry, and ate the pieces of mango quickly, but delicately. That was not the last time we saw the mango.

The way that the driver navigated the road, it was as if he were in the biggest hurry of his life, but to look at him, he was calm and controlled, as if overtaking full-sized coaches on blind mountain bends was the least dangerous thing ever. Lucy and I were not feeling car sick, and I was trying to remember the last time I had spoken to my family, and wondering whether Sunderland would stay up again, before we all plummeted to our deaths. These feelings were almost polar opposite to our fellow passengers’ as we soon found out, as the woman in the front passenger seat grasped for a plastic bag and began to show off her ability to vomit almost silently. The only sound I heard was the sick splashing into the bag. The driver barely batted an eyelid, carrying on his lightning-speed journey, as the woman, obviously familiar with violent car trips, tied up her bag and lobbed it out of the passenger window (which looks towards the oncoming traffic). We soon arrived in Pyin Oo Lwin and spent a fascinating day wandering around the town – we even saw monkeys in the trees of the town’s famous botanical garden.

We met up with the same driver in the afternoon to drive us back to our hotel in Mandalay. We picked up two different women on our descent and sure enough, one of them was sick again. This time, it was a much younger woman, and this time the driver stopped, giving me a “Typical women” glance in the rear view mirror that I didn’t quite know how to respond to. I got the impression that he thought this was normal, for taxi drivers to have to put up with puking passengers on most journeys.

Having said all this, none of our drivers ever seemed to express road-rage, with the driving being of the more “over-confident and frenetic” nature, than of “angry, careless and self-destructive” sort. From our frequent taxi trips to our luckily-not-quite-as-frequent overnight buses, one thing’s for sure: our journeys were never dull.

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Image: Recoverling, CC licence: CCBY

3 things of note

  • Special seats for Buddhist monks on buses.
  • Zebra crossings are apparently just for show.
  • Parking is at best chaotic and often dangerously so.

 

By Xavier Lacey
Images and edits by Lucy Doyle

 

Tourism vs Culture: striking a balance in Myanmar

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Image: KX Studio, Creative Commons licence: CCBY

Something that really stood out to us after travelling through Myanmar was how welcoming the people were. They would usually greet us politely, and seemed to express genuine interest in us – we’d be asked questions all the time about where we were from and where in Myanmar we planned to visit next. From the minute we first arrived, we got the impression that we were being taken care of by the Burmese people. At Yangon airport, we were personally escorted to a quiet, air-conditioned taxi. This feeling of being almost hand-held throughout our travels was omnipresent during our time in Myanmar, and I mean that in a very positive way. For the most part, at each stage of our trip, whether it was a coach or a tuk-tuk, we felt supported. They were understanding of any Western ignorance and it was as if they were easing us into their culture.

Aung San Suu Kyi, arguably one of the key figures behind the country’s burgeoning tourist industry, is pushing the country forward and the Burmese people are delighted. Her picture is displayed reverently in most guesthouses and restaurants, and the couple we chatted to were very proud of their new leader and looked forward to a freer, more democratic Myanmar. For the people here, seeing foreign visitors is a symbol of progress.

Tourism has been encouraged by the government since 1992, but it’s only in the last few years that the numbers have really started to move. In 2010, the year Aung San Suu Kyi stopped being under house-arrest, 791,505 tourists entered the country. By 2015, this number had vaulted up to 4,681,020. (1)

But, as you might imagine with this pace of progress, there have been substantial growing pains too. In the Myanmar Times newspaper, there was a story about how the Ministry of Tourism and the Ministry of Culture is clashing over a supposed ban on sunset tours of the Bagan pagodas.

It all began after the Ministry of Culture discovered that one tour group had allowed tourists to dance, drink and party on a pagoda at sunset. In an effort to prevent this sort of cultural insensitivity and disrespect, they proposed a ban on sunset tours of the Bagan pagodas on February 1st this year, which was supposed to come into place the following month.

The Ministry of Tourism were irritated that Culture had pushed forward a ban without proper discussion and pushed back against it. They said it would substantially lower income from tourism in the area – visiting the plain at sunrise or sunset sits comfortably at the top of any tourist’s Myanmar agenda.

To the relief of the Ministry of Tourism, the ban has been completely ignored, a ban which would be near-impossible to enforce anyway – patrolling the thousands of pagodas across a 26 square kilometre patch of land is nothing short of an expensive and logistical nightmare. It also seems an excessive reaction. A fellow traveller I spoke to described her group visit to a Bagan pagoda at sunset. She said the sheer peace and beauty of the place instantly reduced everyone to silence, even the usually more rowdy travellers enjoyed the spectacle quietly and respectfully. Our experience was similar and we didn’t see anyone behaving inappropriately. 

I feel lucky to have visited Bagan when we did. We were free to roam the area on a hired moped, exploring any pagoda we liked. We were able to climb up the brick steps of pagodas to enjoy the views across the plain whenever we wanted. Perching atop a pagoda that we had entirely to ourselves and watching the fuchsia-stained sun sink behind the horizon was one of the best parts of my visit to Myanmar and a moment I’ll always remember. I hope future visitors will be able to enjoy moments like this too.

But, it feels unlikely that the Ministry of Tourism will be able to retain this level of freedom for their tourists as the numbers continue to grow. It’s important that a balance is struck between giving visitors enjoyable, authentic experiences; and protecting and maintaining the area’s cultural integrity and precious architecture.

It’s time the two ministries sat down and had a long, realistic talk about the future of tourism in Bagan, otherwise it will go one of two ways – both of which are far from ideal. Either Bagan will be reduced to rubble by droves of tourists, creating a deep sense of resentment among locals, or visits here could be leeched of all colour. Carefully counted hordes of tourists will be quietly packaged into overpriced mini-vans and driven around a set circuit around the plains, pressing their faces against the vehicle’s windows to get a glimpse of just a handful of the plain’s incredible monuments. Maybe they’ll be an overpriced viewing platform too, but visitors will pay, albeit reluctantly, as that will be the only way to truly experience the spiritual beauty of the plain.

Whatever happens, there must be balance and there must be diplomacy. Based on Myanmar’s impressive progress so far, I’m hopeful that sustainable tourism in Bagan is a very achievable goal.

 

(1) Source of figures: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tourism_in_Myanmar

Bagan

The plain scattered with over 2200 temples and pagodas more than lived up to expectations. We hired an electric moped and zig zagged across the dirt tracks of the plain, stopping by to step inside bigger temples. We watched the sunrise and sunset over the plain, which was absolutely incredible.

Words don’t really do it justice so here are some pictures. And, if you choose to go to just one place in Myanmar, GO HERE!

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Lunch with locals

A taste of Burmese lake-side culture 

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While staying by Inle Lake, we did a boat tour for a day. We were out from 10am-6pm, traversed most of the lake, and were taken to various little stop-offs including visiting Burmese cigar women and learning how they roll sweet cigars*, trekking along farmland to see pagodas, and visiting a factory that weaves fabric from cotton, silk, and lotus thread.*

For lunch, we pulled up to a small jetty built of bamboo, were greeted by a friendly Burmese woman, and led past little scurries of free-roaming hens with their chicks to her home – a traditional lake house on thin, rickety-looking stilts. Upon stepping up into the house I was surprised by how sturdy, spacious and comfortable it was, despite first impressions.

We were led upstairs to two tables close to ground level, already laden with food: there were several small plates of salads*, vegetables, and for each person: a whole fish marinated in curry spices, a mountain of white sticky rice and a little bowl of vegetable soup.*

We sat down cross legged on the floor and got stuck in. After we had managed to pick as much flesh off the fish as we could, and had pigged on the salads, rice and veg, we were given slices of watermelon and squat, fat bananas which tasted beautiful – tangy, smooth and sweet. Xav and I wondered whether this was how bananas were actually meant to taste, and for our entire lives had been duped by pale yellow, bland imposters.

Although the people were welcoming, and the food was tasty, initially I felt a bit awkward essentially being waited on by this family – I knew they would be being paid, but how much? Enough? Do they somewhat resent having these flocks of foreign tourists (often dressed inappropriately by their more conservative standards) bustling through their home every day, eating their food?

But any initial social discomfort eased off a lot when one of our fellow travellers, a jolly, 63-year-old man from Naipur, India, offered one of the family’s children a gift. As she took the offering, a sparkly pen, her face lit up with sheer delight, a huge grin across her face.

A little after the meal, two other children turned up, clearly having heard the news from their excited sister, and were also beckoned over and given gifts. They weren’t much – the pen, sweets and a little wallet – but they were so happy and surprised to receive them. It was as if ‘Christmas’ had come early.

After the man gave the first child her gift, he turned to the rest of the group, and in response to our cooing over the adorable little girl, said:

‘Everyone always loves a surprise because there is no expectation – a surpise is always wonderful. I am the happiest man in the world because I live life with no expectations.’

The whole little scene left me feeling rather blurry-eyed. After this little ice breaker, I think everyone felt more comfortable. After dinner, we all went to the lower level of the house where it was cooler, and sprawled out on the floor, relaxing. We chatted as much as is possible with their limited English and our basically non-existent Burmese: about the children’s school, which they get to by boat; where we were all from; and we learned that Inle lake’s version of Father Christmas planned lavish Indian weddings for a living.

I thought I’d focus in on this part of the boat trip in particular, because after a few days, this was the bit that stuck with me most. It is an early indicator that it will be the people we meet here that will make up the most memorable experiences.

Glossary

* Sweet cigars, properly known as Cheroot cigars are wrapped in a banana leaf and packed with an enticing mixture of tamarind, dried banana, star anise, honey, cinnamon and of course, a little tobacco. It was testament to their deliciousness that us non-smokers decided to buy five.

*Lotus thread is produced by teasing the long, thin, fibres out from the stem and rolling them together to make a silk-like thread. It’s dried, dyed and woven to make scarves, clothes and bags. It’s super strong and pretty expensive, too. The lotus plant flourishes during the wet season (which was just about to hit when we arrived) and apparently parts of the lake become covered with it.

*Two traditional Burmese salads (actually often made with cooked vegetables) that feature a lot on menus here are tea leaf salad, and pennywort salad. Tangy fermented tea leaves or bittersweet pennywort leaves are mixed with sweet pink onions, finely shredded white cabbage, little bits of tomato, peanuts and lime juice. There are other ingredients I can’t quite identify – probably other herbs I’m not familiar with. All I’m sure of is that they’re refreshing, tasty and incredibly moreish.

*These bowls of thin, tasty broth come with most meals here, and help top up all the salts you lose through sweating buckets throughout the day. They are often fragrant chicken or vegetable stock, flavoured with lemongrass and coriander, and packed with cabbage, pak choi, tofu, and sometimes slivers of chicken.

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Pond beside a monastery inland by Inle

‘Very young and beautiful!’

Meeting Myanmar people

For our last full day in Yangon we were up at dawn to go and see the most famous site of the city – the Shwedagon pagoda. Covered in 273 tons of gold leaf, it’s an impressive example of Burmese people’s devotion to Buddhism. To get there, we climbed what felt like an endless flight of stairs surrounded by well-kept tropical gardens.

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After soaking up the peaceful and spiritual atmosphere, set to a backing track of young Buddhist monks chanting and singing with the tinkling of the little gold bells that cover every edge of the pagoda’s roof, we headed to a restaurant round the corner called Feel Good Myanmar Food (another charmingly named restaurant). It’s a posh area, with its main residents being embassies and well-to-do Yangon people.

We were lucky enough to be seated opposite a lovely Burmese  couple who told us they lived down the road. They sympathetically helped us with the menu, and politely turned a blind eye to our slurpy, western, slightly haphazard way of eating noodles. The conversation really got going when they complimented us, saying, ‘Very young and beautiful!’ when gesturing to our sweaty white faces. Flattered by this, we chatted as much as we could – the wife spoke a bit of English. They were good-humoured and kind. At one point they even declared ‘We invite you to our home.’ We smiled and nodded, unsure of whether they meant this literally or figuratively, as in ‘welcome to Burma’ and not ‘come over for tea.’

They also recommended us a place to visit near Mandalay called Pyin Oo Lwin, which I’m happy to say we did later go on to visit.

 

 

Day two in Yangon

 A basket of owls

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Morning: Bo Gyoke market

Breakfast the following morning was a mountain of egg stir-fried rice with vegetables and raisins, served with sweet orange juice and bananas.

We headed out to Bo Gyoke market, a vast two-storey maze of little shops. One floor is devoted to clothes – with hundreds of rolls of fabric stacked against walls and people whirring away on sewing machines, electric fans thrumming and blowing rags of cloth and thread across the floor. Xav bought a white long sleeved shirt which the owners photographed him in because he looked so ‘handsome’.

Outside we saw mountains of fruit and delicious-looking street food, tiny birds in cages, a basket full of barn owls and even a box of white fluffy puppies. One tourist who bent down to pet one we heard replying to the vendor ‘Oh no, no- I don’t want to buy one!’

Lunch was at Aung Mingalar Noodle restaurant, where we each had Shan Noodle soup – a common dish in Myanmar. It’s made with rice noodles and cooked in a mild but beautifully spiced broth with lemongrass, Thai basil and more. Add your chosen meat or tofu, et voila.

Street food

On every street, there’ll be at least one or two vendors offering something tempting (unless it’s insect or organ-based…see below).

Larger outfits are called teahouses and consist of a cooking area and a dining area that takes up most of the ‘pavement’ – usually lots of small colourful plastic tables with tiny stools. Each table will have a flask of Jasmin tea which you can help yourself to. These are the outlets that are open the latest. Official restaurants close around 7pm, (only later if specifically catering to westerners).

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Here’s some of the street food or tea-house food we came across in Yangon:

  • Baskets of deep-fried crickets
  • Crunchy mango slices tossed in chilli and other spices
  • Little mountains of white cabbage, limes, and tea leaves ready to be put together to make the famous Myanmar tea-leaf salad
  • Offal of varying description – avoided this
  • Piles of freshly-made noodles to be put into a noodle soup
  • Huge vats of aromatic curries

Blue and gold

Evening: Batataung pagoda

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Our first visit to a Buddhist pagoda was magical. The pictures we took speak for themselves, really. One big faux pas we made was trying to go in through the side gates. We were promptly shooed out, and barked at for walking on sacred ground with our flip flops on. We did know to remove our shoes in any temple, but just hadn’t realised we were already inside… After finding the proper entrance and paying admission, everything ran much more smoothly!

The walk to this pagoda was interesting too, as it took us along the dock area where there are lots of shanty-style housing. It’s clearly a really poor area. For Xav, this was pretty eye-opening as he’d never before seen this level of poverty.

Everyone was very friendly though, greeting us with interest – ‘Hello! Mingalabar!* Where you from?’ We didn’t feel threatened at all, only perhaps by the odd mangy-looking sand-coloured dog: one of the dozens of stray dogs that wander the town.

People so far were polite, attentive and interested in us. I got the sense that they were happy that we were there. Perhaps for locals, seeing tourists visiting the country is a sign of the progress Aung San Suu Kyi is pushing for.

Glossary

*Mingalabar- Burmese version of ‘Buenos dias!’ which literally translates to ‘Have an auspicious day!’

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