The first six countries we have been to so far are not completely new to me. I’ve been to all of them at least once before this trip. But starting from Myanmar, I’ll be stepping into the unknown foreign lands. I’m so thrilled for what lies ahead, and it feels like my adventure has just begun.
I’ve wanted to visit Burma for a long time. Since I was a teenager, Aung San Suu Kyi had been my role model and I had longed to see the country described in her books.
Yangon is our first destination here. It is the former capital of Burma and the center of major political protests. I have to admit that this city pushed me out of my comfort zone since day one. The buzzling and not so clean streets full of people and traffic noises. The sultry heat of May in Southeast Asia doesn’t help neither.
After three days of stay, we came up with a list of impressions that this city gave us.
1) There are many Japanese second-hand cars
Importing cars had been strictly limited under the military government until 2011. Until then only ruling politicians could import cars for personal use. After 2011, the government started to loosen their import restrictions and now everyone can purchase a car as long as their savings allow. We now see this explosive change on the streets of Yangon. Japanese second-hand cars filled every street, plus a few from Korea and China. Interestingly, the drivers with Japanese cars sit on the right despite the fact that in Myanmar traffic goes on the right hand side. “It’s so strange”, Sadao said, “It’s like Japan 50 years ago!”
2) People wear Longyi
As soon as we landed in Yangon, the longyi worn by majority of the people here is the first difference I notice. It’s a sheet of cloth in a cylindrical shape worn like a dress by both men and women. I can imagine how convenient and cooling it is in the hot summer days. Both Sadao and I bought one each at the Aung San Market. The man at the market was so eager to teach Sadao how to put on a longyi, it was hilarious.
3) Food is not so good
After traveling in food oases like Taiwan, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand, I’m not gonna lie, the food here doesn't look as appetizing. I started to miss the pre-cut fruits you can buy at every street corner in Thailand… We have been eating a lot on the streets so far but can hardly find any street food stalls that’s not likely to give us an upset stomach. We searched online and tried to find a decent restaurant and found one that’s rated the best Burmese restaurant in Myanmar in 2015. We were not so impressed after trying it though, it was just cafeteria standard to us.
4) Internet is so so slow
Internet is really slow almost anywhere in Myanmar. It takes ages to load a page, let along watching videos on Youtube or uploading photos, etc.
5) Many people chew betel quids
The red-black stained teeth of a Burmese smile reveals their additions to the betel quids. Betel quid stands are at every corner of the streets. I have an impression that half of the Burmese men I saw chew on betel quids. It’s probably something like tobacco or coffee that gives you a boost of energy and relaxing effect. But the price of oral cancer they may have to pay later.
6) Ladies wear thanaka on their faces
Ladies and young kids wear the golden thanaka on their cheeks like natural cosmetics and sunscreen. It’s amazing that western cosmetics has not yet invaded into this country!
7) Umbrella has a new function
The Yangonese give umbrellas a new function. Umbrellas are so commonly used here on rainy days and sunny days. Other than that, in the parks under the shades you can see couples hiding under the umbrellas and making out. Awww so sweet! Umbrellas blooming like the flowers of love!
8) People are very friendly
It’s the local people who make our trip special. The owner of the guesthouse has been to Japan for 6 years and speaks good Japanese. He taught us many things about Burma and helped us with our trip. And many other people we come in contact with are very gentle, they are the angels of our journey.