Myanmar, Day One, Yangon
Myanmar feels like the start of our travels proper, which having been travelling for over seven months now might seem a little strange. Somehow it feels more exotic, unknown and adventurous there’s been no roughing it – no plan to change that but we’re doing our first overnight bus, train and long boat journey in the next two weeks, oooh eek. Still opening up to tourism, emerging into democracy for the first time in decades it’s an exciting time in Myanmar’s history.
Arriving at the airport we completed our usual ritual, get a local sim card and get some local money, then, if they have one, head to the taxi counter. The first sign we were not in Kansas anymore was when the very nice lady at the counter, having given us our coupon and waited for one more customer, left her booth unattended and walked us some 200 metres to our waiting taxi, they don’t do that at Heathrow.
The short 20km journey to central Yangon through unremarkable scenery took about an hour, multi lane roads funnelling into one lane in either direction multiple times. The price of progress as bridges and more roads are built. Our hotel is down a narrow lane nothing at all to look at from the outside but our room is clean and large enough for our needs, annoyingly double our usual daily budget because nothing within it was liveable. We’d heard Myanmar was expensive, unusual for an South East Asian country, especially one so new to the tourist game but it is by far the most expensive we’ve come across so far. We are on the sixth floor with wonderful views out over the surrounding rooftops. And horror of horror, a mosque, but…but Myanmar is a Buddhist country I wail! We have come to dread mosques close to our hotels not particularly loving being woken by pre-dawn calls to prayer. Yes yes when in a Muslim country of course it must be expected, but we’re not in a Muslim country and I really hope the next few weeks contains more nights than not when we are out of earshot of the daily reminder to pray.
Our first afternoon was spent taking the opportunity to relax a little, Ma and a friend, Trish arrived in the evening and we knew the non-stop exploration and chatting would soon commence, which it did. Hugs and kisses done, unexpected and wonderful Christmas gifts from friends, and a mountain of treats emerged from Ma’s bag, an Oceanic Geo dive computer, sour maoams, tin cups filled with cocoa – she didn’t know we’d bought each other mugs for Christmas, jelly beans, snappers – the devils own caramel and chocolate covered pretzel treats, glasses cleaners, giraffe straws and the goodies kept coming. We gain ten pounds every time Ma visits and beg her not to bring anything and still she does and still we eat it all, another ten pounds to work off before her next visit. Our newly emptied bags (we had a pit stop in Singapore last week and pared down our bags substantially, well we took a shitload out and somehow my bag weighed more than ever and JHubz’s was only a kg lighter, wtf!) so our newly emptied but annoyingly no lighter bags are even heavier now. Am not buying anything. Ever. Again. Well you know, until I do of course.
My resolve will be put to the test soon enough, with a walking tour around the centre of Yangon and it’s rather large and reputedly wonderful market scheduled for tomorrow Xx