SawasdeeKa (probably spelled very wrong).  Basically a good-morning and hello in Thai.   We are headed bright and early to Bangkok airport for a 1 ½ -hour flight to Yangon, Myanmar (my itinerary booklet lists it as Rangoon.)   I have decided to deal with the “Please, you need to see the doctor for yellow fever shot.” -or with the possibility of encountering any other immigration glitch- with a smile, consider it an adventure, and just have fun with it all.  But I am hesitant and I sweat (which I rarely do) as we head out to the airport.

We are stuck in the worst traffic jam.  It is very early on a Saturday so Benny, our Thai guide, ponders why.  As we inch along we see a horrible accident.  Around the world we are more similar than we think because the accident is on the other side of the road and we are held up by the “looky-loos”.

She tells us there sometimes can be lines at the departure area at the airport that take hours to clear.  We have to go through passport checks upon leaving.  Fortunately, Thailand respects its elders and there is a dedicated line for those over “a certain age”.  The guide looks at me and says that I look too young and I must say that I am one of our group’s caretaker.  Can’t I say that I am with the group?  No, you must say you are taking care someone!  Okay.  Who of?  A really nice woman in our group walks with a cane and, even though she is perfectly healthy and able, I am assigned to her.  We laugh that since there are three doctors in our group I could also pose as a nurse.  As we go to the priority line I am asked who I am and I put a concerned look on my face and put my hand on Pam’s shoulder and say I take care of her.  “Yes.  Please follow her.”  Now I sport an inner smile and in less than 10 minutes we are at the other side of Departures and encounter this. 

 I fill out the immigration form on Bangkok Air (a really adorable plane with fishes all over it) and it asks you to declare anything of value that you are bringing temporarily to Myanmar.  Uh, hold up… this plane has fishes swimming on it.  That sort of doesn’t give me much confidence.  Just a thought, I would prefer it had clouds or birds on it.        Hmm.  Back to the customs form.  Do I have to declare my Mac?  I am told to.  So I list it, along with my 3 cameras and my yet unread Kindle.   At customs I am thanked for declaring my stuff and with a smile told that I didn’t need to.  Please proceed.  We are now at the counter.  A beautiful, very petite, immigration officer takes my passport.  “Please stand back.”  Photo taken.  She looks at my passport again.  Looks up, looks down.  Looks up again at me and seems to scrutinize my face which I am sure is now sporting a very anxious look. “You are an actress?  So pretty.” And then gives me one of the most charming of smiles.  Okay, maybe it’s my relief talking.  Please proceed.

We are met by our local guide Thiha (pronounce tee-haa) who is wearing a skirt called a longy.  He promises to give us a how-to-tie-one lesson during our stay.  All other men are wearing it too. His smile is honest and open.  He greets us with “mingalarbar” (min-gah-lah-bah) that is used as a greeting in Burmese and means “auspiciousness to you”.  How can one go wrong with a country that greets you in this manner?   In less than an hour we have been met with more smiles than in all our hours in Thailand: the land of smiles.  To be fair we did arrive at godforsaken hours there.  I am still very much looking forward to our Thailand portion even when it means going through any other possible snafu at port of entry.

Loads of Kyats!

We go to change money since it turns out that our crisp new dollar bills we were instructed to bring, are less accepted than the local money.  It was true, however, than in Myanmar nothing less than a crisp bill, regardless of its denomination, is turned away.  So I hand a new $100 bill and am handed what looks like a lot of money.  The exchange is 800 Kyats to $1.  So 1,000 Kyats is about $1.25

We get to the hotel and it turns out that it is peak season and the rooms are not ready so we sit, as we are served orange juice that tastes like Tang (a good omen since it brings me loads of happy memories from my youth), while Thiha tells us about his country and his people. He also tells us that Hillary Clinton stayed at the Chatrium when she visited Myanmar recently.  Warns us about numerous power outages that may occur (the room has a flashlight prominently accessible on the bedside table.) Tells us his country is safe.  And gives us our itinerary for the rest of the day.  At 1:00 pm we are set loose and free until 4:30 where we will go for a walk in the park and dinner at a local restaurant.

Teak wood is big in Myanmar. Hence they use it a lot. Foyer to my room.

I go to the room and, after taking a shower and settling in, I look at the clock on my phone and it’s already 4:30!  I rush out and walk down the four flights of stairs. The power is cutting in an out and I don’t want to get stuck in the elevator. Hotel employees populating the inner sanctum (stairs) of the hotel smile.  I am regaled with lots of  “auspiciousness to you”. I am sure I am proving them their daily amusement.  No doubt they are wondering why this crazy tourist opts for walking down.  I go to the reception and it turns out that the clock on my phone is wrong.  Ay, ay, ay!  I go upstairs again and try to change it to the right time and am not able to.  I call and ask to have someone come and change it.  No one does.  I call again.  They will send me the engineer soon.  Upon arrival engineer tries to change the time to no avail.  I am not feeling that inept any more.  So he says he will change the phone.  He returns with an assistant carrying a brand new phone.  He plugs it in and asks me what time it is.  Uh… I don’t know. So his assistant tells him and I now know the time in Yangon!  All this has happened with a ton of smiles interchanged and with the best of disposition.  Don’t think I could ever possibly be angry at anyone here.

We walk to a park across the street.  Don’t know what kind of happy pill these people are on but I would like to commercialize it.  Not one frown to be had.  Is this real?

We go to dinner and at the restaurant there are two wedding receptions going on.   To get to our reserved table we have to go through the greeting line of one of them.  The bride and groom patiently pose for pictures from our group. 

We have a really great meal and I finally am sleepy… at barely 8:30 p.m.!

Nighty, night

Categories: Myanmar - Burma, Ramblings, Restaurants/Cafés/etc., Thailand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

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21 thoughts on “Mingalarbar

  1. It looks beautiful!

  2. The irony re the smiling countenance, Lidia, Myanmar is under such a controlling thumb. They must be faithful meditators! 😀

    Hope your rest will wipe away all anxieties so only the moment exists.

    • Hi souldipper!
      Myanmar is changing. Thumb is not as controlling any more. Elections are coming soon.
      Am just as worried that the influx of tourist will not change its people. They truly are warm and open. The country is 80% Buddhist and their belief makes them special.
      A girl was trying to sell me something and when I looked at her in a “Really?” way. With a broad grin she said: “I am a Buddhist. I don’t lie!” She meant it.
      Enjoying every moment!

  3. Silvia

    Que padre como quisiera andar contigo por allá,besitos.

    • Que linda Sivia! Sería padrísimo tenerte como compañera de viaje. Por lo menos estás conmigo virtualmente! Gracias por acompañarme. 🙂 Besitos para tí también.

  4. Mariko Ballentine

    sounds like great times!

  5. I am jealous! So glad that your first day was a positive experience,

  6. Dave Silva

    Living vicariously through your words and photos!Have fun mujer.

  7. This confirms the fact that you are an internationale Babe, people see your beauty but feel your artistic spirit. I would ask you to bring some of those pills, but I suspect thier joy is in their love of life. I hope to get there someday myself.

    I never do elevators in other countries including Oakland.

    Mas Abrazos and I hoped you jumped on the bed.

    Tu homie

  8. Have a great time in Myanmar! Hope you will continue in same direction towards India too 🙂

    • Hi Hindupur! India is on my list for sure. Traveling companions are from India (though living in the United States). Hearing a lot about your country and am definitely considering.

  9. Eduardo

    Ni bien veo tu blog llegar lo abro para saber si estas bien. Trato de hacerlo rápido porque tengo que subirme al auto y manejar. Pero sucede algo que a pesar de no estar en mi idioma natal, me envuelve en el deseo de seguir leyendo con una atención similar a cuando lo hago con un libro muy interesante en español. Y desaparece mi apuro, y lo leo por completo. Al final también me doy un tiempo para pensar con imágenes y veo tus expresiones claramente, tal cual las narras en el blog. Bella, entusiasmada. Transpirando? Jamas! Esa parte no puedo imaginarla. La verdad, disfruto contigo este viaje.

    • Gracias Ed. La verdad es que me siento inmensamente afortunada en estar haciendo este viaje. Me es difícil expresar cuanto me ha llenado el hacerlo. Más aún afortunada por el hecho de poder “llevar” en cierta forma a mis amigos y conocidos. Internet no ha sido fácil por eso paré por un tiempo. Ahora estoy en Tailandia y mañana vamos a Laos. La niña en mí está dando brincos de alegría. Mucho para compartir!!

  10. Annie

    I so am enjoying reading about your expierence in Myanmar… What a joy to be around people who smile and are so welcoming.. Love you

    • Sweet Annie! I am so glad you are!! The whole country is a big smiley face. Not in the commercial kind of way but in a “I reflect what I am inside” kind-of-way.
      Love you too. We have to get together when I return.

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