Posts Tagged With: Yangon

ADM=Ay Dios Mío=OMG=Wow!!!

This sign was in the middle of Yangon's market. 🙂

I have not been able to connect to the Internet recently.  I have missed talking to you all.  There is so much that I want to share but in the little down time that I have, even when I try to fight nodding off I can’t, and succumb to slumber.  Then I awake missing you all over again.  I do not want to forget any second of this experience.  I feel that in having you as my virtual companions, I have the responsibility to try to transmit thoughts, experiences, places and people I encounter.  As an after effect to that, you aid me to remember it all through words and photos.  I do not want this, however, to turn into a laundry list of where I went.  And in the haste to get it all down I may err on that side.  I will try to avoid it by all means and what is left will be inked as captions to on-line albums when I return.

I wake early.  They are picking us up at 8:30 a.m.   I am up at 3:30 a.m.  This internal clock thing is playing with me.  My adrenaline one-ups it and so far I haven’t gotten cranky and have managed to stay awake while going about town.  At 6:00 a.m. I go down to breakfast where other internal-clock-misfits in my group are already.  This group has turned out to be wonderful and having Thiha to give us insights has been fabulous.  It’s nice to know that everything is taken care of for us and, on a personal level, it is comforting to have others to say good-morning to and share a cup of coffee with.  Turns out that in good Myanmar tradition I am also sharing a bowl of Mohn Hin Gar, a fish soup with noodles, peanuts, red pepper, lime and who knows what else.  In some parts they would call it a “levanta muertos” which loosely translated is “raising of the dead”.  If this doesn’t give me enough energy for the rest of the day, I don’t know what will.

Before we head off to the Market, Downtown and Chinatown, our guide gives us an explanation and demonstration of Thanakha.  Thanakha is a paste created by putting some water on a flat, circular grinding stone and rubbing the bark of a thanakha tree on it. This is placed on the face.  It is cool (temperature-wise) on the skin and said to tighten pores and prevent wrinkles.  May be plastering it all over my body!  It is used widely by both women and men.  I thought of it as a foundation but it is used in circles or just a swatch on the face.  The paste is either yellow or white, so it is quite noticeable.  What is perceived as beauty varies dramatically between cultures.  Some of our group is adorned with it and out we go.

Monks in Market

This city is chockfull of sounds, smells, smiles, temples and pagodas.  I thought I was on sensory overload until we reached the market and then I went into sensory overboard.  As we zigzag the alleyways we see people smiling at the people in our group with thanakha on their faces.  Beautiful, they say.  Biggest guavas I’ve ever seen (didn’t taste).

Durian Fruit (Seasonal)

Huge Guavas!

Durian fruit, also called stinky fruit (not as smelly as I thought or that sweet, a bit pasty but not bad.)  Dragon fruit (inside it looks like a kiwi but whiter meat and not as sweet) Chicken feet, raw meat, sausages, fish paste, innards.  Vegetables I’ve never seen.  Food I would not try.

Then we go to Chinatown where an older gentleman approaches the group and starts asking where we are from, what we do and offers to tell us that his son lives in the States, tells us how happy he is we are visiting, points out some places and leaves as quickly as he came.   We go visit a Chinese temple.

Praying

From there we visit Kalywa Tawya Monastery.  At the monastery there are more than 1,000 novices and nuns studying the purity of Buddhist scripture as well as receiving a regular education.

"I am joyous here. I forget to go back to my village."

In Myanmar very young children can be sent to study Buddhism to become monks.  In fact, girls go to the nunnery as well.  Even a foreigner (male or female) can come in on a religious visa and go into the monastery for as long as they desire.  I think my heart is smaller now.  The girls at the nunnery kept a piece of it.  I can’t describe what they elicited in me.  Just hope that the photos illustrate it slightly.

After the calmness and discipline we witness at the Monastery we head for lunch at a local restaurant where controlled chaos is what we encounter.  It’s a “point and will bring to the table” kind of place.

To wind down a little we go to Rangoon’s waterfront and walk on the jetty (the equivalent of a boardwalk, I guess.)

And then for another mind-boggling, amazing pagoda that stores relics of the past four Buddhas:  Shwedagon Pagoda.   The complex itself is massive.  Many temples around the Pagoda.  Pagodas are domes that you cannot go into.  Temples usually have Buddha in them and are places of meditation, prayer, where you ring a bell or a metal triangle signifying you have done a good deed.  People come from all over.  You see monks and families intermingling.  Some meditating.  Some praying.  Some eating. Some changing kids diapers.

Volunteer Sweepers

Monk

This particular pagoda has on the tippy top a 76-carat diamond.  Around it something they call an umbrella –iron hoops around the dome- from which jewelry of all sorts hangs, donations made by its people.  Everything around me seems to blind me.

 And finally, before something in my brain explodes from just way too much to assimilate, we end the day at a restaurant where they recreate the olden days and offer us a show.

ADM=Ay Dios Mío=OMG=Wow!!!

It has finally hit me.  I AM in Southeast Asia!

Categories: Kalywa Tawya Monastery, Myanmar - Burma, Ramblings, Shwedagon Pagoda, Thanakha, Yangon | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

Mingalarbar

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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