First: You fall in love with the people here. They want to help you.
All you have to do is look lost and someone will come to your aid.
This does not work in many countries but it works here in Yangon.
My latest thing to do is get on a city bus going in my general direction with a note written in Burmese where I want to go.
And I will get there. How?
This morning three people offered to guide me. I did the same route yesterday so I didn’t need help but I did bask in their good will.
The bus looked like it was going to crumble into dust particles but I didn’t think it was polite to photograph it with all the passengers sitting on the peeling seats.
So here I am in a swank coffee Garden Bistro looking out over the magnificent gardens of Kandawgyi Lake.
I walked around the lake last night and even when it got dark I felt safe — there is almost no crime here – this may be because if you get caught you get executed but I think this may be changing.
I haven’t gotten a creepy feeling yet — oh wait…
I did get sketched out last night when I went to look at a room to rent. It was stinky and decorated with mold, low ceilings, and felt dirty for $22. It didn’t come with a smile so I bailed. I knew I would have nightmares in that room.
The owner looked bored/pissed off that I was showing up to book a room. There’s a scarcity of rooms available in town as it is the high season and they didn’t build enough hotels to accommadate all the people interested in coming to Burma now that restrictions have been lifted. It was not actually closed to outsiders for the last 20 years it was just more irritating to get a visa as I have met many people here in Asia who did get in – and they are foreigners like me. You had to wait longer and there were less tourists – sounds great to me.
Side note: it only cost $70 to fly one-way from Bangkok here. Now the doors to Burma are wide open and people are scrambling to start up hotels and guesthouses for us.
Transportation here varies:
Taxi, motorcycle, walking, decrepit bus, and my favorite; bicycle rickshaw:
Coming soon the actual video of the above photo – i have to wait to get to a country where it doesn’t take 3 hours to upload a 3-minute video.
So back to Kindness and More Miracles: in the taxi on the way to my guesthouse from the airport I was so excited to be here I was hanging out the car window waving and smiling and taking photographs to all of Yangon and I didn’t notice my passport falling out of my camera bag. It was dark when we to the guesthouse thru the insane traffic (not many traffic lights so things get clogged up fast) and i didn’t lsiten to the tiny voice inside me that said – check the car again — my mind said oh i have evruthing – –
Stop Listen to the Body!
So I noticed it was gone after I checked in and started to panic. I must have left it at the airport – so back I go to the airport in another over-priced taxi but on the way I realized – no it fell out int he first taxi and a peace settled over me – I would get it back.
5 minutes later the phone rang in the car — my passport had been delivered back to my geusthouse.
Travel Advice: never get in a taxi with a person who feels creepy. I knew when I looked at this man that I could trust him.
He was kind and he had heaps of friends: while he drove me into town he said hello to other drivers and chatted with them in the choked with traffic roadways – smiling the whole time.
This country is full of love and kindness. Except for maybe the military who control everthing but even that is thawing. Aung San Sui Kyi is having meetings with her former captors who kept her on house arrest. The louts.
The military like to say she was free to go and that is true but they would have never let her back in Burma if she went to see her family in England. This is what can happen to large spirits. The Burmese love her. And the authorities find this annoying.
Fact: she was forced into house arrest after winning the people’s vote to put her in power 20 years ago. That’s when the barbed wire was installed around her home and her family in England forbidden to visit. Heinous. But she may be in command in a few years when they have another election. Sure hope so.
So I’ve been in Yangon for 5 days now and am finding new things to look at and people to talk with every day.
I am experiencing a tidal wave of goodwill towards me.
Barack Obama visited Myanmar, and the Burmese are now fond of us USA folk so come here now before anything screws that up. Their faces light up when I tell them I’m from USA — where else in the world are you gonna get that?
I am literally bowled over. People are asking to have their photograph taken with me – like the one above. I’m being called Madame and I finally like it: I feel like a quasi celebrity.
My favorite thing Obama has done is to come to Burma and make friends here. Never mind that he shouldn’t have kissed Aung San Sui Kyi as no one shows affection like that here except for teenagers in the park making out under their umbrellas to hide the fact that they are kissing. Cute.
The only challenge so far has been eating that prawn salad last night which resulted in getting the runs today but even that is not deterring me – I still took the local bus lurching over the road in downtown Yangon for about 3 miles.
And since I’m only paying $8 a night for a room with fan only and rather thin walls I can live it up at this posh place that charges $3 for a glass of juice and $4 for a caffe latte. And has a great view over the gardens.
The neighborhood is topnotch – a big public garden is steps away from my guesthouse where I plan to do yoga in the morning – Sule Pagoda is next door – see photo below – a golden tower of holiness that glows all day and tons of fascinating street life – you don’t even have to go anywhere but outside to see things you have never seen before:
Unusual Fruits, slinky skirts on all women, men in longyis, crumbling colonial architecture next to modern buildings, and poverty but not so horribly bad. Not as bad as Cambodia.
The best things so far:
Making friends with the Burmese staff and helping them with their English. See facebook page: Mary Bartnikowski – be my friend and I will be yours.
Seeing Shwe Dagon Temple in Yangon and feeling the astounding vibrancy penetrate my soul.
Moving to the Sule Pagoda neighborhood and being astonished by the rhythm of Yangon (some people call it Rangoon.) The food is delcious, the people are kind, there is no crime, and even though the streets aren’t clean I’ll take kindness over cleanliness any day.
The delicious food! Many times I am not sure what it is but it sure tastes good.
I’ll have more food photos and video — See my latest videos here:
And my next issue of Vagabond Magazine will be out by mid-March, Check it out! http://tinyurl.com/byg76kx
Write me, I’ll write you back.
Next Stop Nepal!