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For the benefit of those who are traveling first time to Yangon, this is Part 1 of our trip to Yangon in November 2012.
First and foremost, I must admit that Yangon was never on my travel list. Neither was Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. So how did we end up in Yangon? By God’s grace…………
There was an SOS call for pre-loved clothes to be shipped over to Yangon and I spent some time collecting and coordinating clothes from exactly 9 Moms located all over KL and because I did this so efficiently (bows), I was invited to this life changing journey by my childhood friend.
My first reaction was, “Are you f#cking crazy? I have kids. I’m busy. Sorry. No time.”
But all night that night, I was troubled. I could not sleep. I was in frigging turmoil! WTF! Part of me REALLY wanted to go but a part of me knew it was impractical. There was nobody to take care of the kids. The Hubs could not take any leave as he was busy with deadlines. But the more hours I could not sleep, the more troubled I was till I said fuck it. I’ll bring the kids with me.
And then the big announcement to the family that I was taking my 2 girls to Yangon with me.
Yangon is unstable! It is dangerous! You don’t know what goes on there! You don’t know people!
Shit. They sure scared me. I was as ignorant as ignorant can be. It’s not like I’d followed the Yangon Daily News up to then. So I started doing my research. For a week, I read and read all about Yangon and I emailed friends for answers. In the end, The Hubs forbade T2 to go (and thankfully too because she would have just flown out of the truck!) and I begged him to let me take T1 for it would be educational for her. In reality, it changed her life too.
So that’s how we ended up with this new mission in life – improving the lives of the Children of Myanmar.
The Hubs was so angry that I was doing this dangerous thing that he did not offer any help. On the day that T1 and I set off at 3am, I carried all these boxes to the taxi myself and T1 started crying as she did not want to leave her darling Daddy behind. The boxes below were just part of what we brought to Yangon. There were more boxes carried by my friend who met us at the airport.
Our first sight in Yangon – people hanging on to public transportation. Sure reminds me of my childhood days when we had pink mini buses in KL with people hanging out at the doors! Cramped like sardines, people!
There. Here’s another. Women usually sit inside. It’s only the men that hang out. Some even sit on the roof.
I.Kid. You. Not.
There is hardly any traffic rules in Yangon thus accidents happen easily. We witnessed one, possibly more. This is a typical road intersection in Yangon. The city has just opened up her doors to foreign cars earlier this year so suddenly, there are a lot of cars.
As soon as we got to the Hotel, T1 had an appointment with the Number One Chess Master of Myanmar, a meeting set up by her own chess master in KL. We were honoured to learn from the Chess Master himself and also met the awesome President of the Myanmar Chess Association. Why chess? T1 practises chess in school and her chess master has identified her to participate in some competitions……one day (haha!). She is actually quite good. I cannot beat her in 5 minutes which you would imagine, right? After all, I was the President of the Chess Club in my day at 15 years old. But no. It takes me a good 45 minutes to beat her. Sometimes longer. But I do beat her. So far. We’ve drawn once.
After chess, we carried the boxes upstairs (the hotel has no lift) and started sorting out the clothes. As you can see, that bum certainly isn’t mine as it is a pert, athletic kind of bum. It belongs to my childhood friend, the same girl who made me swallow paper in class. Form Five exactly.
After sorting out the clothes, we headed out for authentic Myanmar food.
Which T1 did not like at all so she literally ate plain white rice. She complained that the place was SO SMELLY and SO DIRTY. When she arrived at the hotel, she also gave a look of horror, “Are we staying here? This is not a hotel. This is a…a…..MOTEL!!!” Depression must have set in whilst she must have wished she was back with her Daddy in KL instead of being in Yangon with her crazy mother.
And the bill was RM26 that fed 4 adults and 1 child. There were also drinks ordered, not shown in picture above but you can see it in the bill under cold maybe?
We headed out after lunch to get groceries to bring to the orphanages and passed by Yangon’s most famous pagoda – the almighty Shwedagon Pagoda. A magnificent Haven.
But before groceries, we were brought to a black market money changer who offered you black plastic bags to hold your money. There are no banks in Myanmar. Credit Cards are not used either. They only deal in cold hard cash. US Dollars or Myanmar Kyat. They even buy houses and cars with cash. I kid you not! With so much cash, they don’t bother counting the cash but weighing the black plastic bags instead. The amazing thing is that people are honest. You can see people carrying black plastic bags on the street and he wouldn’t get robbed.
If you change USD, make sure they are fresh and crisp and new (late serial numbers) and do bring enough money because if you run out of cash, well, you’d better make some Myanmar friends very quickly.
T1 was thrilled that Aunty Lyn was a millionaire that day after we changed the money.
Look! More people hanging from trucks!
We were blessed that day because we didn’t have to hang out from trucks just yet but instead had the privilege to ride in an air-conditioned car. Most cars in Yangon do not have air-conditioning. This air-conditioned car belonged to an expat living in Yangon – bless her for driving us around to pick up the groceries.
After we got back to the hotel, we had to carry all the groceries to storage and then headed out to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda. What a walk that was!
A never-ending slew of complaints from T1 ensued. What can I say? The walk was DARK as there were no street lamps. There was no pavement for walking, just a dirt sidewalk filled with pot holes so really, you could have gone under any time. Thankfully, I had a torch on my iPhone (and oh, before I forget, Malaysian phones don’t work in Yangon. You cannot call out. Not even from a land line, unless you are very, very lucky. The good news is that a few hotels have WIFI and certainly, the hotel, sorry motel, that we stayed at had WIFI, so that was our only communication link back home). No Phones. Phones are used as torch lights.
Because there are dirt roads everywhere, walking in Yangon requires a surgical mask. T1 said she wished she had brought her snorkeling mask as her eyes hurt from dust, her nose hurt and her sinuses had gone haywire using up tons of tissues and her throat hurt too. It is that bad if you suffer from allergies, which we do. Bless her Aunty Lyn, who had carried eyedrops to Yangon, saved T1 from going temporarily blind.
It was a good 30 minute walk without a map to the Shwedagon Pagoda and we kept seeing it then losing it then seeing it again then losing it again. The walk was an adventure. But a glorious one.
And it was at that point too that my camera ran out of batteries (apparently, I’d forgotten to pack the charger) so I survived the entire 3 day trip using the iPhone camera. What a bloody waste.
For more posts on Yangon, Myanmar: