Before we left for our trip to Myanmar, Mabs and I worried about a few things we had never worried about in our other trips to other countries. We worried about the quality and condition of our dollar bills, having read that the Burmese were very particular about only accepting mint condition US dollars, and that ATMs were few and far between and credit cards were largely unheard of. We worried about not having roaming on our phones because our Philippine providers didn't have partnerships with Burmese providers yet. The fact that Myanmar had only begun to open up to travelers a few years prior seemed to mean, at least from all the research we had done, that there was much about it that was very different from our own country. It was definitely going to be a trip to take us out of our comfort zone.
We visited Burma at a time when it was still relatively Indochina's Great Unknown, the region's Great Undiscovered (this, however, is something that is changing very rapidly). So I was surprised at how at ease I felt almost immediately upon landing in the capital of Yangon. The airport was new and well-maintained, immigration was a breeze and getting our dollars changed equally so. The lady at the tourism booth was exceptionally kind and helpful, and our cab driver was the same way. The heat was horrendous, traffic was pretty bad, but I could say the same for Manila. Burmese hip hop played through the radio in moderate volume while I looked out the window of our cab to gain my first impressions of Myanmar - my first real, authentic impressions, the ones I made for myself, with my own eyes, and not from the stuff I read or heard from others.
Travel is inherently related to perspective. Even a routine road trip to a beach you've been to so many times since your childhood can have an effect on how you see things. Imagine then how flying to a mysterious, mystical and newly welcoming foreign country can change you. All the stuff you've read and heard won't do it justice, this post you're reading won't do it justice, because the perspective you will gain from actually seeing the place for yourself, for actually being there, will be unique and will only be completely true for you and you alone.
For every worry I had about coming to Myanmar, the country seemed to have a pleasant surprise waiting for me to defy it. Within only a few hours upon landing, my anxiety-filled view of coming into this new, foreign place had been pretty much washed away by the joy and excitement of being in a strange new environment and meeting its inhabitants. In the crazy Burmese heat, I learned to relish in pleasant surprises.
Bambi Hot & Cold Drink
Bogyoke Market, Yangon
We decided to explore Bogyoke Market on our last day in Yangon, and the heat was incredibly exhausting. Bambi Hot & Cold Drink was pretty much a welcome oasis where the line of shops ended and the food stalls began. We took a seat at one of the few empty tables and ordered ourselves some refreshing drinks. I chose the Ice Lemon Coffee (not opting for my staple drink of Lime Juice because I wanted to shake things up a little bit) which was surprisingly good! We stayed for a while and people-watched, smiling at the other foreigners taking refuge from the afternoon sun just as we were, and lsitening in on the group of locals happily conversing on one side talking about things I could only guess at.
Art Along a Staircase
We chanced upon a random staircase in Bogyoke Market where paintings for sale had been hung up along the walls. It was probably three flights of stairs, I can't be sure, but the artwork portraying everyday Burmese life were colorful and just lovely to look at.
National League for Democracy
This one is probably my favorite memory in Yangon. We had hailed a cab to take us back to our guest house from Shwedagon Pagoda. On our way back, the cab driver came to an abrupt stop in a place we didn't recognize. He pointed across the road and we found ourselves staring at the headquarters of the National League for Democracy, the political party led by Aung San Suu Kyi. Mabs and I had read up on her and watched "The Lady" before our trip to Myanmar so we had a bit of knowledge about Myanmar's political history. Seeing with our own eyes a place that has much significance in Myanmar's recent history, and being taken there randomly by a stranger was a pretty memorable and definitely unexpected moment. I wish I had taken more pictures.