sneaky sneaky…..

so, already i cant seem to access my website. i keep getting an error saying “access denied”.

myanmar day 1 [continued]….

at the airport in calcutta, while we were waiting for our flight to myanmar, caryn met this israeli dude who was flying to myanmar on our flight and hoped to get some info from my guidebook. when we got to myanmar, i ended up sharing a cab w/ him into town which was over 20km away from the airport. the cab driver got totally lost a bunch of times, and eventually had his tire blow out while driving. instead of pulling over to the side, he proceeded to change the tire right there in the middle of the street, and the israeli guy (who’s name i cant remember cause i’m *horrible* w/ names) and i went looking for a place to stay. it’s about 98 degrees here, and wandering around town w/ a heavy backpack wasn’t exactly pleasant. finally we found a place, left our stuff, and went hunting for food.

the streets of yangon (and apparently everywhere else in myanmar) are lined w/ outdoor “restaurants”. by restaurant, i mean they have a few rickety tables, tiny stools to sit on, and someone w/ a frying pan full of stuff… or sometimes, there’s no pan and everythining is just served as is.. cold. we pulled up to the first place we saw, and sat down, not really knowing what there was in store for us since there is no menu. the grinning and laughing cook asked us what we wanted and we pointed to a bowl that another customer was eating from. we got served something called “chop-chop” which is a chopped up fried egg roll with some sauce and cabbage. despite wondering about the health risks of eating food that has been sitting in the sun for possibly hours, i really enjoyed it. the bowl was small, so we ordered something else… noodles. the lady behind the counter scooped some noodles int a bowl, added sauce, cabbage, etc and then proceeded to mix everything together… with her bare hands that she didnt bother to wash as far as we could tell. as i watched her hands deep in my bowl of noodles, i decided that one thing was for certain, eating in myanmar isn’t for those obsessed w/ hygeine. the noodles tasted great.

the other thing that is *everywhere* i myanmar is tea. every single restaurant seems to have a kettle at each table and you just refill your tea cup as much as you want. people here drink so much of it!! cups and cups and cups of it in one sitting, and then sometimes have an empty water bottle filled w/ more tea so they can drink it later. the tea cups are in this little bowl filled halfway w/ water, and when you finsih your cup, you just throw it back in the bowl… and the next person grabs the cup, sorta rinses it about in the water, and then uses it. so basically, the cups you drink from are sitting all day in liquid that is part water, part leftover tea, part backwash, and has had people’s hands reaching into it all afternoon. and there’s no soap for the cups of course. it’s my fourth day in myanmar now, and i’ve been ok so far, but i’m sure that at some point while here i’ll end up sick to my stomach. just a question of time!

it was still about a billion degrees, maybe more, and part of me wanted to go hide in a place w/ air-con, but it was my first day in myanmar and i was too excited about seeing things, so i decided not to wait. after paying $2.50 for the meal, i went off to go sightseeing while the israeli guy continued to search for a room. one of the main things that myanmar is famous for is its pagodas. the whole country is filled w/ buddhist temples from big to small, most of them shimmering w/ gold. reading through the guidebook, it almost started to seem like pretty much the only thing to see in this country was temples.. which worried me a bit. would i get bored of seeing temple after temple? would they all just end up looking the same? well, that still remains to be determined, but as it was my first day, i hadn’t gotten sick of pagodas (called “payas” here) yet, so i set off to see my first one.

right in the middle of downtown is Sulye Paya a huge glittering temple standing 46 meters high. you can see it from pretty far away, and it’s definitely the main landmark in downtown. the temple was really beautiful and i spent some time just wandering around and looking at things, watching the monks and people pray, etc. one thing that i thought was interesting, is that a lot of the buddha statues had radiating halos next to their heads made out of LEDs. it looked like changing colored circles of light were throbbing from their heads. it was really odd to see something like electric lights used on something as old and traditional as a buddha statue. the first time i saw it, it struck me as kind of cheesy, but after seeing it more and more, i’ve really grown to like it.

eventually, i couldnt deal w/ the heat anymore, but i didnt want to leave, so i sat down under some shade and just watched everything around me. minutes later, a burmese guy came up to me and said that he was a student learning to speak english and wanted to talk to me to practice his english. alarm bells instantly went off in my head. in thailand, i was often approached by people who “just wanted to speak english” but after a few minutes, they ended up delivering a salespitch for a shop or a tour or some other crap. it was always insanely frustrating… you spend a bunch of time talking w/ someone, and feel like you are building up a rapport of some sort and are glad to have a new acquaintence, only to found out that the whole thing was fake and you were just being used. i wondered if this was going to be the case now, but i ended up talking to the guy anyway.

he ended up being a really cool guy. 23 years old and studying physics. we ended up going to a tea shop near the pagoda and talked some more and he told me all sorts of stuff about he country, life here, what to see, etc etc. tea shops are another really big thing in myanmar. they’re *everywhere*. they serve as much tea as you can drink, or you can order coffee etc. usually they’ll have a random array of prepackaged cakes and breads on each table that you can buy. also, if you know what they serve (no english menus) you can order some random food as well.

anyways, after hanging out for the rest of the afternoon w/ my new burmese friend, he suggested we go to a beer hall. once again, alarm bells began ringing in my head. i’ve read online that this can often be a popular scam: random local appears out of nowhere and befriends you; after spending some time w/ said local, you begin to trust them; said local takes you to a bar; you order 3 or 4 beers; bill arrives: surprise!!! each beer cost $150!!; when you protest, large men come out and escort you to an atm of your choice; you shell out large quantities of cash and feel like a chump. yeah, i know it sounds crazy, but it really does happen. so anyways, w/ caution, i accepted his offer to go to the beer hall. as i ordered i made sure to ask the price of each thing i got so there would be no surprises later. the beer hall had a “stage show” which consisted of a guy banging away on a keyboard while girls, one at a time, would come out and sing. i cant say that i was impressed with the entertainment, but the food and beer was *great*.

at 8pm, my friend had to leave since he had to catch the last bus back home. i stayed a bit longer since i still had food. a random man started talking to me in the bathroom and seemed really excited to meet a foreigner. later, as i sat at my table, he kept coming over and pouring handfuls of peanuts into my hand, and then eventually said that i should sit w/ him and his friend. he asked me if we had these “peanuts” in my country, and was surprised when i said “yes”. at first, he seemed like a really nice guy, telling me about his favorite music (madonna), and his children… but then he informed me that he comes to this stage show *every single night*. why? because he likes to stare at the girls on stage. he started trying to probe me as to which girls i thought were “sexy”, despite the fact that i told him that i had a girlfriend. as he started going on and on about how he liked american “sex position”, i realized that i should probably get going. as i was about to leave, he pulled out some bootlegged dvd’s which he said were korean pornography and told me that he could copy them for me if i wanted. at this point, i told him i had to leave. it was just too much. but before i could go, he invited me to dinner the following night at his home so i could meet his wife and 4 children!! wtf?! i told him i’d be busy, and hastily left…. i guess even myanmar has its share of weirdos!


One thought on “sneaky sneaky…..”

  1. People are really friendly there but you never know what they want to know! Men in Myanmar stared at my breasts more than any other country on my trip (althoguh Vietnam was a close second). And you’ve discovered the tea houses… I’m not a fan of tea but I did sit down to my fair share of Star Colas. I’m glad to hear you’re having fun.

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