It is rainy when we arrive in Yangon, Myanmar. We have just arrived via the night train from Bagan, which, while being very entertaining, was not particularly luxurious. Maybe I am tired and that makes me a bit edgy. Unbeknownst to me when I arrive I am in for a temper tantrum at a famous temple in Yangon. There is only one thought in my mind right now, though, and that is getting a shower.
What should be a short taxi ride from the train station to our hostel ends up taking a while due to heavy traffic. The first thing that we notice in Yangon is the exhorbitant amount of taxis on the road, and the absolute lack of motorcycle traffic. Apparently in this city motorcycles have been banned, and taxis are king, but it makes for poor traffic flow. The taxi company seems to have a monopoly on transportation here.
This city is definintely that — a city. It does not have the lovely charm of Myanmar’s smaller cities that we have visited, Mandalay and Bagan. And we are not the super celebrities here either. We are just another bunch of travelers here.
What we get to see of this city is quite beautiful and lush with greenery and well manicured parks, however, with the rain I do not get very many photographs. The landscape here is very beautiful. We are just happy to get to our hostel where we can finally wash away all the grime and filth from our train journey from Bagan to Yangon – and boy were we ever grimy! Our dirty travel clothes all get placed into a plastic bag and sealed to prevent possible cross contamination of our other clothes.
It is our first hostel stay on our journey, and we are pleasantly surprised. I had booked a hostel because either the cost of hotels in this city seem high, the reviews were very poor, and/or they looked dingy. We have a room with six beds and a shared bathroom. The beds are clean and comfortable. The showers and bathrooms are clean. In fact when you are done washing a person rushes in immediately to clean and disinfect the shower. That’s a really good thing, especially after we had our showers…..
The street in front of the hostel is not that fancy, but it is very close to many beautiful sites in this city. Unfortunately because we choose the lengthy train ride to get here we only have half a day to see Yangon, and since it is raining our activities are a bit limited. But that is just as well.
We head off right away just a short walk away to Schwedagon Pagoda. As we walk down the sidewalk we notice two men making what appear to be little parcels of areca nuts and tobacco, wrapped in a lime-coated betel lea. This is the stuff that many Myanmar people chew that make their teeth red. But in this city of Yangon this substance is banned. Stupid me, I try to get a photograph and one of the young men nearly attacks me and chases me.
At this point in our journey we have been to a gazillion temples, and seen a gazillion Buddhas. When we show up at the door of Schwedagon Pagoda the cost of entry is about $8 per person, which starts a discussion about whether or not we really want or need to go in. Aundrea and the kids opt out. David and I decide maybe we will make a quick run in.
When we go to purchase our tickets the gals at the desk ask David if he has “cover”. He is wearing the shorts that he has worn to literally hundreds of temples. They insist that he needs to have “cover”.
I had pulled on my lovely blue 10+ year old skirt that I have worn to literally hundreds of temples. It has a slit in the back as you may recall, but it is pretty inconspicuous. When I pull it on I notice that there is also a nice little rip in the seam right on the tush, but I have shorts on underneath, so no big deal. I do remember the last time I wore the skirt was when we were jumping up and down off the horse buggy in Bagan. When I wore it I did not have shorts on underneath and probably had my grandma undies on. Must have been quite the sight!
When the women at the counter see my skirt they ask me where my “cover” is. I am incredulous! What? I have worn this skirt to hundreds of temples in many countries! No, they insist that there is a slit in the back and that is not appropriate. Now I am very aware of appropriate and inappropriate dress, so I am beginning to get annoyed. And if you have ever seen me have a temper fit then you know this will not turn out pretty.
They want us to rent their clothes in order to get in the pagoda. Right now I am not interested in putting on any clothes that someone else has worn and have probably not been washed. It is hot and sticky and drizzling and who knows what might be in those clothes. No thanks.
Aundrea suggests to me that I can wear her skirt, but the women insist that we have to go into the bathroom to change the skirts. Of course we have shorts underneath the skirts, so no big deal, right? Now if you have any idea what bathrooms are like here, you would not want to go in to change clothes. If your skirt hem touches the dirty floor…..and then it swirls all about your ankles, slapping lord knows what onto your legs…..mercy me! The thought alone is putrid enough!
This is the last straw for us. I am about to have a temper tantrum! I know we are supposed to respect the religion and country and people and everything else, but my patience is wearing thin. It is hard for me to reign in my tongue, as I want to give these women a tongue lashing. I bite my tongue and swallow my frustration, which sticks in the back on my throat like a large lump of bad tasting cough syrup.
David and I look at each other and decide we are not going in to see this pagoda even if Tripadvisor says it is the greatest thing on the planet!! As a last act of defiance Aundrea and I take off our skirts on the front stoop of the ticket booth with great flair. We take a few photos from the front lawn of the pagoda and go for a walk towards a park that seems interesting.
As we leave I feel a twinge of regret. Regret about my bad behavior…..and regret that we won’t see this magnificent temple.
When we go around the corner we realize that there is another entry to this complex. In fact there are four entries in total. When we see this next entry we go up to the desk to purchase tickets for David and I. The men that work at this booth do not even bat an eye at our clothes, and grant us passage with no questions asked.
The complex is huge. Unfortunately because of the rain the tile floor is as slippery as an ice rink. I nearly land on my head a couple times, so we have to walk on the green plastic mats that are on the ground, but heck…..they hurt my feet so bad that I can hardly stand it! Each step is like walking on a bed of nails!
I don’t know about you, but for me it is very difficult to walk on a dirty ground barefoot, but even harder when it is wet. I imagine every possible critter’s feces on my feet, and other people’s open sores oozing, and athlete’s foot, and ewwww……it just makes me feel nauseated. We hurry through the complex as not to keep the kids waiting for us too long, and to limit our contact with all possible pathogens…..
Good thing that we did hurry because it started pouring like crazy. We wait for a while under cover for the rain to ease up. Now you might ask me if a visit to this pagoda is worth it, and I would say indeed it is. If you ever find yourself in Yangon, do yourself a favor and visit the Schwedagon Pagoda. It is beautiful. Just don’t have the near temper meltdown that I did!
It is dinnertime again. We ask some locals where to go, and get a recommendation to go to the “Feel Restaurant” which serves authentic Myanmar cuisine. It is busy with locals, but there is no menu. Instead you go up to a large table and point at what you want and they bring it out to you. Well, we have no idea what anything is. Some of it looks interesting, some of it looks disgusting. We point at some selections and go sit down. We see another family of four tourists from England come in, sit down, inspect the food and leave.
When our food arrives it is absolutely delicious and plentiful. And cheap! We all ate ourselves full to bursting at the seams for $17 USD including desserts! The service is excellent. It seems that every food establishment on this trip has had stellar service. I am getting spoiled.
Now you may remember the many faces that I have posted of Myanmar people wearing a tan colored makeup on their faces. I am very curious about this custom, and at the hostel I find this. It is a piece of thanakha! They rub this tree bark on a stone with a bit of water to make a paste, which they then apply to their skin. It is a very interesting tradition unique to Myanmar.
We have another early morning departure. The hostel usually does not serve breakfast until 08:00, but they graciously offer to have coffee, tea and fruit for us in the morning at 06:30 for when we depart.
When we get to the airport I still have some peanut butter and jelly left over from our train trip, so we sit in a coffee shop and I make sandwiches for my hungry crew. PB&J is always a winner! The shopkeeper doesn’t kick us out.
Goodbye Myanmar, gentle beautiful people! Maybe we will be back another day!
We have a layover in Bangkok on our way to Krabi. The kids want to go to McDonald’s because they have free soda refills, which is the one and only place we have seen this on our journey. Don’t ask me why you would eat at McDonald’s in Thailand….when there is Thai food all around you. Ronald McDonald is so happy to see us that he says thank you to us in the traditional Southeast Asian way……..
I have a nice surprise! Johann is here! He had been traveling in China, North Korea and Bangkok, but is now joining us for some beach time in Krabi!
I only have one hotel night booked in Krabi and then we are going to wing it. We want to go to the Phi Phi Islands, but it will depend on the weather when we get there. Let’s see what is in store for us!