Myanmar (Burma)
ရန်ကုန်

myanmar/yangon_chaukhtatgyi_buddha

Reclining Buddha, Chaukhtatgyi Paya, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_monks_dee35

Locals on a bridge over the streets of Yangon, Myanmar — June 2, 2004


myanmar/yangon_traffic_mess

Rush hour, Yangon, Myanmar — June 2, 2004


myanmar/yangon_reclining_buddha_feet

Reclining Buddha’s footprint, Chaukhtatgyi Paya, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_supreme_court_building

Supreme Court building, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_hotel_lunch

Lunch at the Kandawgyi Palace Hotel hotel, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/sule_paya_night_moon

Sule Paya, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_street_cafes

Street cafe, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_buddha_face

Reclining Buddha, Chaukhtatgyi Paya, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004

The eyes of this Buddha were made at this glass factory.

myanmar/yangon_men_walking

Longyi fashion လုံချည်;, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_view

Dusk over Yangon, Myanmar — June 2, 2004


myanmar/yangon_pickup

Local transport, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_cycle_rickshaw

Cycle rickshaw, Yangon, Myanmar — June 4, 2004


myanmar/yangon_cigarette_seller

Selling singles, Yangon, Myanmar — May 31, 2004


myanmar/yangon_street_buildings

Reminiscent of San Francisco but really Yangon, Myanmar — June 4, 2004


myanmar/yangon_book_stores

Shopping for books and things, Yangon, Myanmar


myanmar/yangon_reclining_buddha_full

Reclining Buddha, Chaukhtatgyi Paya, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_building_construction

Unfinished, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004

I heard these buildings were finally finished. When I was here the work had been halted, apparently the budget had run out or there was a political deadlock halting progress.


myanmar/yangon_street_scene

Street scene, Yangon, Myanmar


myanmar/food

Not my favorite: typical street food, Yangon, Myanmar — June 22, 2004

RE: Typical Street Food
Hi Brian, I read your travel journal on Myanmar with great interest because I’m from there… I’m especially disappointed to hear that the food was terrible — this is one area people visiting Myanmar have very little knowledge of. And, guide books like Lonely Planet don’t point to where good and authentic food can be found because they haven’t done the right research. If you ask me about our food, I would say that it is very subtle and has many varieties. Burmese people like their food to have a range of tastes from spicy to bittery. If you tried the street food in Myanmar then you are bound to be disappointed — it’s not like Thailand or Malaysia. When I was young, I used to enjoy getting snacks from the street vendors. Nowadays, people don’t trust the oil they use and the hygiene of course. Since you live in San Francisco, I suggest you check out the typical food that we eat at Burma Superstar — try the authentic stuff. I know it’s a pretty good restaurant because I lived in the area for 3 years! George Orwell didn’t know a thing about world cuisine because he came from Britain… . sad but true. Next time you plan on visiting Yangon do let me know — I’ll point you to the right restaurants :-)

Cheers -- -- Thurain


myanmar/yangon_lokanat gallery_building

Lokanat Gallery Building, Yangon, Myanmar — June 4, 2004


myanmar/yangon_mazda

Typical Mazda Mazda B360 taxi, Yangon, Myanmar — June 4, 2004

The biggest mistake Mazda ever achieved was producing multitudes of the otherwise worthless vehicle pictured above. In that no one bought any of these cars in European and American markets, the end result was disastrous for the company; some analysts even expected that Mazda would sink and cease to exists as a result. Yet, somewhere in the bowels of the company, alongside the same stupidity that created this machine, came a stroke of luck. Someone somewhere convinced a government to take the entire line of this otherwise worthless car and buy it. And that is the story of how Myanmar ended up with thousands of these leaded-gas only, stinky, cramped, yet reliable people movers.


myanmar/yangon_chaukhtatgyi_paya_monks

Visiting Chaukhtatgyi Paya, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/sule_paya_roof_night_moon

Sule Paya by full moon, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_veggie_market

Vegetable market on the street, Yangon, Myanmar


myanmar/yangon_rushhour

Rush hour during the golden hour, Yangon, Myanmar —June 2, 2004


myanmar/yangon_city_hall

City Hall, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_curd_seller

Selling curd, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_street_stall

Juice vendor, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_writing

Beautiful script, Chaukhtatgyi Paya, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_pedestrians

Downtown street scene, Yangon, Myanma —June 4, 2004


myanmar/yangon_skyline_2

Enchanting view of the Shwedagon Pagoda shimming above Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


myanmar/yangon_building

Dilapidated, Yangon, Myanmar — June 4, 2004


myanmar/yangon_signage

Street signs, Yangon, Myanmar — June 4, 2004


myanmar/yangons_monks_book_store

Book store, Yangon, Myanmar


myanmar/yangon_downtown

Downtown Yangon, Myanmar — June 4, 2004


myanmar/yangon_gutter

The gutter, Yangon, Myanmar — June 4, 2004


myanmar/yangon_reclining_donations

Temple donations, Yangon, Myanmar — June 3, 2004


bangladesh/bangladesh_visa_receipt

Visa receipt from the Bangladeshi embassy, Yangon, Myanmar — June 4, 2004

It may look like nothing special, but this receipt represents a memory from the BKK > YAN > DAC > CCU series of flights on beloved Biman Bangladesh Airlines. Being an open ticket, Biman required confirmation of each subsequent flight 72 hours in advance. In the local Biman branch in Yangon, the airline staff asked to see my Bangladeshi visa before they could confirm the next YAN > DAC flight segment. In agreeance, I taxied to the Bangladeshi embassy where a staff member asked to see proof of my onward ticket before they would issue me a visa. I rolled back to the Biman office and stated I could not receive a Bangladeshi visa without a confirmed onward air ticket. To my dismay, the Biman staff contested, “How can we confirm your onward ticket without proof of a Bangladeshi visa?” It was a fair question and one I pondered all the while back to the Bangladeshi embassy. I explained this dilemma to the Bangladeshi embassy staff. Their response: “It is forbidden to grant a non-Myanamar citizen a Bangladeshi visa in Yangon without proof of air travel.” Frustrated, I challenged the embassy staff over a cup of tea. Eventually it was proposed that a 10-day visa would be granted, at the cost of USD $100. I gladly forked over the dough. Biman Airlines subsequently confirmed my next flight. Later that night my hotel staff informed me I had a visitor. To my surprise it was the staff member from Biman; he had come by to take my out and show me that Yangon did not—contrary to popular belief—have a boring nightlife. We went to some elite hotel clubs and bars, saw Filipino bands playing the latest pop hits, and drank good beer. At one of the hotel clubs I saw some American marines dancing to the music. I couldn’t believe the hospitality of the airline.

 

Should You Visit Myanmar?

This is the question asked on the cover of the Lonely Planet guidebook.

Myanmar still contains culture, clothing and tradition that faded from the rest of South East Asia 50 years ago, and it is full of friendly people doing whatever it takes to make the time more enjoyable. The land is a geographic meeting point between China, India, Thailand and Laos and a melting-pot of the best (and worst) these grand and ancient cultures have to offer. Imagine!

The government is highly centralized, corrupt and abusive, but very little of the money I spent there went directly into their hands. If you go, try to follow suit. The locals, on the other hand, were ecstatic that travelers were in Myanmar supporting their fledgling businesses. It was the best vibe in the region so far and it once brought tears to my eyes to think that we would want to boycott these kind people. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the highly brave and popularly elected (and often imprisoned) opposition leader insists that people not visit her country. This decision has major merit and is worth ample weight towards your decision; but do know that without tourists money, all the small business owners in the country would be left with no source of income other than what menial jobs currently exist in the country: rock crushing, temple building, prostitution, drug running and ??? It is a tough decision, but I believe cultural exchange is the best way to solve long-standing problems. I say “GO to Myanmar and tread very lightly; give as little to the government as possible.” And while your at it, ask these questions: Should you visit the United States? Should you visit China?

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Why Two Names?

guidebooks/myanmar

The country’s official name is Myanmar, and domestically it is Myanma. The government in power employs this name to allegedly better represent all of the country’s people but more importantly to distance itself from the previous government and rule by the nation’s founding father and hero, General Bogyoke Aung San (February 1915 - July 1947.) Myanmar is also the literal and ancient name as well, used for hundreds of years prior. If someone/thing is from Myanmar, the adjective is Myanmar. (Myanmar people, Myanmar food.) The previous, and still popular name is Union of Burma, or simply Burma. The United States, UK, France, etc. still uses the name Burma in official documentation about the country. However, the name Burma may not accurately represent all the people in the country. About 70% of the citizens are, in fact, Burman. Yet, the remaining 30% come from many minority groups including Shan, Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Karen, Chin, Mon, Rakhine, Chinese, Indian, etcetera. In fact there are more than 100 ethnic groups in the country, most of whom have historically struggled against the Burman majority at one point. So you can see, calling the country Burma linguistically can exclude much of the country. Nonetheless, those opposed to current government control, both domestically and internationally, insist that the name still be Burma— the name instilled by General Bogyoke Aung San, the modern founding father of the country. And Burma certainly possesses a ring in one’s ears that Myanmar doesn’t seem to project. Nonetheless, I still call the place Myanmar to include all involved and to mimic the term that most people inside the country use to describe themselves. In the future, maybe a third name may be created that would include all involved and distance itself from politically motivated government motives.

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Myanmar Journal Entries

extras/buddha

30 May — 23 June, 2004

Myanmar (Burma) was where I spent monsoon June. What a magical country! Steeped in tradition and culture the country is as beautiful as Southeast Asia gets.

While in Myanmar, I visited Bagan— the famed ancient Buddhist landscape with over 4000 temples and stupas, Inlay Lake (quite possible the most serene and chill place on earth), Mandalay— but no Mandalay Bay (sorry Las Vegas) and Yangon— the green and peaceful capital. One great thing about a fascist government: Horn honking is punishable by fines, making Yangon the quietest capital city in all of Asia! I wish others would heed Myanmar on this issue— noise pollution outweighs all other types in Asia.

I guess my only complaint about Myanmar was its food. It was terrible, worse than what the communists serve up in Cuba! Even George Orwell states in his 1927 novel Burmese Days that the food is “hideous.” The way I understood it, oil (cooking oil) is viewed as a sign of wealth, and they would pour and fry and sizzle that grease so much it would make Shalimar (the Pakistani restaurant in the Tenderloin of San Francisco) seem like eating a green salad. The hygiene was terrible too, worse than India, I dare say. We all got hit, even the 48-year old Austrian who hadn’t had diarrhea since 1985 suffered a bout. Then again, I guess you could say Myanmar primed my stomach for what was next to come… India. Well, at least there is Burma Super Star back home on Clement Street in SF where I can enjoy California-cum-Myanmar food in air-con luxury. Can’t wait to eat that Mandalay salmon again!


7 June, 2004

Yangon is one of the most exotic places I’ve been. I guess when you have a place that is the meeting and mixing grounds for cultures as intense as Chinese, Indian, and SE Asian, you are going to have a bizarre place. Throw in a fascist government that squanders cash and doesn’t repair any public works, and a bit of rain during rush hour and you have complete chaos. The sanitary conditions have been terrible, at best, to say the least, but locals don’t seem to notice. Everything is always wet. Nothing dries (at least during monsoon June.) At the same time, the vibe is quite nice with some of the most charming people this side of Kampala.

Mandalay is a place where magic happens. I wanted a draft beer and water, so I point to both on the table next to me. My waiter takes my empty H2O bottle to throw away, but moments later, returns with it full of beer. How funny! But what a great idea! The back alleys of Mandalay are outstanding. There are wooden houses everywhere and stupas and loud speakers blasting exotic music or highly reverberated speech. The food is terrible. Really nothing to repeat here. Burma Super Star in SF is a rare case where the is better in the US that where it originates from. The people though are so cordial; whenever they give something, they use both hands! I love them.

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Diary (24 nights)

May 2004

2004-05-30
Yangon (1) - Leave Thailand via BKK Airport 500฿; Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight 61 (A300) Bangkok BKK, Thailand to Yangon RNG, Myanmar; Arrive to a rainy and misty Yangon on Sunday at around 4:40P; Immigration; get Swiss Army knife through the baggage claim curtains; Dinner at Okinawa; tea with Fabien.
2004-05-31
Yangon (2)

June 2004

2004-06-01
Yangon (3) - Shwedagon Pagoda — The Southern Entrance; 1 June, 2004;
Entrance Fee US $5.00.
2004-06-02
Yangon (4) - Reclining Buddha; Glass Factory; walked around town.
2004-06-03
Yangon (5) - Walk around — building’s view— get kicked at out 5pm
2004-06-04
Bus - $100 visa for Bangladesh; Yè Thu Aung Express — Yangon → Mandalay June 6, 2004 @ 5:00pm, seat 18; great all-night bus ride to Mandalay.
2004-06-05
Mandalay (1) - Recovery; bike ride around town / river cruise, beer at river
2004-06-06
Mandalay (2) - Tour of monastery; 200-year old teak bridge; stupas. Dinner with Swede doctor and the Alaskan and the 48-year old Austrian who hadn’t had diarrhea since 1985.
2004-06-07
Mandalay (3) - Woke late; read; email; bike; discover Chinese BBQ in ’da bad part o’ town.
2004-06-08
Mandalay (4) - Boat ride to temple, bell, etc., Dinner: Chinese BBQ in DA bad part o’ town; Karioke
2004-06-09
Pyin U Lwin (1) - Truck to Pyin U Lwin
2004-06-10
Pyin U Lwin (2) - Bike: National Kandawgyi Gardens 2,000 KS
2004-06-11
Pyin U Lwin (3) - Waterfall
2004-06-12
Unknown town - Car breakdown day, Mandalay briefly, go down to Soe Moe and buy the bronze elephant opium weights.
No. (496), on 84th Street, near the Mayae Son Won Pagoda, Mandalay - phone 02/70558 - soemoe@mandalay.net.mm
2004-06-13
Bagan (1) - US $10
2004-06-14
Bagan (2)
2004-06-15
Bagan (3) - Distant places ride through 4 x 4
2004-06-16
Inle Lake (1) - 12-hour minibus to Inlay Lake
2004-06-17
Inle Lake (2) - Boat tour of Inlay and villages,bronze and weaving markets. Inlay Zone Entrance Fee $3.
2004-06-18
Inle Lake (3) - Chill day
2004-06-19
Inle Lake (4) - Chill day
2004-06-20
Inle Lake (5) - Chill day; bike around town.
2004-06-21
Bus - Bike ride to LP funded dock/ boat: 20 hour bus ride from hell with betel chewing, oil-red spit spewing maniacs.
2004-06-22
Yangon (6) - shopping and fun night with Biman rep and three clubs with the Filipino Band; cute girl.
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Myanmar vitals

Guesthouses

Yangon
Okinawa Guest House
No.64, 32nd Street
Pabedan Tsp. Yangon
Telephone: 374318
This is currently the best hostel/budget hotel in Yangon. It is new, the staff are sharp and it is clean.

Inle Lake
Aquarius Guest House
The owner and staff were lovely and the common area allowed for mingling with other guests. A great vibe altogether.

Email

http://oa.yahoo.com/
This used to be a way to access the otherwise banned Yahoo! email and portal.

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