Yangon is a dirty, stinking and noisy city. But it is also one of the most beautiful, vibrant and honest places I have visited.
I am in love.
I get of the plain and head straight to the exchange counter. It takes me two seconds to realise I’m going to be ripped off. The sim-card is extra this extra that. Where do I get the bus to the city centre? There is no bus, you can only go by taxi from here. How much would that cost? 8-10 000. Why can’t I take the bus? Bus station is too far away and you have a bag, can’t take that on the public bus. Why not? Many people go by bus, no room for bag.
When is the next flight out of here, is my first thought. On the other hand, problems are for solving. Breath.
Someone told me to pay maximum 1000 kyat for taxi from airport to bus station. I pay 2000. Get to bus stop, get on bus, have to pay 200. Thing is that in Malaysia and Myanmar bus drivers don’t handle money. Passengers need to have exact amount in hand to put in a big tin box. Therefore driver tells all the passengers in the bus through the speakers that the white lady need help with breaking the 500 bill. Everyone is looking at me, so I give them a smile and show my 500 bill. Eventually that is sorted and we are all on our way to Yangon city centre.
To make this whole thing easy we can assume 10 000 kyat is roughly 10 EUR. The bus costs 20 cents, taxi 8 EUR. Tourists are more or less forced into spending money. Entrance to parks and pagodas are free of charge for locals but not for foreigners, tourists are recommended to take taxis, accomodations are a bit more expensive and standard is slightly lower.
But that is all fine. This country is worth every penny. It is beautiful, vibrant and it has a lot to offer. Hopefully the money earned through tourism will benefit the citizens.
At this point I have been in and around Yangon for the past 5 days but I could easyly have stayed for 5 more. Walking the streets is like a theatrical play. Same street but the scene changes at least three times a day. Morning market, people resting, people having lunch, people sleeping, dogs sleeping, someone sweeping the street, tiny bicycle rickshaws parked, vendors selling literary anything, packing, leaving, evening market, late evening and vendors never leave, they sleep on the spot, sitting or lying, people sweeping the street, packing leaving, some never leave …
This is a city inhabited by people, dogs, cats, roosters, hens, chicken, birds (both caged and free), rats and mosquitoes. This is where the old meets the new. And in a beautiful way they manage to coexist. Modern working men and women carrying computers and mobile phones and a traditional lunchbox. Women wearing modern clothes to work but still putting Thanaka in their faces. Young men with modern haircuts still wearing Longyies. Or the mix of modern trousers and shirt combined with Hnyat-phanat.
The street food is brilliant. These women and men managing these tiny restaurants are wizards when it comes to food. The Burmese cuisine is exactly as the country, very diverse and exiting. Even better is that there are so many wegetable options. Both hot and cold. The green tea leave salad is a masterpiece.
Yangon is a big city in small clothes. There is no balance between the old and the new, it is in many ways underdeveloped and slow in progress. In other ways commerce has it in a grip. I hope the country and its citizens won’t lose its personality. Because this country has personality. The people, their smiles, their innocence, their habits and traditions.
Stay safe my love