Where's Tai?

"And I still haven't found what I'm looking for"

Day 1-5: Burma land of the generals – Yangon July 2, 2010

Filed under: Travelling — Tai @ 11:45 pm

You don’t see much evidences of generals until you try and do something normal like spend money, make a call, send an email or go to McDonalds.  They use US dollars and kyat.  There are no banks, foreign exchange is in hotels or blackmarket.  The going rate is what you can get.  Generally the hotels give you 850 kyat to a US$1, but it can go up to 1200 kyat or down to 600 depending on where you are. The taxis and shops work in both currencies and they set their own exchange rate depending on the day.  In short you will get screwed either way.  I can live with that, but the frustrating thing is that they will not accept US$ that are bent, folded, crinkled, have marks on them in any way deformed.  Therefore they reject every second American dollar.  You need to carry wads of the stuff.  Also the biggest note they have is the 1000 Kyat which is about US1.1.  So you end up carrying around a huge bundle of cash in both currencies.  Makes you feel rich.  (I think they must need good currency to smuggle across the borders and buy what they want, so it need to be in a good state.  That’s all I can think of why they’re so anal over the state of their bills).

Also the internet is tightly controlled.  You can’t access gmail, hotmail, any type of social media site, lonely planet sites… Anything with a free opinion is pretty much banned.  Also emails going through the government servers also are vetting before being forwarded so there is a day or 2 delay before they arrive. If they arrive.

There are no Mcdonalds, KFC, pizzahut or other staple dietary restaurants here so it is tough.

The people are nice, remind me of the Cambodians.  For a poorish people they seem happy.  You don’t see beggars, the people are polite and they don’t seem to chase or stare at you. 

Arrived at Yangon and jumped a taxi to the city.  6 bucks to the city.  Thought I would start this easy so stayed in a 4 star, Kandywygi Palance hotel, 70 US a night.  Good hotel with a good bar next door and view to the lake.  Can drink beer and look out on the royal lake and replica barge or go buy jewellery at the exchange under the hotel.

It’s hot, dam hot.  32-33 at night and 38-40 during the day. Dry heat, but pretty full on.  April is not a good time in Yangon.

Today, took a walk around the lake, they have a walkway that goes around to the replica royal yacht.  It was 38 C at 9 in the morning.  Then walked up to the Shwedagon Palace.  Is this huge stupa (bell shaped temple on top of a small hill).  The temple is 98m tall and can be seen from all around the city.  It is gold leafed (53m cubic to be exact with 5000 diamonds at the top.  Would make an awesome necklace.  Its surrounded by more than 80 smaller temples and masses of people wander around and sit in the open air temples with their families.  Is a pilgrim spot for the monks…. Monks… they have me confused,,, I’ll come back to that.

Then walked into town a good 2km walk in 40C, not  easy.  Downtown reminds me of India, the back streets and alleys.  What little down town they have is very run down.  Lots of colonial buildings fall to pieces and needing paint and love.  Not a lot to see or do other than people watch. 

Interesting part was trying to buy a bus ticket and train ticket to Lake Inle.  Buses all full for the next 3 days for some festival was going to cost me 16000 k ($20), so my next option was an 18 hr train ride to Mandalay and 8 hour bus ride to lake Inlay.  Train for $30.  But they decided that my 29th and 30th $1 notes were crinkled and would accept them.  They had no change for a 50 or $100 and were closing so I couldn’t buy them.  Bureaucracy in action.  In the end I decide to jump a plane to Heho the next morning does a 1 hr flight for $88.


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