Myanmar

Flight announcments at Yangoon domestic airport

At the domestic airport in Yangon, the flight announcment is done the good old way. Traffic staff just walk around in the departure hall and announces the flights “manually”. They simply calls out your flight number and hold up a board. All departures are using the same gate and they even take off at the same time, creating a small caos at this small airport.

All the flights start early in the morning from Yangoon, and they fly a particular route, either to Heho, Bagan and Mandalay or vice versa.
One must not be surprised if they change the routing and fly over your destination, or they add an extra stop, without further notice.
Before arriving in Myanmar, we were warned about the safety of the airlines and in particularly airlines run by the military regime. But even though we were somewhat hesitant when we saw the airline’s slogan Safefy (?),Reliability and Comfort, but it appears that Air Mandalay kept their promise and had full control of the passenger’s safety .

A bottle of Sprite – blessed by the chanting monk?

Holy water is important in many religions, including Buddhism. Every day, water is made sacred through the monks’ prayer and reading from the Holy Scriptures.What I found unusual was the blessing of Sprite!? But by all means if the heavilysugary drink becomes more healthy, I am for the blessing of all drinks ….:-)

Taung kalat – walking in monkey poop

After driving for about 2 hours from Bagan we arrived at Mount Popa, where we would climb the 777 steps to the top of the mountain Taung Kalat to the Taungkalat shrine. The view from the top of the mountain was of course fantastic with a stunning view of the Ayeryarwaddy river and the surroundings. But the “trek” to the top is also quite an experience. At some places the steps are really steep.

Monkeys have found their livelihoods among the pilgrims and tourists. And they do what ever it takes to get a small meal, even though it means steeling. Several times we saw sticky-fingered monkeys looking for a chocolate hidden in a bag or a cigar in a breast pocket. They gave us many good laughs, but these monkeys can be quite troublesome. They also fight quite often and can make a tremendous noise.

In the Budda temples shoes are  prohibited, so we had to walk barefoot from our car to the top. The steps seemed a bit sticky, and several times we wondered what we stepped on, and our suspicions were confirmed at last, we had stomped around in monkey poop and pee. Despite this fact it did not take from us the great experience to “hike” to the top.

Inle – off the tourist track

20120310-204040.jpgWe were lucky enough and persuaded the guide to take us off the tourist track, and by that we could visit the family of our driver

Anto – the eldest son of the house, must now help his mother to manage the family after his father passed away, only 42 years old. Everyone must contribute, so that they one day may get a TV. Still they do enjoy the tranquility, and do not want to change they’re life with the busy city life.
Before his mother dies, the son must become a monk, if her afterlife should be of the good kind. But he is getting old, and the monks life is not want he strive for at the moment.

There are only a few weeks until the election, but still they do not know whom to vote for, thus they know nothing about politics and are more concerned with daily life than the politics holders in Yangon.

Inle is situated in the province of Shan, which is the province that produces the most opium in Myanmar…

Strolling the bridge of U Bein

While the duck farmers gathered their geese and the sun was going down over Amarapura it was time to wander over the 1300yd Long teak bridge. Not only is it the world’s longest footbridge as it gently curves over Taungthaman Sea, it is probably the most photographed of its kind.

The monks from the convent school goes back and forth twice a day, simply to keep fit, but if I get to judge, also to get a break from the strict monastic life.
The bridge creaks quite a bit, and there are only a few of the over 1000 poles that have been replaced since the bridge was built. The bridge is popular, so one can not expect to have the bridge by one self, hordes of tourists take over the bridge and take their pictures of the monks and the local heroes. We on the other hand, went all the way to the other side, and therefore escaped the tourists. But we became populare targets by the locals whom wanted a picture of us. Gigglingly, they contacted, and was surprised and shy, when we smilingly gave permission to snap away. It was in a way fair after all the pictures we had taken of them. When the sun went down behind the hill, we walked slowly back to the western side, while we chatted with the monks, A wonderful experience

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Child labor

When travelling around in Myanmar, one must be prepared that you may be exposed to child labor. In several places we saw children working on repairing the roads. This is obviously something they want to hide for their tourists, thus our driver refused to stop. In a way I can understand that they want to display only the pretty side of the medal, but if we are to eradicate child labor and the fact that several million people are victims of modern slavery, so this must be brought to light. In a way I feel a bit guilty – living in the western world whom for centuries have exploited almost the whole world! The children in the picture are not workers, their just watching the elephants having lunch.

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Kavi is the name of an Indian boy and his story is depicted in the movie with the same name. Kavi wanted to play cricket but in stead he had to work to help his father pay his dept.

Construction workers

Driving in Myanmar

Driving a car in Burma is, as far as I am concerned, associated with a risk. They have the steering wheel on the right side, same side as they are driving??? The day we arrived we actually thought that they drove on the left side, and was surprised when we realized that the oncoming traffic was in the “wrong” lane. (I here must add that we did suffer from jet lag, and therefor our ability to judge the situation a bit reduced).
In addition to that the cars have the steering wheel on the wrong side, you have all the mopeds that do not necessarily follow the trafic rules, well the few rules there are to be found. On top of this are the cars overloaded with people and goods, creating with quite a few dangerous situations. After the two hour drive from Mandalay to Pyin Oo Lwin, we had had enough and replaced the car with a horse and carriage … Unfortunately, that was also a pretty bumpy experience, but the pace quite different. 🙂

The process of changing money in Yangon

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Travelling without a credit card is almost impossible to imagine today, but in Myanmar they simply don’t accept debit or credit card. So before our departure, we had set up a travel budget, to make sure we had enough dollars. Setting up the budget was not as difficult as sticking to it. Every day we must make an estimate of how much money we used, which sends us back to our student days, and that is an eye opener, so I guess it is a meaning in it.

Since they do not accept cards, one would think that it was relatively easy to change money, but it is a rather bureaucratic affair. The entire transaction is divided into six, meaning there are six officers to make sure everything goes by the book.

1 Sign up, and accept your money and passport
2 Prints the authorization
3 Endorses the application, before it is handled to the bank manager with your passport
4 Get the money from the safe and logs it.
5 A new round of counting by the assistant manager.
6 A final endorsement, before you get the money

The Dollar notes must be brand new and without any folds, if not, you will simply get less value for your money. It all takes about 30 minutes …