Tuesday, September 25, 2007


myanma !

what an amazing sight! thousands of monks protesting peacefully all over yangon! i hope something good will come out of it but i'm not too optimistic. i've been wrong so many times on so many things but i'll be very happy if i'm wrong again this time. myanma people certainly deserve better.

but if i were to write a politically incorrect travel piece on myanma my first sentence would be 'myanma is fucked!'. but to be fair quite a few other places are equally as bad or even worse , but i've never been to afghanistan or iraq or bangladesh or any of those banana republics in africa so i can't say much about these countries and so i'll only say a bit about myanma since i imagine i know a little about this poor country (figuratively and realistically speaking). i've been to yangon and some other places in myanma four times in the last five years and it has not changed a bit over the years. the last time i was here was early this month and there were already some albiet small demostrations by monks in yangon. and as most of you already know the spark and the last straw is the recent drastic fuel price hike.

just like anywhere else, the price hike gives a snowball effect on everything and making life even more difficult for almost everybody who can barely make ends meet in the first place. no matter how beat up yangon taxi is (and by god they all looked like bombs) i've never experienced having taxis switching the engine off at traffic lights in the past visits but on this visit, almost all taxis i used did this routinely. the only other place that i experienced the same is in kolkata which is also crumbling down like yangon anyway. and i can't blame them. petrol is rationed and the only way you can buy them freely is from the black market which is of course at a lot higher price. and here is a typical black market petrol station somewhere north of yangon.

....looking at pictures of thousands of benign monks taking matters into their hands give a warm feeling in my heart. i wish malaysian hajis with their white skull caps would do the same the next time our government do the same monkey trick (again). the only problem is we malaysians are so retarded that we even swallow all the asinine justifications the papers and local tvs put forward everytime our retarded government hikes prices of anything.

but despite everything, myanma as a country is a very fascinating place. although some places are still out of bound except to the most intrepid travellers due to all kinds of trouble and insurgency problems , three of the main attractions of myanma are easily accessible to any average tourists like you and me. you can visit the iconic Shwedagon pagoda which is in the heart of yangon. secondly you can travel to Bagan which has well over two thousand pagodas dotted all over the plain and including some very important payas or thirdly you can go and visit the inle lake where you can see the minority intha people peddling their canoes with their leg. well, not exactly putting their legs in the water but just like your lonely planet described, every time your boat comes near an intha fisherman he'll twine one of his legs on the oar handle and paddle with it. that is how they traditionally paddle their canoes but these days they're as likely to use small engine as manually peddling with oars - and with their legs. ..and in early morning go and see the local wet market in nyaungshwee the nearest lake town where young ladies sell their fish caught from the lake.

travelling in myanma by land is not an easy thing to do as the road is crappy at best but it's a lot better to see the place rather than take a crappy propeller driven air craft so on two occassions i just hired a taxi to go places. On the first occassion i took a cab from bagan and travelled 650 miles or so all the way down first going east to mektila, down south to pyanmana which is just a few miles away from the new capital naypydaw (which isn't really in the bush as the papers lead you to believe) and all the way south to yangon passing various nondescript little towns on the way like this one below.

but travelling by taxi is potentially very dangerous . this is because most taxis have steering wheel on the right but they drive on the wrong side ( right hand side) . it's just like malaysians driving with a car with steering on the left. it is especially tricky if you want to overtake lorries and buses. the person sitting in front beside the driver has two phrases to learn in myanma language to help the driver. one is 'car coming ahead ' and the second is 'you can overtake'. ( i forgot both now).
you can make a serious error if you mixed up the two.

but colorful sceneries and little stops at strange small towns along the way more than make up for the inconvenience and i get to eat some of the loveliest and strange colored bananas somewhere near a town called toungoo on my recent trip to inle lake . it's magenta in color but the flesh tasted like pisang berangan or lakitan in the southern philippines. and for good measure i bught this painting from bogyoke market in yangon. it is quite beautiful .

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?