Sunday, January 3, 2010


After leaving Erik in the Bangkok airport, I headed straight to boarding my flight to Yangon, Myanmar. Every country in the region seems to have its own quirks in the immigration system. This was no exception. The visa process begins with a minimum two week processing time that involves 'sending the application by courier to the Ministry of Tourism, which is 300km away'. Even with my stack of paperwork in hand, I was unable to avoid a two hour hang-up with customs officials.
As it's not possible to get local currency before entering the country and bank machines are non-existent here, we had to make arrangements for foreign exchange after our arrival. We sat down for tea and 'our local banker' whips out a stack of cash of the size you might expect to see in a James Bond movie. The exchange rate is something like 1000 Kyat to 1 US dollar, and the common denomination is 1000 Kyat and exchanges are done on a minimum transaction of US$100. Translation, leave your wallet at home, you're going to need a bag to carry your money here.
Our guide attributed his excellent English to Nicolas Cage, whose movies had been a source of hours of entertainment and education about American culture. I want you to think about the consequences of that for a moment. During his explanation of religious beliefs, he explained that 'what you think about before you die will determine how things happen in your next life'. So, he explained, he will plan to think about America before he dies because many beautiful people in America. Hate to break it to you, but I'm not sure that the people you see in Nicolas Cage movies are the best proxy for the American population.
After ticking the boxes for the usual tourist stops, we took a bicycle taxi down to the water for sunset and watched the locals flying kites. Then we headed to chinatown for dinner and checked out the market. Clearly, there are different notions about how to handle meat in this country. Impossible to capture it in a picture, but perhaps as effective, I will share with you a question that Ani posed to me in the market...'Is that a CAT on the meat?'. Nuf said.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

smells, sights, food, music, culture,IMMIGRATION - world travel guarantees a new perspective -worth the time and effort it takes to go somewhere different.

February 1, 2010 at 10:13:00 AM MST  

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