You know that quick judgment that you make the moment when you first set foot in a new place? That Ahh, this place is laid-back or This one feels busy and fast-paced.. that did not happen with Myanmar.
I could not put my finger on it at first. The country is poor but not depressed, quiet despite of people chattering, and a part of me wanted to think of it as uneventful but I could not dismiss the nagging feeling that there was something beneath the surface. Or maybe I was just being extra careful. At the airport, my friend started to take a video but a guy came up to him and warned him to not do such things.
Looking back, I guess I felt an air of subdued anticipation and feigned obedience. The same way we behave when we know a secret and we're trying to hide the smile on our faces. Or that feeling when you just said yes to follow the rules only to break them.
I'm going to try and recount that surreal experience before a year passes by and I slowly forget.
First stop: Yangon.
In my mind, this is how Philippines might have looked like in the 80's. The rest of the world, with its neon billboards and bullet trains, have left Myanmar trapped in the past century. It felt like a trip back in time and I had no problem imagining Ferdinand Marcos as the ruler. I thought of Yangon as a cleaner version of Recto, with the throng of U-belt students replaced by men in longyi.
It is a country with a few skyscrapers in sight and hardly no ATMs.
|ET Phone Home|
It was a rainy day when we arrived. The streets were clean and litter-free but most buildings were dingy, to which I attribute the Recto-feel.
|The Minister's Building - View from the Olympic Tower|
We visited the Sule Pagoda, Shwedagon Pagoda, and Bogyoke Aung San Market. Here is a shot of the Sule Pagoda gleaming against the gray clouds. We went around the pagoda silently, snatching photos here and there as devout Buddhists said their prayers.
After a filling lunch, we walked towards Shwedagon along with the monks. Vendors were lined-up on both sides of the street selling everything from Buddha images and candles to necklaces and plastic flowers. The boys decided to get their own longyis and got a free tutorial on how to wear one.