I took a trip recently to Yangon, Myanmar which was rather like traveling back in time… What I would imagine Thailand was like fifty years ago. While I was there, I had a chance to check out some of the sites, which I will recommend below.
In addition though, I wanted to attempt to capture some of the weirdness that you will see, and do my best to explain some of that, too
The Men Wear Skirts
The first thing I noticed is that the men were pretty much all wearing skirts. They are not shorties, they are “longyis”, which are tube like skirts tied up in a variety of ways by the local men. I became rather obsessed looking at the various ways they tied them up and there is a lot of tying and untying and retying going on at any given moment as the men walk around and readjust themselves everywhere in the streets.
If You are Female, Don’t Expect Men to Do Business With You
I arrived to the country on a business trip and it didn’t take me too long to discover that I would be doing hardly any talking, and mostly stare at the back of men’s heads, as clearly business is not a woman’s world. At least not there. After shaking hands with me, they immediately turned their backs, and I was told later I was “Lucky” to have received a handshake at all.
Iron Your Money
One weird fact I came to learn is that they really like US Dollars – but only if they are clean, have no creases, and are freshly ironed. The dollar is actually worth LESS in this country if it is not perfect, and if it is dirty, forget it, they won’t take it at all. I don’t know why this is, nor could I find the answer online, so it just is that way because it is.
Maybe ask Snoop.
Cars Have Steering Wheels on Both Sides
Don’t worry, they drive on the same side, but the cars are from everywhere, and the wheels are wherever. I got really confused by this when I first arrived, but then you just learn to look before you get into the car or taxi. Also, just so you know, the traffic barely moves anywhere, so make sure you find one and request that they put the aircon ON for your slow journey ahead.
People Might Follow You and Fan You
It is common in Asia to be followed way-too-closely by the store attendants that want to sell things to you–this is meant to be a courtesy–in case there is anything you need. I hate this but have usually been able to get some personal space, or leave the shops altogether. However, in Myanmar, you have people actually following you and FANNING you at the same time. While it is rather nice, you can’t actually ignore someone that is fanning you and trying to sell something to you at the same time. Interesting sales tactic
You Are Going to the City With No Name
Yangon was founded as “Dagon” but is also known as “Rangoon”, which is in Myanmar, which is also known as Burma. At any given point in this country, you might not know where you are.
Ok… Enough Weird
Here are some things to do:
There is local fare everywhere you look, street shops, markets, and local shops everywhere. Many of the vendors are selling outside of markets or shops, so check out some of the local fruits and veg they have to offer.
How happy was I to see an illy coffee sign?!? Yangon is starting to get some Western shops including this gem of a coffee shop we found called “Bar Boon”. Bar Boon had just opened up its doors and it was a welcomed surprise to have some good coffee and an apple turnover!
There are loads of places to stay, and my bed had a Hello Kitty. Check out Agoda (on the sidebar) for the best deals on Yangon hotels.
Here are a few of the highlights of things we checked out..
Shopping — Bogyoke Aung San Market — really cool items here if you want to get some local goods and things that are made in Myanmar. I bought some jade, as it is amazingly beautiful, and really inexpensive. I also bought a fantastic painting by a street vendor painting on the side of the road. Five USD and it looks like something that is museum worthy!
Pagoda (temple) —Shwedagon Paya — Myanmar is famous for its Pagodas, and in the city is one huge and famous one where the Buddhas are adorned with LED lights! It really is a site to see and I would recommend going at night so you can get the full effect.
Art — There are lots of local places you can pick up a map anywhere that shows the highlighted spots, but it was great to get out and see one of the most famous Myanmar Impressionists, and meet three generations of artists at U Lun Gywe’s Gallery. This was my favorite part of the trip, seeing the artists in action, and getting a chance to meet his son and grandson and talk about the history of art in their culture.
Nightlife — While I didn’t go out for any “clubbing” because I was told it was mostly bar girls… I did really enjoy going to a place called 50th Street. It is a restaurant / bar / and the upstairs had some bass beats going on. Really great western fare food, and lots of beers to choose from, as well. If you are a westerner, this is definitely the place to hang out and meet some people!
I’ve included some pictures below…
I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that it helps you on your journey through the strange and beautiful Myanmar!