He Said/She Said: Myanmar First Impressions

He Said/She Said: Myanmar First Impressions

He said/She Said: Myanmar First Impressions

Myanmar was not a “scheduled” country on our trip, in fact we knew very little about it until we had our tickets.  Even after reviewing the Lonely Planet, it isn’t too often that you go to a place without a picture in your mind.  Here are the thoughts that crossed our minds in the first days in Myanmar.

HE SAID…

I had no idea what to expect when stepping off the plane in Yangon.  Really, no idea, I thought everyone could be riding horses around dirt roads or maybe a neon lit modern country.  The first thing I saw was the airport, which, at a greatly reduced scale, was a dead ringer for the Bangkok airport we had left.  Leaving the customs area, the I was surprised by the calm and quiet.  It was like we had left Asia, there were no hotel touts and taxi drivers, instead, there were locals waiting for their family members to arrive.

The first night we went for a walk and were surprised by the tranquility and darkness.  There were few streetlights in our area, but where there was light we saw very old vehicles and broken down roads.  It reminded me of the outskirts of Havana, until the power went out.  With no power, the dark roads turned pitch black for a few minutes until the roar of generators filled the air and lights came back on.  Returning to our hotel we became horribly lost and started asking for directions, the people we encountered were as helpful as anyone could be, they sincerely wanted to help us, even if that meant leaving their store to show us where to go.

When daylight broke we headed downtown to explore.  It was bustling and busy, but everybody was going about their own business, not hassling us.  Kids didn’t follow us peddling trinkets.  Men didn’t chase us offering taxi rides.  Tour guides weren’t posing as friendly locals trying sell you a tour. While this looks like Asia, it is actually an alternate universe; we had entered the Twilight Zone.

I am looking forward to exploring Myanmar as everything I have encountered I have loved.  The locals are helpful and friendly.  The food is delicious, offering some of my favorites including Roti Pratha and proper, flakey, pastries.  I am looking forward to what else I will find here.

SHE SAID…

Coming into Myanmar I had done some research on what to see and do and we had talked to a few people that had been there, but I still wasn’t sure exactly what to expect.  When we landed I was surprised to find the Yangon airport very clean and modern.  The customs process was completely hassle free and almost non-existent, which was the first thing that struck me as odd.  I had thought that the government would be closely monitoring everything and everyone coming into the country, but that wasn’t the case.

Once out of the airport the drive to the hotel brought us along well-kept and paved tree lined roads with huge mansions surrounded by walls just tall enough to pique my curiosity.  We passed the huge golden, shimmering Shwedagon Pagoda and meandered through the city where there were old apartment buildings and intersections lined up with cars. We arrived at our guest house, which was a dilapidated building on a small residential road with a few stalls selling food and other necessities. These may seem like odd things to point out, however I wasn’t sure if it would be dirt roads and horse carts with crumbling buildings and slums or if there would be built out infrastructure with modern cars.  I was happy to find the latter to be more the rule than the exception.

While my first impressions of Myanmar, based on Yangon, was not that of a modern country or city, but certainly not stuck in history either.  We would frequently see newer model cars driving along side the 1950 Datsun’s and it wasn’t out of place to find a mall as modern as any you might find in Bangkok, albeit smaller, alongside tiny shuddered homes with laundry on the line to dry.  In the first couple days in Yangon I was impressed as well as dismayed at the condition of the country and that seems to be a good summary of my first impressions, the contrasts are huge.  The one thing that was consistent was the amazing friendliness of the people and their willingness to help.

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Comments

» Kate C :
Jun 8, 2011

Oooh, first Myanmar post! I’m excited. I can’t wait to see more!

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.
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