We arrived in Yangon, Myanmar yesterday evening and are excited to visit this newly opened country. Although there has been a trickle of tourists coming here for years, the floodgates opened in the last two years. Change is coming, but many things are still “old-fashioned” like the antiquated and slow internet connections (the kind I remember from the 1990s). There is no wifi and we are typing this at the internet cafe of our guesthouse. Because of this, our postings may be be short and sporadic over the next two weeks.
Today we had a wonderful tour of most of the main sights of the main city of Myanmar. We were driven around by a friendly man named Au and we saw several pagodas, including the magnificent and enormous Reclining Buddha!
On our tour, we also got to see the exterior of Aung San Suu Kyi’s house. She is the child of Aung San, who is considered to be the father of modern-day Burma. This peaceful woman, a human-rights icon, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights. She spent most of the past two decades under house arrest, until her release in late 2010. Her patience and persistence has paid off as her NLD (National League for Democracy) Party is now the primary elected party in Myanmar.
There were two things that we noticed right away about this country. One is that the people are incredibly friendly, wanting to engage us in conversation without any other agenda (no one is trying to hustle us to buy anything). They are just interested in chatting with us about where we are from, what are doing in Myanmar, where will be visit next and so on. Several people, including a few monks, wanted to have their picture taken with us or with the kids! Seeing monks with digital cameras and smart phones was an odd sight, but is another way in which the country and its people are changing.
The second thing that we noticed was the constant presence of street dogs everywhere – along side the roads, hanging out at the temples, drinking from puddles and scavenging food. Fortunately most, nearly all, looked well-fed and healthy. Still, it’s heartbreaking to see so many animals struggling and often moves Charlie to tears. She’s got such a compassionate heart.
We are eating very well in Myanmar so far. This will be the topic of a longer post in the future, but food in Burma is very tasty and the salads are both unusual and delicious. Charlie and I are finding that there is usually plenty of vegan options to enjoy. Below is a post of lunch today (served with rice) and it was a grand total of $9 for the four of us!
Next up is Bagan, further north, home of more than 3,000 pagodas!