Other than the fact that Yangon is as hot and humid as Malaysia this place could not be more different. Myanmar is a very poor country and that is sadly reflected in the capital. The first sign being the rundown buildings, one can see that once these buildings were amazingly beautiful places with intricate balconies and facades, today I must use my imagination to remember them as they once might have been. The streets are a mixture of the old buildings which are easy to miss if you are not looking, as they are so overshadowed by their ugly neighbours. Needing a good clean, lick of paint a lot of fixing up. I would smile every time I saw a balcony or small building painted a colourful bright yellow or green, because it would remind me that there is life here and there are people who take pride in their homes but that poverty and not neglect is the problem. Amounts all this are extremely modern top market shops, where you can buy the latest electric gadgets.
I have seen more beggars in Myanmar than any other country on this trip. Now there are not as many as I’ve seen in places like Africa, but they cannot be missed. While walking down the street I noticed a woman sitting on the pavement with two tiny little children. One a baby of maybe 10 months lying on her lap. I smiled when I noticed she was playing with the baby nibbling his fingers and toes and making him laugh. I thought about how much mothers love their kids no matter what walk of life. As I got close the baby shrieked and started crying and the lady immediately put her hand o tot me to beg. It was an instant change in the scene and I could not help thinking that she had bitten the baby to make it cry. Now I hope I genuinely hope I am wrong because I am one of those naive people that believes in the kindness of human nature and not evil. I just got this very uncomfortable feeling in my stomach thinking this could have been the case. I did not give her money as I learnt a long time ago when travelling to rather find a good legitimate charity in the region and to give money to them. This doe s a lot more good that simply handing out dollar bills to beggars which does nothing to solve the problem and just encourages begging. or gang organised begging t like in Cambodia where gang leaders make small children beg, these children will not accept food they demand money, and if you watch closely you will see their eyes shift fearfully to the opposite side of the road or corner where the gang leaders are.
Myanmar is opening up more and more to tourists and the country needs to economic injection that tourism brings. However this can also bring corruption and of course McDonalds (sorry but I have a pet hate for McDonalds) and changes that can really affect the culture of a country. It is a tricky situation and I do not know that the answer is, I am no politician, sociologist or social worker, these are just my thoughts and so it is with mixed feelings that I hope the tourist industry grows here, I just wish ether was a way to make it a responsible one.
My hotel is downtown so I spent my first day wandering the streets and markets. Once again having the kid in a candy store feeling, trying to absorb the experience like a sponge. The sights, sounds, textures, smells and the taste of the scrummy market food. For lunch I ate this little pie like things filled with meat so nice I went back and had another. I also ate the biggest avocado I’ve ever seen. Unlike the assaulting noise of the huge mall in Kula Lumpur I welcome the noise I hear here because it is so different, exciting and new. Most of the people in Myanmar that I see downtown are wearing sarongs, the men in darker shades and the ladies in some beautifully coloured materials. The sarongs the men wear are sewn together like a big circle which is stepped into and then tied around the waist in a big knot. I am really looking forward to seeing more of the city to see if my first impression will change at all. All the people I have met have been super friendly and helpful and I have been surprised at how many people in the markets speak English.
When I was in the market buying water I commented on how hot it is and was told, no this is the cool season in Yangon it’s ONLY 36 degrees in the hot season it is 42 OMG I am sooooo glad I am here in the cold season 🙂