Katja and Arne's travel stories

21.12.14 Guiding in Yangon

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Where do I start? This day has included a lot of adventure and I’m now stretched out on the bed trying to recapture it all.
We got up and went to the barber. I’m long overdue for a haircut now and we knew he opened around 8. We got there and found him engaged with a customer and sat down to wait. It was another one ahead of me in the line. It all could have turned out o.k., But then the barber started on a long cleaning process of his equipment and then took a little bag and left us all. We waited as few more minutes but had to leave to get ready for the tour with our new friends.

Mr. Ming, Tay Za and Shwe came at nine sharp and we were ready and waiting.  There had been some changes in the plan since yesterday as a local tribe band Karin celebrates New Year today. That it’s our first stop.
We walked a little bit up the road and from there entered the train. There is a train that runs ‘around’ Yangon that is mainly used by workers. We got seats together and it was a slow but bumpy ride out to the suburbs. We also found the signs that made it clear that three things were prohibited on the train:
– Smoking
– Littering
– Kissing
Ok, we did our best to respect the local traditions add held our distance.

All our three friends were explaining both cultural elements and what we were about to see. We where constantly looking out the window, and another part of Yangon was to be seen there.

An old lady was given a seat by Shwe and ended up sitting just in front of me. She is 76 years old and is going to the market to sell something there. She is still carrying her own weight in the family. Concidering the averages lifespan is 64 years, she’s as old as they get around here. She onlys spoke Myanmar and at one point she put her hand on my knee and said something. All our three guides giggled and translated: “You are a big and very white man!”. What can I say? I have a way with the ladies.

Mama San on the train

Mama San on the train. The kids also enjoying the sight of the Humong



We took a Taxi from the train station (Insein station) to the pagoda where it all happened, and the total travel time was about forty five minutes.


Crossing the tracks in a orderly fashion


Finally got my verdict – I’m at Insein!


The pagoda was filled with people dressed up in their festivities outfit. It’s almost like a national outfit, but not quite. Myanmar holds eight large ethnicities, but more than a hundred smaller tribes. We got stickers on us when entering that symbolizes their flag and I got a while lot more than the others. The young people putting on these stickers thought it very funny to stretch up add place one on my chest.

Well inside we got to see some local arts and crafts. They also prepared some speeches but we wouldn’t have gotten the meaning of that anyway. W  e moved slowly further into the pagoda and suddenly we were in a line. It took no time at all before we were ushered in front and through a door. This was the way in to the food. We were here treated to different food as we sat cross legged down on the floor. We shared the food in the middle and each had our own rice. We got two local gentlemen at the table and they really shared. They ate with the spoons that was in the dishes on the table and after that tried to serve me with the same spoon. A bit too close sharing for my taste. But the food was otherwise very good.

When we asked how to pay we were told it was free. It was part of the celebration.
Exiting the food area we got picked up by a man who was very eager to show us something. He was not all that good in Myanmar and our friends did not speak his local language (One of the hundred I mentioned), but we finally got some of it translated and he wanted me to hit the gongs they had there. The second one was also available for Katja to strike. No club this time, we hit it with our bare hands. There was a lot lost in translation at this point but nothing that keeps me up at night.

As we went out from the pagoda we walked through a market and watched some of the different things on display. There was a lot of food stalls and we tried some of the sticky rice puddings. Not really our taste, but I got to try to flip the rice in the pot. A lady who probably was the proprietor of the stall ask the young guy working the rice to let me try. She had a good laugh as my less than perfect technique was showed.

Katja stopped to take pictures of people eating pork. Not any kind of pork, or wait, yes any part of the pig really. All was there on the table, from ear, brain, intestines I don’t know the name for and more. As she asked if it was ok to take pictures she was invited to join them. “Taste very good”, she was told, but she ran away.
Back at the train station we found they arranged a local boxing match. Unfortunately it wasn’t starting for another two hours so we decided not to wait. Back on the train and back to the city center.

People lining up to see tha match in two hours

Shwe, in front of people lining up to see tha match in two hours

On the train ride back I learned a lot about Buddah and Buddhism, but this post will be too long if I put it in here.

Buying tickets back home. We got air conditioned train

Buying tickets back home. We got air conditioned train

As we got off the train we basically stepped into the Scott market. This market is filled with a lot of art and handicraft. Not just from around Yangon, but from all over the country. Katja got some Tanakah in her face, the paste that all the local women around here uses, and some of the guys to. It works as sunscreen, anti pimple and general softening. I mean everybody’s using it.


Katja with Tanakha


One stall of the market

Maybe the best selfie so far!

Maybe the best selfie so far!

We stopped at a cafe and got a little too drink and rested for a little while before we went down to the independence monument. It’s located in a park that was really crowded.  It’s a popular place to go for a picnic our just hang out with your friends. On the morning people jog, do Tai chi, or just overall general training. The monument is representing the star in the flag and the five smaller stars that was a part of the flag in earlier days.

We refer to Myanmar as Myanmar, but a lot still say Burma. For a lot of people outside of Myanmar it’s a political statement because it was the junta that changed the name. If it only was that easy. Myanmar existed with a rather similar name until the British occupied them. As the British had trouble pronouncing the old name they renamed the country Burma after the biggest ethnic group, the Burmese. When the junta changed the name they did so with the argument that the country should not be named after only one ethnicity as there are so many different ones living here. There are people who politically oppose the junta that think this is a good idea and a valid argument. So weather you call it Burma or Myanmar, I hope you know their history.
In the park we met the teacher of our friends and got to say hello to him. He was out guiding a few people himself.
We now went down to the docks and went onto the ferry over to Dala. It’s very close to the city, but just crossing the river shows a completely different part of the land. We negotiated a roundtrip on tricycles and got three bikes to take us around. It’s a common transport choice for shorter distances, but mainly for people smaller than me. My scrawny little bum didn’t really fit in the box on the passenger seat. Every bump on the road made the woodwork grind into my thighs, and trust me, there were a lot of bumps.

We made a few stops on our round, first at a pagoda. It was very tranquil and nice and there were only one other family there. They have the shrine of a famous monk who became a saint in the pagoda and that has brought a lot of people there to pay homage to him. He is known as The Wise One.

Next stop was at a Christian orphanage. There are twenty four kids living there today. It’s almost as the ones you see on tv with a living room and an upper bedroom. The kids here get to go to school and that is not everybody’s privilege in this country. At least they have that going for them.

Back towards the ferry we stopped at a little market with a few stalks of fish and veggies. We timed it good with the ferry add could walk straight back on with no delay. We had now been walking around for the better last of eight hours and we decided for dinner. We took a Taxi down to Chinatown and went to the same restaurant where we met Marissa and Eli over a week ago. We enjoyed different food and best of all was the fish soup. We drank a few beers and felt the weariness settle in.

We paid our bill and started on our way back. Shwe got on a bus and headed home in the opposite direction of us, while Mr. Ming, Sam and we walked towards our hotel. We said goodbye to the guys outside the the supermarket as we went in to get some soda water. We came back to the hotel all worn out, but very happy with the experience our three friends has given us. They have been utterly fantastic to go around with and we have seen things we otherwise would have missed. I really hoped they pass their exams next year so they can go 100 percent in as tourists guides.
Now we’re shuffeling through today’s pictures and writing up this text. It’s soon nighty night so we can get the most out of tomorrow our last full day in Myanmar.

Some extra pics:


Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.

― Anita Desai

Author: arnber

Humongen! The big guy! The man, the myth, the legend! And then theres' me. The nice guy in the house. The man without cooking skills, but with five stars on the Playstation. Boss at work, relaxed at home. What you see is what you get. Life is good. I choose it to be.

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