(Uploaded chez Cynthia & Joel’s in Bangkok with one more sleep until our Hong Kong night on the town before the long flight home. All the Myanmar posts were uploaded post trip but dated when I would have posted them if there had been internet available)
Almost three weeks and a number of air flights, bicycle rides, boat trips, bus journeys, motorcycle doubles, beach strolls, village wanderings, city tromps, and one horse carriage ride later, Joe and I find ourselves back where our first trip to Myanmar started, in Yangon.
On yet another city tromp through the hot & heavily diesel perfumed streets for an early dinner of Southern Indian masala dosa (which we found to be cheap and tasty: two dosas and two star colas for 2000k, about $2.25) we traipsed by hawkers selling everything from holographic Buddha posters and plastic drum beating wind-up toys to street side mystery meat fondu and steamed pork buns. After passing by one more famous golden stupa, and stopping for an obligatory photo, we ended up at the lively and colourful “Tokyo Donuts” shop for a ‘refresh’ stop. There we sat in the blissful aircon sipping cold sugary iced lemon teas, smiling as we watched maroon-robed monks order up some powdery cream filled donuts as men in longis drank tea and modernly attired students compared study notes, sipped coffee and typed on computers. It was at this juncture that we became suddenly and excitedly aware that the world wide web was again a few finger taps away (on Joe’s ipod and then on the table as we impatiently waited for it to load).
For our entire trip the internet has been ‘turned off’. Though we are here in Myanmar during what many describe as a momentous time in this country’s history, (as the military controlled government scheduled the first ‘democratic election’ in twenty years on November 7th), the only hint we personally noticed that an election was coming was a few campaign posters in Mandalay. And though we were transiting through Yangon on the way to the beach on election day, we saw no evidence of it in the city or countryside, and furthermore no one has spoken to us about it, with the exception of one apologetic guesthouse owner regarding why there was no internet available. Now back in our sixth floor largely charmless hotel room (which, by the way, smells like a combination of moth balls and urinal pucks) watching an Aljazeera news report from Bangkok, we see they did indeed free pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday and an ‘election’ was held. In short, you all probably know more about what’s going on here than we do.
Upon reflection of our trip, Myanmar has indeed proven to be worthy of the feeling of mystery and intrigue it conjured in me before coming. One of the lingering ones being whether I should refer to the country by its former name Burma (and to Yangon as Rangoon) or its current name, Myanmar. While some suggest “Burma” to be more politically correct (that is if you don’t politically support the military dictatorship), since the military changed the names back to pre-colonial monikers, I can’t quite see how favouring names imposed by colonial Britain as being a much better option.
Though my romantic leanings tend to naturally gravitate towards its names of old, in honour of the fence sitting pragmatist within, for these trip posts I’ve decided to stick to the names appearing on the visa and stamps in my passport.