We’ve learned our first two words of Burmese. Mingalarbar is the all purpose greeting wishing whoever it is an auspicious day ahead and we’ve just about got it established in our minds and need to use it as often as we can to fix it firmly there in the memory.
It was almost two o’clock last night when we finally put out the light on what had been a long and busy day.
Our travelling companions made themselves instantly at home amongst the handwoven cushions and we went in search of breakfast this morning.
Very good it was too, in beautiful surroundings and served by the most delightfully friendly people.
We like it here!
We met Sanda our guide and Dan our driver and went out into the city, making our first stop in Victoria Square.
Depending on which direction we looked, we faced old colonial buildings with a definitely British feel, assorted pagodas and shapes of a skyline with a distinctly South East Asian flavour or the international glass and concrete skyscraper.
Actually, those three tower blocks were the only ones we saw all day, because from that point on, we knew we were most definitely in Myanmar!
Though it was already quite warm for us, it was still really the cool of the day and the street vendors were relaxed and not especially busy.
It was a good opportunity to survey the snacks on offer: egg custards, slices of a sticky rice cake or tapioca. Good, solid fare to see you through the day.
The small streetside cafes were quiet with nobody feeling thirsty enough for a sugar cane juice yet. Needless to say, I’m observing my favourite Asian palette of colours here again – it will crop up time and again during the day – scarlet red, cobalt blue, malachite green. Love it.
No queues at the post office either. Our walk took us through the old colonial district of Yangon (Rangoon) and we passed by the headquarters of the port authority, the water board, the central courts and so on. Some are still in use, others have fallen into disrepair.
Many are being renovated, because the one aspect we noticed from the minute we arrived is that this is a country which is modernising very fast indeed.
The traffic is dreadful! The streets are crammed with cars – modern, Japanese models generally, driven gently but with a determined air and little regard for rules or Highway Code style conventions.
When advised to cross, we do so, joining the monk, the elderly lady, the young man in jeans and a few businessmen stepping out bravely but confidently into the traffic, Hanoi-style.
On the other side of the street are small bookstalls selling all kinds of books in both English and Burmese.
In between the books are the small food vendors, here selling noodle salad. We needn’t go hungry, that’s for sure.
A little further along, this man has set down his yoke and is painstakingly cutting up polystyrene fast food containers to create trays on which to sell portions of jackfruit. Sanda chats with him a while and he agrees, it’s slow work.
We learn to read a Burmese price ticket on a heap of bestsellers: this is 500 Kyat per book.
Did I say bestsellers?
A little further on, you can take your pick for 1000 Kyat.
The books are piled high right the way along the street.
It’s clear reading skills are valued here from the sign outside the library
Nothing to argue about there.
With a quick look at this beautifully decrepit old place across the road,
and the young woman rolling leaves with betel nuts to sell, we’ll take a deep breath and cross the road.
See if we made it to the other side in the next post!