I know 3 successive posts is on the downward social media spiral of telling you what I had for breakfast and yes I do know everything before the word ‘but’ is bullshit. But, please indulge us as at street level Yangon is incredible.
“Chances are you haven’t been to this place.
Chances are this is a place you’ve never seen, other than maybe blurry cellphone videos, old black-and-white newsreels from World War II. Chances are bad things were happening in the footage you saw. Credit cards accepted? almost nowhere. Cash machines? Uh-uh. Wi-Fi? Internet? Rare. 3G? You gotta be kidding. If you need to exchange money here, only crisp, absolutely new $100 bills accepted. In Myanmar, it’s another, older world. After 50 years of nightmare—something unexpected is happening here, and it’s pretty incredible.”
Anthony Bourdain 2013.
The six year emergence from a brutal military dictatorship where Orwell had once served as a colonial policeman, and where he’d first grown to despise the apparatus of a security state becoming more Orwellian than even he could have imagined, seems to be going rather well. Of course they still have serious issues to deal with, however sitting in downtown Yangon I can tell you categorically that all the above points made by Bourdain have been addressed. They even have 4G (bloody Cornwall has not got full 3G yet). The only minor distress to date has been the nauseous carpet pattern at airport arrivals, even then we were through immigration fast enough to avoid a bilious attack.
Yangon isn’t like any other large city in Southeast Asia, in fact it is not like any city we have ever visited. You do not get knocked off your feet like the full on organised chaotic madness that is Saigon Vietnam, nor does it swarm you with tourists like Bangkok Thailand. This is another very much older world with a new one trying to burst out of the crumbling colonial architecture, vibrant, filthy, beautiful, charming, abject poverty and opulence making for a fascinating day to day street life full of happy people. You can add honest to the above list. I was chased down the train by the melon vendor lady because I gave her 50p instead of 5p and walked off without the change. Possibly the lack of Western tourists (although be quick the Chinese are coming) or the lack of street pedlars trying to pull you into their shops to buy some crappy Aladdin pants, the place still has a real authenticity to it. After only 3 days Yangon has left us feeling we have already had an adventure off the beaten path.
As I sit here riding the trains feeling all Jack Kerouac whilst observing the Burmese, who seem so happy and excited about their fledgling progression into democracy, I just hope having given the general populous/stupid people the vote authorities here do not renege if results do not suit their agenda. My hope for the people is that the Country does not go back to the old totalitarian regime days of ignoring results, intolerance, bullying and subjugation with the police knocking on doors threatening to arrest people for having differing opinions. Thankfully, we in the UK having had several centuries of social development under our belts are safe from that sort of scenario.
“Tolerance and apathy are the last virtues of a dying society.” Aristotle.