I got to Yangon around 7 a.m. and I was tired. Really tired.
I shared a cab with 2 other backpackers: one was staying near Inya Lake (a little outside the city center), and the other was staying near me in Chinatown.
The cab driver didn’t speak any English and didn’t understand that we wanted to make 3 separate stops. He nodded like he understood, but he really only understood Chinatown.
That always happens here— people nod as if they know what you’re talking about, but they are only nodding because it’s rude to say no here (and in other SE Asian cultures). I researched a bit about it for this post: it’s called Anade, and it’s a social value where one avoids asserting oneself for fear of offending someone or becoming embarrassed. It’s truly frustrating because you never know when someone actually knows what you’re saying, or when they’re just acting like they know what you’re saying.
We approached a big intersection, and the guy staying near Inya Lake told him to make a right. The driver did not comprehend at all, and kept going straight.
The dude gave up. We were headed to Chinatown and there was no way around it. We tried to tell the cab driver to go back up to Inya Lake after he was done dropping me and the other girl off, but god knows if he understood anything that we were saying.
We approached my neighborhood, and I told the driver to turn right. He thankfully understood and we ended up about a block away from my hostel when we hit the Chinese New Year parade. It was insanity: thousands of people on the street, cars backed up, with no clearing in sight. I felt bad for having led them into an absolute shit show, but I got out of the cab and crossed the street to my hostel.
My hostel was… interesting. There were no rooms or hallways, just one big room with the reception at the front, and then pod beds lined up against the wall.
There was also a small kitchen table area and bathrooms in the back, but that was it.
I dropped off my bags and then went to a nearby cafe to meet Phillipp (my friend from trekking), who was also in Yangon for a few days.
After our coffees, we checked out the Chinese New Year parade, which was happening just outside the cafe. There were booths lined up on the street, giving out free stuff like detergent, wine coolers, noodle soup, cotton candy, and other random things. The lines for the noodle soup, eggs, and other food were SO long, it was pretty funny. I mean, they give you 2 free eggs, which costs like 10 cents at a grocery store so I don’t know why everyone was pining for them so hard.
I went back to my hostel to get my laptop and then went to Vedge for lunch.
The lunch was pretty good, and decently spicy— always a plus!
I walked to Easy Cafe to get some work done for the blog. I liked the cafe— it was pretty modern/hipster and a good place to get work done, but it was pretty pricey. I got a mixed fruit juice for 3,300 kyat ($2.45), which is expensive for Myanmar. After a few hours of that, I walked across the street to Nourish Cafe for my interview with the owners, married couple Jojo and Jerome.
I met Jojo at the cafe, and then we walked to their apartment next door to do the interview. Their apartment was SUPER modern, clean, open, and beautiful. I loved it, and I almost couldn’t believe an apartment like that existed in Myanmar. They built it themselves, though, so I guess anything’s possible if you build it yourself.
The interview went really well— their story about how they met, broke up, got back together, and then moved to Myanmar to open three successful businesses is pretty incredible. You can listen to it on iTunes here, or on Libsyn here.
I dropped my backpack off at the hostel and then went to meet Phillipp for a puppet show. Weird as it is, Myanmar is famous for its elaborate puppet shows.
The show was certainly interesting:
It was in the owner’s living room
The room was full of foreigners, a lot of them with children
The owner spent the first 15 minutes explaining the show: how it’s usually 8 hours, takes place at a pagoda, and has a live band and storyteller.
This show is just an intro to the traditional shows: only 45 minutes, no live band or storyteller
It was actually really impressive: the puppeteers made the puppets dance, hold objects, ride other puppet animals
As great as it was, I couldn’t help but think what a strange passion puppeteering is. You create all these inanimate objects, and then learn how to manipulate them using strings, making them “come to life.” I mean, it’s weird, is it not?!?
We were starving after the show so we walked to 19th street, an area with a bunch of bars and restaurants.
We met up with Phillipp’s friends from Germany, who happened to have landed in Yangon that day, at the restaurant.
I got vegetable soup. Or what I thought was vegetable soup. About halfway through eating it, I realized that there were little bits of brown in it. I looked closer, and realized the little brown bits were pieces of beef. I figured I’d just eat around them, and kept eating the soup. I didn’t want to waste it, and I was already pretty far in to the meal that there was no point turning back.
However, I realized after I finished it that the broth was completely brown. Like, full-of-meat brown. I felt absolutely DISGUSTING. Like, the grossest I’ve felt since going vegan. I don’t know if the meat itself was what made me feel like shit, or if it was the guilt from eating the meat, but I did not feel good at all.
I didn’t tell anyone at dinner about it because I didn’t want to make too big a deal about it.
We walked around a bit after dinner, and I got watermelon in the hopes that it would cleanse my body.
Soon after that I went back to my hostel, finished my watermelon, and went to bed.