I arrived at Yangon Bus Station at the usual 3am. Frozen. Air con was set to ‘arctic’. It used to take a lot longer to go from Pyin Oo Lyin to Yangon but since the road and the buses have undergone a recent upgrade the travel time has shrunk by a few hours. Not handy if you are a back packer, guest houses seem to be either full or the doors are shut at 3am. But I’ve been here almost 26 days, I’m used to the 3am arrival. Yangon however, I have previously graced. And they have street lights here too. Always helpful.
I met a Japanese dude in my shared taxi and we booked into a cheap room in the centre of Yangon. The tall building next to that pagoda built in the middle of that roundabout. The tired and slightly dazed dude at reception didn’t charge us for the room until the following check in time. I got lucky again. Result.
I slept. It was the usual cramped, creaky and noisy accommodation I’d grown accustomed to in Myanmar. It was hot again. I sweated. I awoke after what seemed like two minutes shut eye and walked the streets in search of my final thrill in Myanmar. The flight to Bangkok was only 24 hours away. I am greeted by the usual black market money and taxi touts on my way out of the hotel before I decided to hit a couple of markets. The weather is considerably hotter than up north. The stalls and street sellers do a brisk trade in Yangon. They sell fried foods, watches, shoes, shoe repairs, coal, fruit, tea, beetle nut, cakes, bread, noodles, indian food, cold drinks, t shirts, longhis, rubber stamps, sign makers, bracelets, flip flops, chargers, mobile phones, nail clippers, sugar cane juice, lottery cards, eighties toys, black market copied DVDs, fish, chickens, rice; cooked and uncooked, flowers, footballs, nuts, sunglasses, dried and packaged foods, oil heavy crisps, tape measures, wool, second hand clothes, sling shots and soap.
The most bizarre street trade was the huge posters of naked babies, with a fluffy scarf on as well as their nether regions hanging out. A little bit strange to the western world that naked pictures of adults are prohibited while naked baby pictures, dressed in a completely provocative manner, are OK. Different strokes.
A lot of stalls had got the latest Obamo and Aung San Suu Kyi gear. T-shirts, jumpers, pencil cases, calendars showing pro-Obamo pictures from his recent visit to Yangon. The Burmese people clearly happy and overwhelmed by their new found positive attention from the west. It all seemed a bit over the top but for a country that’s been repressed by its military Government for so long, this was a huge step towards the peoples plight to become a democracy. A little hope. I felt their energy.
I noticed a few pavements dug up and new cables being laid, maybe a fast Internet service taking them further forward. Maybe not.
And here is proof there are ATM’s in Myanmar. I believe they were introduced for tourists only in January 2013. Brand spanking new. A $5 charge also meant that these machines were virtually unused. Myanmar don’t use Visa or Mastercard. Most people don’t use banks or have savings accounts. Here, the dark ages of digging a hole and hiding your gold still exist.
Yangon fascinates. I’m starting to feel sad. Relishing every experience of my last day on Yangon. I have loved my Yangon experience. Wandering the streets I suddenly miss Guy and Nourdes. We did a lot. Probably the most productive 26 days of my travels so far. Reflective and exploring the streets, with the sun beating down on my face, I hit a calm note of near meditation in the craziness of the market. Myanmar has given me something Thailand can’t. My inner explorer of weird and unusual things has been satisfied. For now.
Sun lotion doesn’t get sold in Myanmar. It’s the only product that I really needed to buy but I couldn’t find it any where. On several occasions, I was pointed towards the whitener cream that had a little UV protection. I am white enough thanks. Back at the hotel, I bump into three Swiss people and soon explain my predicament to them. The extremely nice girl then gave me a full bottle of sun factor 15 cream, my saviour. My poor pink face had taken a bashing.
That night the Swiss people’s invited me to a premiere of a documentary called ‘Youth of Yangon’. They’d found a derelict skate park and had made friends with a local skate crew. Their local skate park was in taters and they needed a new place to practice. A couple of English guys had taken pity on the situation and after a lot of paperwork, had got commissioned by the British Council to film and direct a documentary.
It looked like a warehouse project out of Hackney. Trendy pictures, a projector at the front and TuPac playing softly in the back ground set the scene. The skaters were trendy, with tattoos and cool threads. Their was also a free bar. The atmosphere relaxed.
I met the crew and the guys who made the video. We went for dinner afterwards. It was all a bit surreal. I was tipsy, eating and drinking with strangers I’d not known a few hours before. I was overwhelmed by their generosity and friendliness. I left feeling fulfilled. My final adventure in Myanmar had been random and spontaneous. What a treat. A world of skating I didn’t know existed in Myanmar.
The next morning I went for a fantastic breakfast, Shan noodles, double chai, spring roll and a complimentary chicken and pepper soup. I watched the busy street. Gutted I have to leave, not looking forward to Bangkok and the seedy Khao San Road. I really have enjoyed this adventure. Myanmar is a cool place.
We took a hot and stuffy local bus to the airport for pennies. The bus kicked out a serious amount of smoke and gurgled and spluttered through and out of Yangon. The seats were cramped, not designed for anyone over the height of 5ft. I was extremely sentimental at leaving Myanmar. Guy and Frederique felt the same. We took a 15 minute walk up a well groomed road to the neat and tidy Yangon International Airport. A world apart from the rest of this country.I spent €5 on a cake and a milkshake in a fancy Starbucks style bar. A rare treat. It didn’t taste too great but I was determined to enjoy every dollar of it.
Back to Bangkok. The land of western food, western toilets and piss head tourism. I’ve got a love hate relationship with Bangkok. I’m going in deep. Adios Yangon. Love you long time.