Friday, August 20, 2010

Myanmar – Yangon

The newly implemented Visa On Arrival (VOA) regulation attract many tourists flocking into this long self isolated country. Yangon airport was quite modern, but the atmosphere seemed a little rigid and cold. The procedure consumed an hour, surprisingly the local passport holders needed longer time to get through immigration. The officers were super friendly!

The capital Yangon looks like Kuala Lumpur in 70’s. In downtown, 100 year-old buildings can be seen standing solidly, lots of street hawkers and vendors lined up the main streets, English is fairly popular, most of the vehicles are old (no motorbike is allowed in this capital), taxi is quite expensive, buses are always in rush and heavily packed.

There are only a handful of tourist attractions in Yangon. Shwedagon Pegoda is the only “qualified” spot I had visited. The glimmering golden stupa is particularly beautiful in the evening under the spotlights. The nearby Thanlyin and Kyauktan were not spectacular, but good to kill time.

The traditional Burmese food is not my type, fermented and sour taste couldn’t please my taste buds. The Shan food which is closer to Chinese cuisine is my favourite. Lots of consumables are imported from the neighbouring countries. A can of Coca-Cola costs USD0.70, but the local Star Cola (quite similar taste) costs USD0.20.

Myanmar produce world class gems, but the export was restricted due to international sanctions. The Ruby is said the top quality in the world. It’s fun to learn how to differentiate the quality, but the price tags are not cheap. A tiny bead of top class Star Ruby could cost tens of thousands dollars.

People are generally afraid to criticize the junta government publicly, too many spies are around, rumours said. A monk initiated political talk with me, I avoided it to prevent any unnecessary trouble.

I met a lady in Bogyoke market wearing bracelet and pendant fully studded with diamonds. The bracelet alone costs USD10000. Asked if she is afraid of being rob, she replied no such case in Yangon. wow... this country is safer then ours.