Myanmar, Added Thoughts

Buddhism (one thought)

Uncle Abbott explains portions of Buddhism in this way. Buddhists try to eliminate worry. One way to do this is to shave their heads. If a person has hair, he/she worries about fashion, how it looks. With no hair, no worries! If a person has a car, they worry about the car. Accidents, keeping it clean, buying gas. No car, no worries! In North America, people accumulate too many material things. A new car, a boat, an RV, clothes, furniture, TVs. With all this stuff comes a lot of worrying. How will I pay for it, am I keeping up with the Jones, these clothes are not in fashion any longer. If we just reduced, our worries would disappear! Murray and I are purging the contents of our house and I think we have a ways to go to be worry free.

Yangon, MyanmarNo Shoe, No Socks

You can wear your hat but be sure to doff your shoes and socks. We have visited temples before and were always required to remove our shoes but this is the first time socks have been an issue. This made me understand where the barefoot fashion of the hippie movement came from. When those in search of enlightenment returned from Asia they were used to being without footwear and the hippies that did not get a chance to go east adopted the habit. Most folks here have taken to wearing flip flops, I started to tie my shoes loose so they would slip off and leave my socks at the hotel.

Food

Myanmar food consists of rice and curry. The word curry refers to the accoutrements added with the rice, meat, vegetable, chilies, some spicy, some not, etc., they are not necessarily curry as us westerns would know from India or Thailand. The rice is served to each plate and the curries are set in the center of the table in a number of small dishes. Each person picks and chooses the curry of choice and adds it, in small spoonfuls, to the rice, sampling some or all of the available dishes over the course of the meal. In a restaurant you are charged a fixed price per person and you can eat as much or little as you like. If a popular dish is exhausted just ask and it will be refilled. We ate traditional Burmese food several times and it is quite good. One of our guides warned us to eat this way only at lunch. The food is cooked just before lunch and is served hot. What is left from lunch then sits in the pot and is again served at dinner. Our sensitive western stomachs would most likely revolt.

It has not taken very long for this country to adopt a worldwide menu.  Although there are no chain’s such as MacDonald’s, or KFC here you can find pizza, french fries and the like quite easily. Good for some tourists but it is a bit of a drag for us to be directed to a restaurant by a guide and the only thing on the menu is Italian food. I imagine it will not be long before the golden arches grace the sky of Yangon and Mandalay.

AC

In hot climates, when we sleep, Debbie and I usually opt to use a ceiling fan, in lieu of AC. We have only run into one ceiling fan in 2 weeks and that one was connected to the ceiling light so it was either the fan and light or no light and no fan. It is far too hot here to try and sleep without so we have been using the AC. To us who do not have AC in our house we find it dries us out and it get very cold in the room about 3 or 4 in the morning. If you come from a climate where AC is not common beware as I think it is a must here.

Myanmar

I learned more about Myanmar vs. Burma. There are two peoples that are the main people in Myanmar, the Burmese in the north and the Mon in the south. They live in a country call Myanmar. Us westerners think that the name Myanmar was introduce by an unpopular military government that was in power here for many years. In fact it is the name Burma that was thrust upon the country by the British when they colonized this area in the mid 19th century. Myanmar , I am told, was used by the people here for many centuries before the arrival of the Europeans. Old habits are hard to break but I am now going to refer to this country as Myanmar.

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Capital City

The capital of Myanmar has changed many times throughout history. It seems every time there is a power shift the new administration moves the capital. Sometimes it is because the capital is moved to be in the homeland of the new leader, sometimes it is moved for a strategical reason like a central location or the new city is located where the ocean going ships can access.

The latest move was initiated by the military government. It was time to make a legacy and it was determined to build an entirely new city in a more central location. This was done successfully by Brazil 30 or 40 years ago and now Brasilia is bustling city with relatively new infrastructure that is at least worth a visit if just to see some of the very impressive government buildings. Naypyidaw was occupied in 2005. The government workers were informed on short notice they were about to move if they want to keep their job so people packed up and joined the military convoy headed north to the newly constructed city. It is not on the tourist trail yet but I would imagine it will be there someday.

Bicycle Ban

In an effort to make Yangon a ‘world class’ city the previous government banned the use of motor bikes and bicycles in Yangon, much to the city’s detriment in my humble opinion. The traffic is horrendous, there is a constant jam of vehicles and things are slow to move, although they do move. The new administration is not quite so strict on the rules and there are a few two wheeled vehicles appearing on the streets. Funny enough more bicycles than motor bikes.

Mandalay, Myanmar

Bicycles are allowed in Mandalay but not allowed in Yangon

I do find it odd that as the world around is converting to more bicycle use there is a city in SE Asia, where the bike is perfect transportation, that has restricted its use.

Practice Monks

We read before we came to Myanmar that all boys must at some time in their young lives attend a monastery. I ask our Yangon guide Mo if his sons went to a monastery. His oldest son went for a week when he was 14. I asked if he went under duress and Mo said no, he was okay with it. He stayed a week. He is now 22 years old and is attending university in Singapore. Mo’s third child, a son, was not happy to have to attend the monastery, so they choose an overnight stay only. He did not even make it overnight. He ended up going home in the evening and everyone in the family had to sleep on mats on the floor as he was a monk until the morning and he was of a higher status than them, so they all had to sleep as he would sleep. Mo did say that he knows of a boy that went to a monastery and liked the life there and eventually went to live there permanently. I guess the visits do help young boys and men decide whether they want to follow the vocation of monkhood.

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