Day 1 Story 2, Yangon, Myanmar
Hell Drivers and Dare-Devil Pedestrians
If you think that Bangkok traffic is scary and awful, and their drivers terrible, wait till you experience the traffic in Myanmar, and meet the hell drivers and dare-devil pedestrians here.
Oh my God, Win (the driver assigned to me for my duration of stay in Myanmar) was driving like a fiend but I reckon he's so used to it that even if he closes his eyes, he'd bring you safely to your destination.
And the pedestrians!!! Oh my!!!! They criss cross the roads at their fancies. What I realised is that in Myanmar, pedestrians, saykal riders (trishaw riders), and peddlars on carts are the Kings of the Road, unlike in Malaysia.
My first stop was at Plaza Yuzan. This Plaza reminds me of Pratunam in Bangkok and S&M in Kuala Lumpur. Nothing much fancies me, although May and Sharon, and her mum, thought they could interest me to buy Myanmar's traditional dress (a sarong and a short blouse).
We just did a lot of window shopping. However,just before we left the Plaza, I saw this pretty twirling black and white skirt, fell in love and bought it without much hesitation. If truth be known, I have a really soft spot for anything which comes in black and white. That was my first purchase in Myanmar and the only purchase at Plaza.
Sayasan Plaza (Sculpture Creation From Fallen Trees By Nargis )
Next, I was taken to Sayasan Plaza, a Plaza where they house and sell
Myanmar crafts and the very famous Myanmar jades and pearls. And more
recently, they added wood carving stuff.
What was simply amazing about those wood carvings was the fact that the Myanmar government decided to turn a tragedy into a profit-making business. In May 2008, Nargis typhoon hit Myanmar. The cyclone made landfall in the country on May 2, 2008, causing catastrophic destruction and at least 146,000 fatalities with thousands more people missing.
However, what the government had ingeniously done was to capitalise on the fallen trees and made amazing and breathtakingly beautifulsculptures out of them.
I'm one female shopper who's not really into decking myself with jewelleries, though I don't mind simple rings or pendants. Hence, pearls and jades are not really my cup of tea. But, Sharon and her mum thought that my trip to Myanmar would be incomplete if I don't bring back Myanmar jade so her mum bought a complete set for me, one each for ring and pendant and two for earrrings, and a big one for bracelet.
Halal Food and Halal Hotel
I had agreed to put
up at Panorama Hotel when told that food served there was halal,
despite the higher hotel charges (double the price I paid elsewhere in
I was kind of excited coz rarely did I get to savour halal food in a
hotel when I'm abroad. I was planning to order room service for dinner.
When I opened the menu, I had the shock of my life.
Suffice to say, I ended up eating maggi in a cup!! And for desert, I had plenty of fruits which Sharon's mum had asked Win to to buy (he actually bought so much banana that it could feed almost a household of people). I also had a slice of durian cake which I had brought from KL. Thank God.
And that night, my sleep was fitful. The aircon had malfunctioned earlier and when they came to repair it became too cold. I was tossing here and there, and ended up falling asleep only at 5:00 a.m. And before I realised it, it was time to perform my subuh solat (in Yangon, subuh begins at 4:30 a.m) and sun rises at 6:01 a.m.!
Points to note when you're in Myanmar
1/ US Dollars vs Kyat vs RM
Most (maybe all) budget hotels only accept US dollars. They don't even accept kyat (their own currency, which I find highly perplexing).
And when you take delivery of the US dollars at your money changer, be VERY SURE to check that the notes are in PERFECT condition. There musn't be the slightest damage or tear, coz it'll be rejected.
However, if you look at the kyat in circulation, oh my!!! Even though it's torn and tattered and falling apart, it's still in circulation and still deemed legal tender. What an irony!!! And I left all my kyat in Myanmar (exchanged and donated almost half of them to May) as kyat is not accepted at money changers in Malaysia.
2/ Never believe everything they say
What I've learnt from the episode at Panorama Hotel, especially as a Muslim, is not to believe everything they say. Thank God, I'm rather inquisitive, hence discovering that the food served at the hotel was not halal despite them trying to convince me otherwise.