I know things are far from perfect here.
I’m not naive.
But, Lord, what a country
No doubt i’ll jinx myself but -so far – this is shaping up to be the best place I’ve visited.
As Ive said before this is the real Land of Smiles
From the police officer on traffic duty who tells me I’m crossing in the wrong place – then gives the broadest smile and shakes my hand as I try to thank him in Burmese
How many taxi drivers would give you a crash course in their language on the way from the airport? And when the hotel is too expensive for you drives you to another (£15 a night thanks )
And how many taxi drivers get out and chase you because you gave them 500 Kyat (35p) too much ?
At the moment most people treat you like an honoured guest rather than a cash cow that they milk for every cent
Yangon , a city I tramped around for an entire day without seeing another Westerner
Where strangers smile, say hello and shake your hand.
Where even the black market money changers who approach you will say thanks and back off when you turn them down
Where you can eat delicious Mohinga soup on the street for 42 pence
God the Burmese (burmans?) love their food. They never stop eating. The streets are full of stalls selling soup, freshly cooked meat, fish
My favourite so far – Butter fish. Delicious
Yet for some reason obesity isn’t an issue here
As ever the best way to appreciate the city is to walk
I’ve trudged miles in the oppresive heat. Been caught in countless downpours (it’s the rainy season) Today I had to shelter with 5 security guards in their booth. Try that in England
I love it all
What kind of bonkers country has right hand drive cars but they drive ON the right ?
The grandeur of The 19th century Strand Hotel, built by the owners of Raffles where the wealthy ex pats come to eat and drink. Where I played pool and lost to a Scotsman. (Next time Gregor,next time)
To the faded and mildewed colonial glory of downtown Yangon. Glorious edifices crumbling away
Dark , dark streets where the cracked and raised paving stones are more dangerous than the traffic. Where missing flagstones reveal water filled pits that can swallow you up if you don’t watch your step.
Narrow side streets where neighbours shout and throw goods from one side to the other.
And yes, filth and litter at times.
And some of the buildings don’t look particularly sanitary
But so far it’s the people that make this such a great place
But if you want to experience this get here now.
Like this year. Or next at latest. Certainly before the 2015 elections.
Because things are changing
The first cracks are appearing
The money changers who you can’t rely trust. . The polite and friendly kid who nevertheless persistently tries to sell you postcards.
Many men still wear the skirt like lungyi.
But some teenagers are now in jeans and baseball caps sporting gelled X Factor hairstyles
A guy I met who works in the travel Industry tells me posh hotel prices have doubled since it became (arguably) politically acceptable to come here
Last year for the first time ever his floating hotel was fully booked.
I suspect now is the time to visit before it goes the way of Thailand