Friday, 13 January 2012

Forty Eight Hours in Burma

A handful of observations about Burma, acquired in my first 48 hours:
  • Despite the Western media portrayal, Burma feel s fairly developed.  I was expecting Kathmandu, not six lane highways and clean streets.
  • There are no motorbikes in Rangoon (Yangon)… begging the question, is this really Asia? Normal moto service is resumed in Mandalay.
  • Cars drive on the right but so many of the steering wheels are also on the right… car manufacturing has never caught up with the 1970s overnight road lane switch.
  • In the middle of roads and roundabouts, there is manicured foliage.
  • 75% of all cars are white*
  • Your man on the street does not have a mobile phone… unheard of in even the poorest African country.  SIMs are available for $500-1000. If you get caught out and about and need to make a call, ladies sit with landline phones by the side of the road.
  • Dagon Extra Strong contains 8% alcohol.  I may stick to the Myanmar draft else risk becoming far too animated.
  • Street food rocks; particularly those little butter nutty pancakes, hot out of the pan…
  • I’m legally allowed to go to Hsipaw on the train via the Gokteik Viaduct.  My train hero, Paul Theroux, managed it in 1975 but only with a soldier escort and on the sly.
  • When you turn on the sink tap, water comes out of a hole in the wall onto the floor… ok maybe that’s just our hotel J
  • Burma is proving to be a very friendly place.  Parents encourage their young children to stop what they are doing to say hello to us.  Teenagers think we are hilarious and post-hello, disappear off giggling.
  • When away from the tourist streets, everyone has a smile and a hello for us.  One man walking past simply said “Thank you”.

* Source: Cath Statistics Ltd

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