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Men in skirts, THE land of smiles and "freedom of opinion"
Last updated: 28. May 2010 - 21367 Clicks - Enable Print View
Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), 3 April 2010, 38 degrees Celsius

Myanmar girls with Tanaka-paste as make-up"Minglaba! Welcome to Myanmar!" were the words of a very warm welcome at Yangon airport by two young men in skirts. Men in skirts? Yes, both men and women wear Longyi's - that's how the skirts are called. But it was not only the sight of so many skirts that amazed us on the journey to the hostel: There were only a few cars but countless pedestrians and bike riders, with their typical Asian food pots, women with Tanaka-wood paste (see picture right) as make-up on their faces, curbs, which were hand-painted or "phone booths" consisting of 3-4 phones on a small table and a cashier... We knew to expect special things in Myanmar but haven't thought that it would be THAT amazing for us. The adventure had begun! On the display panels at the station we could neither read the text nor the numbers. Frankly, we could only guess that it had also numbers on the board. To buy our train ticket to Mandalay it took many attempts to find the right counter (probably a good preparation for China). Finally we were rewarded with a ticket that could almost be viewed as a highly official document in Switzerland thanks to the stamps and it's three-fold. The 16 hour ride north was bumpy, noisy and hot, but was also very exciting: Thanks to the open doors and windows we could see how cyclists (!) gave way to the train on the railway bridge, in villages were children that were shouting for empty PET bottles (which they sell to petrol sellers, who sell them as a gasoline-filled bottles), women in and outside of the train with piles of noodles on their head and people who took advantage of every corner of the floor to sleep. A few days later we also learned that we can sleep in a former chicken house and that the locals are early risers: Early means they get up at 4:30 to 5:30. In Kyaukme the daily market starts at 4:00 in the morning...

Vendor with its tricycle, Myitkyina, MyanmarMandalay is much busier than Yangon. The more surprised we were when we received some street food as a gift from an unknown local - "it is a specialty of Myanmar", she said shyly and disappeared immediately behind her street stall. Due to bad experiences from other countries, we were suspicious at the beginning but learned quickly that in Myanmar the world is truly different. The generosity, warmth and friendliness of the people of Myanmar are amazing and surpass all we have seen on our great journey so far. While travelling can be stressful and time consuming, most encounters with the locals are incredibly impressive. The less people had, the more they gave us, but accepted nothing in return. Especially in the norht we felt the fact that the locals are living under a military dictatorship: After our 20 hours trip to Myitkyina, we were regularly checked and monitored. The biggest number of copies for the state, police, community, etc. from the same check-in form we filled out was 11 - per person! Spending more time in one place granted us some insight into the life of the locals with the dictatorship. For example, a woman was arrested for political activity, to reduce the activities of her husband against the regime. She will probably not be released until the planned elections in October, 2010. Before entering Myanmar every tourist has to question himself if he wants to support the regime by travelling in that country. Despite the estimated 30% of the tourist money that flows to the government, the remaining 70% flow to the population. We tried to spread the money as much as we could, but that was not always easy: in Kyaukme for example, there was only 1 out of 7 guest houses that has a license for foreigners. Rumours are that this pension pays a few extra dollars taxes...

Fisher on Inle Lake, Yangon Ox and wagon Monk near Mandalay

Old woman in MyanmarSince we visited Myanmar at the end of the dry season, we got many hours for our money on the boats: Again and again we had to drive around shoals or the boat had to be freed from sandbanks with lateral movements of all passengers. Therefore we saw even more of the life along the river with the river being the meeting place for the locals. In addition to providing drinking water, the river serves water for washing clothes, bathing, but is also used as a trash can, which takes the waste quickly out of sight. Yes, even engines are cleaned in the river, while a bit further downstream people fill their water bottles with the same water. In Sinbo, a small village in the north of the country and last stop after a long boat ride, a boy came up to us and muttered something that we did not understand. He waited until we put on our backpacks and went ahead of us, always looking backwards to us. As there is only one guesthouse in this village, we followed our guide through the village. In the pension we were already expected by three officials. After 20 minutes, their paperwork was done and we could explore the village. In Sinbo there are no cars, but ox and cart, bicycles and a few mini-scooters. We usually met astonished faces as almost no tourists get lost in this place. The meals in the guest house were cooked with fire, electricity was provided between 6 and 9 o'clock in the evening. But it was in this basic village where we witnessed an English Premier League game, which is broadcasted for the population on a big screen in the town hall every Sunday. During half-time was time to start the generator, otherwise the second half would have been quite dark. Continuing by boat to the next place we were entertained by the crowing of a rooster under Corina's seat. The boat had a captain with its 100% job. But in addition there was also a 50% part-time employee: 5 minutes drawing water out of the boat, 5 minutes break... ;-) We did not do further boat trips due to lack of time as the next ride would have lasted three days with normal water level. Retrospective we learned that this boat trip had taken nearly eight days...

See ya, we've gone away.
Corina & Andri
Pictures to this article:
Myanmar - an impressive country with incredible friendly and cordial people. Traveling is exhausting but the stresses and strains of our one month journey through Myanmar were definitely worth it! - View pictures
Comments about this article: 5 comments so far | Post a comment
6. January 2014 | cubic zirconia ukraine said...
Wow...Great Article. it is really interesting, I hope everybody likes this Post.
11. June 2010 | Sandra said...
Ragazzi è fantastico, assieme a voi sto vivendo delle bellissime emozioni. Il vostro viaggio ha un'incredibile magica atmosfera. Grandi!!!
Ancora buon divertimento.
Un abbraccio
1. June 2010 | Claude said...
unter Wasser macht doch mehr Spass als bootfahrt auf Sand , oder ? Merci de vos commentaires . goneaway !
22. May 2010 | Regula said...
hey ihr zwei, han immer freud a eune nl, die mached richtig luscht uf's reise ;-)
bi grad vo china zrugg und döt chamä aso zahle läse- was eim nöd immer nützt. aber mit vill ziit und geduld chunnt mä immer as ziel und 50% mitarbeiter gits döt sehr vill ;-)
21. May 2010 | Papi said...
Hallo ihr 2 Lieben,
Ich habe ja schon viel vernommen von Myanmar, aber es macht Freude, den gut geschiebenen Text zu lesen!
Liebi Grüess Papi

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