Sunday, February 17, 2008

Hair cut and transport in Yangon

In Yangon we met Kaun, a tour guide looking for work:
As we toured the country, we were approached by several people who were tour guides. But unlike in some other countries that we visited, none of them were really scam artists. They were genuinely trying to help and make a little money in exchange for useful information. The decline of tourism has really hurt the ordinary people here. In fact, it was a unanimous opinion of both the Burmese and expats that we talked with that the economic sanctions imposed on Myanmar do nothing to change the political situation and only cause suffering among the local people.

The real irony is that this was probably the best time possible to visit Myanmar. Myanmar is actually a very safe country, much safer than many other countries that I have visited. If you want good reasons to not visit Myanmar, transportation hassles, lack of reliable electronic communication, and power outages would have to be at the top of the list whereas safety is not an issue at all.
We went for a tea with Kaun (a common activity here; tea shops are everywhere and we partook frequently) and he offered to help us with any of our needs at no financial obligation (naturally, we ended up giving him something). He also wrote us a list of recommended accomodations at each of our future stops in Myanmar. Well, I desperately needed a haircut -- I was so busy in Bangkok in my last few days there that I failed to get one before leaving. Elena wanted to call her father to let him know she was OK (her father does not have email). So first we went to the hair stylist:
Hey, at these prices, let's throw in a wash, too!
Long distance calls out of the country cost in the neighborhood of three dollars per minute (even more from our guesthouse). Elena wanted to call her dad to let him know she was OK since he does not do email. Well, she called and got some French guy, but definitely not her dad (or his phone, it was a different number). They verified that the correct number was indeed dialed so we paid the three dollars anyway. Communications are just not reliable here.
During our initial tours around Yangon, we found that we could get just about anywhere in the city for less than two US dollars in Khat. We took a picture of one of the cabs -- hey it got us from Point A to Point B! (Techie note: that is NOT a GPS on the front dashboard but just a picture ;-)

You just gotta love this transportation! I must be smiling because of all that money I am saving! Cheap, comfortable transport -- I am in the zone!

As our trip progressed, Elena started counting different forms of transportation that we took on this Myanmar trip and she counted at least fifteen. We pretty much took every form of land and water transport powered by motors, animals or humans.

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