Thursday, February 26, 2015

Burma is wonderful so far

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From Deej 25 February 2015 Yangoon, Myanmar

Burma is wonderful so far. Yesterday afternoon we toured the Schwedagon Pagodas, absolutely stunning and so very many to see. It was very enlightening in many ways, bright with gilded stupas everywhere, our tour guide elucidated the Burmese Buddhism practices and beliefs, and we saw many lovely people. Every Buddhist becomes a nun or a monk in their lifetime in Burma, sometimes as early as 4 yrs. old. And it may be just for a week or a month. They are very dedicated to their Buddhism. About 60% of the population is Buddhist, then the rest are Christian, Hindu, etc.

Our tour guide goes by Bunny for foreign tourists such as ourselves. She was very entertaining teaching us things like the number one in Burmese is "tit" and the no. 8 in Is pronounced "shit," she said we would never forget those 2 nos. It is an hour ride by bus (with poor suspension) on a very, very, bumpy road with way too much traffic. The Burmese government has made motor cycles illegal so there are not too many of them around but there are many cars, trucks, and buses on poor roads. Never saw an accident. 

We then went to a lovely dinner sitting outside with Chinese lanterns all aglow above us at a very good restaurant, Phil ,whose birthday was yesterday, was serenaded by two bus loads of Semester at Sea  students, staff, and faculty and had a tiny fruit plate and cake with a candle provided by Bunny and the restaurant staff. Before that for our meal we had eggplant salad, rice, lentil soup, chicken curry, pork curry, and morning glory (a water cress type veg) with mushrooms, and bananas fried with honey. All nicely spiced and not too hot for wimpy Americans. Plus some Myanmar beer, nice and light.

Today (We. 25 Feb. 2015) we had a different tour guide, Kyall, pronounced Joel, and went out to local  markets, first the ordinary people's small market, a bit raw like in meats, fish etc. It was interesting. They sell all the accoutrements for monks and nuns in that market as well as have places for everyone to donate to the monks, umbrellas, shoes, etc. I tried to buy a string of jasmine and the guy gave it to me "as a present" when I balked at buying a big bunch of jasmine strings which are used for offerings to Buddha stupas. It is scenting our cabin nicely.

Next we went to the tourist and middle-class people market, the Scott market, surely named after some Brit. It was way more enjoyable than Vietnam and China where there is much selling in your face, tugging at your arms, and hard core bargaining. It was quite genteel in comparison. The sellers were all very nice and not pushy, and had low prices. Some would bargain and some would not. They have lots of beautiful fabrics, batiks from Indonesia. And there were tailors with old fashioned sewing machines sitting up in the stalls sewing away for people. I had a longhi made for me in 15 min. for $5. Lots of other tourist and non-tourist things for sale. I wish I had waited to spend money just in Burma. And we found a supermarket for restocking our room’s fridge with beer and cokes as well as an ATM machine that would take our card and spit out money. Always exciting in foreign lands. We got 50,000 kyat (=$50). Then we stopped at a tea shop on the way home to the ship and had sweet tea and sweet buns.

After we got back as there were only 37 people on the ship we went to the pool deck 7 and had French fries for our late lunch and then changed into our swimming suits and got in the pool with only one college student in it. It was quite refreshing. Ahhhh. Usually there are so many college kids on that pool deck it is best to stay away from it.

Tomorrow we fly to Mandalay.

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