Yangon: Dirty & Wonderful; Arriving In Myanmar

Yangon, grimy and dusty, yet full of smiling people naturally curious about the white tourists who fly in via Bangkok. Coming out of the airport we were met with the hotel bus, it looked like something from the 50’s that had survived a war zone – awesome!

Old red and white bus in Yangon Myanmar

The city is an amazing place to see, and a little bit dangerous to boot (and not for the reasons you might think). In some ways you feel a bit like a rockstar as everyone is looking at you, it’s quite unnerving at first because you just don’t get this in Thailand. The reason I mentioned that Yangon was “dangerous” is the mere fact that the streets are in such disrepair, dropping your leg into a gaping black hole is something that must be actively avoided. Thank goodness there isn’t much of a drinking culture in Myanmar, stumbling back to your hotel or guesthouse drunk is just asking to wake up on your back with a few rats and a stray dog.

Footpath in Yangon

Everyone we pass in Yangon wants to wave and say hello, a horn of a truck will beep loudly and three men will lean out and wave frantically. Children come running up to shyly say “Hello!” or “Bye!” and run away again.

Locals smiling in Yangon, Myanmar

Once the capital of Burma (let’s not get into that now), the city itself has numerous glorious Buddhist temples to attend. Motorcycles are banned so it’s an eclectic mix of old Toyota taxis (the best one we caught was held together with copious amounts of what looked like duct tape) and bicycle rickshaws.

Toyota Taxi and Rickshaw in Yangon

Speaking English At A Local Class

You may remember the story of how we met Udama Parla at the Shwedagon Pagoda. Well he roped us into teaching English lessons at his English school, we jumped at the chance to meet some younger Myanmar locals curious about the outside world.

He picked us up bright and early at 7.30AM with his assistant. He had a brand new Toyota (no idea what that was about, must have been a donation to the temple!) and spirited us away to the class. Beforehand though, we stopped in for a traditional breakfast in Myanmar known as “Mohinga”. It’s a fish broth with noodles and deep fried banana stems. It’s delicious (if you can stomach it in the morning).

Mohinga, the traditional breakfast in Myanmar.
This is what Mohinga looks like. Yum!

Street food stall in Yangon, Myanmar.
This is the street side stall one can order Mohinga from!

Eating Mohina with Udama
Udama eating Mohinga with myself and a friend we made in Yangon (Erin!). Thanks for taking the photo, Trudy 😉

Speaking English with the students was both rewarding and tiring, they were at different levels and the teacher very much left us to it which was a little daunting at first.

Speaking English classroom in Yangon
The classroom we were speaking to the students in.

We were split into 3 groups and Trudy had all men, and I had all women. It was great to hear about their lives living in Yangon. A few interesting tid-bits:

  • A good monthly wage in Yangon was about 100,000 kyats (or $115 – $120 USD).
    I asked what the girls do for fun. They looked at me a bit confused. Fun? They didn’t have time for that really. Most of them worked 6 days a week and on their day off washing and chores had to be done. Maybe a movie if they were lucky.
  • The boys in Trudy’s group sang a different tune. Football ranked primarily, and they knew everything about all the big players in Europe (and would watch the games). Most of them would play “Chinglone” – a game where one keeps a wooden cane ball in the air for as long as possible. Trudy also told me that most of them were obsessed with James Bond, and had watched every single movie. It’s still quite traditional in Myanmar, the women work/cook/clean and the men work and play.
  • In Trudy’s group, three of the men were studying Engineering. Their ultimate goal was to get to Singapore as the work there is extremely well paid (compared to Myanmar).
  • Many were from smaller villages, and admitted to me their dislike of Yangon and how dirty and big it was. They were only here for work or study, and in terms of living arrangements would rather be back at home.

English students in Yangon
Some of the students treated us for tea and snacks after class.

Afterwards, the teacher thanked us and presented us with a book of the story of Buddha which he had translated himself. It was in both English and traditional Myanmar lettering.

Walking back to our guesthouse, Trudy and I were both wiped from 3 hours of talking about ourselves and asking questions. We stopped in at a local restaurant and polished off an Indian curry (for under $1.00 each I might add) that was delicious.

Cheap Indian Curry in Myanmar
Curry for under a $1.00. Whaaaat?

Funny Signs In Myanmar

We came across a few funny signs for businesses and what-not in Yangon. Couldn’t help but share them here.

Facebook Fashion in Yangon
I’m not sure how we live without Facebook Fashion in the west!

Walmart in Myanmar
The REAL Walmart 😉

Spice Girls Sign in Myanmar
The Spice Girls are still going strong here in Myanmar!

Bogoyke Market in Yangon

Every city has a market, and in Yangon it’s the Bogyoke Market. We had a poke around there to check it out, there were some great wooden carvings and other trinkets. Here you can go Longyi shopping (traditional Myanmar sarong worn by both men and women).

Trudy got a lot of attention and smiles when she wore a Longyi around – the locals loved it and appreciated it. I didn’t quite have the kahunas to wear one, my western impulses distressed at the thought of wearing a dress. I had to make do with my loose fisherman pants!

Aung San and Obama Tshirt in Bogoyke Market
Obama visited Myanmar for 4 hours and met Aung San Suu Kyi. You can find this image everywhere in Myanmar now!

Horse Puppet In Bogoyke Market

Longyis For Sale in Yangon Market
A colourful pile of Longyis!

Wooden Carvings in Yangon Market
There were lots of nice wooden carvings. We liked the three wise Chinese men, one resembles health, one wealth and the other education. Almost wish I had brought them now (they were about $25-$30 USD). However customs Australia and overseas wood products don’t play well together.

Bogoyke Market Yangon

Yangon in Photos: The Cream of the Crop (+HD)

We got some fantastic shots of Yangon that hopefully help bring the city to life for you.

Some of our favourite photos can be clicked to load up the maximum quality HD version.

Sunrise in Yangon
Click me, I’m HD!Birds on the power lines as the sun begins to peep up in Yangon.

Street Markets Yangon
You like stuff?

Trinkets in Yangon
I like stuff!

Tractor Transport Yangon
Probably the best way to get around Myanmar! 😉

Public Telephone Yangon
These are the public telephones. No phone boxes, just normal phones where you pay the person behind them for use.

Bunting around Yangon
Sweet bunting!

Cool Monk in Yangon
Click me, I’m HD!This is probably the coolest monk we’ve ever seen. I dub him Mafia Monk.

Bicycle at Sunrise
Off to work?

Old Colonial Building
This sprawling old British Colonial Building has been let to seed by the current government. I believe they’re now trying to sell it off! Such a waste.

City Train Rubbish Yangon
Click me, I’m HD!This train trundles its way through the rubbish and the slum.

Puppy in Myanmar
How can you not pat this puppy?

Myanmar Beer
Of course trying the local brew is a must!

At Motherland Inn 2
Hanging outside our guest house, Motherland Inn 2, ready for an adventurous day!

Colourful Yangon in Myanmar
Click me, I’m HD!I love the blossoming of colour, this is Myanmar.

Have you been/want to go/are going to Myanmar? Would love to hear your thoughts!

11 Responses to “Yangon: Dirty & Wonderful; Arriving In Myanmar”

  1. The photo of the ‘Mafia Monk’ is amazing! And that is so cool that you guys got to teach an English class – how random! I’ve never had to teach a class where everyone was at a different level, so that would have been pretty daunting for me.

    • Tom says:

      Thanks Audrey, yeah it was a bit daunting teaching English to those of different levels – it was often one or two students that would dominate the conversation as they had the best English. I also love Mafia Monk – I’m not sure how he manages to look so cool 😀

  2. jill says:

    I remember my first impression of Yangon (was there in 2012)… I felt like I just went through a wormhole and emerged back in the 50’s. It was so…. different from the rest of SE Asia.

    • Tom says:

      Hi Jill! Yep, it’s still a bit like that. Rickshaws and old cars, people staring at you as if they’ve never seen a white person before. Fun stuff. Thanks for commenting 😀

  3. Peter Lee says:

    You covered Myanmar very well. I am surprised with some slum picture like that of train passing through the slum houses. How do they sleep at nights. But love to see some cute clicks like you clicked with that puppy and you tried local beer. So what was the taste like? 🙂

    • Tom says:

      Really nice actually. Doesn’t quite beat BeerLao (my favourite SE Asian beer!) but it was tasty enough and very refreshing after a dusty day in fascinating Yangon!

  4. I’ve never been in Myanmar but it looks like this place has a good culture. The people here looks friendly and oh that bus looks nice.

  5. Yangon felt to me like living in a book. No other place like it.

  6. Very interesting post. You really get an idea of Myanmar from your words and the pictures. Fascinating country for sure. Those signs made me laugh!

  7. Coby Smith says:

    Beautiful pics! And great article, thanks so much. Burma is such an amazing country should not have to be left unvisited. There is another article with more on Myanmar’s rich culture and heritage for fellow travellers to get to know it a bit better – http://www.travelindochina.com/blog-articles/welcome-to-burma – may be of interest

  8. Lyle says:

    Nice write up! Very frank but modest.

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