Wednesday, August 11
I began the day with one last lunch at May Kaidee's, which will have to tide me over for the next two weeks. (I don't know what I'm going to do without her world-class cookin' back in California.) Except for the driver, and a lady who may have been a holographic projection, I was the one and only passenger on the big ol' airport bus from Banglamphu to Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi, about an hour's drive away.I felt like a British aristocrat with a chauffer, or maybe even a butler. I was dumbfounded by the presence of a Thai hill tribe display in the middle of the airport--complete with three live, in the flesh women weaving traditional garments. I felt kind of stale standing there, just like all the other passers-by, snapping photos of those beautiful ladies trapped in some kind of strange human zoo.
The 90-minute flight--and immigration out of Bangkok, Thailand into Yangon, Myanmar--went smoothly. I bought a cup of noodles on the plane, expecting one of those dinky little jobs, when the flight attendant blew my mind with a huge, practically half-gallon-sized monstrosity that fully stoked me out since I was hungry as hell. At immigration, it's now pretty much standard for most countries to scan in your passport and take a photo of you. The lady that took mine had the cutest smile, which made me smile, and that in turn made her smile even more.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find a bus into the backpacker area of Yangon, which is about eight miles away, so I had to take a taxi for $5.00. He dropped me off at the Motherland Inn II hostel in the Southwest corner of town, where I managed to score a bed in a dorm room for $8.00. The girls who run it are all friendly and smiley, and the interior of this big, clean place stands in sharp contrast to the raw-as-hell streets and shacks just outside the front door. It's pretty much all bark and no bite, though, as a man pedaled by me when I went for a walk out in the gloom and said hi in the friendliest tone ever. Welcome to Myanmar!
Enigmatic and intriguing, Myanmar is land of contradictions. It boasts some of the nicest people on Earth who are, ironically, ruled by an oppressive military regime. On the religious front, Buddhism reigns supreme, yet a subculture of nat (spirit) worship continues to thrive in its shadow. The countryâ€™s pagoda-dotted landscape maintains layers of dust despite frequent downpours in the rainy season. And despite its considerable distance from the equator, most of Myanmar is oven hot.