Woke up feeling much better, determined to get out and experience Yangon.
Breakfast was included, so I sat down not really sure what cake and eggs would taste like. Well that is what it said on the menu, and it is exactly what I got - Omlette, toast and Madera cake. It actually wasn't that bad really and the fact that it was free was even better.
Decided to do the lonely planet walking tour of Yangon, which started at Sule Pagoda in the centre of downtown Yangon, some 20 mins walking distance away from the guest house. It was early but I was really surprised how quiet it was in the city, there were people about but hardly any traffic. Lots of people smiled, some said hello, but lots more stared at me - which made me feel a little uneasy I must admit, but as the day went on I soon found out that this is the most chilled out asian city I have ever visited.
At the Pagoda, I soon got picked up by a monk, who insisted on showing me some budda's and stuff, then sat in front of one bowed at it and motioned me over to sit next to him on the floor, next to some guy that was meditating. Queue the first bizarity of the day (Notsure if bizarity is actually a word, but I am going to use it anyway). The monk opened up his wallet and gave me 1000 Kyats (Approx 1 dollar US) and said "Present".
Now I didn't even realise that monks carried wallets, but here they obviously do. Wasn't sure what to do, because I didn't really want to take money from a monk, but fearing a dent in my karma because it might be even worse to refuse it, I took it, smiled and thanked him.
He then turned to me and said "Your Country?"
"England", I Replied.
"You have English Dollar? Very Lucky!" he whispered, trying not to disturb the guy meditating.
Now in hindsight I should have said no, but I didn't. I then realised that I only had a 20 pound note with me - duh! I tried to explain to him but he didn't speak enough english to understand. I dont actaully think he was trying it on at all, he was just very superstitious. I knew that I had smaller back at the guesthouse, but he said that he was going to Teipei the next day and there was no way I could meet him later on.
Now I could seriously feel my karma bank account draining, so I tryed to give it back to him. He grabbed my wallet and stuffed the money back in it and said that it didn't matter and that the money was a present for me. After much persuasion I managed to convince him to take a 2000 Kyat present for 'Budda', made my excuses and left the pagoda to continue the walk.
Somebody spotted me reading my map and crossed over specifically to see if he could offer some help. Really nice guy actually, a waiter in one of the big hotels. I suspect that he also wanted to practise his english which I dont mind at all. He said that he was waiting for a work permit so that he could go and work a 3 year contract in Dubai and was incredibly excited about it. He warned me that I shouldn't change money in the area I was standing and pointed me in the direction of the strand hotel, which was the next landmark in my walking tour and practically begged me to pop in and see him at his hotel.
I had only made it two streets before somebody else started a conversation with me. I think I was looking at some men building foundations for a huge building to be and I am quite glad this guy managed to fill in some of the gaps of my ignorance about it. He was really interesting and spoke really good Englsih, so I was delighted that he invited me to a tea shop to continue the conversation. My first Burmese tea shop experience. Tea was so sweet it almost made my teeth curl but that is the way they take it round here. The conversation continued and he actually invited me to his house but I declined his offer beacause I was planning to leave the next day and I still had lots to fill in that day in Yangon.
After I left Mr whatever his name was, he did say but I find burmese names so hard to pronounce let alone remember, I continued walking and bumped into a guy I had met at the hotel earlier, who was also walking on the same guide book tour, so we decided to finish it together.
To be honest there wasn't really much to see on the tour, a few colonial buildings and I guess it gave good impression of what the city was like. Basically so much quieter than I expected, both people wise and traffic. Even Vientienne in Loas seemed more hectic to be honest. I think it is becuase motorcycles are banned in Yangon by the government and not many people can afford to buy cars.
I am not sure if it was because India was the last place I visited or because ti was the poorest, that I imagined Myanmar to be just like it. But it so isn't like it at all. For one it is much tider so far, people are far more polite and friendly and it doesn't smell half as bad here, hardly at all in fact.
I had to change some money into local currancy so I eventually found the market and sure enough was approached by a guy offering to change money for me. He was offering a far better rate than they were in the hotel I was staying so, I decided to do some business with him. I followed the short shady looking character through several sort of hallways in the building we were in, past all kinds of merchants and tailors etc to a part that dealt in Jewelry. To be honest I think that I was a little bit nervous and unsure about the whole thing, but in hindsight it was totally unfounded - he was actually really nice, offered us tea and a chair whilst we were counting the huge bricks of money - Crazy stuff really ended up with 200 x 1000 Kyat notes, they wouldn't even fit into my money belt let alone my wallet. But this is how it works here, and obviously I am writing this further ahead in my trip now, and it hasn't given me any problems so far.
We left and headed back to the hotel where I tryed to catch up with emails and start writing this blog. Justin the guy I was with when I changed the money then discovered he had lost his camera, so I decided to go back to the money changers to help him retrace his steps and hopefully to find it. No luck at all and it affected him so much that even though we had planned to travel for a bit, he changed his mind and decieded to leave the country instead, a bit drastic in my mind, but each to their own.
My day continued with a vistit to the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most famous tmeple in Yangon. It reportidly is built with 60 tons of gold! and I can quite believe it, it really is something when you are there, especially at sun set when little birds go crazy and fly round it, and they illuminate the huge floodlights around it.
Queue the second bizarity of the day - as I was leaving some strange monk spotted me and decided to read my palm, according to him I am going to live till I am 100 and marry 2 virgins sometime along the way - woohoo lucky me, but this does mean that I have to broaden my capture area further than Guernsey obviously.
A pretty full on day really, dicided to call a dead and head back to the hotel again, but noticed that there were some vendors accross the street selling little birds that they had caught. It is a big thing here to buy them and let them go for luck. 500 kyat or 1/2 a dollar was the asking price, but I managed to barter and get 3 for a dollar!!! I released them and was so chuffed that I had managed to bag 3 pieces of luck for such a bargain, that I failed to notice the open manhole cover, triped over and lost a flip flop down it.
I guess I was lucky that It was only one leg that went down it.
I was also lucky that I never broke my ankle.
And lastly I was really luck that it wasn't bottomless and I managed to retrieve my flip flop.
Well there you go, luck might be cheap round here, but it sure gets used up really quickly!!!!