Well, I'm in Myanmar. I decided to wait until the second day after arriving to update my blog, but the internet got cut off, so I'm just getting a chance now on day three. In fact, I sat at the computer yesterday and the power cut out probably four times. And just now it's cut out twice in half an hour!
Anyhow, things are REALLY great here! I haven't felt so good about a place since India. There is so much happening and it's pretty raw and dirty! There's a mix of Burmese, Indian, and Chinese people here creating near chaos on the busy streets all day. BOOM! What action!
Some of the friendliest people I've met were in Syria, but the people here come pretty close. Very great.
As you know I had to take pristine US dollars into here. One of the first jobs on arrival was then to actually get some local currency, the kyat, as things can be charged in both... anyhow, the only real great option is to do it in the market... very odd... you enter the market and the first floor is gold and jewelery shops, and guys approach you asking if you want to change money. They offer you a rate, a good one now is about 1000 kyat to 1 US. If you agree they take you to a corner and pull out a bundle of kyat notes... the largest is a 1,000, so converting $100 us gets you a stack of 100 bills. You examine and count all 100, and when happy, hand of a $100 US bill in exchange and part ways. As odd as that sounds, you can also exchange for better rate on the street, but it's risky. I heard a story that a guy handed over his $100 US bill, then a second later the exchanger handed a $1 US note back saying that he needed a $100... BOOM, game over! You just lost $100. On the street, you need to get him to agree that what you're handing him is a $100 before you let it from you hand. I'd imagine there are probably other rip-offs, too! Anyhow the market is better. They are honest and expect you to examine all your bills before even showing them you're money.
Anyhow, so I'm now carrying around a brick of Kyat in my pack...
My first and second days were spend acclimatizing in Yangon, then I took the overnight bus for 13 hours way up to Mandalay. Since that long trip has the most comfortable bus, I thought I'd take it and now work my way in short steps back down to Yangon.
Today, I rented a bicycle and went into the backstreets of Mandalay and it was awesome. Very raw and excitingly crazy like India. Bicycle lets you travel further distances, which is great, but it's almost too fast in that you miss adsorbing some of what is happening and the small details on the streets. You have to try to pay attention.
Had a meal today in a dodgy looking Chinese restaurant, but the food was GREAT! I had sweet and sour chicken and I'm QUITE sure it was even chicken! I'm still trying to figure out the food scene here since it's not so touristy. Anyhow, it will get better as I get the feel for things.
My plan is to spend a few days in each of the following in this order, moving from Mandalay in a couple of days: Hsipaw, Pyin U Lwin, Mandalay, Bagan, Kalaw, Inle, Yangon...
So don't worry if I don't blog for a few days... connections, even power are spotty, but you know my itinerary and that things are great, so no worries.