Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar (Burma)
The country formally known as Burma has just recently switched from a Junta (Military rule) to a "quasi-civilian" based government. This has helped ease the border control, slowing bringing in more tourists. Being here at the height of the boom and economic change makes it quite the eye opening place.
First morning in Yangon we're walking down the very crowded, hot and uneven sidewalk while a gong slowly rang in the distance getting louder as we got closer and closer. As we reached it, we were stopped in our tracks - caught up just as an elderly woman's body was carried out of her apartment in a sheet. Intrigued by the tradition we just saw, we marched on with a heavy heart in the high heat to find the train station. Hopping on the commuter train with the locals, we rode the 3 hr Circle Line loop around Yangon and the beautiful surrounding countryside.
Myanmar has already proved to be Yin and yang. It's not at all touristy which is quite welcome after the spots in Thailand that are overrun with "ladies nights" and street peddlers pushing overpriced tchotchkes. But it's also shockingly uncomfortable at times.
Men will see us and say "welcome to my country" and we smile and they openly and warmly smile back. But, then you notice they are missing most of their teeth. And the teeth that remain, are stained red from the tobacco they chew... and spit directly on to the street that we walk on. That they walk barefoot on. And sit and enjoy tea and noodles on. And pee on. And drop their trash to the ground. And then your eyes shift to the trash in the sewer and, well, that's an open sewer.
One day (actually two, we went back for seconds it was that good) at an amazing tea house, we were enjoying delicious samosas and curry, drinking tea, and the wind changes so you get a whiff of sewage reminding us again of how far they have to go.
Being taken out of your comfort zone is difficult internally and externally. Your heart goes out to the dirty little boy that is only wearing a ratty tshirt, no pants or shoes. But at the same time he has the biggest smile and gets a real, genuine kick out of making faces back and forth w you.
We enjoy the "major departure" from the real world but at the same time miss our comforts of home - being able to talk to friends or family with ease or simply our own pillows. But we eventually get to go back to that and again feel very lucky. Slowly getting used to the push and pull... the yin and yang. But that is the point... keep on keepin' on.
After "commuting" with the locals, we became our tourist selves again and visited the Shwe Degon Pagoda - one of the most sacred sites in Buddhism... they had 1000's of Buddhas and maybe 100 gold pagodas that shined brilliantly against the dark blue dusk sky. Golden hour indeed. We met the friendliest local retiree named Alan at a bar (where we drank 75 cent mojitos!!) and he took us to his favorite noodle shop in an alley in Chinatown. Check out the chef cooking in his wok over a kiln.