I moved to Yangon, Myanmar, in May 2023. The Golden Land as it is called, is a country like no other, peculiar in many ways. I've heard some people still refer to the country as Burma which is the former name, but the name was changed to Myanmar in 1989. The people however, are still referred to as Burmese.
One thing that stands out is how Burmese people are polite, they would not openly get annoyed as it is does not reflect well to openly express anger or irritation. Even when people struggle with something, you'll hardly get an outright NO. Losing face is something people would not do, so they might say okay or beat around the bush. In all that, you are 'not allowed' to lose your cool as it is not taken well :-) If you put too much pressure, they could shut you out. And you'd never hear a thing even if it were killing them. However, they are always eager to help when they can, which I think is sweet.
My arrival was anything but pleasant because of my nationality. I was treated shabbily and told clearly that it was because of my nationality, but I'll save that story for another day!
In speaking with people, I noticed not many people know of this country or where in Asia it is located. So I've put a map below for reference - see the red arrow? The flag is also beneath the map.
Myanmar has 7 states, 7 regions and the capital which is referred to as the Union Territory. I have visited two states, the capital - NayPyiTaw Union Territory, I live in Yangon region.
Yangon is one of those cities that feels and could easily be termed lifeless, unless you know the right people and have the right information. Yangon is not a pretty city either, but other parts of the country are, from what I have heard. There are usually activities going on all the time, but without the right information, it could all just pass over and you'd never hear about it. It reminds me of Abuja when I just moved there, so I've been intentionally seeking out information.
People are nice here and, in my case, being black, I get a lot of stares, out of curiousity me thinks. There are very few black people. Many comment on how they like my hair and sometimes, some ask to take pictures with me. I've seen some trying to take or taking pictures of me and have had to show my disapproval for them to stop. When you are different, I guess these things are to be expected. Another distinct thing about people here is that they are patient, very much so, except while driving, hahaha.
Spatial awareness doesn't come naturally here...let me explain. A level of oblivion can be noted without consciousness of the next person in different aspects. From walking into roads, to noise, it's hard to explain, better to live it. One example - people eat betel nuts here all the time. I've noticed that it colours their teeth and inside their mouths to orange. On the other hand, it causes them to spit a lot! You could be walking beside someone and they suddenly spit beside you. If you are in a car and people come to a halt at a traffic light, it is common to have people poke their heads out of the car windows to spit, or drivers open their doors to spit. And my god, they do store a good amount of saliva. The roads have patches of orange from betel nuts. I intend to try it soon. I've been told it could get one high, but I'll see.
Burmese people dress in a longyi (what we would call wrapper in Nigeria), men and women alike.
This is considered formal attire, so when you visit offices, you'll see most people in them. They tend to wear open shoes - slippers and sandals a lot here, which are taken off when you visit many places, especially people's homes. If you see shoes outside a place, you are expected to do same and take yours off. It is not uncommon even in the office to see people walking around their offices barefoot.
I see monks on the streets quite often, some walk barefoot. The men wear maroon while women wear pink and red, with a brown sash.
If not for the colours, it may have been difficult to identify the genders as their hair is completely shaved. I was shocked to see monks in shopping centres and driving, they are quite progressive, me thinks. Hahaaha
It is currently the monsoon/rainy season and I noticed how there are always umbrella holders or containers around. People dutifully put their umbrellas in them and would pick them up on their way out. Even when I went for a concert, people dropped off their umbrellas. In Nigeria, I doubt if people would use them as they may not trust that their umbrellas may be there when they return.
Since being here, I have noticed how driving rules are different. Can you believe there is a special lane and a traffic light for U-turns? Some of the international driving rules do not apply. That's the beauty of travelling, you learn and you adapt.
I have tried some Burmese food, just like with everything, I like some more than others. If you like fish, there is a lot of "fishiness", you'll either love it or hate it.
Lots of Burnese food
I visited a state called Kachin, in the North of the country. I only spent 4 days in the capital of the state called Myitkyina (pronounced Mitʧina). It is a small, slow, town, people really take their time. The food there was so good! It had less oil but was with a good dose of pepper/chilli. I don't fare very well with pepper, but being the person I am, I tried everything my colleagues proposed I try. I paid for it...at 11:23pm, my tummy woke me up and it went downhill from there!
|A warrior from old times|
My recent trip was to Lashio, in Shan state. For some reason I expected for it to be dry but was pleasantly surprised with the greenery. It is the rainy/monsoon season anyway so that's normal. I even went hiking with colleagues
The town is bustling and has a life of its own. I spent a weekend there, so I managed to see a bit of the town.
I have settled in and I am looking forward to exploring more of the country, so there will be posts every now and then of my life here in Myanmar 😊