Whenever you order tea at a teahouse in Yangon, the staff will automatically bring bean curd cakes and a few cigarettes to accompany your order. Of course you don't have to smoke and eat all of this - you are charged on consumption.
The hot tea served in the teahouses is made using condensed milk. You get drink a free thermos of green tea after your cup also. It's a great atmosphere sitting there at night and enjoying a bit of chit chat.
For a cup of tea, two or three cups of green tea, a cake and (dare I say) a couple if cigarettes, expect to pay about 200 kyat (23 cents).
I always imagined that this would be more common out in the countryside, but you're just as likely to see this it in urban Yangon as anywhere else.
Some women can carry enormous weight on their heads. In the case of this lady it wasn't how much she was carrying but what - I would never have guessed, but it turned out to be home brew. Pretty lethal stuff by the look of it too, the two girls on the left discretely shook their heads as I checked out the bottles ;-)
Star Cola is the more affordable alternative to you Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola drinkers. Star Cola is less than US$.25 cents where the real coca cola was quite expensive comparitivly speaking. I think the Coca Cola was brought in from Thailand. My son liked it and he also liked the local brand of Quench and others. I'm not a soda drinker so I didn't try them.
Well! Betel nut seems to be the national passion!! It is some sort of mild intoxicant that must be addicting too as I've seen people load up with 2 or 3 little leaf packets at one time!! This stuff turns your teeth a lovely shade of Red and eventually Black as your teeth rot out!! I talked with a few locals about it and they felt it was somewhat healthy! I don't know how they could think that as their teeth are falling out! The sad thing is that I saw quite a few very young kids also chewing it. If you're interested in trying it just look around for the little street stalls. They are everywhere. I'm not sure of the exact ingredients but this guy let me take a picture of his favorite mixture before he plopped it into his mouth chewed for a few minutes and spit out a big red pile of Spit!! Yummy!!
When you arrive in Yangon, you will notice that all of the girls, and a lot of the kids are wearing this yellow paste smeared on their faces in different patterns. It is called Danaka, and is used as something of a sun block against the strong tropical sun in Burma... It's made from powder ground up from one of the local trees...
Traditionally men in Myanmar become monks twice in their lives. It is necessary for monks to seek alms and donations. Of course they are not pushy or anything like that and will be very grateful if you give them anything.
These two young lads had been asking the locals around us for contributions and seemed a bit surprised when I offered them a few kyat.
The flow of traffic is manually controlled in Yangon. At each major intersection you will notice what looks like a police box on one corner. This is typically staffed by two people and they monitor the traffic and change the lights.
Orderly traffic flow took back seat however, when these traffic police noticed how badly I had tied my longyi. They both left their post and one of them gave me a mini-lesson. A tad embarassing but memorable nonetheless.
In this picture, the friendly traffic warden gives a lesson while his colleague makes sure the traffic doesn't bank up too far.
Betel chews are known as Kunya, and they are chewed by most adults, male and female in most parts of Myanmar. Seeing a set of white teeth is a relative rarity. Although we had read that chewing the nut in public has been made illegal, there was no real evidence that this is a law taken seriously. The footpaths were covered in spittle marks, stationary objects, such as posts and even pots (as in the pic) who evidence of years of accumulated spitting out of the red gunk. Any holes in the footpath were particular favourite spitoons, but there were sand filled receptacles, which were respectfully used in temples, and along the streets in places. The overall effect is quite grotty.
The most basic form of betel chewing is as pictured. Small chunks of the dried nut are mixed with lime paste, and wrapped in betel leaf - which come from two separate plants. Some people actually chew the fresh nut as well as the dried version. The items are called "quids" and are held in the mouth and chewed. Apparently, experience chewers can hold them for hours without spitting.
This is a long standing tradition, and is reported to create a feeling of enhanced well being - mild euphoria (if there is such a thing!), and general stimulation. It is also reported to facilitate digestion, and treat certain intestinal worms. It stains the teeth a dark red colour, and looks very unattractive. Even the most well dressed men and women often have a blighted smile as a result of several years of this habit.
As the telephone network remains quite rudimenary in Myanmar, and poverty is almost the norm, there are few household telephones on the country. There were a range of open area telephone services, such as these sheds and cubicles, and some were on smaller streets on flimsy tables holding two old fashioned telephones. Quite unique really!
While we have "bubblers" and water fountains in many of our public places, as well as the increasing bottled water industry, in the West, Myanmar's version of a public water source seems to be these water stations. These are usually large ceramic pots, sitting on an elevated platform, with cups.
I'm not sure whether its a public service or locals take responsibility for doing the refills. We saw plenty of people drinking from them - usually with their own cup. We also shared our water with a distressed little boy one day, when the family discovered that the pots were empty.
You will be expected to remove your footwear and then walk clockwise around the temple. The reason for this is a symbolic sign of respect by keeping your right hand, which is deemed cleaner than your left, towards the holy shrine.
At the Theinggyi Market there were some wood carvers working on their carvings. They had some interesting items at very affordable prices. My son liked the big HAND chairs but it wouldn't fit in our backpack!
I felt that this dad wanted to make sure that his son made it across the street safely so he had a loose grip on his boys arm. When my son and I cross the street that is how I always hold his arm too.
When we visited Shwedagon Paya, our guide pointed out this neglected black Buddha. He explained that families basically sponsor a Buddha image, and care for it's maintenance. However, if the family falls on hard times, of course, so does the Buddha image.
Mr Kyaw did not have to do it. He is a member of VT and had sent him an email requesting some help with a hotel. I usually stay at Yuzana Garden Hotel but they were not answering emails. Mr Kyaw suggested that I stay at Panorama and he got me a good price indeed and then recommended a nice resto, and i am sorry i didnt go there because of the heavy rains. when i arrived at YGN airport Mingaladon, there he was at the airport.. unmistakable. he said he was there for some other flight but i was glad to see him. he had organized a car for us, from the first day to the last for a price which is half the price quoted by other agencies and also some other VT members..
in Burma, many things are done on trust, later on he came to the hotel and we finalized the deal and off we went. he gave us his mobile number in case of any trouble and i knew that i could trust this guy.