Yangon (Rangoon), Myanmar
Up at 4.45am to catch the 8am flight to Yangon (Rangoon). Suvamabhumi Airport grows on me more every time I visit and this time we left a watch lighter as we bought one for Elly. I started suffering Photographicus Paranoia – the irrational fear that you don’t have enough camera memory. Luckily I convinced myself that I wouldn’t shoot more than 1100 photos so avoided buying gigabytes of additional memory. Flew Thai Airways to Yangon (Rangoon) and after an hour landed at Yangon International Airport. The Generals have clearly been spending the money on something as this airport oozes Asian superpower meets Eurotrash design style. Imagine London City with the Stazi in control. Quickly forgettable. Immigration, however, was a breeze given that I had queued at the Myanmar Embassy in London to get a visa and had completed a novel’s worth of customs and immigration paperwork in-flight. I was expecting something far worse than any other Asian country but I was wrong. Faster and less intimidating than Vietnam but with all the pseudo police state grandeur of Cambodia. The Yangon uniforms had more stains and less creases. Waited while our bags were kidnapped only to be ‘found’ by smiling baggage handlers who helped us to find a taxi into town ($7) which isn’t bad for a journey of 20kms. First impressions of Rangoon were neutral as it felt like a cross between Colombo and Ho Chi Minn City in other words chaos meets faded greatness.The taxi was a 1986 Toyota with no working instruments or suspension and we were joined by a friendly chap who explained the black market and offered to change money for us. We declined as I knew I would soon be up to my neck in it. Stayed at Traders Hotel in Sule Pagoda Road in the heart of the city. Good but anonymous business type hotel but not bad at $130 a night. A travel agent I had met on the Internet was there will all our internal tickets and she even managed to do be a quick under the counter rate for Kyat at 950/$. Not a great deal as it turned out as I was offered up to 1200 in Bogyoke Market. The government rate is 450. Elly went off to chill out and I headed off to Bogyoke Market to take photographs and see the reality behind the tourist brochures. Great experience and one I would recommend. You aren’t constantly hassled as in India and you get to see life on the streets from sugar cane pressing to live chickens. Then back for a nap and dinner. I decided to have Mohinga, the national dish of Myanmar. I had read that Mouhinga is Burma’s bouillabaisse, a rich and pungent fish broth with rice noodles. My experience was different. Imagine a liquid that was part gravy browning and part soapy dish water. Then add crunchy mud and keep luke warm. Pour this over a bowl of cold rice noodles and hard boiled eggs and add 1 gramme of coriander and the juice of one sixty-forth of a lime. Top with fried batter and a deep film of greese. Vile is only half way there.