Monthly Archives: September 2014

Beautiful stars

I remember first tasting star fruit as a kid when my aunt returned from living in Africa for a few years. We went to the grocery store and she made showed me all of the things she ate in Africa. How fortunate we are in the US to have access to all sorts of fruits and vegetables from around the world! And year round at that!

I remember loving it or at least the star shape so I was eager to try it here. I purchased one from the market, sliced it open, and I was disappointed… It had the texture of an apple (my favorite fruit) but was like a watery celery-apple with a slight bitter citrus taste. It was quite strange.

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The U.S. Embassy and Ambassador’s House

A friend works in the office across the street from the U.S. Embassy so I stopped by to take some aerial shots. Please excuse the reflection. ¬†I barely escaped being yelled at when taking the photo of the Embassy sign. You can see the officer approaching in the background ūüôāphoto 5photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

Down the street a little ways is the U.S. Ambassador’s house. ¬†The U.S. Ambassador to Thailand is Krisite Kenney. If there were extreme rain, I’m sure that the ditch around the house would flood to form a moat. ¬†The house seemed a little too exposed for my liking in the big city. I would want more shrubbery if I was living there. There appeared to be two residences/buildings on the property.

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Final tales of Burma

Mingha lah bah = Hello

Jay sue dimpa tey = Thank you

These phrases served my friend and I well as we wandered through Yangon. They opened up conversations with locals and allowed us to show our appreciation for those that did stop to help us.

Some things to note:

– I was treated like a rock star. As a tall female, I stood out. People asked me to take pictures with them or just simply took my picture. I would then ask them if they would like a picture with me. I gave my camera to my friend and he started taking pictures of them just so that I could have proof of this crazy phenomenon.

– Since Burma only recently opened up to outside influences, the only “American” things I could find were Coca-Cola products, NesCaf√©, and Oreos. There were no 7-Elevens (so popular in Thailand) or McDonalds.

– A lot of Burmese women (and some men) could be seen wearing Thanaka, which is made from the roots of trees. It is ground into a paste and applied to the face. It is used to prevent against sunburn and acne. (Seen on the face of this woman from the circular train)

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– In every park, couples can be seen side by side, snogging beneath an umbrella. We had read about I but couldn’t believe just how many were doing it!

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– A random hospital we encountered…. you hope that free in this case means¬†gratis.¬†

 

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More tales from Burma

My favorite part of my trip to Myanmar was taking the circular train around Yangon. ¬†It was an older, open-air train, full of locals, some with goods to sell at various markets along the way, others just catching a ride to the next town. ¬†The train makes a loop around the city and takes about 3 hours. ¬†It leaves fairly frequently from the main train station. It cuts through very rural areas of the city. ¬†I saw pigs, goats, graffiti, rice paddies, houses on stilts, smiles, chickens headed to market, lots of dogs, factories, greenery, markets…. It was such a beautiful, peaceful ride, although at times I felt as though I was in the shake shack from¬†Grease.

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My favorite moment was seeing a young girl from inside the train at one of the 39 stops. ¬†She smiled at me and was determined to throw some long green beans to me inside of the train. ¬† A few made it inside of the train. ¬†When her mom saw what she was doing she couldn’t help but laugh and then give me a big smile.

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About 2 hours into the ride, I had to use the restroom so hopped off at the next stop. ¬†Across from the station was a small temple. ¬†I approached the door and spotted a restroom across the open space. ¬†I took off my shoes and said “hello.” A moment later two men approached, dressed in the traditional clothing of a long skirt called a¬†longyi. I asked if I could use the restroom and they brought me right over to it. ¬†When I came out they asked if we had had lunch and when we said no, they invited us to sit down and gave us food, food, and more food. ¬†There was rice, fish, prawns, okra, spicy sauce, and large bitter peas. They laughed as we tried the bitter peas. ¬†They were not appetizing! We dined with about 8-10 men who were eager to speak English with us. ¬†We found out that they made breakfast for almost one thousand monks every Monday and Tuesday in the nearby monasteries. As we departed on the train after lunch, we made sure to look up the name of the town at the station. ¬†The town was called Myit Ta Nyunt. ¬†And it turns out we were only 20 minutes from Yangon!

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That afternoon we walked to the Karaweik Palace, which is an enormous floating palace on Lake Kandawgyi.  It is currently used as a dinner and show theater.  It is enormous and has a direct view of the Shwedagon Pagoda.

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Tales from Burma (Myanmar)

Burma is a very unique place. I wasn’t sure what to expect upon arriving but all I found were friendly people, including the taxi driver who brought a friend and I from the airport in Yangon to the center of the city. ¬†He told us where to go and drove us past the places on the way into town. ¬†All cab fares were negotiated before hand as there are no meters.

The first night we wandered down to the waterfront area.  We found lots of people gathered, just hanging out and playing barefoot soccer on the pavement with makeshift goals.

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The next day was full of sightseeing! ¬†We started at the point farthest from our destination and then worked our way back into the city. ¬†The first stop was Nga Hyat Gyi Pagoda, which featured an enormous seated buddha. ¬†A lot of people were gathered in prayer in front of it. ¬†As is traditional, shoes came off and all extremities were covered. Surprisingly though, the buddha had small LED lights surrounding its head. ¬†I’m assuming this was an update in recent years.

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As we prepared to leave and go visit the reclining buddha across the street, we met Alexander, a former monk who still lives in the monk quarters of the reclining buddha. He took us through a shortcut to the reclining buddha and took us into the monk quarters to show us where he lived.  They were very simple and it was all open.  The beds did not have mattresses but rather straw mats and blankets.  He then took us to the reclining buddha.  It was enormous!  The symbol on its feet talked about Buddhism and horoscopes.

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One of my favorite experiences of walking around with Alexander was meeting another monk who promptly took my hand and gave me a BIG smile.  It was so different from living in Thailand where the monks are not supposed to have contact with females.

Our third stop was the Shwedagon Pagoda. ¬†It is over 2,600 years old and the gold on it is replaced every 4 years for a cost of 30 million USD. As we walked around the pagoda, we saw signs saying “Thursday corner,” “Friday corner,” etc. It turns out that you are supposed to visit the corner of your actual birthday and bathe the buddha figure there while also leaving offerings.

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We walked back into Yangon from Shwedagon, just meandering through the city. ¬†We stopped at People’s Park which is apparently only for the People of Myanmar and not foreigners as we were told we could not enter. ¬†We found a different way in and were amazed at the beauty of the park. ¬†There was an old plane, suspension bridges with Rapunzel-like castles in between, and a water show synchronized to music. ¬†The officials didn’t like that we were watching the water show and we were told to leave so we did. ¬†It’s interesting because there are signs everywhere that encourage people to be nice to tourists yet there was a “tourist/foreigners” price for EVERYTHING!

That evening we wandered over to the Strand Hotel.  It is supposed to be the place to be on a Friday night for expats as all drinks are half off during happy hour.  The hotel has a colonial feel from the early 1900s as does all of Yangon actually.  Most of the people we came in contact with were able to speak some English since it did used to be an British colony.

Examples of British architecture:

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