A Little Difference…Yangon is Unlike Anything I’ve Seen Before!

I haven’t been to many places yet, well, not like my aunt. But, out of all the places I’ve visited in Southeast Asia so far, Burma is nothing like any of them! I mean, the main similarities are the people walking around everywhere and you can eat really yummy street-food, but a lot of things were very different.

Sour plums for sale in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

A man selling sours plums outside the market of Yangon.

I went to Yangon first, and when I arrived I was thinking to myself, “Ana, you’re up for a whole new adventure because this is just insane.” In Yangon, there are so many Indian-Burmese people and from what I’m told, the streets of Yangon have some similarities to India. The streets were busy, dirty, noisy, interesting, there were so many smells, and the traffic made me feel like we were constantly going to crash! The cars don’t always stop at the red lights; we were weaving through, driving in the middle of the lanes (which we do here in Thailand too actually) but then you add in so many people on the sidewalks, people in the street, people crossing the street.

burmese construction workers

Men making a new road, carrying buckets of supplies on their shoulders.

Yangon is totally different from anywhere else I’ve been.

The very first thing I noticed is that everywhere I turned, someone was spitting out betel nut juice. I learned that betel nuts are highly addictive pieces of a nut/seed wrapped inside a betel leaf, then they add other flavors and people chew them for a long time, and as they chew, they spit out the dark red juice on to the sidewalk. It surprised me that when I walked around the streets, we passed by someone waving hello to us with big smiles and their teeth were stained red and brown. The first time I saw someone with their mouth opened, I asked my aunt “How come his mouth is all bloody?” But it turned out to not be blood, just betel nut. At first it caught me off guard, but after three weeks in Burma, I realized the betel nuts are like cigarettes in the US and a lot of people chew the red stuff all day long.

betel nut spit in Burma

The blood-red betel nut spit.

The noises around us in Yangon were sometimes not so awesome: people hawking up a loogi, cars honking, and, of course, the spitting. And, I saw a lot of people digging for gold. Yep, I said it. I swear, every time I turned my head to the left someone was digging away, and then on the right, there! they’ve already found the gold! It’s strange, because back home it would be so gross and impolite to make body noises but over here in Southeast Asia, it’s not gross or impolite at all, I was actually the only one surprised by it!

Two kids play around inside Shwedagon as their parents look on in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

A little girl and her big brother playing around in a temple of Shwedagon. (Love how a boy is rocking that hat.)

I noticed that a place and culture can be more different than I once thought it could! Somethings I grew up thinking are really inappropriate, are totally normal, but on the other side, some American things are not okay in Burma, and I had to dress in more covered clothing, and other things like that.

A woman sells vegetables from a tray on her head throughout the streets in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

A woman carrying a tray of vegetables on her head.

One of the awesome things I liked seeking was the people, mostly women, walking around with really wide, circular trays of food or clothing on their head. It’s intriguing because sometimes the tray looks so heavy and like it should break their necks, but they don’t show it on their faces. The women come weaving through the crowds, dodging people, dogs, sidewalk street stands, sprays of betel nut juice. It’s wacky! No matter what is around them, it just never falls off! I guess the saying “practice makes perfect” really is true.

A boy hawks his family's watermelons at a streetside market in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

A little boy selling huge watermelons.

Although Yangon made me feel claustrophobic, it was okay because the people were always so nice to us. Whenever we walked down the street there were always people just sitting the curb and small staircases, and many greeted us with a loud “mingalaba!” which pretty much means hello, and they would smile too.

A lovely sunset in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma)

A beautiful sunset at a peer. (I highly recommend it if you're going to Yangon!)

Yangon is a place where it’s great to visit, however, I think Chiang Mai is a better place to live because for me, Yangon has a really fast pace of life and Chiang Mai is kind of just in the middle. So, if you’re looking for a place to go to for a few days and want to meet some really fantastically nice people and see a lot of beautiful temples, you should go to Yangon, I really loved how different everything was from what I’ve seen in other places!

About Ana

I've got heart and soul, and stories waiting to be told. In 2011, I first left the US and was homeschooled from Southeast Asia by my aunt for 6+ months. Now, I travel with her in the summers and share my stories here. I've visited 7+ countries and counting! "Wherever you go, go with all your heart" — Confuscious

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9 Responses to A Little Difference…Yangon is Unlike Anything I’ve Seen Before!

  1. Erik February 19, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    Wow, this is sooo cool. What a great experience. Burma has long been near the top of my list of places I really want to go. I especially love the picture of the giant watermelons and the sunset over the water. Great job!

    • Ana February 20, 2012 at 2:54 am #

      You’ve never been to Burma before? It’s a great place and you should go if you haven’t been. Thank you, I really like those photos too!

      • Erik February 27, 2012 at 12:26 am #

        I’m even older than Aunt Shannon- when I was your age, no Americans could visit Burma at all! They were completely closed off. Hard to imagine I’m sure with all you are seeing. I’m happy for the Burmese people. Everyone says how nice they are- they deserve good things to happen to them, they have suffered a lot.

  2. Donna February 22, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    I really enjoyed reading about your trip to Yangoon. Great photos. It reminded me of my trip there a few years ago. The Burmese people were so friendly, even in a huge city like Yangoon, it seemed like everyone would wave and say ‘Mingalaba!”. Like you, it took a bit to get used to the crazy traffic (pedestrians do not have the right of way!) And seeing the red betel juice spit were a bit strange at first but it was all part of the adventure!

    I really like Chiang Mai too. I lived there for few months and felt so at home.

    Happy Travels, Donna

    • Ana February 23, 2012 at 2:54 am #

      Thank you! I know, the traffic is so crazy in Yangon! So, my aunt and I walked with the locals because they knew what they were doing and we didin’t :)


  3. Crystal March 1, 2012 at 12:25 am #

    Cool blog! I’m amazed at all the things that that woman is carrying on her head – and balancing while she’s squatting, too! I spent a month 2 summers ago in Chang Mai and loved it, but I haven’t been to Burma yet.

    Kudos on your trip – I’m looking forward to reading more about your travels.

    All the best,

    • Ana March 1, 2012 at 2:44 am #

      Thank you! When I first went to Burma, I was really amazed too and wondered why it wasn’t falling off! I love it here in Chiang Mai too and if you ever get the chance, you should go to Burma. :)


  4. Sofia January 25, 2013 at 6:33 am #

    Looks wonderful, what a beautiful sunset too :)

    • Ana February 17, 2013 at 8:36 pm #

      Thank you Sofia! Seeing them was one of my favorite things, they were so pretty! :)

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