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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!