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Burmese Surprise

Gong Xi Fa Cai from Rangoon

sunny 38 °C

It’s not surprising that Chinese New Year is big in Burma, after all, China is just north of the border. Burma has a large Chinese population so the food and entertainment was authentic at our hotel’s elaborately decorated poolside restaurant…
And a fluffy Chinese dragon delivered golden gifts to every table while enthusiastic drummers battered our ears..
Until recently, Burma was considered an international pariah, but since Barack O popped in for a visit and gave it the green light the few hotels considered passable by international standards have been crammed with tourists and business-types hoping to get in on the ground floor. We booked everything last August and still had difficulty finding what we wanted without breaking the bank. Don’t even think of coming here without cast iron reservations and a wallet stuffed with pristine American bills.
Rudyard Kipling wrote that, “Burma is quite unlike any place you know about.” We’ve only been here a few days but we fully agree with the old boy scout. We see shades of India without the filth and stray animals; Thailand without the pollution; Malaysia without the strictures of Islam. It’s a land of beautiful people who welcome us with betel-stained smiles wherever we go and want us to know how much they love their country and, especially, how much they love Aung San Suu Kyi, and it is a land of temples and monks...
Burma is full of surprises: the first being that Rangoon (Yangon) is not the capital. We had wondered why there were so many sadly neglected Colonial government buildings like this …
… until we discovered that the capital was moved north to Nay Pyi Daw sometime ago. However, Rangoon is certainly the commercial hub of the country and foreign companies are flooding in to take advantage of the new found openness.
Rangoon is a surprisingly green city with numerous parks, gardens and lakes, and the wide colonial style boulevards are lined with shade trees without a motorbike in sight…
The government banished all motorbikes from the city a number of years ago, and the supposed reasons are legion. Some say that terrorists used them for hit and run assassinations of government officials while others claim criminals rode them to commit grab ’n go thefts. We’ve also heard that a senior politician’s son was killed by one. However, our hotel’s chauffeur offered the most plausible reason, (considering what we know of Asian bikers); that riders simply ignored red lights and laws of the road and caused so much chaos and pollution that the government gave them the chop – What a wonderful idea… Bali take note.
Now we’re off to visit the highlight of Rangoon – the magnificent Shwe Dagon golden temple – before the thermometer blows off steam at midday.
In the meantime, here's the war memorial in Rangoon's city centre...

Posted by Hawkson 16:08 Archived in Myanmar

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