June 20, 2013

Myanmar : Going Back in Time

My visit to Myanmar earlier this year was like going back in time. 

Firstly, there's no international roaming services! *wails*

Luckily the hotel I stayed at provides free WiFi connection. So I fully depended on WiFi to Whatsapp my family back home, and made arrangements to meet my sister and her friends who stayed in a different hotel. Even so, the Internet there is quite slow so other than the occasional email and Facebook check, my trip was almost Internet free.
Cash is king in Myanmar. Credit card is generally not accepted there. The exception is only if you stay at those 5 star hotels and don't mind paying commissions, taxes and biased hotel exchange rates.

To further complicate things, their ATMs do not accept international card. So yeah... you need to bring all the money you need to spend!

But before that, make sure you bring only USD in good condition; not stained, folded, creased, torn or worn out. Safe to say, the dollar bills must be brand new. My friend got a few of her bills rejected cos they were creased and worn out. Luckily she brought some brand new ones or else, I had to be her ATM throughout the trip. haha...

money changer at the airport

As for where to change the money, the airport is still the best place to change it. The exchange rate I got at the airport was higher than the rates offered by the hotel and banks in Bogyoke Aung San Market. There are black markets money changer where you can negotiate the rate, but the ones I met weren't that cooperative to give a good deal.

Anyway, walking throughout the city, no doubt you'll come across red blotches everywhere on the street. It won't take long before you realize that those blotches are actually saliva spitted from betel nut chewers. Euww! Apparently, chewing betel nut has become a popular habit for the locals. You can see betel nut sellers everywhere in the city.

I was gobsmacked to see this culture. I mean, I usually see the elderly village folks chew betel nuts in Malaysia but in Myanmar, even the young ones have this habit.

 You'll also find a lot of men wearing kain pelikat, or longyi as what they call it.

moi posing with a man wearing longyi

Another distinctive feature unique to Myanmar is the use of thanakha powder. Women and children apply it on their faces as sunblock and for cosmetic purposes.

a woman wearing thanakha powder

Interested to try? I think now Nora Danish is selling it. hehehe...

Point is, Myanmar is not like any other country that I have visited before. Now that the country is opening its door to the outside world, modernization slowly takes place. Although the changes make it an exciting time to visit, I doubt these unique features of Myanmar will remain for long.

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