Myanmar is my favorite country ever as I stated before. It’s such a unique country with a different culture from all I have ever seen before. People may think that in Southeast Asia every country is almost the same, but they couldn’t be more wrong. Each country is so different from each other. And the fact that Myanmar is only open to tourism since 2012 leads the country to be totally different from any other in the world. But many people don’t know about this country, and I’m happy they don’t otherwise I wouldn’t feel it the same. I saw some things in Myanmar that still top of mind for me as they surprised me. A unique country and a very special one.
So, after all, what’s so unique in Myanmar, the country many still know as Burma?
–People use some kind of clay in their faces, a yellow one. I heard it’s to protect them from the sun, as having dark-colored skin is a sign you are poor, cause it means you work in the fields. In some places, they make designs on their faces with the clay, but most part of the time you see Burmese people with a yellow circle on their faces.
*It is not clay, that was my previous thought once I landed in Myanmar and knew nothing about their culture. The yellow thing in their face is Thanaka, a beauty cosmetic made of Thanaka tree grinding it into a stone slab
–Men don’t use trousers. They use a Longhi, typical clothing from Myanmar that consists of fabric around your waist making it look almost like a skirt.
-I use to see these red spots on the floor all over, but I didn’t know what that might be. It happens that they chew some kind of mixture with tobacco leaves and something else and then they spit it to the ground. So it’s a frequent sight to see men spitting red to the floor – that’s disgusting- I saw on a bus the man spilling to a bottle and I’m looking at that red bottle like: “yew”
*they are chewing betel nut mixed with other ingredients
This fact leads men in Myanmar to have the reddest teeth on earth– I might think. As they are always chewing this stuff, their teeth are very reddish, and talking to someone after chewing it’s a weird sight, as their mouth is red all over.
-I was riding a train when I see a sign that it’s forbidden kissing. I haven’t seen no one showing love affects on the street.
–While riding trains, it’s usual that all windows become doors for all kinds of vegetables and fruits. Every train stop is a living market. There are money and cabbages, flowers, all types of vegetables coming in and out the windows, and they don’t care that’s your window, they do this in every window.
–Riding a train is a must. For me, it was the most fun thing I did in this amazing land. They have the most swinging trains ever. From side to side, up to down, it’s a challenge walking on those corridors and you don’t even imagine going to the toilet… It’s just like a roller coaster. I’m not overexaggerating… I had my backpack falling down from the top as the train was bouncing so much.
-Going on a train ride isn’t a solo journey, it’s a ride with mice. I saw several mice going from side to side and sniffing the plastic bag I had on the floor that then I needed to place on my bench.
–They build streets by hand. I saw women distributing the street tar by hand on jars, and that tar was boiling in containers just next to them. I wasn’t able to capture this on camera, but I met another Portuguese traveler that did:
-I came across a very funny situation. We were crossing the road tolls and the bus wasn’t stopping. Instead, they were throwing the money through the window, and then the guy at the road toll was running after it to catch it.
–There are no marked bus stops, no signs on buses, anything. The bus driver’s helper is all the time shouting to the crowd the name of the destination.
–There is always an extra seat on the bus. The corridor on the bus isn’t made to walk. It is to place small benches so someone else can sit there.
-Riding a bus is also very fun. In this one I took from Mandalay to Bagan, the driver’s helper was constantly collecting merchandising along the way. There were people already waiting for the bus on the street, they deliver some box and we keep our way.
-Their houses are very simple. Made of palm tree leaves and bamboo connected between each other creating patterns. They sleep on the floor. I know it as I could see inside their houses.
-Prepare yourself to be very happy here. People are always smiling and saying – Mingalarbar– to you. They are wishing you good things. But it wasn’t always like this… A few years ago Burmese people didn’t like tourists, but now they realize we are bringing money and jobs to the country.
Those are some things that I found funny and that I can’t forget about Myanmar. But the country is much more than this. It’s a “jewel to be polished”.