Myanmar is magic.
One of the many delights of my job is that I get to travel often and to varied destinations. I had the pleasure recently to spend a week in Yangon, Myanmar. I had never been there before but have held an interest in it’s recent history because of the story of one of our long serving and much valued staff who fled that country to escape persecution when he was a university student.
I have consequently followed with interest the travails, triumphs and further travails of Aung San Suu Kyi as she juggled her western experiences with her native roots.
Because my visit was short and on business, I needed to prioritise my tourist activities. A resident expat recommended that I catch the Yangon Circular train which circles the city, to experience some local colour and to obtain a good view of the City and surrounds. The trip takes about 3 hours and you experience both rural and urban Yangon. I highly recommend it but a word of caution! start and end the journey at Yangon Railway Station unless accompanied by a local as it is easy to get lost in Yangon on your own. A Tip, book an air-conditioned carriage. English is not the first language but the locals are very friendly and keen to try to communicate with much waving of hands, giggling and delightfully good humour.
I also had a dining experience that I rate in my top 5 of all time. It was an excellent meal at Le Planteur Restaurant Yangon on the shore of Lake Inya not far from the city. I sat outside in the balmy afternoon and as dusk fell they lit paper lanterns that floated gently out into the lake. The food is excellent, the service efficient and the ambience is exceptional.
I was delighted to see at the entrance a perfectly maintained AUSTIN A40 Somerset of early 1950’s vintage. I learned to drive in one that my father owned which was identical but in creme colour.
Of course any visit to Yangon should include spending time at the breathtaking Shwedagon Pagoda the largest of many scattered around the city. I made my visit late afternoon to give me time to experience the many smaller temples and alcoves that form part of the larger pagoda precinct and to witness the glowing gold patina of the main pagoda lit up by the setting sun.
Locals and visitors mingled, some knelt in contemplation, some sang in payer and others took photos but it seemed to me all were quiet and reverential in consideration of the surroundings. I spent several hours simply wandering around, sometimes sitting, sometimes just standing but all the time appreciating the beauty, the artistry and celebration of the beliefs evidenced in the various works.
I was bemused by one particular experience, I was picked up to be taken to business every morning by a driver and on the third day it finally dawned upon me why I was uncomfortable sitting in the passenger seat. The car was right hand drive like most vehicles in the city, but the roads are “drive on the right” so I sat next to the centre of the road and the driver sat on the kerb side. I was a bit slow in picking that up. Apparently right hand drive vehicles from Japan are less expensive than left hand drive from US & China.
Another interesting observation was the obvious scarcity of motor bikes and scooters which you typically experience in great numbers in most Asian cities. Apparently the Yangon authorities have banned them in the city since 2003. Several rumours exist as the why the ban was imposed but it is difficult to find the real reason.
I had a long chat with a couple of middle aged American ladies who were at the end of an extensive tour around Myanmar and who shared with me some of the great experiences they encountered and thoroughly enjoyed. I also enjoyed my quick visit and have plans to visit again and to move further afield to experience life outside of the capital.
My reason for the all too short stay in Yangon was to debrief the recent implementation of the total Ntuity advertising agency software suite at HAVAS River Orchid Myanmar offices. Great company, great management, great people, thanks for the hospitality.
If your would like to see why so many marcomms organisations are adopting Ntuity give me a call Marshall Duncan on +61 2 8425 8888.
Or click here: Request your own personal one-on-one