Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Burma Observations

Back in Mandalay we rejoiced in laying on a bed with a mattress in a clean hotel room. One thing I haven't mentioned is the general dust; dry, dry, dry, dirt. It gets everywhere. It is everywhere. Everything outside the hotel is covered in dirt: steps, bus seats, streets, nuns and every fruit and vegetable sold. At night when I wipe my face it is dark brown, when I blow my nose it is black. Clothes soon blacken. Table tops are wiped but it is only at best a ceremonial act as they are still caked in dirt.

Here are a few of my other observations from our time in Myanmar so far:

Greetings - Out of the cities we are stared at all the time, I guess out of curiosity. Normally a wave breaks their mesmerisation and they gleefully wave back. Often they wave back and turn away and the turn back and wave again like a shy child. Occasionally people shout 'hello', we smile and say hello back and 'mingarlaba'. They often seem surprised that we know throw to say hello in their own language!

Some people want to shake our hands. Once one person does, it ends up with you greeting most of the street as they call their neighbours to come out and shake our hand also.

Shoes - Most people seem to wear flip flops as an inconvenience as they hardly ever fit their foot. I think that their arches must really lack support. When not 'in town' many people seem to go bear foot. No matter what job their doing from working in a shop to constructing a building to labouring on road works with hot tar the flip flop is the footwear of choice.

Water - We always drink bottled water but many houses provide water on the street for passers by. A small covered urn and stainless steel mug chained to the lid are a common sight outside houses for any traveller, neighbour or passing monk.

Toilets - Toilets are a shaped hole in the ground that you balance over. It's surprising how easily you can adapt. Firstly by necessity, then it becomes second nature. Like Thailand, once you've finished there's a hose at the side of the toilet to wash, then you can dry au-natural or bring your own toilet paper. Must not put paper down the toilet as there are no sewage systems.

Pavements – not a common site but where they do occur they are immediately treated by shops or restaurants as an extension to their property and are covered in chairs, tables or items for sale. Otherwise they are used to park motorcycles or stack construction materials. Where they are free the curb is over a foot high and they are so full of holes or broken manhole covers over open sewers that its more like a steeplechase with a very unappealing water jump!

Pets - Cats are not as common as dogs here. Cat with tails seem a luxury and in Sinbo we saw a man riding a motorcycle and his bike key ring, he confirmed, was a cat’s tail. Maybe he thought it was a good luck charm?

Horns - the beeping kind, are plentiful and used with gusto at every opportunity. Car use their horn twice or thrice every time they come up to overtake, and sometimes after overtaking too. There are no real road markings in Burma, so if your driving up to a junction you just go through the junction, beeping as you go. If a car hits a motorbike, then, regardless, it was the cars fault. This makes motorbike drivers quite arrogant, and they just pull out into the road without looking. Bike drivers hoot cars, and bicycles, and people - it's often much better to walk on the road than the excuse for a pavement. So living next to a street is very noisy. There are also no restrictions on when horns can be used, so if the bus is leaving at 5am, then it will start honking about 4:30am and about every five minutes until departure when a great crescendo of honks will signal the off. Trains honk coming into a station, again at any time of the day or night. Boats also signal their imminent arrival loudly and frequently until they are moored. I can see the concept, it's like the ice cream van singing, 'I'll soon be with you'. But the noise! I have been known to sleep through fire alarms (not a good quality) but the horns beat me in Burma!

River Trash

More rubbish on the riverbanks

Dust, dust, dust, dust......

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