Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Singapore to Myanmar

Lydia wrote this post and my hilarious yet informative quips will appear in [brackets].

This morning, due to a rainstorm, we checked out Orchard Road’s underground tunnel system. It’s amazing and air conditioned and dry. If only we’d known about them sooner.

We walked through the tunnels back to the same Hawker where we ate yesterday, Food Republic. Today we had chicken, rice, and gyoza. John also surprised me with a weird juice, which was shockingly quite delicious.

[Lydia left me unattended for like 5 minutes so I bought her the weirdest juice I could forage.]

Since it was raining, we spent some more time indoors wandering around the malls. John was excited to show me the Japanese department store Takashimaya.

Once the rain stopped, we popped back outside for an ice cream sandwich. Yesterday I noticed a kid eating ice cream on a piece of white sandwich bread, and I just had to try it for myself. Unfortunately, it was absolutely disgusting. I think it might be the first time I’ve ever thrown away ice cream.

After our ice cream fail, it was time to head to the airport. The Singapore Airport has some neat things inside.

[There was some sort of interactive video tree that looked cool but I did not have enough time to play with. Fiddlesticks.]

[This airport was hardcore with the smiley face rating screens everywhere. How do you rate the giant frog statue playing the tuba? Friggin' smiley, that's how.]

We took a Jetstar flight to Myanmar.

Myanmar has a pretty rough history. The country gained independence from Great Britain in 1948 but by 1962 had moved from democracy to a military dictatorship. Under the military’s rule, things got pretty nasty. Here’s just one example from our Lonely Planet guide:
In 1985 the government of deeply superstitious ruler Ne Win announced that 25, 50, and 100 kyat notes were no longer legal tender. They were soon replaced with 15, 35, and 75 kyat notes; it was ruler Ne Win’s 75th birthday.

That’s not all:

In 1987 he did what most Burmese thought impossible, he demonetized the currency again. Out went the 35 and 75 kyat notes and in came 45s and 90s reflecting Ne Win’s reported obsession with the number nine. This time no exchanges were allowed at all and cash savings came little more than toilet paper over night.

How lovely of him. It’s a joke among the educated Burmese that Burmese Days isn’t the only book George Orwell wrote about Burma but also Animal Farm and 1984.

Things started to turn around for the Burmese with the 2010 elections, and in 2012 the US and the EU began to lift sanctions. However, there are still concerns about human rights violations and corruption. On the 2012 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index Myanmar ranked 171 out 176 countries. Wowzah.

Even with all that in mind, we were still surprised when the electricity went off at the airport upon our arrival. I’ve never seen that happen before!

Outside of the airport, we met our cab driver, who, like all the others, was wearing a traditional longyi or sarong.  He said he studied English at university and was very excited to talk with us. He asked all the questions that one learns in first year language classes like, “What do you like?” and “How many brothers do you have?” [He knew enough English to be annoying but not enough to be helpful.]

After we checked in to the hotel, we took the elevator up to our room. I wasn’t very excited to see this sign posted:

Since it was already dark outside, and we weren’t familiar with our surroundings, we decided it would be best to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant. We didn’t have anything too exciting – more rice and prawns.

[I don't think I'd call it a "dream" but it was definitely surreal. There were mosquitoes everywhere because the door to the outside had large gaps between it and the frame. Luckily there were also gecko type things all over the ceiling trying to eat them.]

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