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The two months in Yangon working for KWEG gave us the chance to stay in one place for a while. On arrival we stayed a few days in Shennoons’ house, a lovely guesthouse run by a young entrepreneurial lady (Shen Noon). From there we started looking for a more ‘permanent’ place to stay, but it proved difficult to get a short-term rental (less than 6 months) without a business visa. We almost agreed on a place through AirBnB, but then Susannah, KWEG’s director, suggested us to stay with one of her friends.

When we went to have a look at the house we found a friendly family living in a large house with a ‘breakfast cafe’ outside in the front. It was located in a compound called FMI (First Myanmar Investment) which in theory would only be a 10-15 min drive from the KWEG office just across the river. The compound was surprisingly green and quiet – especially compared to the rest of Yangon -, had a supermarket, a few restaurants and a sports centre with a public pool. We would, however, only have a room in the house and be sharing with the family, but as we really liked the house/compound (and didn’t really have another other options), we started calling this home for the next two months.

The family consisted of mum and dad, two teenage sons and a girl who helped with housekeeping and in the DSC_0854breakfast cafe. In mornings we would either get local noodles or French toast in the cafe or we would make our own breakfast. The mum also worked with KWEG and the cafe outside was also used as a Women Learning Centre. We did some Enlish classes on a few Saturdays here as well.

One of the good things was that we could use the large outdoor kitchen. As long as we wouldn’t get in the way of the family’s cooking we could use anything we wanted. After all this travel, it’s really nice to be able to cook whatever you want, whenever you want. As the kitchen was outdoors it meant interesting cooking conditions. Often it would rain heavily which sounded like stones falling on the tin roof. The gas cookers would regularly run out which meant you’d end up with a half-cooked meal. Electricity would switch off often in Yangon, which also didn’t help the cooking process in the evening. But, next to attacks of mosquitos, probably the biggest scare was  when we came across a small snake in the kitchen in the first week!

We would buy our groceries mainly from the supermarket, but from street markets as well, which would sometimes lead to interesting findings (which we generally wouldn’t buy).

Every weekday we would go to the KWEG office and as the local buses were completely packed and hard to reach from where we were staying, we took a taxi every day. We agreed with a friend of the family on a discounted rate (as we would give him quite a bit of business) and he was waiting for us every morning at 8am. We wrote earlier it was in theory a 10-15 minute drive… in reality it was a 30-45 minute slow-moving drive through chaotic traffic. We were told traffic has increased a lot in Yangon in the last few years, but it still doesn’t have that many cars. It’s just the way of driving and complete lack of (sticking to the) rules. Most jams came about by drivers ignoring traffic lights and getting stuck from several sides on large crossings. Quite frustrating, but convenient for a little nap in the mornings!

IMG_2813What also didn’t help was the fact we were there in the rainy season. Rain meant traffic jams and in some cases completely flooded streets. The water level on this picture is not too bad, but on our way to work we’d pass by a junction where the water would come over your knees. You’d have to get out the car and step into the water, not knowing what was under there. unfortunately we knew what these streets looked like normally… not very happy to stand there knee-deep in dirty water!

A lot of our evenings were spent watching different series (Game of Thrones, Bing Bang Theory, Homeland, Suits) and films, but during weekends and some of the evenings we had free time to do some other fun stuff as well. Our friends Maarten and Nicole were often involved in this. We had dinner/drinks at a few occasions out of which Shan Yoe Yar was the best one: Myanmar food with a modern twist; really good food for a very reasonable price. We went here twice.

Apart from these get-togethers the other three highlights were:

FIFA World Cup 2014

It’s always special to watch Holland play one of the major cups while abroad. The Dutch always tend to find eachother in a bar, dress up in orange and make a fun party out of a night of football. It was no different in Yangon. Unfortunately, the timings were horrible and we ended up watching some games in the early hours. This meant getting some sleep in the evening, wake up at midnight, go the bar, have a beer, watch the game and get back home at 5am. Ok in the weekend, but it gets tough during the week. And as Holland surprisingly finished 3rd (as you can see on Mark’s shirt), we had to watch quite a few games!

Kyauktang Ye Le Pagoda

We had been planning a trip with Maarten and Nicole for a while and after considering different options, we decided to make it a day-trip to the Kyauktang Ye Le Pagoda. We agreed on a day-price with our taxi driver and we were off on a Saturday morning. The pagoda is located on a small island in the Hmaw Wun creek and can be reached by one of the many small ferries. We had made the not-so-smart decision to visit this pagoda in a public holiday weekend so the small town of Thanlyin was packed with religious tourists. We got out of the taxi and made our way through the market and crowds towards the small port from where the ferries were leaving. Wearing flipflops meant getting dirt and (worse) beetlenut juice on our feet and at the same time the crowd was becoming so thick were getting constantly pushed and shoved around. Not pleasant at the time, but as always in hindsight a fun experience. Once on the dock, we found out foreigners get put in a separate (safer) ferry for which you also pay more. Seeing the chaos of people trying to get into the other boats, we were happy to get the ‘privilige’. People were cramped on the stairs next to the river and even being pushed in.

On the way back we visited another temple (of which we forgot the name) and had lunch in a nice outdoor restaurant. After we paid the bill, the owner asked us to pose with her for a picture under her restaurant sign. We suspect we will appear in their next year’s brochure. It was a full and exhausting day and when we returned to our ‘Amazing’ guesthouse we had no problems falling asleep.

Train trip with Maarten

There is a train route that will take you in circle around Yangon. It’s a commuter train that stops at each of the 39 stations and slowly ploughs its way through 45 km in 3 hours. The parts within the city are not great as you’ll be staring at walls around the track, but once you get more into the suburbs it becomes interesting. Lots of little stations with people selling all kinds of food and stuff and eventually green (rice)fields, rivers and trees. A big part of the fun is just being on the train and watching people getting on and off and seeing the countryside passing by slowly. If you’re not that much into trains… maybe not that special.

All in all, we enjoyed this period in Yangon. The continuous rain, traffic and the mess on the streets in certain parts of the city were less fun, but the work with KWEG, the time we could spend with our friends and having a fixed ‘home’ for a longer period of time definitely made it worth it.

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Dva mesiace dobrovoľníčenia pre KWEG nám umožnili usadiť sa na nejakú dobu na jednom mieste. Najprv sme sa ubytovali v hosteli ‘Shennoon’s house’, príjemnom hosteli mladej podnikateľky Shen Noon. Tam sme začali hľadať dlhodobejší domov na najbližšie dva mesiace. Ukázalo sa, že to nie je tak jednoduché, keďže krátkodobých prenájmov navyše bez business víz nie je veľa. Už sme skoro povedali áno jednému domčeku, ktorý sme našli cez AirBnB, keď nám Susannah – riaditeľka KWEGu – navrhla ubytovať sa u jednej z jej známych.

Išli sme teda na návštevu do veľkého domu obývaného milou rodinkou, ktorá vo svojej záhradke prevádzkovala malú ‘raňajkovú’ kaviareň. Dom sa nachádza v komplexe FMI (First Myanmar Investment), ktorý je mostom cez rieku teoreticky len 10-15 minút cesty ďaleko od našej kancelárie. Celý komplex je prekvapivo plný zelene a vládne tu ticho – narozdiel od zvyšku Yangonu -, ďalej je tu supermarket, pár reštaurácií a športové centrum s verejným bazénom. V dome by nám patrila len jedna izba, o ostatné by sme sa delili s rodinou, no, keďže sa nám komplex veľmi páčil (a míňali sa nám možnosti), kývli sme na ponuku a nasťahovali sa.

Rodinu tvorili mamina, ocino, dvaja násťroční synovia a slečna, ktorá pomáhala okolo domu a v kaviarni. Na raňajky sme tam dostávali na striedačku lokálne rezance alebo chlebík vo vajíčku. Niekedy sa nám podarilo urobiť si niečo aj samým. Mamina tiež spolupracovala s KWEGom a kaviareň sa tak na víkendy menila na Edukačné centrum pre ženy. Pár sobôt sme tu pomohli s lekciami angličtiny.

Jednou z výhod tohto ubytovania bola veľká vonkajšia kuchyňa. Pokiaľ sme rodine nezavadzali pri varení pre hostí, mohli sme ju plne využívať. Po toľkom čase na cestách nám padlo dobre uvariť si niečo po svojom kedykoľvek chceme. Keďže kuchyňa bola vonku (ale zastrešená), zažívali sme pri varení zaujímavé okamžiky. Často sa spustil veľký lejak a strecha burácala akoby sa naňu valili kamene. Plynové variče občas vypovedali službu a nechali nás s polodovareným jedlom. Elektrika v Yangone pravidelne vypadáva, čo sme neoceňovali hlavne po večeroch. Ale najväčším dobrodružstvom, okrem odháňania dotieravých komárov, bolo, keď sme raz v kuchyni na zemi objavili hada!

Väčšinou sme si kupovali suroviny v supermarkete, ale niekedy sme sa vybrali aj na miestne trhy, kde sme narazili na všakovaké zaujímavosti (ktoré sme sa väčšinou neodvážili kúpiť). Viď fotky hore.

Každý pracovný deň sme zas chodili do roboty a keďže lokálna MHD bola plná na prasknutie a ťažko dostupná v okolí nášho bydliska, vozili sme sa taxíkom. Rodina nám dohodla zvýhodnenú cenu u známeho taxikára (predstavovali sme pre neho pravidelný zaručený biznis), ktorý na nás každé ráno presne o 8 čakal pred domom. Vyššie sme spomenuli, že cesta by teoreticky mala trvať 10-15 minút, ale vďaka šialenej premávke sa vždy pretiahla na 30 až 45 minút. Bolo nám vysvetlené, že cesty nezvládajú nápor rýchleho zvýšenia počtu áut na cestách v posledných rokoch, no my sme usúdili, že chyba nie je v malých cestách. Áut tu tiež nebolo až tak veľa. Vyzeralo to skôr na dôsledok toho, ako ľudia šoférujú a ako (ne)rešpektujú (ne)existujúce pravidlá. Najviac zápch sa totižto tvorilo pred križovatkami, do ktorých sa všetci snažili vojsť a potom aj výjsť naraz. Na ráno celkom frustrujúca skúsenosť, ale aspoň čas na šlofíka.

Obdobie dažďov tiež nepomoho dopravnej situácii. Keď sa rozpršalo, autá mali ešte viac problémov jeden s druhým alebo s ulicami zaplavenými vodou po kolená. Na fotke hore sa pozrite na to, ako vyzerá zaplavená cesta. Niektoré križovatky ale vyzerali ešte horšie. Zážitkom potom bolo z auta vystúpiť a vo vode prejsť do domu bez toho, aby sme vedeli kam stúpame. Mali sme ale tušenie, keďže sme stav ciest a chodníkov a otvorené kanály mali možnosť vidieť aj nasucho!

Veľa večerov po robote sme trávili doma pozeraním seriálov (Game of Thrones, Bing Bang Theory, Homeland, Suits) a filmov. Cez víkendy a niekedy aj večer sme sa ale snažili chodiť von a zabávať sa. Často s Maartenom a Nicole. Najlepšou reštauráciou, ktorú pri návšteve Yangonu veľmi odporúčame, bola reštaurácia s tradičným barmským jedlom na moderný spôsob – Shan Yoe Yar.

Okrem večier a drinkov, ďalšími zaujímavými aktivitami boli:

Majstrovstvá sveta vo futbale FIFA World Cup 2014

Vidieť Holandsko hrať v jednom z veľkých turnajov v zahraničí je pre Marka zážitok. Holanďania sa väčšinou pri takýchto udalostiach záhadne nájdu, v tom istom bare sa stretnú oblečení v oranžovom a spolu povzbudzujú. Tak to dopadlo aj v Yangone. Bohužiaľ, časy zápasov tu boli dosť drsné a tak sa futbal pozeral vo veľmi skorých ranných hodinách. Takže Mark si večer ľahol spať, o polnoci sa zobudil, išiel do baru, dal si pár pív, pozrel zápas a o 5 ráno bol zase naspäť v posteli (ak sa nepredlžovalo!). To bolo ako-tak v pohode cez víkend, cez týždeň už menej. A keďže to Holandsko vydržalo až do boja o tretie miesto, takýchto nocí bolo dosť!

Pagoda Kyauktang Ye Le

Celodenný výlet s Maartenom a Nicole sme plánovali už nejakú dobu a zvažovali sme niekoľko rôznych možností. Nakoniec sme sa rozhodli ísť sa pozrieť na pagodu Kyauktang Ye Le. S našim vodičom sme sa dohodli na cene za celý deň a v soboru ráno vyrazili. Pagoda je postavená na malom ostrovčeku na rieke Hmaw Wun a návštevníkov sem vozia kyvadlovo na lodičkách. Keďže naša návšteva sa kryla s predĺženým víkendom kvôli náboženskému sviatku, mestečko Thanlyin, kde sa pagoda nachádza, bolo preplnené turistami. Z taxíku sme sa museli pretlačiť cez davy ľudí k prístavu, z ktorého lodičky odchádzajú. V žabkách sme tak stúpali po ktovieakej špine a riskovali sme, že na nás niekto vypľuje šťavu z beetlenutu, zatiaľčo sme si skoro lakťami prebíjali cestu a snažili sa nenechať sa vytlačiť. Žiadna sranda vtedy, ale po čase vtipný zážitok. V prístave nás nasmerovali k separátnemu, turistickému, okienku, kde sme – ako inak – museli zaplatiť viac než ostatní. Za odmenu sme ale dostali špeciálnu lodičku a nemuseli sa tlačiť s ostatnými a riskovať utopenie (viz fotka čakajúcich pútnikov hore).

Cestou naspäť do Yangonu sme sa zastavili v ďalšom chráme (ktorého meno si už fakt nepamätáme) a dali si obed v záhradnej reštaurácii. Po zaplatení nás pani majiteľka poprosila o fotku pod ceduľou reštaurácie. Máme taký tušák, že sa objavíme v ich budúcoročnej brožúrke. Bol to namáhavý ale dobrodružný deň a tak sme po návrate do ‘Amazing’ domu nemali problém večer zaspať.

Výlet vláčikom s Maartenom

Okolo Yangonu sa dá prejsť vlakom. Je to klasický osobný vlak, ktorý preváža pracujúcich medzi 39 stanicami a pomaly sa plížiac prejde 45 kilometrový okruh za 3 hodiny. Časti priamo v meste nie sú tak zaujímavé, keďže koľajnice sú tu obohnané múrmi, no na predmestiach je výhľad hneď lepší. Je tu veľa manlých staničiek, ľudia predávajú rôzne jedlá a veci, pracujú na ryžových poliach, a tie lemujú riečky a stromy. Sledovať spolucestujúcich je tiež zábava sama o sebe. Ak však nie ste veľkým vlakovým fanúšikom, možno túto cestu neoceníte.

Vcelku sa nám týchto pár týždňov v Yangone páčilo. Neustály dážď, zápchy a chaos na uliciach trochu menej, ale robota v KWEGu, čas strávený s priateľmi a ‘stály’ domov aspoň na chvíľu za to stáli.

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One thought on “Life in Yangon

  1. Pingback: 11 months in a single post | Take it and go

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