Our last day in Yangon we took a train from the main station to a village in the suburbs. The trains are very old and beat up looking, with holes in the floors. I thought they were a relic from the British rule in the 1940's or earlier, but our guide said they got them a couple of years ago from the Chinese. He is very down on the Chinese, saying they only give them junk, like third hand buses and cars. In contrast, my Chinese professor says China can't understand why Burma is so anxious to be friends with America when China has been one of their only friends for the past twenty years and the Americans were boycotting them.
|Yangon train station|
The trains had wooden bench seats and open windows with no glass. They had about ten sets of railway tracks but only a couple in use, and those were full of weeds. Our group started out as the only people in the car, but Burmese villagers got in at subsequent stops. Nobody spoke English but they seemed very happy that we were visiting their country. The language of smiles and gestures goes a long way.
|Monks beg for food daily|
|My rickshaw driver|
When we reached our destination, we got on rickshaws and took about a 15 minute ride around the few blocks of the town area. We passed a long line of monks out for their daily food begging routine. Villagers smiled and waved all along the way.
They have not seen a lot of tourists here yet, but I predict that in ten years the country will be a totally different experience. Along with the planned tourist infrastructure will come the hawkers and beggars you see in other Asian countries. You would not think that people who have lived under an oppressive totalitarian regime could be termed innocent, but that is what I see in their smiles. I hate to see that change as they see tourists more as people they can take advantage of than as friendly visitors.
We met the bus in town and got back to the ship in time to sail on to our next destination, India.
Burma SAS stats: over 50 cases of GI problems, one monkey bite, 15 jellyfish stings, one fall through the floor (see my monastery visit).