Flew in this morning!
Here's something weird. Everything I've read has told me that Myanmar is different: a place whose economic isolation has preserved some kind of timeless culture of men wearing longyis and women wearing thanakha makeup that makes this a backpacker's paradise: authentic shit, doncha know.
But so far it looks like pretty much any other Southeast Asian metropolis - echoes of Vientiane in the goldleaf temple gates, a whiff of Manila in the monster house of the politicians, and a good deal of Singapore in the two year-old Yangon International Airport, spanking new.
But then there are whiffs of the unique - we caught a glimpse of Shwedagon Pagoda on the van trip over; this weird amber UFO in the middle of the urban landscape; a manifestation from a fabled golden age. Cody Chen, our general go-to guy (official title: Project Manager, I just checked), says it's even better at dawn or twilight - it erupts into a mass of glowingness, it seems. Can't wait to witness.
That's him talking to us in the swank hotel they've put us up at: the Park Royal Hotel Yangon. Possibly the nicest, fivest starrest place FCP's ever been in (still remember the windowless cell I landed in Ho Chi Minh City). Of course, like the airport, this place is new, everyone's still trying to get the hang of things: in the meantime Cody says we're having trouble with the wireless Internet, the water in the pool's too cold, check-in's late sometimes, the key cards don't always swipe the way we want them to.
But honestly, to be able to enjoy these luxuries, just two years after liberalisation, is mind-boggling. Yes, two years: that's what our volunteer guide Sumo told us. Here's a picture of her:
Get to know her face: we'll be seeing a lot more of her in days to come.
Dinner's at 6:45. I hear we're passing Inle Lake on the way.