“If all difficulties were known at the outset of a long journey, most of us would never start out at all”. - William F. Buckley, Jr.
How To Leave Myanmar
There are very flew airlines that fly to Myanmar and flights are booked months in advance.
You will be taken to the airport by an English speaking guide and a driver. They will not be allowed into the airport.
Wait on line for two and a half hours. A line means that any foreign tour guide carrying fifty passports will be waved in front of you. Airline personnel from any airline can bring random people and large familes in front of you at all times.
Just because the concierge at your hotel (right out of a Somerset Maugham novel) tells you that he has gotten you a seat on the morning flight, doesn’t mean that it will be true when you get to the airport desk.
Talk your way into getting a seat on the evening flight. Make sure to get a confirmation number. Otherwise this same scenerio will repeat in the evening.
Everyone will be rude to you.
Spend day alone in Yangon, Myanmar without friends or English speaking tour guide.
Driver is waiting to take you back to the hotel. “Schwedegon?” he says. He has decided to take me to the most important Buddhist Temple in Myanmar. He knows that I did not go the day before with my friends. I decide that he doesn’t look like a terrorist or serial killer and say ok. I walk around with him and his friend ( who appears at the temple) for an hour on the grounds of this exquisite temple. I wondered when I became a person who walked alone in Burma with two young men in longyi (sarongs) who did not speak English. I rely on my vast knowledge of gestures and hand motions. I hope I am not doing the Macarena or the Hokey Pokey.
.Everyone at the hotel knows that you didn’t get on the flight. They have a room waiting for you and your luggage is quickly whisked away. The concierge unasked says he cannot find an English speaking tour guide . Instead he has found a car and driver who speaks English for twenty dollars for the afternoon. By English, it means he knows a few words.
You decide to go back to Scott Market to shop since you wont be going to the local areas. It doesnt look as strange today. You run into the young girl monk who you took pictures of yesterday. She is so happy to see you and brings you to her friend’s shop. You buy a painting from a kid. Word spreads that someone is buying art. You are surrounded by kids and paintings. They are not supposed to take folded money in Myanmar but they take it in the market. You run into your English speaking tour guide with a new group . He has been worrying about you and is happy to see that you are fine. The driver is more of a body guard/package carrier. He is only a bit happier than my son to be shopping but has good humor about it. He laughs when I tell him that I will let his wife know what a good shopper he is . He shakes his head.
.You leave the market on a very long narrow street. The car in front of you is stuck. Three very skinny people get out and push the car very slowly down the street. Everyone is teasing them. We follow very slowly behind them.
The tour sends another English speaking tour guide and driver to take you to the airport. He turns out to be the person that your travel doctor in LA has told you to contact to find his aids orphanages to help. He knows all the best Buddhist teachers in Burma.
This time , the driver is allowed in to the airport to help you with your luggage. The girl at Security waves hello and says welcome back.
Everyone is nice to you.
The man who this morning was bringing everyone in front of me smiles and says “I remember.” He takes my luggage. He points to a chair. He puts up ten fingers. In ten minute he comes over to get me. My luggage is already up on the counter. A woman is standing there with fifty passports. He waves me in front of her. That is Myanmar.
Tar Tar ( from British rule – Ta Ta) and Fly Safe,