A couple of months ago I had the enormous privilege to visit one of my best friends in Myanmar. I had been wanting to visit for a while and wasn't sure when I would have the time to go. When Preston suggested that I come visit the weekend that his roommate got married, I discovered affordable tickets and a free weekend that I didn't see coming. Thus, God blessed me with one of the greatest trips I've been on yet: time to learn a new culture, meet and spend time with friends, and to see a country I'd heard so many fantastic things about (mainly from Preston, who turned out to be the most wonderful tour guide I could possibly have had).
First things first: markets. Immediately when I got off the plane we headed to the biggest market in the city, Bogyoke Market. This place reminded me a lot of Vietnam, the set up of the building and the way the vendors just spilled out into the "hallways" seems typical of Asia from my experiences. It seemed that everyone we saw had never seen a foreigner, but once they heard Preston speaking their language, it was as if they were old friends. We stopped by a tailor to pick up a suit and look at some shoes, heading up to the tallest tower in the city (Sakura Tower) for the view and a drink after. We spent an hour or so in traffic that day, glad to visit a family in town and rest a little from travel and crazy. I will never again complain about Thailand traffic.
Saturday was the big day. The day David and Rita married. Think a 6:30am start to the morning, and not quite finishing until about 4pm. Even with the early start, we were able to visit a Myanmar tea shop after a breakfast of Chinese pork buns split with our cab driver. We sat in the hot sun in the hot tea shop surrounded by old Burmese men smoking cigars and watching live football. Sweet Myanmar tea (also hot) just sealed the deal on the warmest situation I'd found myself in as of late. Let's just say that the time I'd spent curling my hair that morning was utterly wasted.
After tea, we picked up the bride, Preston acting as chauffeur for the day. We arrived, and waited outside the church for more guests to arrive. The ceremony was full of laughter and languages: Danish, Burmese, Shan, some English, etc. It was also long. Catching the eye of the bride and groom wasn't difficult though, and the smile on their faces was more than enough to translate.
Following a small dinner of Chicken Biriyani where the guest count practically doubled, the families (and me and Preston) were invited to The House of Memories, an old colonial style house that was once the location of General Aung San's office (read up about Myanmar history to figure out who he was). Another dinner was served, a mixture of Burmese and Southeast Asian fare. We left the house to drop the bride and groom off at their new home, celebrating with them as we helped unload the inordinate amount of gifts they had piled into the car.
Another early start on Sunday meant breakfast at another tea shop, this one being Preston's stomping ground. I had a quick breakfast of an omelette and rice, while two bowls of Shwe Taung Kaukswe, or Golden Mountain Noodles, was the norm for him. For most of the morning we explored and wandered around the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most enormous set of Buddhist temples I have ever seen. It glows at night and blinds during the day. We were dressed in Burmese garb because of the place, so I donned a htamein. Preston was used to wearing a longyi, so for him it wasn't a problem. This place is the most well-known landmark in the city, and I could never recount all the facts about it, but the entire area is a golden pointy landscape with mirrored and intricately painted, carved, and decorated walls, bannisters and bells.
After taking probably at least 200 photos with Burmese teenagers gawking at the white people, we headed back to Preston's place to pack up and get me back to the airport. It was a quick trip, but it did the trick in whetting my appetite to explore more of this country. What I'd heard and seen from friends was the lush green, mountainous country-side outside of the former capital, which I wasn't able to see this first time around. Inle Lake and Mandalay on the list, I'm looking forward to seeing you again, Myanmar!