Thursday, July 30, 2009


Coming to Yangon you quickly recognize a country that has both Indian and Chinese cultures merged into one. It was really weird and cool at the same time.

One of the first things I discovered was that the entire country of Myanmar had no ATM’s! This was a big problem because I only had some cash and my bankcards. Fortunately, I found one hotel, the Sedona, which would give cash advances on credit cards. My bankcard was also a credit card so I was able to get money through my account on top of the Sedona’s 7.6% fee, ouch.

I also learned that there were three exchange rates. If you changed money at the airport you would receive about 450 kyat per $1US. The official exchange rate was roughly 5 kyat per $1US. Or you could exchange your money on the street for about 1100 kyat per $1US, you do the math. Every other person on the street would ask if you want to exchange money or you could go the safer route and ask your guesthouse.
Another downer that I expected was the internet to be horribly slow and censored. True enough, exactly how I predicted. Obviously, I was able to bypass the security with my geniusness (is that even a word?), but I just couldn’t make the internet go any faster. Surprisingly, I was able to catch some random wifi at my guesthouse, whenever the city’s electricity was operating.

Similar to India, Myanmar had scheduled power outages, and unscheduled blackouts. In Yangon the scheduled electricity time was usually from 5pm – 6am, but these times changed throughout the year.

Soon I started to meet more local expats and even caught up with Curt and Cathy. One of my first social gatherings was at the British Club during a fundraiser for Cyclone Nargis. It was a British Quiz with a dozen sections that lasted four hours. They really took their quizzes seriously. I met another nice couple, Anne and Michael, who were from Finland and Michael worked for an NGO. At the end of the night they invited me to a BBQ the next day and mentioned they had a pool. Now it had been insanely humid/hot since I landed and I was missing BBQ’s big time, so I were so ecstatic when they invited me. Anne and Michael had a beautiful place and it was so nice to be at a family function goofing off with kids.

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