Posted by: yannaungoak | September 1, 2009

Back in the Motherland

Wow, it takes about half an hour for the WordPress admin page to load here.

So, I’m back in Myanmar. It’s the middle of the monsoon season, so the rains keep the temperature at a cool 25 degree Celsius. Once the plane emerged from the cloud cover yesterday as we descended into Yangon, it was a relief to see that everything was lush and green on the ground, with all the rice paddies fully planted, and the roofs of the buildings in the city all bright and clean. Usually everything’s covered in dust and the heat is unbearable, shriveling up all the vegetation into a desolate cascade of brown from the dried grass up to the leafless trees to the dusty shingles on the buildings. Everyone’s face is cringed from the sun in their eyes and there’s a general feeling of not wanting to bother with the rest of the day. Summertime in Myanmar is bad, and having grown up here, I’ll never understand the concept of “sunbathing”. Here, we avoid the sun like the plague.

But, it’s the monsoon season now, so it’s all smiles here. Even the electricity is available throughout the night now, because a lot of it comes from hydroelectric plants, which rely on the reservoirs being full for the water to flow through the turbines. And with the heavy rains pouring daily, the reservoirs sure are full this time of the year. Excellent time to visit the country, if you don’t mind being permanently wet of course.

And I was expecting all the big trees to be gone, because I hadn’t been here since the cyclone struck the city last year. That’s not the case though. The city’s still fully covered with trees of all sizes. I didn’t notice any drastic changes, and I guess most trees that weren’t fully uprooted grow back in about a year or so. And I think I’ve been too used to American concrete jungle cities like NYC or Chicago, and my expectations for urban greenery have been drastically lowered.

My dad and I visited the Shwedagon Pagoda today to make some donations for my mom’s tenth anniversary. She passed away from cancer in 1999, and every year, my dad donates some money for some small religious ritual. Be it at the monetary, or repairing a temple or something along those lines. This year, we just donated at Shwedagon, which is the holiest place in the city and probably one of the most sacred Buddhist shrines in the world. Of course it was raining and the tiles were all wet and slippery, so we didn’t stay long. I took some pictures, especially for the non-Burmese folks who read my blog, but I won’t even bother trying to upload any pictures with the internet speeds here.

I haven’t done much in the past day except eat and chat with my dad. I’ll hopefully blog more this week if I have an hour or so to spend at an internet cafe. There’re so many internet cafes here now, everyone goes online and everyone’s informed about international news and so forth. Everything else seems to be the same since the last time I was here, except for internet and cell phone usage, which has apparently skyrocketed.



  1. I second that comment about the burmese instinctually avoiding the sun. I move into the shade automatically without a thought whenever I’m in the sun, but not so for the Americans! They will stand in the glaring sun on the hottest day of the year and complain about the heat.

    Another funny thing. People here do not carry umbrellas when they go out into the Summer sun. I actually didn’t notice it until this summer. I was walking along with my umbrella up the other day and suddenly realized that the only person with an umbrella in the entire street was me. Isn’t that funny? An umbrella is so much more convenient than sunscreens and lotions! I never liked objects that stick to my body. Wonder how it is in Singapore. The sun must be harsh there too.

    Yangon might have trees by the road-side, but I think it sorely lacks good parks. Central Park here can swallow you up and make you forget you’re in one of the densest cities of the world. There’re no equivalent in Yangon. The Yangon parks are more gardens than parks. The shrubbery to trees ratio is way too high and you can never quite escape the ashphalt and the concrete. Maybe Hlaw gar might compare but then it’s quite far away from the city center.

    Another sad thing I noticed is that no true wilderness seems to be left around Yangon. There are lots of undeveloped areas, but these are all either marsh or dust or grass dotted with tell-tale signs of human occupation. Undeveloped they may be, but no longer untrammeled wilderness. Perhaps pristine nature (or at least the appearance of it) is another of those luxuries enjoyed only by rich countries.

    • Hi Ko PT,

      Sorry for the uber-late reply. I’m trying to stay more in touch with people online now (and not be anti-social in general), and that includes replying to their comments online.

      Yeah, Yangon can really bump its parks up a notch or two. I mean if we add up all the parks around Shwedagon, Inya and Kandawgyi, I think we have enough parkland to satisfy an city dweller. But of course, all that translate into maintenance money.

      In Singapore, the heat is unbearable too. You can’t go outside at 1 in the afternoon. But it rains all year round, and it cools down a lot at night because its next to the sea.

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