Semester at Sea 2016
The country of Myanmar is a beautiful country that has much more to offer than expected. The MV World Odyssey arrived in the industrial port an hour and a half south of the former capitol city Yangon on February 18th 2016. We first got off the ship and boarded a shuttle that would take us into the city center of Yangon. While on the shuttle bus you can see a wide variety of sights. You can see the elegant gold pagodas that litter the country side, back dropped by extreme poverty. You can see the elaborate monasteries, the houses of the wealthy, the poor road conditions that deteriorate daily, the magnificence of the Rangoon River, to the crowded city streets.
The country of Myanmar has about 750 thousand people that are religious figures such as monks or nuns. We had the opportunity to have a monk named Unan sail with us from Ho Chi Minh City to Yangon. He taught us many different things about his country and the things that are considered respectful and the things that are highly offensive. This allowed us to make better decisions and hopefully not accidently offend people. Myanmar is also different when it comes to currency exchange. They only want the freshest crispest bills possible. If it is worn or has a mark on it they see it as valueless. Also every USD note has a different exchange rate. The higher denominations getting a higher exchange rate.
On the first day in Myanmar I traveled with a group of three girls to the markets. In a country that has only had ATM’s for a little over a year, there were bound to be a few problems. One of my friends ATM card wouldn’t work at any of the ATM’s so we were sharing money with her all day. When we got to the market we were exploring the different things they had for sale. Myanmar is one of the world’s largest exporters of rubies and the market was dominated by jewelry sellers. There were also a lot of people selling art, lacquerware, and the traditional clothing bottom that is a longi. A longi is similar to a skirt that you have to tie in the front. These are for both men and women and is seen as a sign of masculinity in the culture. Not to mention they are very comfortable in a culture that requires you to wear long pants almost everywhere. We all bought a longi, and at this point two of the girls had run out of money for the day. Since I hadn’t spent as much as the others, I became the bank that people flocked to when they wanted to buy something else.
The next day, I went to the Zoological gardens. This was just a fancy name for the zoo with a garden off in the corner of it. The animals here were different still from the animals in other zoos I have visited to date. They had local bird and mammal species that were endemic to Myanmar. They also had elephants. Although elephants are a common animal in Zoos, the elephants in this zoo you could come up and pet on the head, and quickly move out of the way of their swinging trunks. Elephant trunks seem to grow when the sugar cane that you are feeding them comes near, extending what seemed like an extra foot. They also had many other well taken care of animals, from white tigers to dusky leaf monkeys. After a trip to the Zoo, we went and sought out lunch. We ate at a café that overlooked another religious site. This site was a boat with two golden dragon heads, golden tails, red bodies and a pagoda mounted on the dragons. The dragons served almost as pontoons for the vessel. We then made another trip to the market, to explore more of the seemingly never-ending market.