On August 17 our group met as a whole for the first time. Travel agents from Australia, New Zealand, England and Canada along with our tour leader from Norway and our local Myanmar guide.
We set out for a walking tour of the city of Yangon. For the next four hours we wandered around the outside of many historic buildings in the city.
We got to visit the beautiful old rail station, a couple of churches, markets and beautiful, old abandoned buildings that were scheduled to be renovated into five star hotels.
We also got our first glimpse at the process of making the ‘Myanmar-style’ of chewing tobacco (bitter leaves) at a street vendor. They are also known to turn your teeth red. Mainly men chew the leaves of different strengths and then spit the red saliva on the ground or in garbage cans at restaurants.
Sounds gross, right?
Spitting everywhere is definitely something that I will never get used to in any city. Regularly I found myself avoiding red spots on the ground where men had spit, but after awhile, the spots became impossible to dodge.
We also stopped at a local tea-shop for snacks and drinks. I was incredibly surprised at the prevailance of Coke throughout the country, but many in our group drank the local Myanmar beer and a few gave the tea a go.
We also got to try local sweet and savory pastries of various kinds. I was the brave one to try small bites of many of them first. I’m actually not normally that brave with new foods, but pastries … well, how could you not like a pastry?
I’ll tell you how … if it is made from Durian fruit.
Having never travelled to Asia before, this was a new smell and flavor for me, but most of the others were familiar with it. It is known for it’s particularly pungent odor that quite reminds me of a public bathroom.
The other travelers encouraged me to try it, but no one else would. They told me that it is known to smell horrible but taste wonderful. I compared it to Buckley’s cough syrup. “Tastes awful, but works great!”
I took a whiff …
*scrunched up face*
Then I took a little nibble.
Unfortunately, it tasted just like it smelled. A little like the smell of a public bathroom.
And, that was the end of that! No more Durian fruit for me.
We sat for another 10 minutes or so nibbling on the other pastries and treats, but there was no mistaking that I had cut into the durian pastry. For the next 10 minutes, the undeniable smell wafted over everyone, until we were ready to move along.
We wandered through several street markets filled with food, fresh produce and local treats.
As we headed back toward our hotel, and approached the historic Catholic Church, the rain started and we understood the meaning of monsoon season!
After a couple of hours of walking in the streets in the rain, we were off to the Strand Hotel for our welcome drinks.
Overall, a great afternoon of learning about Yangon’s beautiful buildings, architectural history, and trying new foods.