Yangon (Rangoon), the largest city in Myanmar (Burma), felt like the love child between Mumbai (Bombay) and Havana (La Habana). Like Mumbai, it is a crowded, chaotic, dirty and colorful city replete with grand Brittish colonial buildings, but it has the dilapidated charm and laid-back ease of the Cuban capital. Even though Myanmar borders India, I was still surprised that it reminded me of its neighbor, in large part because I didn’t think any place could remind me of the madness of India!
Mumbai and Havana could never be responsible enough raise a child together, so Yangon was reared by its eccentric southeast Asian extended family. All around the metropolis, I saw things that reminded me of other countries in the region; the ubiquitous monks reminded me of Laos, the street food culture was distincly Thai, the huge smiles on the Burmese faces was delightfully Indonesian, and the wild west vibe of people riding atop overcrowded trucks brought back memories of Cambodia.
I instantly loved Yangon, and was instantly sad that I didn’t have more time there. Now, back in Bangkok – a place that once seemed exotic – everything is too modern, clean and boring. Travel has a way of changing perceptions. I’m comforted by the fact that Yangon is one hour and a cheap flight away, so even though I can’t live with her, I can at least have visiting rights.
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