That’s right, we already speak Myanmariaans! We learned this from our great guides who picked us up at Yangon airport after a long long flight. Our trip started Monday morning when we checked in at Schiphol for our 20 hour (door to door) journey to Myanmar. The first flight (+- 12 hours) took us to Singapore. A lot of movies were watched, a bit off sleeping was done and breakfast was served twice. A few of us visited the airport’s outdoor pool, whereas others did some last moment overpriced shopping. As soon as we stepped outside the air-conditioning, we could feel the 30 degree shift in temperature. The pool water was temptingly warm, but with a relatively short transit time we instead moved on quickly towards the gate. The 3 hour flight between Singapore and Myanmar was noticeably more comfortable, and provided most sleep-lacking classmates with at least a bit of shut-eye.

Overall it went all very well. Everyone had their passport and visa with them, nobody was left behind, and only one phone was forgotten in the front pocket of the airplane. Fortunately it was quickly returned by the very beautiful and bright-smiling young lady at the lost and found.

Arriving in Myanmar, we got our visa and went with our tourbus to the Panorama hotel in Yangon. Having been outside for only 5 minutes we already realized how happy one can be that air conditioning exists, especially in places where it’s not 6 degrees Celsius in the end of April (not referring to any specific countries here..)

After waiting to be checked in at the hotel some of us went to bed while others couldn’t find their way into the city fast enough. This is where the story of our group splits up: where James, Joris and Eva formed a dreamteam, literally, Axel and Marc decided to go get their primary groceries. Starting at the bottom of the list, their third priority was a sim-card, which was found quick enough. Second on the list were flip-flops (size 46) for Marc , a product that appeared to be extremely rare and precious in our new environment. Marc persisted his quest to find them for about 12 hours, gave up and is now trying to survive with size 44. (#MarcsFlipFlopAdvetures for more about this topic). Moving on to priority product number 1: a Longyhi! A longyhi is a traditional skirt that men as well as women all wear in Myanmar. Both Axel and Marc found one with a texture of their liking and now happily use it in their daily outfit.

After the grocery shopping and a casual stroll through the city streets and markets, our strict and dictating supervisors called us back to the hotel for the first (informal) meeting in Myanmar. During this meeting the program for the coming week was discussed by Malena and Katherine, two BTO alumni that are currently doing an internship in Myanmar. All sounded very promising so we look forward to what is about to happen with/to us in the coming week.

Since we were all together as a group (and getting hungry) at this time, Pangea’s IFP committee had decided to take the group out for their first dinner in Myanmar. After a small and amusing walk with the group we arrived at 999 Shan Noodle Shop on 34th street. Although the restaurant usually closes at 7, the people of the restaurant were awesome enough to extend their opening hours especially for us since we could only come after 7. All of us enjoyed their first ever Myanmar noodles, chicken, rice and/or vegetables, the Myanmar beer that was arranged for us and the friendliness of our hosts. It appeared as if the hosts never had this many whities in their restaurant (there couldn’t have fit a lot more either), so apart from the restaurant being our attraction, we could also be seen as an the attraction for our hosts. This all resulted in pictures being taken and words being learned, very interactive and fun!

When everyone was physically as well as socially reloaded, it was time to leave the restaurant and we had the freedom to go our own paths again. Some went to their hotels to continue recovering from the flights while others had gained enough energy for another small adventure. About 20 of us wandered off into the vivacious streets of Yangon. As one of us had spotted a Pagoda earlier which was close, we decided to head off in that direction. Arriving at the temple we soon realized that entering with a group this size was not only unpractical but also relatively costly. So as being students (and Dutch/German), it was soon decided that a walk around the Pagoda was satisfying enough and that we didn’t have to go in. A pretty dangerous/challenging and thus exciting (according to some) road-crossing cost us some time but resulted in the best view of the Pagoda and some fine pictures.

After this was said and done most people that were left went home for an early night of sleep. James, Nellie, Axel, Joris and Marc were still motivated to keep going and were lucky enough to bump into a street-football match taking place close to the Pagoda. On our bare feet we confidently tried to outplay the ridiculously quick and skilled boys, but failed shamefully: 0-2. Despite the devastating loss this was once again a super interesting and above all fun experience with the sincere, friendly and hospitable Myanmar people. Looking forward to all that is to come! Cheers to many many more fun and interesting days like our first day of the International Field Project in Myanmar!

Kyei zu de {jé zu bé} for reading and hopefully enjoying our first BTO blog!

ByeBye, Ta ta,

Authors: James, Axel, Marc, Joris & Eva