Welcome to Yangon

The past several days in Chiang Mai have been wonderfully slow paced. Chiang Mai is an easy place to fall in love with and to slow down in. Dangerously easy. But for now, it’s time for me to leave. Next stop: Yangon, Myanmar. I’m heading there to meet some special old friends, and will only be there for a few days.

The flight from Chiang Mai to Myanmar is quick. I spend the time chatting, of course, with another traveler. What we chatted about is something I’d love to share with you soon.

I had decided to opt for a bit of luxury and arranged for airport pick up via my hostel. (Faaaancy!) I walk out and am greeted by my driver, Mr. Min. He’s wearing a traditional longyi and the biggest smile.

Once I have changed my dollars to kyat – a bundle of bills I know I am going to have trouble distinguishing from one another – we walk towards his car.

“Where are you from?” Mr. Min asks.

“Amsterdam, The Netherlands.” I say this because it is at times far easier than explaining where I am actually from.

That’s Holland?”

“Yes.”

“Oh!! Robin van Persie! I love that guy. Holland!”

Only 5 minutes in and I’m liking Yangon’s vibe already.

We get into Min’s car and he informs me that it will take us about an hour to drive the 20 kilometers to the hostel. The bumper to bumper traffic we immediately encounter provides a pretty solid explanation of this timeline.

Of course, Min has no intention of making this a boring trip for his passenger. He rummages through his dashboard, sifting through various CD’s. He finally finds the one he’s looking for and puts it into the CD player. As the first song starts to play he proudly says: “Adele! I love her music. Do you like it?”

“Very much!” I say.

“Thank.”

We ring in the next hour, Min and I, singing along to Adele’s Hello, Someone Like you – which, by the way, he thinks is much better than hello – and many others. Standing still in traffic for minutes at a time and then suddenly speeding and careening through gaps the moment the cars get into motion.

I’m soaking it up as I watch him make these maneuvers, missing other cars by only a few centimeters – maybe even millimeters? I’m amused by the fact that this is so okay with me.

Suddenly, he stops. Pulls up the hand brake, takes off his seatbelt. I silently wonder what kind of maneuver he’s thinking up next. Instead, he rummages through the dashboard, again looking for something. He leans over to the passenger’s seat and continues to rummage. I’m really curious now.

He finds whatever it is and hands it over to me. “Look!” he says as he puts on his seatbelt again and gets the car moving. No, not moving. Careening.

In my hand is a small tile. It has the image of a windmill on it and is made of Delfts blauw. The word “Holland” is written across the top.

“Wow, this is beautiful, Min!” I say.

“Thank. I got it from a visitor from Holland. I get many gifts from kind customers.”

I smile and say, “I’ll bet you do, Min, I’ll bet you do.”

“Thank.”

We speed off again, barely missing the side of a bus. I decide I really like this place.

Welcome to Yangon.

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