Monday, February 17, 2014

Final Thoughts and Interesting Facts

  • There are so many flights, so many airlines, and so many tourists leaving on pre-dawn flights in Myanmar that when you check in for your flight, they give you a sticker to put on your clothing.  The stickers let the airline employees easily identify who should be on which plane.  When it is time for a flight to leave, an employee walks around the departure lounge with a sign -- other employees then make sure you are wearing the correct sticker before they let you on the plane.
  • In Myanmar you still have to confirm your flight by telephone the day before departure and airlines still issue paper tickets.

  • Singapore Airlines provides free, excellent meals in economy class and they give you a printed menu.

  • I have been traveling internationally for over 40 years.  December 30, 2013 was the first time I was dressed better than someone from France.
  • Since the 1960's, cars drive on the right-hand side of the road in Myanmar.  For some reason, steering wheels are still on the right-hand side which makes for some very interesting left turns.
  • Most of the cars in Myanmar are white.  Our guide told us why but I can't remember the exact explanation.
  • There is a "Last Bag" sign at the Bangkok Airport.  If you don't see your luggage and the sign goes on, it is officially time to panic.
  • Very few places accept credit cards in Myanmar and there are very few ATMs.  Many places will only accept US currency as payment and the bills must be brand new and unused.  Bonus points if the bills are in sequential order.
  • One more balloon picture
    I'll be renaming this blog and continuing to post about my travels.  The theme for 2014 is famous fruit from around the world.  Thanks for reading.

    Sunday, February 9, 2014


    Although I was sad to leave Myanmar, I was looking forward to spending a couple of days in Singapore.  No guide was necessary and we took full advantage of the subway system and consistent internet access.  Singapore is part kiddy theme park and part shopping paradise, neither of which I was interested in.  Our hotel was in the Little India section of Singapore and was built around several pre-war shop houses.  In addition to walking around Little India, we went to the Botanic Gardens (the National Orchid Garden was amazing) and then took the subway back towards downtown to see some of the newer parts of the city.  

    Three hotel towers with a fake boat-like thing linking them across the top.
    The flower shaped building  is a museum.  Of course there is also a Ferris wheel.

    We finished that day with a look at Raffles Hotel (only guests are allowed inside) and trip to a food hawker center.  All the centers are now regulated by the government but it was still fun to choose food from the different vendors and people watch.  

    We had time to visit Kampong Glam, one of Singapore's older and well-preserved neighborhoods, before our plane left.  Fortunately, there is a growing movement to preserve some of Singapore's older neighborhoods.  The amount of new construction that is going on is amazing -- it seems like there is one shopping mall and apartment building for every ten residents.

    Kampong Glam shop houses

    Wednesday, February 5, 2014

    Back to Yangon

    Twenty five minutes on a boat and another half hour in a car brought us to Helo Airport for our flight back to Yangon.  As our guide predicted, the flight was delayed a couple of hours due to fog (our arrival was delayed by fog also) and we arrived in Yangon later than planned.  At that point all I wanted to do was visit the synagogue but we asked our guide to take us to Chinatown and Little India first.  We walked around looking at more markets, more stores and a Hindu temple until it was time to go to the synagogue.  I was unable to get into the synagogue in 1996 and I had been really looking forward to seeing the inside and learning more about the Jews of Yangon.*  

    Inside of Musmeah Yeshua synagogue

    Although we didn't get to meet Moses Samuels, who has taken on the responsibility for keeping the synagogue open, or his son, Sammy who runs Myanmar Shalom (our travel agency), we enjoyed the time we spent looking around the synagogue.  The building is beautiful and Moses and his family have done a remarkable job maintaining the synagogue and the Jewish cemetery.

    We were on our own for our last full day in Yangon and we spent time walking around downtown looking at the remaining colonial buildings, visiting the Strand Hotel, and shopping at Scott Market.  We had time to make a second sunset visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda, the most sacred site in Myanmar, and yet another truly remarkable place.  It was amazing to see how the colors of the various structures changed as the sun went down.

    Yangon has very affordable cabs so we were able to easily get around the city.  Unfortunately the restaurants we wanted to visit had closed or relocated or we were given the wrong address by our hotel or ... take your pick.  This resulted in two wild cab rides around Yangon on our last two nights.  We ended up having Indian food at a place recommended by our cab driver ($1.20 for both of us) one night and Burmese food at a lovely outdoor restaurant on our last night in Myanmar.

    * The most current article about Moses Samuels is in the Winter 2013 issue of B'nai B'rith Magazine which is available online as a PDF file.

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