A disease has taken down the travel blogging community in the form of a chain mailish photography contest let loose into the wild by Travel Supermarket. I’ve been infected by two bloggers, despite being a very amateurish photographer, and the only way to become healthy again is to submit to the demands of the meme and post a picture for the following colors: blue, green, yellow, white, and red.
I thought I’d break the ice on my recent Myanmar (Burma) adventure, and sift through the photos I snapped in Yangon that meet the criteria of the contest while also representing the current energy of the place.
Blue: A Colonial Building Renovation in Downtown Yangon
The world media is abuzz with evidence of the opening up of Myanmar and what that means for business, tourism and the country’s citizens. On the streets of Yangon, not much indicates that the city is readying for tourists, aside from a few touts, beggars, and sheer blue sheets covering bamboo scaffolding on some of the city’s older colonial structures. Previously, the buildings left by the British imperialists were often left to decay, not out of negligence, but as a sort of celebration of independence. Seeing the potential for tourism, the Myanmar government has followed the lead of other previously occupied countries in renovating these symbols of the past into their original imperial splendor.
Green: Children on the Train Tracks in Downtown Yangon
Yangon in the wet season never fully dries, and green moss, vines, and other moisture-loving plants take to the sidewalks, walls, and even train tracks as a result. When it isn’t raining, the humidity makes the air thick—tangible, even—and mold seems to grow and fester on your face, hair, and clothing. Though there aren’t many trees or other forms of cultivated plant life within the downtown area compared to other big cities, Yangon still feels like it was dropped smack in the middle of the jungle. This picture was taken directly opposite the main port, where trains pull cargo containers from the river to the rest of the country. I love how with the rainy season’s flora, the kids appear to be playing along some rural rail line in the jungle, not in the heart of Yangon’s industrial district.
Yellow: Sule Paya as a Golden Beacon of Hope in Dreary Weather
I have so many splendid, golden, gilded, and bejeweled photos from Yangon’s famous Shwedagon Paya that might evoke the color yellow more completely than the comparatively modest Sule Paya, but I think this picture is more meaningful. Yellow, not red, is the color of power in Myanmar, and the golden payas (temples) that dot the streets offer a constant reminder of the old, powerful Burma, as they were often built or rebuilt with the spoils of raids and invasions into neighboring lands.
Today, many regard Myanmar as kind of pathetic under the military government of the past four decades; no one fears or praises the country, and few consider it all. Even North Korea stands as a larger player in the modern world. Despite all this, nothing can stop the Sule Paya from shining at sunset, even in the rain and under dark and dank cloud cover. The Sule Paya at sunset represents the determination of Myanmar’s people in the face of many challenges. At least that’s what I thought, as I crossed a pedestrian bridge, glanced to my right, and saw the figure looming above Yangon’s rush hour traffic.
White: Hot Sweet Tea on the Street
Yangon has a vibrant café culture, with brick and mortar tea houses guarded by pop-up sidewalk cafés of the same ilk on the sidewalks in front of them. Even in the painfully wet and hot weather, strolling through Yangon’s streets all day long is a breeze, as every block or so you’re presented with an opportunity to sit down, sip tea, and recuperate. Cups of tea with sweetened condensed milk costing only 250 kyat ($0.30) are the standard, and buying a cup also buys you a shaded seat and access to a simple pot of unfussy Chinese tea. Though we did get some travel sickness in Yangon, these shops always seemed safe, with their bright white cups showing any dirtiness (there definitely was some!) and their kettles always boiling over a portable, coal-lit stove.
Red: A Cross-Dressing Religious Figure Sniffing a Bottle of Red Label Whiskey
I have few other words for this picture beyond what the title suggests. While walking down the street in Yangon, Andy and I were lured into a building by the sounds of drums and stumbled to some sort of ceremony emceed by a man in drag (NOT a ladyboy), who appeared to be some sort of spiritual leader. Spectators (worshippers?) would affix money to his (her?) clothing with safety pins and gave offerings of food and drink, including this bottle of Johnny Walker Red Label. The decorated leader then proceeded to dance around with the bottle, pouring it on some of the drummers, taking swigs, and sprinkling drops on the rows and rows of flower and banana arrangements flanking the ceremony sites.
I am still entirely confounded by this rather trippy Yangon experience, and the internet hasn’t been much help in deciphering exactly what was going on. Though this isn’t the best picture (the sleeve is focus, rather than the face), it’s imbued with red from the afternoon sunlight filtering through the sheer red curtains and with with dress of the man (woman?) himself (herself?).
Part of this contest requires participants to nominate 5 other bloggers to do the same sort of post. Unfortunately, I am the absolute last blogger person in the entire world to put something together for this contest, so I’m just going to nominate well-traveled people with a web presence.
- Hillary Clinton. This lady is more well-traveled than like anyone else in the entire history of the world, including, like, Marco Polo. So it would be cool if her team, or at least the Texts from Hillary team, tweeted some colors.
- Curiosity Rover. This robot has covered more distance than any human ever has and maintains a Twitter account. Curiosity could totally send up some cool pictures, at least for the “red” category, when his/her cameras get up and running. Black-and-white fisheye photos are cool and all, but we’re still waiting for the goods.
- Justin Bieber. You can’t say he doesn’t have a web presence. And you can’t say he doesn’t travel. Do it, Biebs. Show your classically-trained swagger. Become a travel blogger. Do it.
- Zooey Deschanel. Even if she never leaves LA, she would obviously take pictures that are so quirky, they might as well have been taken in Zambia!
- Michael Phelps. Not only does he have more Olympic medals than 82 countries have ever earned ever, he’s been to Sydney, Beijing, and London. Dude just has to post creeper photos of Olympic uniforms in each color and he’s gonna win this thing, too.
A Final Note
Joking aside, Myanmar is the most challenging and rewarding place I’ve visited, and I can’t wait to tell you about all the people I met, betel nuts I chewed, and people who robbed me. Stay tuned!
Hi! I'm Susan, and this is my travel journal. You can read more about me here.
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