Well, we are still alive here in Yangon. And Myanmar seems to still be avoiding any cases of Corona Virus which is very suspicious, but never mind. Life moves on and we have been doing some interesting exploring around the Yangon area!Last week we had a random Wednesday off for Union Day, so Gav and I decided to try out the national park that is just north of Yangon. Gav really wanted to go up there to do some birding, but we soon figured out that the park didn’t open until 9am which is not exactly prime bird watching time. We did hear that there were monkeys you could feed so we decided to give it a whirl anyway. We hired a taxi driver to get us there and drive us around and luckily the guy we got had been to the park before and knew the lay of the land. Most importantly he pointed us to where we could buy bananas before we entered the park!
Of course it is not ideal to have a “national park” where all the visitors feed the animals, but when in Rome, give the monkeys what they want! The monkeys, being very clever creatures, knew that if a car was driving slowly past them there was a chance of being tossed some bananas, so they would run alongside the car hoping for a little tasty treat. We were kind of mean in the beginning, worried that we would run out of fruit but it turned out that at the end of the day we were still left with a giant bunch. Our driver stopped the car and we got out to pass out the remaining bananas but I guess monkeys eventually get either full or sick of bananas as it was a little bit of a hard sell at the bitter end. Also monkeys are kind of mean, I was definitely a bit apprehensive about getting bitten.
There were also herds of deer and buffalo in the park. And, you guessed it, people were selling food you could feed them as well! In general, these guys were much more polite, although they were not afraid of getting right up to the car, or swarming you if you dared to step out! The buffalo were the sweetest, allowing you to stroke them as long as they got a nibble of corn now and then. At the exit we ran into a few elephants you could feed as well-this was a bit sad as they were chained down and I think used for rides in the park. Of course we stopped to feed them as well.
All in all it was a delightful morning. The park has a nice lake inside and a few places you can stop and have a coffee or food on its shores. Just outside the park is a WWI and II graveyard. It has soldiers from the British, Indian and Burmese armies buried inside in different sections and each grave has a well maintained flowering bush beside it. It’s obviously a popular place to go for Yangonites looking for a picnic spot or an atmospheric selfie location.
Yesterday we had another adventure a short way from the city. Our friend Liz (who organized an epic scavenger hunt around the city of Gav’s birthday) is having a birthday on Monday, so we planned a little adventure for her. Step one was to solve a series of riddles after school on Friday that led her to my office. Waiting there for her were our outfits for Saturday’s adventure.
Liz’s favourite colour is purple, so a few weeks ago we went to the market to find fabric to make us all coordinating clothes. Very Burmese, they love coordinated group outfits.
In action on the ferry
For the actual adventure, we took the ferry across the Irrawaddy to a little town called Dala. Here we haggled (not very successfully) with a guy to arrange a taxi to take us to Kan Paw Aye pagoda, or as it’s more commonly known, The Snake Temple. We had heard that there was a temple that had some pythons living in it, so we were hoping that there might be a few snakes out where we could see them. Ha! There were probably 50-60 giant pythons in a pagoda the size of a living room.
Look in the “tree” behind us!
Some of them were hanging out in the tree, some of them were piled up on shelves above the windows, and lots and lots of them were slithering around the Buddahs in the middle of the room. You had to be careful not to step on any slithering around on the floor! It was incredible. Apparently the snakes are collected from local fields (farmers call the monks to get them instead of killing them) and are kept happy and fat in the pagoda with a diet of milk and eggs.
Us being there caused quite the commotion with other visitors, who all wanted to take our picture (I guess we were asking for it a bit with the matching outfits) and eventually someone asked me if I wanted to hold a snake. UM, YES PLEASE! Actually, I let the birthday girl go first because I am very polite like that.
After Liz had her photo shoot, they passed the snake on to me. At this point the snake was obviously not that pleased to have been grabbed from his resting spot under a table and draped around random necks. He was kind of resisting me holding his head out in front of me, which is what the photographer kept wanting me to do. Also it was definitely trying to slither off my neck. So I was trying to communicate that the snake seemed kind of upset and are we sure that it’s ok to be holding him like this? And during all this, my friend Greg snapped the best picture of all time…
I can’t stop laughing at that picture. Please note, I was not scared at all-here is the official photo!
Want to know how much that experience cost? £0.50. With the photo. Someone there needs to realize that you can charge foreigners more. Right after they took the snake off me, they dumped it on a Burmese lady’s neck so I guess the snake couldn’t have been that mad.
Anyway, it was an amazing experience and I 100% recommend it if you find yourself in Yangon! After that we took the ferry back to the city and took the birthday girl to an axe-throwing bar. I love that there is no health and safety in this country. We turned up and some guy was like “here’s your target, here’s your axes, here’s your beers. You have 60 minutes. Enjoy.” We tried to do a little game but actually most of us were terrible so in the end we just threw a lot of axes towards the target. 90% of them bounced off, but Gav got pretty good at it. Every single one of my throws ended with the handle hitting the target, something in my technique was way off. Gav ended the night by throwing two axes at the same time and both of them hit their respective targets! Impressive. Not sure how we are going to top this little adventure!