These Streets

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It’s amazing what you can achieve in just a day. I feel like I’m now pretty familiar with down-town Yangon. I’ve spent the majority of the day navigating through markets which are along all of the major streets. At first I was a little hesitant but today I didn’t hold back on the street food. The trouble is, I know the vendors don’t really want to be accosted by somebody who doesn’t speak a word of their language – My tactic was brandishing some money at them and pointing!

Yangon street market

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The birds/dogs/assorted vermin were having an absolute field day.

The birds/dogs/assorted vermin were having an absolute field day.

I tried lots of little bits and bobs – trying not too think too much about what was in them! There are loads of little fried things and pastries. There’s also the most ridiculous array of things I’ve never heard of before in my life, for example pomelos and custard apples.

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Note the dragon fruit in the foreground here.

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These bizarre looking things are called ‘rambutans’ – beneath the anemone-like outer shell is a sweet white flesh very similar to a lychee.

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The large knobbly brown thing at the back is called a ‘durian fruit’ – very odd.

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Don’t be fooled by their egg-like appearance – the ‘yoke’ is actually just grease! They’re sort of fried batter things with seeds and chickpeas – actually pretty tasty despite the fact that they’re dripping in oil.

They eat their meals at really strange times here: Breakfast is 7:00-7:30, Lunch 11:30-12:00 and Supper 5:30-6:30. I sat down for my 12 o’ clock lunch at a tiny low table like you’d get in a toddler’s play area, as is the norm, and let the women cooking provide me with whatever they had on offer. It seemed to be a mix of two different kinds of noodle, rice, potato, some sort of cucumberesque veg cut like noodles itself, a stange sort of cheese,  fried shredded fish/shrimp, fried tofu and chilli. The brothy soup accompanied like yesterday– some sort of fishy/mushroom one this time…not my favourite but certainly interesting.

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I headed down in the direction of Sula Pagoda – the second biggest in the city. There are eight shrines around each pagoda which represent the ‘eight’ days of the week. This is as Wednesday is split in two, according to their traditional astronomy.  In Myanmar, the day that you were born on is one of your most relevant defining features, believe it or not. In fact, in place of family/surnames they use the day you were born (or letters associated with this day). The English equivalent, for example, could result in my name being Sophie Friday.  Each day is given it’s own shrine to worship with it’s own animal. The 2nd of October 1992 was a Friday so my animal is the guinea pig and my shrine is at the north side of the Pagoda.

What’s yours? You can find out here http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/interactive/interactivetests/weekday.php – (Not so sure about that nursey rhyme – seems entirely unfair on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. However this Myanmar system also seems pretty unfair – needless to say on the mouse and guinea pig!) Use the table to work out your animal and planet!

Day Sign Direction Planet
Monday Tiger East Moon
Tuesday Lion South East Mars
Wednesday-morning Elephant without a tusk South Mercuty
Wednesday-afternoon Elephant with a tusk North West yahu
Thursday Mouse West Jupiter
Friday Guinea Pig North Venus
Saturday Dragon South West Satum
Sunday Ga-Lone (Mythical bird) North East Sun

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Here are two other people born on Friday – pouring water as a sign of respect and cleansing on the Buddha and the guinea pig.

The markets seem even more exciting at night. The downside, however, are the large rats running all over the place. People must have wondered why I kept jumping into the air spasmodically.

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At night the city’s Pagodas light up like giant beacons.

Yangon night market

Someone was frying lobsters here!

Sula pagoda at night

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The Beat Of Black Wings

“Everyone likes birds. What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?”

– David Attenborough

Following Flores we travelled down to ‘Lago Izabel’ in the South East of Guatemala. Our base camp was a fantastic hotel on a tiny Island in the ‘Rio Dulce’ called hotel Catamaran. The Island was so small that I decided to swim around it in the evening! We took a trip down the river to Livingston, a town on the miniature Caribbean sea coast of Guatemala.

The number of Cormorants and white herons on the boat trip down the river was outstanding. I have never seen so many Cormorants in my life! One particularly strange phenomenon was the aptly named ‘Bird Island’ where hundreds of the black and white feathered creatures gathered together to nest.

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As we drew closer to the coast the Pelicans began to gradually increase in number until they too become ridiculously abundant!Image

At one point there was a large number of them sitting on a pier facing towards us creating the hilarious appearance of some sort of military assembly. Image

However we only stayed for one night in this peaceful location, moving swiftly onto lively Antigua, the previous capital city. It’s a beautiful old classicaly colonial town filled with local cafés, artisan markets and first class coffee (So I’m told, not being a coffee drinker myself!)

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The city is currently swarming with an influx of tourists, locally from Guatemala and further afield, gathering for the ‘Semana Santa’ celebrations in the build up to Easter. This evening was a (slightly premature perhaps, Good Friday being a week away) procession of the stages of Christ’s crucifixion. The small floats were held by children dressed in their Lent-time purple cloaks.

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