I have quite a bit to catch up on!
I stayed in Yangon. Our port was about 2 hours from the city. Cruise ships do not come to Myanmar (I am not even sure if they’re allowed) so we were really in a cargo only area. There were free shuttles from the port, but I still only stayed on the ship one night and got a hotel with some friends for a few nights. The first two days my friends and I went to a bistro for lunch and then went to a sky restaurant for dinner. We also went to the market which was huge and partially airconditioned. The next day we found a vegan café and while I am not vegan, I really enjoyed it because I was able to get kombucha and cashew cheese. Afterwards we went to the Sule Pagoda. We learned a little bit about Buddhist astronomy and how people practice Buddhism at the pagoda. We went to a sky bar and then I went to my hotel before it got too dark. Getting to the hotel involved two taxis and walking up to the hotel property from the back, not fun at night.
Now with the friends I had the hotel with, we went to the Rangoon Tea House for lunch. Our taxi was in the farthest left lane but there was some congestion so he just dropped us off in the middle of the street. The environment is pretty Western and the food is delicious. One of my friends had a bit of a cold so we went to the pharmacy. After we found the right medicine for her we got a taxi to the Shwedagon Pagoda. This is the biggest Pagoda in Yangon. We walked around for about an hour.
Next, we headed to the grocery store to buy some snacks. They had some familiar brands that we hadn’t seen since the U.S. which is interesting because we had been seeing others, like it Vietnam we could find Tyrell’s chips but in Myanmar we found Kettle chips. I also bought some canned sparkling water to bring back on the ship. Sparkling water is $3 on the ship and that is for a small bottle. I’d rather buy a smoothie for $4.
We met up with some other friends and went back into downtown for dinner. We found a bar and grill for dinner. We thought we were headed to a night market afterwards but it was already closed. We did run into an American who is on his fifth year of teaching English in Yangon.
The next day, we went to the zoo. We actually saw some pretty hilarious monkeys so it was well worth the $3 it cost to get in. We actually ate lunch in a hotel after that and we got to see them setting up for a wedding. After that we went to the market. We bought some art and things before going to a gallery and then going back to the Rangoon Tea House. We had a great time there, trying quail egg & truffle, empanadas, and street food styled pork skewers.
On our last day in Myanmar, we went to the pool at the hotel before going to eat at the Vegan café. Remember, I am with different people now than the first two days. I had to take them to all the good food places. We had hoped to do some more snack shopping, but we did not want to miss a shuttle back to port.
As I transition from Myanmar (Burma) to India, I should write a bit about some current events happening in both countries. For years now in Myanmar, the Rohingya people have been being killed just because they were in the country. When British colonists pulled out of these countries, they just left each country to fend for itself. Also, most of the time the colonists had moved the boarders. So, when these areas were no longer under British rule the people were back to making their own decisions and were not happy with how things were or are. Most of what we hear about Myanmar in the media is related to the “Rohingya Crisis.” It has been called an “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” however it is not being treated like a genocide by the international community. The Rohingya people are Muslims from the Rohingya region of Myanmar. Some Burmese people believe that the Rohingya should not live in Burma and so they are forcing them to Bangladesh or killing them. All of these tensions are happening in the north of Myanmar in Rohingya which is not where we were. The people of Myanmar were very welcoming and helpful to everyone. India soldiers sealed their boarder with Myanmar while we were in the country. I cannot find great information about this online, but I am pretty sure it is no longer sealed.
However, if you have been paying any attention to the news, you will know that tensions between India and Pakistan have greatly escalated over the past couple months. So, during the British occupation the Brits separated Pakistan from India however they did not consider the people who would be affected by this new boarder and fighting has been going on there for over 70 years. India is also in a fight with China over the other side of the current India controlled Kashmir region. The current escalations though between India and Pakistan have included terrorist attacks, bombs, and the capturing of a pilot on both sides. For our voyage, India was the first country (probably going to be the only country) where the security team (not located on the ship) did an immediate security assessment. Obviously, we were cleared to go to India. The fighting is only happening at the boarder however one field program which was supposed to go to the boarder was rerouted. We were also told some protests would be happening in Delhi and Mumbai and to avoid those.
Now to my time in India! I have had a great time in India! I have done 0 independent travel so I have not had to worry about anything. We are docked in Kerala which is most South Western State of India. The first day I had my field class for my Intro to Media in Society course we go to talk to leaders of the local #MeToo movement and we got to visit the Times of India.
The next day I left for my field program Holy Ganges: Unity in Diversity, Varanasi + Taj Mahal. We spent that first day traveling we had a layover in Hyderabad. The next day we left the hotel at 5:15 we went to see the sunrise and morning life around the river Ganges. We got to see Holy Men, people bathing in the river, and people doing spiritual practices. We got on a boat that ended at the crematorium which is bodies being burned by the river. Hindus believe if they are cremated here and their ashes blown into the river their life cycle ends – they find enlightenment. This crematorium does 100-200 bodies a day. It is the only crematorium in India that is open 24/7. We went to a temple to “Mother India” then had some rest time at the hotel. That afternoon we visited some Buddhist sites and a museum. We then went back to the river before dinner to see the evening there. We got back on the boat, stopped in front of the crematorium, then from the river with a bunch of other boats watched/partook in the evening prayer ceremony done at the main area along the river.
The next day we mostly travelled to Agra but we did stop at Sikh Temple in Delhi. The next morning, we were up early again for the Taj Mahal! It was beautiful there even if it was so foggy, we couldn’t see it when we got there. We went back to the hotel to check out then went to Agra fort which was pretty amazing as well! Where we went was more of a palace then a fort. We headed back to Delhi to get our flight back to Kochi. We got back at like 1:36am and then it took over an hour for me to get through the ship security line.
That brings me to today – on ship time is in 45 minutes. I was not feeling very good this morning and I obviously slept in since I didn’t go to bed until sometime after 3am. I went out to this tiny market area in port, bought a couple gifts, and got some henna!
I have been using this down time to get caught up on my newsletter. We are halfway through the voyage now! We have five days before our one day stop in Mauritius on the way to South Africa. We will be crossing the equator! So excited even though I know I probably would not notice if it wasn’t for the party we have and watching our location on the TV.
Until South Africa,