Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Settling in in Naypyitaw: The Search for the Three Kings Monument

  Well, it's been nine days now since I've moved to Naypiytaw (NPT), the capital of the Union of the Republic of Myanmar. Time to write some stuff down about how I'm finding this strange and interesting town. Perhaps, more importantly for how I like to share stuff, post a video letting you see what I'm experiencing here.

   When sharing my trip up here last week, I said that this place reminded me a bit of Disneyworld, but government style. Actually, a more appropriate comparison for the 'Hotel Zone', my first destination on arriving here, would be the Las Vegas Strip. But without the people. Or the gambling. Or the fun. Kinda plastic and fake; purpose built to impress, nothing organic about it.

   I've discovered there's more to this town than the mega-hotel filled hotel zone, the sparse and mysterious government zone or the Orwellian residential zones. There's a bustling outdoor market not 2 miles from my house. There are many good restaurants. There are regular people here just trying to make a living and have nothing to do with the government.

The Hluttaw Building - The Myanmar Parliament
   When I bought my new motorcycle on Monday, I had to go to Pyinmana, the next city over. See, Naypyitaw was created in 2005. Before it was built, this was marginal scrub land with a little agriculture and that's it. Pyinmana was the biggest city for a hundred or so miles in any direction, and it's NPT's sister city. Older sister. You can really tell when you leave and NPT and enter Pyinmana: the streets shrink from 18 lanes to 2. There's the normal (for Myanmar), ramshackle chaos of shacks, crumbling poured concrete buildings and busyness I've come to associate with Myanmar cities. And, since it's a rural outpost, you still see things like horse-drawn carts and cattle on the sides of the roads. Anyways, I'm writing about NPT, not Pyinmana. Suffice to say, there's a big chunk of real Myanmar just on the outskirts of town.
Pizza waitress, traditional Myanmar style

  One thing I found difficult to deal with when I first got here was how I'm treated by the people. At first, it was because I'm a guest at a hotel which strives to adhere to the highest standards of hospitality. Everything is “Yes, sir. Very good, sir” People open doors for me. They carry things for me. I get treated with the utmost respect in every interaction. At the place where I teach, a government ministry, it's even worse. I can't carry anything out of the classroom. Someone has to do it for me. They bring me everything and treat me like a god. Coming from middle-class America, an egalitarian society which kind of rejects the idea of any sort of aristocratic reverence, this obsequiousness rubbed me the wrong way. No, I don't want to be treated like royalty; that's not how I was brought up and it makes me a bit uncomfortable.

   Well, I've gotten used to it. I realize it's a cultural thing. I'm not putting on any false sense of superiority. It's just the way they treat teachers here, particularly nearly-middle-aged ones like myself. I have to set aside however much it makes me uncomfortable and just let them do what makes them feel more comfortable.

  As mentioned, I've bought a motorcycle. A Kenbo 125cc Chinese-made model. Brand new, under $600. It's the first time in my life I've ever purchased a brand new vehicle (excepting my first motorbike when I was 7 years old, and my parents helped with that). I'm loving it. Share my first significant ride by watching the video below. I set off to find the “Three Kings Monument”, some ways out of town and in a possibly forbidden zone... Do I make it?

1 comment:

  1. Nice motorbike! Glad you enjoyed the pizza! :) Thank you for the wonderful videos. Blessings, Lynn


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