I went to Myanmar to get lost. The allure of a mysterious land with epic monuments tucked away in unknown villages, with a culture so pure and untouched that one can only describe it as alien, was too much to stay away from. The second I landed in Yangon, I was a person forever changed. The world would never look the same again, I was reborn. The second i stepped foot out of the airport I came to the realization that this would be a trip I would never forget. I hopped in a taxi and headed to my hostel in the middle of the city, conveniently located in the heart of the bustling metropolis.
As my taxi swerved through traffic I was surprised to find that the street were clean, the air unpolluted and the natural beauty to be a stark contrast to what I had experienced in Bangkok the weeks prior. To my chagrin, this feeling of security ended almost faster than it began, as my driver dropped me off in the densely populated colonial district.
As I stepped out of the taxi, the swampy heat of Yangon punched me in the face harder than the waft of curry and fermented fish that was being hocked at a local stand. Crumbling, archaic British colonial buildings became a confronting backdrop to the busiest streets I have ever seen. The sound of ancient buses shifting its gears, the yelling of vendors and honking of cars became cacophonous, only being amplified by the heat, the smells and sights of the city itself. It was an immediately sensory overload with only two options. I could slink into my hostel and hideaway, completely avoiding the craziness that I put myself in, or I could champion it, stepping foot-first into the chaos and embracing it. I’m glad I chose the latter.
My first day in Yangon was filled too many questions and simply not enough time to answer them. How do I order if I can’t read the menu or ask someone what they have? What side of the street do I walk on? Why is everyone staring at me? It makes you revaluate your life to its core. Why am I the way I am? How did I get here? These are the questions that permanently change you to your core, making you a stronger and more inquisitive person. What I found was that Burmese people go the extra mile to help you, that the power of a smile and a hand gesture can go a long way and most importantly that sometimes you just need to embrace the unknown.
Travel moves you, but more importantly it changes you, and I will always be able to thank Yangon for what it played in my life.