Adam and I just spent nearly two weeks traveling in Myanmar (previously known as Burma). Before flying into Myanmar though, we spent three days in Bangkok to get visas and immunizations all settled. At the time, I was annoyed with Bangkok and couldn't wait to get out. I read that Bangkok can be overwhelming at first, but that people grow to love and appreciate it after traveling to other countries in the region. I laughed when I read it and thought... pff... no way! Now I totally get it! Bangkok sure does feel cushy after Myanmar.
Myanmar is the poorest place I have ever submersed myself in, and it was an eye-opening experience. Despite the amount of poverty, we encountered very few beggars and hagglers. Even though we were stared at a lot and people commented a lot on Adam's height, they tended to leave us to ourselves. That is, unless they knew a bit of English, and then they were very keen to learn about where we were from and how we were enjoying our stay in their country. Or in one man's case, to teach us about Buddhism and show us around the temple.
What surprised me the most though is that when you strip away the superficial stuff, it all felt oddly familiar. You still see people gathering with their friends and families and laughing and playing games. They are sitting together in bars watching sports or shopping in malls. They are playing on their smartphones. The kids are skipping on the sidewalks and running around without a care in the world. They were often smiling at us and waving and yelling "Hello!" as we passed on the street. So much about kids just prevails no matter what, and I adore that about them!
Anyway, we spent the first few nights of our trip in Yangon (formerly Rangoon), the biggest city in the country with a population of about 5.2 million. I think the most memorable day we spent there was the day we rode the commuter train around the city. It cost about $1 USD per person to ride in a giant circle around the city for approximately three hours. It was the perfect chance to sit and observe the locals for an extended period of time. We just sat and stared out the window and got lost in our thoughts. Because we were always moving, there was an odd sense of freedom for us to blatantly stare at the locals as we rolled by, and to be honest, I think they felt the same freedom to stare at us as well. It was a bit like a two-way zoo in a way. Even though it probably sounds pretty comical, I can highly recommend it.