Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Golden Land

Myanmar might call itself "The Golden Land" but it is by far the poorest country I have ever visited. I'm not trying to knock the economic state of the country. Poverty is no laughing matter. Sadly, because of the oppressive military junta ruling that country the majority of the world won't do business with Myanmar which means the economic conditions there are not going to improve any time soon.

Yagon, the capital, was the poorest city we visited. You could see how poor the people were by just walking down the streets. Immediately you notice how many people aren't working or are selling items that couldn't bring in more than a couple of dollars a week. For example, Huyen and I passed a shop that was dying rubber bands. That can't be that lucrative of a business.

(PICTURE: Drying rubber bands on the street.)

Just walking down the street can be quite a challenge. The sidewalks are completely in disrepair. Sometimes there's giant holes in the sidewalk and other times all the concrete slates on the sidewalk are loose. I sprained my ankle once when I stepped on a slate and the whole floor tilted underneath me.
(PICTURE: This is a typical sidewalk...minus the few feet of good sidewalk on the other side of the hole.)

Despite the poverty in Yangon, you could tell that the city used to be really nice. There are beautiful buildings that are fenced in, covered with moss and gutted from the inside. There are gorgeous churches and houses that with a fresh coat of paint could look nice. You get the feeling from walking around that the city has done little to better itself in the last fifty year. To make my point, look at this picture:

If you can't read the words, it says, "Shanka Mansion 1960." One can easily imagine that 49 years ago this was a beautiful house. Now, not so much.