Have you explored Myanmar?

Bagan White temple

Temple in Bagan, Myanmar

Slowly, slowly, the crowds are starting to trickle into Myanmar, still called Burma by some countries.   The Burmese (or the government?) have decided that tourism is a good thing. It’s an interesting place – generally south Asia is an inexpensive place to travel but Myanmar was two to three times more expensive than its neighbors. I was there with a couple of friends and we decided to max out our visas, staying for 27 days, edging the 28-day limit. Traveling with friends made it much more affordable for lodging and transport, definitely the most significant portion of our spending.

Some places were more rustic than others – one excursion took us to Mrauk U, seldom visited by anyone and the limited choices in lodging meant we had some interesting company in our room.  It’s always a bit surprising to have squealing from the ceiling wake you at 3 a.m.  It was a matter of “insert ear plugs” and return to sleep.  Whenever I’m sleeping under a mosquito net, it also suffices as a cloak of invisibility in middle-of-the-night logic.

In cities like Bagan, there were buses full of tourists from Europe, traveling in large groups and armed with water bottles, sunscreen, and sun defying hats and sunglasses.  All were eager to explore the temple-studded landscape.


Bagan Landscape


The ubiquitous Buddhas greeted us at every stop and no two seemed alike.  The one below seems somewhat restored but still possess the knowing smile, and sedate eyes while the subtle cracks betray the antiquity of his being.

Burma buddha

One face of Buddha

My friend and I opted for bikes to tour from temple to temple, simmering in the heat as we glided along the uncrowded roads, enjoying the slight breathe of air created by our pedaling. By early afternoon, we were ready for lunch in the shade of some trees, dining outdoors at a small café with fresh squeezed lime drinks to wash the dust from our dry mouths.  The highlight was the delicious tamarind candies, innocent looking enough in wax paper wrapping, but delivering a burst of fresh tart flavor to finish our meal.

Bagan temple

Exploring temples in Bagan, Myanmar

Burma temple detail

Temple detail of Buddha

Even the local livestock were fascinated with the temples, embedded as they were in the landscape and the lifestyle.  They just couldn’t stay away.

Burma cow

Cow exploring temple in Bagan, Myanmar

This monkey took a break from exploiting the crowds at one temple, perhaps subdued by the practice of compassion.

Burma monkey

Monkey resting at a temple

By two or three in the afternoon, we retreated to the small pool at our hotel.  It seemed the only sensible thing to do in the oppressive heat until the sun dipped low in retreat signaling it was time to venture out again for dinner.

Burma sunset

Myanmar sunset

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Travel Sines (or Signs?)

Sign Vietnam

Sign in shop in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam

This is one of the most hilarious signs I’ve seen anywhere and to see it hanging on a door in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, made it even more hysterical.  Maybe this is the Vietnamese version of shaming a deadbeat landlord.

I love words and I love to see what people do with them when translating or communicating in another country.  The English language can be tricky – think of all the words that sound alike but are spelled differently, such as sine and sign.  These homonyms must be a constant source of frustration for the English learner – the devil is in the details.

Some signs are fun and humorous in their depiction, such as this “Beware of Dog” sign in France.  Yikes!!  Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words and possibly a deferred medical bill.  Notice the absence of underwear.

France Chien

“Beware of Dog” in France

And here is another sign you don’t see every day.  Kind of made me want to jump on the ramparts, but I had to ask my friend, “What EXACTLY are ramparts?”  And would I incite the fury of the French police if I tiptoed across one?  I’m sure the French version of jail with bread and water might actually mean Perrier and croissants.  Unless it’s really as grim as in Les Misérables.  I settled for the photo.

France Ramparts

Sign at a castle in central France

I found this sign to be so politely perfect while walking through one of the temples at Angkor Wat, that I couldn’t even be upset that they had blocked a section to tourists.

Angkor sign

Angkor Wat apology sign

There is the occasional best attempt to translate into English and it is generally not a bad effort, if only off by one letter. I let it go, with a chuckle.  I can’t even pretend to translate into Cambodian. My sign would probably end up saying, “Vice Shop and Drug Shop.”  And then I would wonder why I had such a shady clientele.

Dring shop

Shop in Siem Reap, Cambodia

And sometimes the concept is communicated…. well, almost.  I get it. This is not a hat.

Hump Cambodia

Road sign in Cambodia

And then I found this especially interesting.  I had turned on the TV in a small hotel in Sittwe, Myanmar and found the movie “Tremors” playing.  But what really surprised me was the notices that kept popping up every time one of the actors lit a cigarette!  “Smoking causes Cancer. Smoking Kills.”  And this was in a hotel where I actually had to move rooms because the stench of smoke in the hallway was so horrendous.  Go figure.

Smoking Myanmar

Smoking Warning, Myanmar TV

I’ve decided I could make an entire career by translating various signs all over the world.  I’ve visited amazing places like the Shanghai Museum, knowing they’ve made a huge effort to translate exhibit descriptions into the internationally recognized language of English, and then I see a small misstep that always seems to catch my attention.  I know I’m not perfect either so I just smile and keep reading.  The intent is genuine and that is most important.

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Copyright 2016 ©wanderlynntravel.wordpress.com; photos cannot be reproduced without permission.