The cab driver from yesterday picked us up in front the guest house in the morning for a full day of sightseeing in Yangon. He brought his brother, who spoke better English, and he stayed with us half the day. Our first stop – almost every stop – was a temple / pagoda.
Stepping out of the taxi, we got our first good look at the people in the daylight. This is the most foreign land I’ve ever been. Most men, like our taxi driver and his brother, didn’t wear pants. Instead they wrap a cloth around their waists that goes down to their feet; I don’t know if they pull it up or down to take a crap. They don’t wear sneakers, they wear sandals.
Women and children had yellow, powdered paint on their face. Thanaka, applied as sunblock and a cosmetic, is made from a tree and has been used since ancient times.
Many men, and even some women, had dark red-stained teeth. They chew betel nut, a seed from a type of palm tree, which has been wrapped in a lime-coated leaf. Tobacco can be added. They spit the red juice on the ground. I read it gives a buzz like coffee or tea.
We removed our shoes and socks and paid money to enter Botatung Pagoda grounds. The stupa, the dome-shaped, structure, is gold. Reflecting the sun, it burned my eyes to look at it. I needed a welding mask. Zucchini put on her shades. I squinted.
The stupa is hollow. Inside are gold walls. More gold than House Lannister.
Burmese prayed on their hands and knees. There were glass donation boxes, some of them filled to the top with cash. My favorite sight was a round table that spun in circles. On top of it were bowls set in a circle. Peopled, standing behind a waist-high fence, tried to throw folded up cash inside the bowls.
I stepped in something sticky. I checked between my toes. No webbed feet. This happened at every pagoda we visited. I always thought it spit, but it was better than sitting on a toilet seat with pee drops.
Next was Shwedagon Pagoda. First built in 1485, it’s the main attraction of Yangon. You reach it by one of four covered walkways and once you get to the top, you turn to the person next to you and say holy moly.
The stupa is crowned with diamonds and rubies. It’s been pillaged and looted over the years by Portuguese adventurers, the best profession in history, and British soldiers.
It was hot and I was thirsty. They have water drinking stations with shared cups, but I was afraid of hepatitis.
Burmese stared at us in our blue jeans with their blank faces, thinking us as strange as we thought them. There were many adolescent monks, either on a field trip or some pilgrimage. They looked hard at Zucchini. I wondered if their penises were hard. How can you be a monk at that age with a little dick that’s hard all the time? By choice? If not that’s child abuse. Perhaps they’re as gay as young Brits in boarding schools, wanking each other off, helping one another fall sleep. Team effort, you know.
The monks smiled and laughed, a direct contrast to Jap monks. Some had smartphones. I even saw one take a selfy. Being a monk, that ought to get your little peepee slapped.
Zucchini pointed out gold buddha statues with signed names at the bottom. The cabbie’s brother, our guide, said he was saving money and hoped to have the honor of donating one with his family name. I think he needed to fix his rotting teeth first. I had to step to his side as he spoke. It was a 1,000 times fouler than what Zucchini claims mine to be.
His nose hairs almost reached his top lip. Moles stuck out from his face. He had blue eyes, a feature as rare among Asians as tits on a Japanese girl who’s not in porn. In his younger days, if the country wasn’t as backwards then and primitive as African tribes who believed albinos to be demons that must be killed, he must have had his pick of the yellow-faced girls.
Burmese girls, by the way, were not bad-looking. Orwell’s protagonist in Burmese Days was wrong to throw out his Burmese whore and stake his happiness on that English woman with a lesbian haircut.
The girls don’t reveal much. Their grandmas would not be ashamed of the way they dress. But that will change. The country has only been open for five years. No McDonald’s or Starbucks. I only saw two Kentucky Fried Chickens, and one of those was in the airport.
Our next stop was a market that sold overpriced gem stones and jewelry.
Zucchini stopped at a fruit stand. She likes mangosteen. It has a purple peel, and you eat the white part on the inside that’s shaped like a tangerine.
The fruit owner and his mother stood up. No smiles or greetings. He said the mangosteen were fresh, peeled one and handed it to Zucchini. Then, before she could make a decision, he filled a bag of 10 and tried to hand it to me, and asked for $5. I tried to talk him down in price. He put two more in the bag. “Take some out and I’ll give you $3,” I said. Him and his mom looked disgusted with us. They hated us, but they hated us to begin with.
Zucchini, not impressed with my bartering skills, said I was impatient. I lost “man points.” She wanted me to hand over my “man card.” I’d rather not buy anything than play this game, but bartering does teach you how to be more assertive.
For lunch, we had grilled cheese and ham sandwiches at a restaurant, having decided to skip the street food because we didn’t want to risk broken stomachs on the long night bus ahead. We peeled the mangosteens at our table. Half were spoiled . . . that son of a Burmese bitch. Then a group of senior Chinese sat down next to us. The two men on the corner, only five feet away, stared at Zucchini like they didn’t approve of racial mixing. We got up and left. If I’d had some sweet and sour sauce to lubricate their tiny assholes, I’d of raped them with an eggroll.
We got in the cab and saw more. A green lake with a Thai restaurant on a fancy boat.
217 foot reclining buddah. When we walked around back I told Zucchini, “Wow, look at that ass.” She called me gay.
The dogs in Southeast Asia sleep more than any other dogs in the world. I always think one is going to bite my leg when I pass, but they’re deep sleepers. I thought this yellow breed was a mutt at first, but I saw his sort everywhere.
There’s two pink elephants in Yangon. When we got there, after looking at the elephants for 10 seconds, we were ready to leave. Local sleeping dogs were more interesting to watch.
Two more temples. The novelty soon wore off. After seeing Shwedagon everything else was second rate, and we were tired of taking off our shoes and socks.
Last stop was this big, gold, hollow buddah.
This guy, seeing us, asked if we’d like to climb to the top. It was closed to the rest of the public, construction not being complete and all. He guy made it seem like he was doing us an honor so we climbed, not really that interested. We looked out the nostrils and ears. After we carefully climbed back down the narrow staircase with missing handrails in the dark, he asked if we’d kindly make a donation in the donation box.
Finally, we went to the bus station. Before letting us out, the cabbie asked if we’d like another tour when we returned from Bagan. “What else is there to see?” I asked.
He said there was an interesting place three hours outside of Yangon, and that it would cost $120. Then I knew today’s trip was $70 and not $17. Zucchini felt he’d deceived us, and told him he’d originally said $17. He swore by $70. I should have gotten it in writing. Lesson learned. If I hadn’t thought it an innocent a misunderstanding, if I hadn’t thought gas alone to cost $17, I’d of raped him with an eggroll. No sweet and sour sauce.