BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Monday, August 5, 2013

Notes from the Golden Land

YANGON, Myanmar - The chaos begins even before I actually set foot on this Southeast Asian country, the Golden Land, as the plane's rough touchdown jolts me out of my sleep. When I finally step out of the airport, the humid afternoon weather and the deafening honking of cabs pierce through my senses. Airport policemen blow their whistles endlessly as cabbies stubbornly wait for passengers and cause a gridlock.

I turn on my phones but no roaming services are available from the two biggest mobile companies in the Philippines. I reach the hotel which boasts of "unrivaled views of the majestic Shwedagon Pagoda." I waste no time and rush to my room to enjoy the beautiful view but even the pagoda's shadow was nowhere to be found. Instead, I see a huge slab of concrete as I open the brown curtains.

"Where I can see the view that the website promised," I tell the receptionist as I pleaded for another room.

I am moved to the eight floor and I am blown away. There she is -- enigmatic and breathtaking -- the Golden Pagoda, glistening even under the dark clouds. I rush to take a shower but as I savor the warm water on my flaky face dried by recycled air, I am greeted by a blackout -- one after another.

After the blackout, I turn on my computer but the Internet signal is intermittent. I turn on the a/c but this, too doesn't work.

I look outside again to forget the chaos. The Pagoda smiles at me and I smile back. I forget for a moment that I will be here for the next two weeks, chaos and all.