Browsing the open-air markets of Yangon, Myanmar

I meandered along Shwedagon pagoda road and came upon a procession of barefoot monks carrying their alms bowls. Their red umbrellas protected them from the blazing sun as they passed a building surrounded by bamboo scaffolding. A man sat watching them pass by the side of the road, smoking a large newspaper cheroot. 

I walked to an outdoor tea stall. A man put down a low, plastic stool for me by a small table in the street and a tea boy came over with a thermos of tea and small plates of pastries to pick from. 

Street food impression. Taken on an early morning walk to catch

I relaxed, drank Shan black tea sweetened with condensed milk and ate a plate of delicious, crisp samosas while watching the bustle in the road before me. I stood up from the table and bought a single cigarette from a plastic cylinder on the counter and lit it from a lighter hanging from a rubber band attached to a pole. A man next to me cleaned his cup by pouring from the thermos, swilling the tea dregs around and then pouring the liquid directly out on the pavement.

I walked on past some betel nut stalls. One of the stall keepers looked up and gave me a wide,  red-toothed smile as he coated a betel leaf with slaked lime, mixing it with areca nut and a sprinkling it with tobacco to make a quid.  

Untitled design (24)

Above the betel stands was a billboard with painted lettering, the beautiful noodle-shaped writing of Burmese. Gazing up at a peeling collage of these letters and pictures on a nearby billboard, I wasn’t looking where I was walking and stepped into a fresh gob of dark red betel spit.

I then browsed a small market nearby, checking out the sticky-rice sellers. I tried and bought several types, some with coconut and some with jaggery wrapped in banana leaves. I also tried some durian-flavored ice cream. It was pretty disgusting. To take away the taste I bought some chunks of jaggery at a sweets stall. The sugary candy was too sweet.

I was distracted by an enticing smell  coming from a corner where a man wearing a blue-checked longyi was cooking skewers of beef beside a couple of chickens pecking in the dirt. He’d twisted his longyi in front, making a small pocket for his keys and coins in the knot.

The local Flower Market in Mandalay

My travelogue on Myanmar is available on 


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