Our trip from Mandalay to Lashio took approximately 6-7 hours due to multiple stops for nutrient intake, a military skirmish (see Civil War in Myanmar), and multiple stops for waste disposal. While I am the type of person who likes to travel without stops (I want to reach my destination as quickly as possible), this rationale is not conducive to most road trips when other people are involved.The members of our trip included Danielle, Soe (one of the local teachers we work with), Yen (Soe’s friend), Bob (our taxi driver), and myself. It was an adventurous trip to say the least and I did learn a lot about Myanmar culture along the way.
1). Taking time for tea is important – Since we were traveling with locals and under their supervision (at least for the first two days so we could orient ourselves due to a wider gulf in language barriers), we were more subjected to local customs than during our experiences so far in Mandalay. An hour and a half into our drive, we made our first stop. At first, I believed it was for a bathroom break but that changed we when we were requested to “take tea.” However, we were offered the choice between ‘coffee’ or ‘tea’ and being American, Danielle and I both chose coffee. The longer we sat there, the longer I wondered what was really going on: ‘What is this?’ ‘Why are we sitting here so long?’ ‘Are we ordering food as well?’ ‘Let’s hit the road, Jack?’
The same situation took place after our arrival in Lashio. After each meal, we would leave the restaurant and head to a ‘tea shop’ where we would take tea for the next twenty or thirty minutes. In Myanmar, taking time for tea–only tea–is so important that businesses thrive off of only selling tea. It is similar to the bar or pub culture you find in America and Europe, respectively, where you go to have a drink with your buddies, watch football (<–international usage), and shoot-the-chum with your male counterparts. I did not see any women in any of the tea shops we went to and Danielle definitely stood out in the crowd.
It is very American to think: ‘Let’s do our business and go! Why waste time? Why must we take tea after each meal or during brunch? Why must we stop and relax, waste time, and sip our tea for twenty minutes? Why can’t we put this in a travel mug and go? Why aren’t there any quick-stop tea-shops (Ahhhh, I could introduce that to Myanmar. A Starbucks-on-the-go-tea-stop-shop.)?’ As I stated previously, this is a huge part of American culture: no time to stop, no time to relax, just rush, rush, rush.
I do have to say that the tea I had is the best I have ever tasted in my life.
2.) All that tea has to go somewhere – multiple stops and intake of tea means multiple stops and evacuations!
3.) Everything is spicy in Myanmar – The food is spicy, especially in Shan State. They are known for their breakfast food, Shan noodles, which is spicy but can be ordered without spices.
If you want any type of snack, it’s spicy. Try some potato chips, they’re spicy. Want some mango, let’s dip it in spicy sauce!?!?!? How about some dehydrated plum? Oh yeah, we packed some spice in their because if it’s sweltering outside your body, it needs to be sweltering inside your body.
4.) Algebra is important – x+y=z: Any change in the degree of x or y will result in a change of value for z.
x = shock-less vehicle
y = poorly constructed roads
z = nausea