“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Sunday, October 16, 2005

At the Airport

As I was waiting to collect my friend from the Yangon airport, I reflected on its welcome to the country. There was a depressing dingyness, party due to the existence of only orange lights (with only half working), but also due to the cream walls (such a bad color match). The humidity soaked through to the skin and permeated the mood with patient impatience and frustration with bureaucracy and grime.

A little square arrivals hall about 75 meters across is really all that is inside the constantly-under-construction building. The electronic notice board with the arrival times had more beer sponsorship logo than information about flights (although that could be due to the total of 11 flights arriving all day). There was one set of double doors for people to exit through—and each window pane had a “fragile” sticker haphazardly clinging to the middle. Each sticker was from one of the different airlines that come to Yangon (not that many airlines do). The only other significant sign in the large high-ceilinged room is one advertising London cigarettes.

Officious men and women in uniforms meandered back and forth, all wearing badges of permission – just to get into this waiting area I had to pass by 3 people. Thankfully, as I am foreign I didn’t have to pay the requisite 5c bribe to each, though they are probably quite sour about that.

Overpriced “limo” and taxi stands were the only remotely friendly indicators for tourists in the enormous sea of people waiting behind. One older uniformed man with spectacles sat watching the door in case anyone crazy enough to run through without permission was held back.

I’m glad I came to greet my friend—not that she hasn’t experienced third world airports—it’s just such a depressing place. The new one in Mandalay makes it look like a shack!

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