仰光元首級的 Chatrium Hotel／李明熙
2012 年奧巴馬訪問緬甸，緬甸與美國再次恢復邦交，仰光巿內亦出現了第一間肯德基炸雞店。負責接待奧巴馬的 Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Yangon，至今依然保安嚴密，汽車和客人進入酒店前都要接受安檢。
我們入住的房間在 Chatrium Club 之列，Check-in 安排在 9 樓的會員專區，提供免費小食及飲料，我們每次出入酒店都會到專區歇一歇，喝杯醒神冷飲。房間向著 Kandawgyi 湖及仰光最著名 Shwedagon 佛塔，晚上站在陽台欣賞金碧輝煌的佛塔成了我們最享受的事情。從酒店步行到佛塔，不用半小時，非常方便。
酒店內的 Emporia 餐廳有道地的緬甸菜套餐，正好讓我們在遊緬甸之前，向大廚學習一下緬甸的傳統美食。
緬甸有句諺語：水果之中，芒果最佳；肉類之中，豬肉最佳；葉子之中，Lahpet 最佳。Lahpet 是種小食，主要是醃製茶葉配蠶豆、花生和葡萄乾，加點青檸和檸檬汁，每樣材料一茶匙地放進口，還未夠重口味的可以再咬生蒜頭及青辣椒，一下子擊中口裡甜酸苦辣四種味蕾。要中和這重口味，最好學緬甸人喝杯煉奶奶茶，超甜，但作為下午茶餐，倒是不錯。
Yangon is a bustling city in southern Myanmar, and our first stop on this trip. Our first encounter with the people of Myanmar was at the Chatrium Hotel Royal Lake Hotel. Everyone we met; from the manager to the chef, the reception staff to the gardeners, always had big smiles and were happy to greet us. Hotel staff is normally friendly, but at that time we had no idea that the warmth of these people wasn’t just in the hotel, but throughout their culture.
Early that evening, we decided to walk to Shwedagon Pagoda, the country’s most famous and wonderful pagoda. Along our walk there, the sights we encountered were not much different than many Southeast Asian countries, except for the dress of the men. Men in Myanmar wear longyis, which are basically long skirts. Seeing both businessmen and teenagers in longyis takes away any edge to them and immediately made us feel more comfortable walking along the dark, quiet street.
Shwedagon Pagoda was different from other pagodas we have seen and as magnificent as we had been told. Everything within the Pagoda’s area sparkled with gold, lights, marble and even diamonds. Even though it was a dark, cloudy night, the gold of the pagoda illuminated everything around it. We were able to clearly understand and observe from the devout crowd of all ages, the significance that this pagoda has for most of the Burmese people.
We were approached by a few guides offering tours. They were very pleasant and they wanted to have a conversation; even when we declined their service, they still smiled and wanted to know more about us. On our walk around the pagoda, we stopped at a quiet corner to take photos in front of the pagoda. While Ming Hay was adjusting the camera settings, he could see by my face that I became uneasy. He turned around to see that we had attracted a large crowd. A group of young girls approached him to ask permission to take a photo with me. The people were so curious and welcoming of us into their culture. We returned to our hotel that first night feeling excited for more chances to mingle with the locals.
The next day we toured the whole city of Yangon. Everywhere we went we were greeted with smiles and interest. We felt like celebrities with all of the photos we were asked to be a part of, but it was never an inconvenience or made us uncomfortable. Even people that didn’t speak any English still came up to us to have a conversation or to offer us help or even shade.
Throughout all of my travels, I have never looked at any culture as unfriendly, but I have never experienced all of my social relations within a country to be as kind and heartfelt as in Myanmar. We normally focus on food, nature or the sights in a city, but in Myanmar is the first time (although the pagodas are amazing), the people are what made our trip remarkable.