“Hello,”

“Where you come from.”

You walk on the street, you feel someone come closer to you, or call you from the opposite street, you would expect to hear the above. In Myanmar, everywhere you go, you bound to be ‘greeted’ by this sentence.

To Myanmar, perhaps it is just a greeting as such, “Hello, how are you?” After asked where do you come from, the next predicted sentence usually is getting you either to buy their stuff.

“Would you like a sand painting? Very cheap.” or ask if you need any transportation service, “Where are you going?”, follow by, “I can take you to …, very cheap.”, follow by, “What about tomorrow… The day after…”

To answer the first question, “where you come from?” is actually not hard, but the next question usually give a bit burden to find a polite escape route. Some of them are quite pushy too, you may say “no” politely, they would still follow you, keep calling you… This behaviour is shown particularly on little kids who are also the vendors around popular sites.

First few days in Myanmar I find them quite lovely. I was still able to reply these ‘greetings’ with joy… Now I am having a little indigestion. Sometimes it becomes a real test of my patient. Especially when visiting an ancient site. One of the temple in Mandalay, a little girl followed me right from the door step, through the temple, till I left. Her little body was forever in between me and the temple object or architecture I was suppose to enjoy. I still remember what she said.

She says,

“Hello, postcard.”

“Hello, lucky money”

“Hello, where you come from”

“Hello, shampoo”

“Hello, pencil”

“Hello, hello…”

“… ”

On the other hand, some older vendors (esp. the painting vendors in Bakan) provide a little help to guide me through the site. Most of them were quite informative though.

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“It was no way to get a place free from vendors asking you to buy their stuff.” Alex commented after a half day bicycle visit to the Old Bagan temples. “Even we went to a seemingly empty temple, as soon as they spotted our bicycles or our shoes, the next thing you know is a couple of them lining up at the door to welcome you when you exit the place.

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However, among all ‘greetings’, I like the beggars along U Bin bridge. They simply say, “Hello, money.” and reach out their hands. Isn’t it short and sweet?

Jing

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