We didn’t go out the third day in Myanmar, but there are a few things to mention about this country that I didn’t include in my previous posts.
First of all, it is largely a cash economy here. There used to be a huge black market and the government has changed the system a few times. A few places took credit cards and there are reputable money exchanges, but if you want to use dollars, they must be in perfect condition and not everyone will take them. The local people don’t really trust banks, and since the largest kyat note is 10,000 (which is worth about $6.50 US) people do walk around with huge bags of money. On our last trip we were told of someone who had all the cash to buy a house and couldn’t do settlement until late in the afternoon, so had all the currency in a huge bag which he carried around all day long. Our guide, Jack, said it is a pretty safe country though. Good thing.
The white paste you see on many women, girls and young boys is called thanaka and it is made from ground bark of several kinds of trees, most commonly the murraya tree. It has been used here for thousands of years. Jack said that most boys stop using it because it is now associated with being gay. You still see it on the very young boys. It is sometimes applied in designs on the cheeks but most often it is in a circle. It is said to prevent sunburn, prevent acne and is an antifungal. Some people apparently use it on their entire bodies.
Here is what the branch looks like.
And here is one woman with the circular pattern on her cheeks.
I am writing this while sailing in the Bay of Bengal on May 4, Saturday, we are headed to Cochin, India.
Many friends and readers of this blog have contacted me to see if we are safe from Cyclone Fani which caused more than 2.1 million people to be evacuated from areas of concern in India and Bangladesh. It is reported to be the strongest storm to hit India in the last 20 years. It made landfall yesterday on the northeast coast of India. The news is reporting that the effects are being felt as far away as Nepal!
We do have some choppy seas, but the captain sailed further south than he normally would have – to avoid the storm. We are headed to Cochin which is on the west coast of India and not impacted by the storm.
So all is well on the Oceania Insignia. Our ports in India will be Cochin on Monday, Mangalore on Tuesday, Goa on Wednesday and Mumbai on Thursday.