About Me

Greeting strangers! If you are reading this right now you most likely fall into one of these categories: family, friends, teachers, or fellow Juniata College students. If you are not one of the above by whatever misfortune or luck you have stumbled upon a college's student study abroad experience in China. Please stay and enjoy. My name is Jasun. Now to interject two disclaimers. One, this is my blog and I will speak my mind and sometimes, unfortunately, this may cross your comfort's threshold - and for that I apologize. Two, as much as this blog belongs to me, I am writing for you. As such, if there are any questions (I mean any) that pop into your head that you want answered just send me an email at Moyjf08@juniata.edu and I'll answer it on this blog. One more thing. I can't seem to upload pictures here. So I will most likely be uploading pictures on my facebook account. If you are interested in seeing these pictures and are not a facebook friend by all means add me - just leave message saying something of the sort that you follow this blog if I do not know you. Best wishes throughout the year, and I hope together we make it a fun, educational, and safe year.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Day 4 Myanmar - Speed Traveling

After a little rest I went off and started exploring the city and saw the “must see” Pagoda in Mandalay. After seeing the Shwedagon Pagoda I don’t think any pagoda in the world will be as spectacular, but it is worth seeing if you have the chance. I actually even got in and out without paying. I think I remember reading somewhere that that is possible and many foreigners do it to avoid paying the government.

Then I headed to the Zegyo Markets in the hope of finding some souvenirs. But alas the market was basically just clothes and fabrics. A couple floors were actually selling Western products. After about half an hour without seining another foreigner or something interesting to buy I decided that maybe these markets weren’t really for tourist.

So first impressions on Mandalay….If I thought Yangon was a rundown city Mandalay takes the cake. I’m not even quite sure it should be considered a city were just a mere population of a million. There are no tall buildings; most are between 3-5 stories. I imagined it like a cowboy town, a really big one. Like the city, my accommodations pale in comparison to those in Yangon. I’m writing this on the roof because for one my room is not the coolest place to hang out and two there isn’t a room for guests to hang out and talk.

After I finish up here I plan on heading to Mandalay Hill to catch the sunset. So just one final thought before I go for now. I think I’m ready for home. I say this because some of the cultural things people do here is already starting to annoy me. I know cultural are different and everything and perhaps it’s just a little cultural shock but I didn’t expect to become annoyed like this. I’m not sure. Not really finished on this topic, but I’m losing sun and still have to get to the hill and eat some dinner.


So the keep the theme of firsts alive I had another first today. I rode my first motorcycle. Because this city is quite a metropolitan there aren’t many car taxis here. And after getting tired of waiting I decided to take a motorcycle taxi to the hill. Apparently, as I was told by my driver, I was too late to reach the top of the hill by sunset; but that he would do his best to get me there as quick as possible. At first I thought that was a good thing, until I got on and we started driving. After I got over the fear of crashing and dying I gotta say that the wind in my face was quite relaxing – don’t worry, still not enough to make me want a motorcycle of my own.

Well as I found out climbing the hill, even running up it at parts, I did cut it too close and only reached the halfway part before I stopped and cut my losses and shot what photos I could of the dropping sun. They’re good, but probably not nearly as good if I made it to the top. Hopefully I’ll get better ones while I’m in Bagon. But I think it all worked out for the better because I got to talk with a couple locals. The first local actually wanted to discuss a little about the political situation for a bit – which was a special treat because it’s actually quite dangerous to talk about sensitive stuff like that. The second local was actually a Buddhist monk. After talking for a bit he offered to take me to his monastery. At first I was little apprehensive because the situation was a bit sketchy. Local meets tourist at tourist spot and invites him to unknown location, at night nonetheless. Probably not the smartest or safest decision I made, but I decided to go with him. In the end, it’s safe to say that I’m perfectly alright and that it was a unique experience that I won’t regret.

The monk’s name was quite difficult to pronounce and by the time I got back to my room to write this I completely forgot again. But I do remember that his name’s meaning meant “intelligent.” His monastery wasn’t quite what I expected. It was basically a small gated run-down housing complex. After meeting the monks he lives with and touring the house he sleeps in we decided to go to the local pagoda that they go to usually. On the way we met three fellow monks from his monastery returning from English class. They decided to join us and show me their pagoda. It was a very small one; tourists probably don’t usually visit this particular one. It was nice though with the monks enthusiastically showing me around, pointing at things, saying take a picture of this or that. It was really enjoyable. What’s really cool was that for a parting gift they gave me authentic Buddhist monk robes. Unfortunately I didn’t have anything to give them and they wouldn’t accept any money.

So after much thought throughout the day I decided that instead of spending another day in Mandalay I would head to Bagon so I could spend more time there. I planned to travel by ferry, but all the tickets were sold out so I’ll have to take the bus yet again. Early morning tomorrow so I better get some sleep.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The "Final" Post

So because of my horrible blogging record and the fact that my blog is still stuck in Myanmar and I haven't even really blogged at all about this semester I figured I deserve to at least give you something about my present situation. I call this the "Final Post" - because theoretically it should be - I sit in Seoul, South Korea during my layoff waiting for my plane to take me back to the land of free and the home of the brave. But yet, there's still so much to tell and realize that this probably won't be the last post, for better or worse.

It's weird to think that it'e been a year already, god I remember the day I wrote my first post in this same exact airport all full of excitement. And now I'm here again writing some of my finals thoughts of my journey to China. I'm sure I speak for everyone like me when I say that part of me is ready to come home and part of me just wants to stay. But besides that conflicting feeling, I don't think I'm feeling anything else. I don't know. Maybe I don't really realize I'm coming home. This is just another flight. It's still all too surreal.

Man, this is tough to write even. I don't know what to say. I could go on about all those questions that people like to ask; like, how different will returning be, etc. But I don't know. I'm in a very carefree state and going to just go my motto that I've been developing and just go with the flow and take what ever comes for better or worse. More on that in my trip to Myanmar, but that's a different post for a different day haha. I promise that this blog will all be complete before I graduate haha. I'll do my best this summer, I shouldn't be doing that much.

I guess this is where I'll say, see you all state side! bai bai!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 3 Myanmar – Trains, Buses, and Rickshaws oh my!

I decided to take it easy today. I went to breakfast and ran it Eric – from Peekskill – and we had a nice conversation. It says 11:18 am on my phone – which is actually only an hour and a half faster than local time. I think I might just chill out on the roof until around noon waiting for check out. It’s really nice up here with the breeze and sun. Ahh how I miss sunny days, they’re pretty rare in China.


Sitting on the roof and just thinking about things made me realize that I’m running kind of low on money. Money dries up real quick here. I’m already down to 25,000 Kyat from the initial 80,000 I exchanged. I think I’m gonna exchange some more while I’m in Yangon, apparently the exchange rate is the best here. I talked to the front desk and they’ll let me leave my bags, hopefully they’ll be secure.

After I exchanged some more money, at a better rate of 840 Kyat to the dollar, I decided to check out the Yangon train station keeping in my relaxing theme day….

All in all, I think it took about 3 hours to complete the entire train route around Yangon. I’m not sure I would recommend this activity because it isn’t really for everyone. However, it gave quite an interesting perspective on daily life for average people in Myanmar. If you’re looking to take it to see the countryside, you may be a little disappointed because you only catch a glimpse. Anyone coming from a Western country and traveling for the first time in a developing country by train will be in awe. People selling food and water would pop on and off going from one carriage to the next whenever the train stopped.

Once we arrived back at the main station I decided to head to the markets to maybe pick up some souvenirs. However, for the most part all they were selling was clothes, fabric, jewelry and “precious gems.” Basically only things real tourists would buy. I like to consider myself part of a different type of tourist who doesn’t do/buy things of that caliber. Eventually I gave up perusing and decided to call it a day. It was also about time for me to head back anyway to pick up my bags from the hotel and head to the bus station for my bus to Mandalay.

At the bus station I ran into Richard. He actually decided to go to Mandalay as well and that we would be traveling together. Fortunately the ticket collector and the person who was suppose to site next to me were very cooperative and allowed Richard to change his seat so that we could sit together and talk. Out bus took off at 8pm and arrived earlier than anticipated at 4am. For both Richard and I, our guide books and research said to expect a 10-12 hr ride. So when we arrived in Mandalay we weren’t quite sure that we arrived or if we were just at another stop along the way. Actually, we almost didn’t get off the bus until someone told us we arrived. Apparently, Myanmar’s road system has improved drastically in the last year or so.

We decided to share a taxi – which turned out to be a rickshaw to the Royal Guest House and hope that rooms were available. When we arrived we were told rooms would be available later, after people woke up and checked out. I was able to get my room immediately, though, because I didn’t need my own bathroom. After getting to my room I took a long and most need rest.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


So for those who don't know already, about 100 pictures are up on facebook covering mostly Yangon, Myanmar.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 2 - Myanmar Madness

As I haven’t had breakfast anywhere else in Myanmar I can’t really compare, but I think it will do. The eggs and toasts were good; the 100% real fruit juice was delicious; the bananas were a little too sweet for my tastes; and this fruit-like/cheese pastry was interesting to say the least. All in all, I’m definitely looking forward to breakfast tomorrow.

After breakfast I headed to the Shwedagon Paya (pagoda). It was simply amazing. I can’t even describe it in words, so I hope the pictures give you a small taste of the magnitude of its AWESOMENESS. God willing you should see some great pictures soon. I decided to hire a tour guide for the entire morning; so he not only gave me a tour of the Shwedagon Paya but also of the surrounding sites. To give a little background information on this pagoda, it is an active site of worship and yes it is made with real gold. One of the really cool things I was able to do while there was wash Buddha. There are eight Buddhas, representing each day of the week – Wednesday for some reason has two, one for the morning and one for the afternoon – and you’re suppose to wash the Buddha according to the day you were born. My tour guide had a book that contained calendars for like the past 50 years or something so we were able to find out that I was born on a Sunday. After, I invited him to lunch to eat some authentic Myanmar food – which was similar to last night, nothing extraordinary.

After lunch I headed back to the hotel. Currently, I’m sitting in a lounge-like room enjoying the shade and cool breeze. It’s a nice place to relax and take a break from the searing sun; also perfect for conversing with the other guests. I’ve actually met a fellow American named Richard from Washington DC. He’s a crazy travel-holic who has been to over 100+ countries. What’s somewhat surprising is he didn’t even get his college degree. He seems to be in his early 60s, retired, worked as a train ticket operator and loudspeaker announcer at Union station.

Later I’m probably gonna head out and get some dinner and maybe check out the Yangon river. I think I forgot to mention, but I’ve booked an overnight bus ride to Mandalay for tomorrow. Tomorrow I’m probably going to do the Yangon train. The route makes a circle around Yangon in around 3-4 hrs. It should be an interesting opportunity to get a little taste of local life.

After I left the lounge I realized that the sun should have started setting so I decided to go all the way to the top and get some pictures from the roof. Up there I met another American and fellow New York, actually quite close to me in Peekskill named Eric. I got distracted in conversation and forgot about the sunset. The pictures I took aren’t the greatest and there’s a building in the way. But at least Eric pointed me into the direction for dinner. He told me how to get to the Indian Quarter so that’s where I’m heading. I ordered fried catfish and curry, but was a little disappointed in the curry. It just didn’t really taste like Indian curry, but then again I haven’t had authentic Indian food from India so I guess I shouldn’t criticize just yet. I guess I need to put India on the list of countries I need to visit.

Well I’m back in the lounge just finishing up writing today’s events. Even though most of the stalls and shops close by 8pm, the city itself is still pretty noisy. The sound of the city is pretty interesting. It has the same feel I would imagine a Muslim country to have – or at least the ones in the movies we watch. What I mean is that throughout the day loudspeakers are constantly saying Buddhism prayers. Sort of like how I imagine the Koran being read in Arabic. It’s nice to listen to during the day, but the morning prayers are a little annoying – or a little too early haha.

Final thing before I go. I found out today that I would be in Myanmar for their Union Day. I think this is similar to what we consider Independence Day. I wonder if anything interesting will happen. If things work out as they are in my head, I’ll probably be in Bagan – home of numerous amounts of temples but very little social life… We’ll see what happens I guess. Night.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Day 1 Myanmar – The Tropical Oasis in the Freezing Desert

What a great day. I finally got out of China, a much needed break. As the day progressed my joy continued to exponentially get larger. I feel like I’m finally setting off on my own adventure. I discount China, to a degree, because I have Danny. Danny is terrific and a life saver; nor am I sure how I would have survived without him. But that’s just it. There was someone there is to assist me. Myanmar marks my first real adventure because there are only two things for certain: I have a plane ticket to Myanmar and I have a ticket out of Myanmar. Everything else is an unknown. An adventurer’s dream and a mom’s worst nightmare. There were two defining moments where I just cracked out a smile. The first was in China as I was preparing to board walking down the long platform towards the plane. The second was after we landed in Myanmar and I walked off the plane. First thoughts were that Myanmar felt like a nice tropical sauna. Just what the doctor called for after spending so much time in Coldville.

But the more I experience the heat, the more I worry. It’s hotter here than expected, probably in the 80’s – this is their winter temperature. I’m a little worried because all I packed – in regards to pants - for the duration of my journey were two pairs of jeans. I didn’t know before leaving Dalian if I would be able to get out of the country so only packed for winter in China. Even still, I probably just of been more prepared. Oh wells, I guess keeping cool is going to be tough. As I write this though I can say at least in the evening and early morning it gets quite a bit cooler.

One thing I forgot to mention was that I was traveling with a couple that is friends with my friends in Kunming. I’m only mentioning them now because of customs. As two custom agents came up to us and started filling out the forms for us, the couple took the liberty to offer them both “gifts” or bribes to ensure getting through customs wouldn’t be a problem. I might do that while leaving Myanmar because I was thinking of smuggling some of the local currency out – which is illegal.

After customs I parted with the couple and took a cab to the White House Hotel. Apparently, this is the number one hotel in Yangoon by a few reputable sources. After paying a $10 USD cab fare, freaking expensive, I found out that rooms were available and was able to score a room for $10 USD a night. I even got a room on the roof, which I thought was a good idea until I found out there are like nine floors and no elevator… The room is actually a triple I think because there are 2 ½ (3) beds – one is broken which is of course the one I’m sleeping on because the other two beds are in an enclave with no windows, fan, or a/c – no thanks. The bed I’m sleeping on is outside – which is getting an excellent breeze this evening. After checking my room I must say I have my doubts about the quality of my accommodations, but supposedly their breakfast is the best in Myanmar for hotels. And no, I did not choose this hotel for their breakfast this time.

After changing into the most appropriate clothes I brought I decided to stroll around downtown and also exchange some money. During the exchange and after reminded me very much of a movie I watched called Lord of War with Nicholas Cage. I don’t remember the exact quote right now, but when I get back I’ll be sure to look it up. But it goes something like “selling a gun for the first time is a lot like sex; you don’t really know what’s going on and before you know realize it’s over.” I felt my feelings very accurately resembled that quote. I had no idea what I was doing or what I should be saying and before I knew it I was walking away with a huge wad of the local currency (Kyat).

For dinner I found a fairly busy restaurant that had pictures and an English menu. I ordered chicken with rice. It was really delicious, reminding me of Indian food. Which does make sense seeing as there is a fairly large Indian minority, the proximity of Myanmar and India, and Myanmar’s history of Indian immigrants.

Myanmar is a melting pot of various different ethnicities. There is also a significant Chinese and Japanese presence. For those who don’t know anything about the Burmese (people from Myanmar), they are quite dark skinned – resembling Indians; making it quite easy to distinguish Burmese from other ethnicities. What I’ve found really interesting is the mix between Orientals (Chinese, etc) and Burmese. Their children are dark-skinned, yet their facial appearance maintains the Oriental look. Or in other words they look Chinese, Japanese, Korean but with really dark skin. This has made me wonder what the cultural future will look like in Myanmar. In China, at least, there is a strong cultural norm to make yourself look as white (Caucasian) as possible. I’m not sure if it is true for Myanmar or if it’ll ever pick up, but an interesting theoretical question and some food for thought.

This brings me to another interesting topic. My own personal experience with my appearance. This is probably one of the most important topics I’ve wanted to discuss but have failed to even mention or talk about it in my blog yet. This is because I’m not sure how to proceed and tackle this nitty-gritty topic. Yet I think it is about time I at least address and get it out in the open. Perhaps this will help me in the future with how to write and cover this completely. But let’s begin. As I went for my walk earlier in the day, I was continuously stared at. I’m not completely sure if it is because of my ethnicity or the way I dress – because I’m not wearing a longyi or basically a skirt like nearly everyone else. Initially, as I left China that’s exactly what I wanted. I wanted it to be known that I was a foreigner for various reasons. In China, I’m considered Chinese until I talk. Which I like; but it is the reactions that come after that annoyed me to no end. This was another reason I wanted to get out of China. But now after experiencing what I wanted, I’m not sure I want it anymore. I’m not sure what’s worse right now, being seen as a local or being stared at and looked at as a foreigner. It is only day one. I think I need to experience this feeling more and hopefully time will tell. I think that’s it for now. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Lost Days

As I write this on the plane to Myanmar, I’m attempting to reflect on my stay at an authentic Chinese family. This will be the only section that will be written in a strong past-tense. So I’m sorry because it doesn’t flow like I want it to. I’m not even sure where to begin because so many thoughts and frustrations are going through my mind while I write this. I guess I’ll start out by saying I didn’t get to do anything I thought or expected to do while in Kunming. First, my initial plan to go to Yuanyang fell through because we couldn’t attain a bus ticket. So I tried to be flexible and opted to do a few days trips in and around Kunming. But those, however, fell through as well for two reasons. One I got sick so I had to remain inside for a few days. And second, was their lack of faith in my Chinese language abilities to travel or explore on my own.

Now to be fair, from their point of view there was a certain unspoken rule that they were liable and responsible for me because I was staying at their house and the fact that my camera was stolen didn’t help my case.

However, that isn’t to say that I didn’t get out of the house. The first day I arrived I was ushered out of the house to meet some friends of theirs who were going to take me to the Myanmar embassy. Turns out these friends actually own and run a travel agency which specializes in groups tours to Myanmar. Not only did they help me get my visa, but they also insisted on helping me get my tickets to and from.

Now before I continue on my rant on Chinese culture and thinking, let’s take a break to discuss more positive aspects of my stay in Kunming. First, omg, the weather and temperature was amazing there. As close to perfect as possible. I think it was actually colder inside than outside – in a bad way, unlike during summer when you want it cold inside. The local food was good. It resembled something closer to what I’m used to back home. Some of the more famous things I tried here was erkuai and cross-the-bridge noodles. Things to try if you ever in the area.

Now unfortunately because I wasn’t writing daily all the negative things have overshadowed all the good things and I can’t seem to think of anything else I want to talk about…So, we move back to negative things. All the negative things seem to stem from Chinese culture, so I think, no, I know that I need to get out of country and thank god I am. So there are two events that made me explode inside.

First is traffic awareness. We decided to try and go to Dian Chi a famous lake at Kunming. However, as we neared to the lake, there was only one road into and out. Of course, instead of waiting to enter like any most people in America would do; a good number of the Chinese motorists thought it a good idea to drive on the other side of the road. What ensued was that eventually this road was clogged up because no one could enter or exit the lake. After like ½ an hour of not moving, we called it quits. But the driving escapades don’t end there. We entered a turning circle and what do you know but there’s an accident. Instead of the cars and people involved to drive out of the turning circle where they wouldn’t disrupt traffic, they stopped and got out exactly where the incident occurred. Thus making it nearly impossible for everyone else to use the turning circle…

This second event isn’t directed at Chinese culture, but is more of a sad story of my trip to the local Kunming zoo. Let’s ask ourselves a question, what’s the purpose of a zoo? I believe the answer is to educate and promote preservation. Well, going to this zoo – or any zoo in China – with that outlook, will bring a lot of disappointment. First off, people were littering everywhere and everyone was illegally feeding the animals when there were clearly signs in Chinese and English saying not to. On top of that they were making attractions off of animals. Why put the whack-a-monkey machines right next to the monkeys…like really? None of the exhibits had anything to say about what the animals were or any of their information, etc. It just completely lacked any form of trying to promote conservation of the animals in there zoo – probably something closer to zoos when they first opened in America: a place that holds exotic animals.

But we’re about to land in Myanmar, and I’m really glad to be getting out of this country. Hopefully it’ll be as pleasant as I hope. I’ll let you know soon.