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Money issues

I suck at spending money, and three hours on the market saw me spend not even 10'000 Kyats ($7.50). So I gave up and took a taxi to a nearby orphanage, where I left all my remaining money minus the small amount I was going to need for dinner tonight and the taxi to the airport tomorrow, which I thought was still in the safety deposit at the hotel. Yeah well... thought.

I still have small dollars, but with those, you end up paying too much all the time, so instead I went out on the quest to change some money with the street touts. Normally, if you are walking the streets, you'll have someone approach you with "change money" every few metres, and it gets quite annoying. Of course, over time, you develop methods to deal with them, ranging from avoiding eye contact, walking fast, and simply answering their usual introductory questions ("how are you?" or "where do you come from?") with "no, I don't need any money".

But of course, when you are actually searching for someone to change money, nobody comes up. I just spent an hour roaming the streets without a single tout approaching me. And when one finally did, I was surprised at what happened to the rate. He offered 1'300 Kyats for the dollar, when it was 1'450 this morning, and 1'400 while I was on the market. Naturally, I told him to get a grip and fortunately soon found the next one, who explained to me that the dollar is now at 1'200, but he'd be so gracious as to offer me 1'250. Yeah right. The next one, shortly afterwards, also offered 1'250, and so did the forth and fifth, with whom I then made the exchange, having grown tired of the search.

What I find pretty amazing is how the word spreads. There are hundreds of those money changers all over the place, and if the rate really dropped by 200 Kyats in a single day (which my hotel confirms), then it's pretty cool how quickly everyone finds out.

The Southeastasian countries never cease to amaze me.

On a related issue, more infos on the beggars question: I enjoyed a cup of tea with a former professor of English at the Yangon University, and I asked him how Myanmar people deal with beggars of both kinds, the stationary (and less obnoxious ones), and the ones who keep pestering you for minutes on end. He pretty much gave me the same answer I had received the other day: "I have some, and they don't, so I give". Since the Portuguese traveller has not linked up with me so far, I guess that settles the debate for me.

Thanks for reading along.