Myanmar: please no sex in the park

Image by Ben Reeves www.degematravel.com

Yangon park users are informed of the six park rules by way of helpful pictorial signs.

  • no football play
  • swimming in the lake is not allowed
  • no cycle (motorbike)
  • no sex
  • no music
  • no selling

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The rules change slightly, depending on the park. No football may be substituted by no fishing. With joyful disregard, scores of men fish by the lake, in view of the no fishing directive.

A group of teenagers by Inya Lake play pop music from a phone, while a handful of enterprising vendors sell snacks and drinks to park users.

And yes, kanoodaling. Everywhere.

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It seems that a main draw card to the Yangon parks is a national pastime of getting intimate behind strategically placed umbrellas.

The Kandawgyi Lake Park – earns its name of Lovers’ Island. On our picnic blanket we are conspicuous for two reasons: we don’t have umbrellas; and there are three of us (and a dog). We have supplies of Bat’s Blood wine from Romania, super fancy cheese, bread, and fruit. Three good friends (and a dog) settle down for an afternoon of lazing, eating, chatting, drinking. And a touch of unexpected voyeurism.   Well, it was unexpected to me, certainly not for my friends who live in Yangon and are familiar with the ways of the parks.

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Image by Tibor Bognar Getty Images

With the exception of a wedding photography session and us, all other park goers on Lovers’ Island are couples that expertly handle umbrellas for privacy. And the occasional weirdo man who comes to spectate. Well of course there is at least one suspiciously leery man.

As we sit on the island, looking over the opaque green lake, we are impressed by the expert-level activities occurring five metres to our left.

And when I say expert, I mean expert.

The carefully constructed privacy screen of leaves, coupled with two strategically placed umbrellas, created perfect cover – no one would ever think that the two middle aged people were doing anything other than the crossword in that nest of discretion. Except they obviously were, and the elaborate set up only made it more apparent.

The leaves woven through the gaps of a very sparse hedge are a feat of engineering and ingenuity. Two umbrellas are deftly handled. And not for the rain that threatens.

As the nest of privacy is eventually dismantled, the weeks-old leaves are efficiently stored under a small bush for future use.

There are lungi adjustments made, as a plastic table-cloth is folded up, and an impressive volume of crumpled paper towels are collected. In the spirit of leave no trace, the paper towels are popped into a plastic bag and deposited straight into the lake.

Yangon strikes me as a town of many rules.

In the spirit of rule breaking, we jump over a barrier onto a rotting jetty to take a photo of a a couple of tourists standing by a massive boat (that is not a boat) shaped like a golden duck. Because this is Myanmar, and that’s how things roll here. Let’s drink moonshine.

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Image by Ben Reeves http://www.degematravel.com
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