18 September 2012

"how much ?" I asked
the lady pointed to the number 13 and said "Sapp Saam"

I was in Hong Kong and she said "Sapp Saam"
In Thai the number 13 would be called: "Sipp Saam"

Since then I noticed a lot more similarities between Thai and Cantonese
it seems that Cantonese is the 'Latin' of SE Asia and China.

13 July 2012

beyond language

10July 2012 Tuesday,  Dawei,    1756hours.

"She looks nice. Would be just ready to marry..."
I'm coming up the steps to gawk at a huge long, lying Buddha. He's covered under a corrugated iron hangar type of cover, the kind used for Jumbo Jets.
A group of Myanmar young  ladies stroll past. The in the dark red dress, looks at me and I look at her.
She's pretty, and has that 'I'm entering the world' look about her. She's ready to make some moves. 

The thought, while strange does not surprise me.
'Observe, do not reject any thoughts  or feelings, just take note - that was what I got out of my Buddhist meditation marathon, the 10 day, no talking, no smiling, no  communicating, just meditate your a**** off meditation marathon last year.
I really like the idea. It tells me,  don't hold onto nice thoughts of feelings or push the unpleasant ones away or even deny them.
I've since read exactly the same idea in many other teachings.

So coming up those stairs didn't really surprise me. 
"Oh, they like you, they are talking about marry," Aung Naing Winn (ANW) tells me.
I look over to them, yep, they ARE talking about me, their reactions and  vibes give them  away.
"You mean one look and they decide ? I thought only I was that impulsive ?"
ANW shrugs.

Wandering around the pagoda,  I realize, there was  more to it. My own thoughts coming up the stairs had been on a totally different track. Then the cool calm idea of marriage when I looked at the face of the girl in the red dress. I must have picked  up on their thoughts. There wasn't the emotional heat that comes my own thoughts, this was something I'd picked up from outside, like a radio receiver tuning in on their frequency.

Strange, but I'm getting  used to such things now.

Interesting that my immediate reaction was to run, figuratively and literally from the idea of marriage. I physically kept away from them.   I had to laugh at myself when I realized, gosh is it really THAT terrible that even instinctively when it is definitely not serious you run ? wow. Serious issues there old chap, time to look at them ?
Later when I thought about it I realized I would have been much better to just go and chat with them. Smile talk and let it go. But something deep inside never saw the casual side of it all. Serious issues like I said.

We had come in by motorbike and as we drove out the same girl still sat by the entrance.
She seemed lost in some daydream, some trance almost and I realized she might be one of the 'dream touched' or in some way 'different'.
I felt sorry for he and thought how hard life must be to be outside the world and not accepted by other humans. To be laughed at and made fun of, or just ignored and to walk alone all your life.. hm...

So on the way out, I really looked at her on the few split seconds our motorbike took to pass her.

ANW is the guide this afternoon, I'm following his plan. We get off at the next pagoda. The sounds a monk chanting on  a speaker  system is as much part of the scene as the dogs lounging about and people calmly slowly wandering about. The gleaming golden, HUGE Pagoda complex is the flower of the village.
The life of Gautama Buddha.... in pictures on the long walkway....
All very very familiar.
As we turn a corner a few young guys hang out. One of them dances about, shadow boxing and seems full of life and energy.

In a Western country I'd be worried. Young guys, shadow boxing, hanging out, nothing to do.... uhhh uhh.... sounds like trouble.
Not here.
Take a picture of me the shadow boxer asks with a broad smile. He's full of life and fun. He proudly stretches out his arms and shows off his tattoos.

Tattooed guy, asked to have his pic taken!

Well actually I wanted a picture anyway so this is great
He is very interested in seeing  more pictures on my camera. I show him Yangon/Rangoon, which he's never visited yet

The world still has a sense of wholeness in this place. It has something indefinable that I and my fellow termite hill dwellers the world over have long lost.
He's not afraid to show his curiosity and that fact that I only know one word of Burmese "Mengalaba" and he can only say "hello" is no problem at all.
ANW is helping with some relevant phrases but most of what we want to say to each other is pretty obvious to figure out.
Look at pictures.
Where are you from.... I've no idea what the Burmese words are but by now, I can somehow tell when I'm asked that question.
Ok, we say goodbye and move on.
Somehow I feel energized and it has been a fun, happy meeting.

ANW and I complete the circle together to the front of the pagoda.

It's not the pagoda I'm really interested in, it's the people. The pagoda presents the people, in a different way, from say a restaurant of a hotel does.
And actually it's people and it's more than that: It's the energy and feelings of a place.
And this place, outside a small country town, in a province where only business and officials go, and which is off the tourist map, and is sleepy and forgotten, life has something else.... that I miss.
I know I can't bottle and can it.
I can only get into it and enjoy it.

Oh! At the front of the pagoda sits our tattooed shadow boxer and he's talking very animatedly to a woman who can't speak properly. She has smiley eyes and uses her hands a lot.
They seem to be able to converser pretty well, even though she only makes a few funny sounds.

We sit down next to them and suddenly I realize: this is the girl I saw sitting by the entrance of the last pagoda.

I point to her top, she is now wearing a brown top and outside the pagoda she wore all purple. 
"Oh I changed it."
"And you are the one from the pagoda, the lying Buddha pagoda ?"
And all this simply with gestures and non-verbal sounds.
I can't remember what we talked about in detail, but the four of us had a fun time chatting.
"I think I understand her better than someone who can speak," I tell the others. The words don't get in the way.
She's faster and quicker at 'getting things' than other people in Myanmar. She knows how to look for the cues and clues and how to communicate non verbally.
She's also not shy in coming forward.
"Take a picture, with you and me," she points to me.
She wants it in the main room in front of the main Buddha image.
Off we go.
Then the same photo with ANW.
1  Aung Naing Winn (ANW) and Ma Sandoe Moe San

She writes her name, 'Ma Sandoe Moe San' , and we all exchange names and emails.

Sandoe Moe San explains she helps in the meditation retreat, 10 day and it's now in day 7. We had visited the hall and met the monk leading it just before.

I feel no trace of self-pity. He  'handicap' is totally in the open  she is has found ways around it that really work. In fact she if fun to talk to and has a remarkable sense of humour. ANW is impressed with her jokes and funny comments.

Well, in that case, I have the guts to directly talk about the fact that she can't speak. Something that one does not do in 'polite society' and that could break all sort of unwritten social taboos and sensitivities. But thank god I'm not in polite society.
"You use images and you express yourself with direct feelings, because you can't talk", I gesture, and deliberately use images in my mind and feelings to convey what I'm saying, the way I imagine she would be using.
Sandoe Moe San gets it, she understands and nods.
Obviously if she uses images from her mind and direct feeling energy from her guts to communicate this would make sense.
She has found a way to go beyond language. Not a totally new way, I think we all use some of the image and feeling energy but we rely mostly on words. She can't, she can only use images from her mind animated with the feelings she imparts them with. And by what I've seen, it's remarkably efficient.

ANW  is still better than me in deciphering her words because can breathe fragments of Burmese words at times
She invites us to go to her house.
"She says to come at 9pm," ANW tells me.
"We can't do that, we rent the motorbike until 5pm."
"Go now ?" I ask.
A bit more talking and we are left with the problem that while three people can fit on one motorbike, if one of those three people is a woman in a langyi/Hteimen, then this won't work. She's clear that she won't go on the bike with all three of us.
What to do ?
It turns into a long and difficult problem.
She offers to walk and we ride.
We try to ring her brothers.
Can't get through...
Then suddenly I get the answer, duuuuuuuuuuhhh so simple.
"Aung Naing Winn, you driver her home first, then come back and get me."

At her house she shows us around, a simple, clean house and Sandoe Moe San tells us who sleeps where, which is the kind of detail that goes through my mind like water through a sieve.

I've been getting some images of 'marriage' while at the pagoda and after the experience at the previous pagoda decided to let things lie and see what they told me.  Well it was as I thought, stuff received on the 'radio' again.

2 At Sandoe Moe San's fmaily house
3 the three of us, in a large mirror
Ah, as we sit and talk it becomes clear.
She wants to know if ANW is single etc...
I bow out at this point with a vague mumble that can be interpreted in a myriad ways.
One those myriads must have worked because they get me off the hook. Attention stays more on ANW.

She is not hitting on him but it is clear that she is looking for someone to share life with.
Again, I'm impressed by her openness.
There is a charming directness.

She shows us pictures of herself, with an engineer from one of the costal oil rigs.
And a certificate, that ANW tells certifies that she was a policewoman -  for a while. She tells us that she couldn't do it for long because of her speaking problem.

After half an hour we are off and head back to the hotel to return the rented motorbike.

To give you an idea of just how non-touristy the area is: Renting the motorbike was as simple as asking the hotel to find a taxi driver willing to rend it to us.
No papers to sign, no contracts. Not even advance payment.
"No pay when you get back", I'm told, "here is the key".
I'm the only non Asian tourist in town. Everyone knows where I stay. The only way out of town is by plane, overland is not allowed, and impossible with a face like mine.
At the airport I always have to show my passport to guys in uniform wearing guns.
If anything goes wrong with the bike, it is understand on all sides that the tourist pays. I'm clear on that too. So all we have to do it take the key and hop on, and ride off.
That simple.
All the rest is common sense.

man, bus, rain, - first aid

Man, bus, rain.

Strings of water, poured down over the city and traffic plunged around in the wet lakes on the road.
I was comfortably settled in the Traders Hotel,  because it has the fastest and most stable wifi internet access I've been able to find in town.
Unlike the usual short shower, this one lasted over an hour and half, and eventually settled to a comfortable drizzle.

Trying to go home, Taxis were hard to get.
That's ok, exercise is good for you, payment for all that time sitting still, eating  chocolate cake.
I make my way along BoyokeAung San street, past the Railway station ticket area, past the cinemas, and under the bridge with the huge LED screen showing advertisements.
(It's all a bit like Blade Runner, the rain the darkness the advertising sign, people milling about, the rich the poor the glitzy cars.).
Just before the Asia Plaza Hotel, is a bus stop.
A bus pulls up its engine roaring, the driver isn't in the mood to stop for long. In fact it he doesn't even pull off the road, he just stops and people push in. The rain gives them an extra urgency.

For some time I've noticed the crazy aggressive way busses in Rangoon/Yangon drive. Greg, explained it's like that because the crew rents the bus, for a flat fee. The more passengers they transport and the faster they go, the more money they make for themselves.

Then another buspulls up, engine running fast, growling and shooting out exhaust way more than is necessary.This one undercuts the first, it screeches to a halt and takes the space between the sidewalk and the bus in the middle of the road.
Clever but risky.
I get a bad feeling about this. There is lots of rain, it's dark, people darting in and out of traffic and the roads are slippery.
'These guys are pushing their luck, something's got to happen to get them back to earth. These thoughts go through my mind.
I feel bad because I realize, that if not now, sometime, somewhere enough people have to get hit and injured to drive the message home.
I wish it wasn't like that.
This situation simply can't go on like this and NOT hurt people.

I remember a time 11pm at night, when I caught a bus back from north of the Rangoon/Yangon airport. I was the only passenger. The driver and the conductor drove the bus like a racing car, overtaking every other car and truck. Then behind me another bus pulls closer. They are racing all the way to downtown Yangon. I get scary images of the bus rolling down the road on its side.
But it didn't.
They kept overtaking each other. 
I have to grip the supports with both hands to avoid being tossed around the inside of the bus.
I thought about getting off and catching a cab.
But I didn't.

The bus that's squeezed in loads its passengers faster than the first one and it pulls up ahead of the first one. Oh, I get it, they are racing (again).
I can almost hear the driver snicker and laugh as he pulls out and passes his rival. The engine is howling in pain.
The other bus can't let this go unchallenged: Smoke pours out of his exhaust and the crunching of gears and whining of the engine as he gives chase.
Suddenly the leading bus stops. 
Very fast. It crunches to a halt. 
That's weird I think why would he stop in the middle of the road ?
The pursuing bus has to brake really hard not to run into it.
I'm impressed, those breaks really work.

As I get closer I see a middle aged, 40 ish well built man lying on the road. I think the bus went over him. There is no external blood but he is totally out of it. 
Like a doll. Leg at funny angle. 
Everyone stands around in shock, keeping a meter of distance from him.
I hold his hands and feel for a pulse. Can't feel anything much, but I'm calling on the higher guides and all spirits/gods/Buddhas out there to help.
He gives some mumbled grunts, makes a few movements, but does not regain consciousness.
Internal injuries could be horrific. 
I don't want to think about it. OMG.
Who knows what's going on inside him.

The crowd moves in now, and I'm part of the crowd and a few guys decide to move him. Out of the way of the road.
Others collect his wallet, bag, stuff money from his top pocket back into his chest pocket, which is ripped.
At this point I drop his hands and let them take over.
Only later do I realize it would have been good to put him on his side, check the tongue and  all the physical first aid stuff that I thought I knew.
Head knowledge versus real knowledge. Hm...

Not knowing what to do and losing my own head a bit I call two Burmese friends who live  in town, but there is not much they can do. There are lots of local Burmese helping  already and soon a pickup truck arrives and takes him away.
The last I see of him,  he is being cradled by one of the younger men, as the car takes off quickly.
Should I have gone with them ?
To do what ?
Do energy stuff ? I can do that from the hotel room.
No, that's fine.
Though the CPR of first aid would have been useful.... hm...

I realize how little I'm prepared for this kind of emergency, and that I need to brush up my first aid training.  Once I'm working for RMIT again, I'll ask for first aid training again. The lady that taught me last time was a dedicated soul who told story after story of applying her first aid knowledge. Hm....

Actually as I write this a few hours later in my room, I feel the man has already crossed over - he's on the other side.
He said thank you.


Road safety stuff would help, but the system of charging a flat fee for the bus encourages the crew to drive as fast as they can, cramming in as many people as they can.

On top of that, the bus drivers have a  kind of mucho bravado about racing each other. It's a deadly combination where muchismo aggression and profit motive all combine and meet in one point: drive as fast as you can with as many people as you can and beat the others guys.
Even if it rains. Your are big and powerful.
Roar the engine, scare the pedestrians out of the way Yeeeehhhhhhhhhharrrr ......
Kings of the roads we is.....


Outside the hotel I stay in , a particular bus line's busses scream down the road with the engine howling and the bus swaying up and down side and back like a mad horse. It's always loaded with people.
The slightest error or unforeseen carelessness ....
I don't want to think about it....
And I managed not to,  -- until tonight.

I really understand the links between how a financial system shapes what happens on the ground, and how it happens.... 
The rules made on paper, translate into a different reality on the ground. 
Some saves lives, 
others cost lives... 

12July2012, Rangoon/Yangon,
Heiko Rudolph,
Motherland inn2 Guest house.

09 July 2012

cycles of the soul -Tenasserim calling ...

today: the last afternoon in Dawei .... I wander the streets, it's a lot less cloudy and no rain for a long time, clear sky.
Powering along on foot, suddenly I get the inspiration, '...you know, you really ought to look at the beach..... 12km away"
for the first time in 7 day I really FEEL like getting out and walking and seeing it.
First view of the Andaman sea

When I first arrived in Dawei I just wanted to crash in the Hotel, it has an inviting upstairs lobby, with wifi and space and a quiet. lovely atmosphere.
I was somehow tired out and just ate, walked, typed and went to sleep early .
I think lots internal stuff was processing.... whatever.
I was too tired.

After a week of this I had recovered - something happed deep in the bowls of the subconscious, - I could tell I was back to normal because I felt like staying up late.

I feel like I've spent the last 7 days in a womb, in cave, enjoyable, but now I gotta get outta there.!!
The last thing I read, in my cave in the afternoon was .... how the deeper parts ourselves, our sould, subconscious, has it's own rythems, and how it always moves and pulses just like physically we breathe. -- it has it's own cycles and rhythems.

Ok so having wandered quite some distance on foot, how the h*** do I get to the bitch, oooppps I mean"  BEEECH  ", pardon my bad pronunciation.

I stand around by the side of the road and look like I want a ride, and voila, someone stops and offers me a ride.
 He looks like he's just going home from work, and doing some freelance taxi driving when he sees the chance.

The guy has guts, we speak zero of each other's language, but that does not matter, gestures while talking your own lingo works fine.

He's worried though, he stops and gets more petrol, --- good idea. It's going to be faaaaaaaaaaar
But he's still worried, because he's not yet figured out where exactly this foreigners wants to go.
On the way out of Dawei

I mean, where would any foreigner want to go if he points in the direction of the beeeeeech ?
The beeeeeeeech of course  !!!- surprisingly enough.
But he had guts, he never drove a foreigner before I think, he's totally fazed.
We stop at another shop and he asks the guys there, "hey where dya reckon this crazy tourist wants ta  go ? I got no bloody idea, can you figure out what he's saying ?"

We waffle a bit and the word "bitch" or " beeeech" pops up.
I Jump on the word, and nod vigorously, YES ! YES! beeeech! that's right BEEEECH!!!
Who needs big vocabulary  ? gestures and one of two key words and all is fine.

Ok we all got it now, he no longer looks worried and we go much faster, the purpose of the trip has been established  yeehar!!!
Drier and author (holding camera at arm's distance)

He still  points and asks me the directions. I've never been here in my life, but I pretend I know what I'm doing since someone has to make a decision.
- STRAIGHT I point - Right I point...etc...

As we go over the little mountain ride (a very modest ridge) there is the sea, The Andaman sea.
....and then something "gets" me... images and feelings of far away places, nice memories of beaches, no idea where they come from, with a very distinctive flavour and taste swamp me.
 I got to spend more time here!
I can't leave tomorrow.- I'm  not MAKING  a decision - I'm not making it, I'm simply recognizing  it as what I  WILL  do -

Gosh... I wonder why I didn't come earlier ?
...cycles of the soul..... Ok, yea, that makes sense. It wasn't time. I really had no desire to get out there, 7 days ago....

But what really got me is that this energy, flooded  me the instant  I saw the sea, I knew, this was "it", It was like meeting a human person, with a personality and all.

The trip to the beach was simple, more directions from me guided by a rough sense where it ought to be.

At the beach a young man asked me where I'm from what I'm doing etc.... and for some reason I totally don't mind.
In fact I tell him with gusto and we chat away.
Pretty soon I get this sense... oopps ok the 'guys upstairs' have set this up, they've sent him to you.
"Walk with me..." I ask hiim.
We head for the water.
He comes from Mandalay, did a Bachelor of Physics, (standard stuff in Myanmar) and is a photographer, oh yes, he has  a camera slung round his neck. 
Photographer from Mandalay,
But he's not your average country guy hopping round on his motorcycle doing wheelies, he seems like a lost professor, an intellectual in search of his niche, wondering  why the damanations he can't seem to fit in anywhere (I can tell the signs, been there, done that, probably still doing it... duhhh... )
"There are some hot springs  near here,"
"Oh really, how far ?"
"Five minutes"

"And,...see this ?" He points to the edge of the crescent shaped bay.
"Its the  Myo yit Pagoda",  sitting on the edge of the sea, quite a distance away, but I know by now when something has that 'must visit, this is meant for you' smell about it. This does.
Just as well I've already decided to do another day.

I get paper and pen and ask him to write it all down, in Burmese.
I'll show it to the motorcycle taxi driver tomorrow.
 "Oh and give me your email," I add.
Somehow I'm surprised at myself, for taking charge and making decisions snap snap snap, - but I know I have little and time and I'm like a dog let out of his (self imposed) kennel.
"Oh, and here is a book, for your English," that Paulo Coelho book, I knew I had to give away....

Hot springs are next, on a slimy muddy, "road" with lakes and pot holes the size of a car.... 
Road to hot springs....
Yep the springs are there, and "dey is damn HOT!"
All young  guys hang around it, fully dressed, totally wet, with plastic scoops to splash themselves.
Do I feel conspicuous ?
What gives you that idea ?
Just because I'm the only non-Asian tourist in the whole region with a bright backpack and a camera ?
Best thing to do is to shout a loud "Mengalaba" - which Translates as the equivalent of : "Gidday 'ow arre ya going mates?" or something like that.
That breaks the ice.
Hot Springs  MaungMakan beach (nearby)

More chatting,
Where are you from ?
Australia  ...
the usual blah blah....
then it's time to hop on the bike and take off. This is really just a reconnaissance trip for tomorrow. I need to go and change my airline ticket and the office might be shut and the sun is almost set already.  

Something else I've noticed about this little visited area of Myanmar:
There is a certain kind of facial structure, a certain kind of racial mix I've never ever seen anywhere else.
Not the usual Burmese face, not even Thai looking, not round or any of the usual variants of faces I've seen in SE Asia, no, this facial structure is totally uniquely different  - It's a small subtle thing, but it is not just the face, it is like a different kind of body build. And a different attitude that goes with it. A different 'energy' or personality. Fascinating.  Would like to find out more.
I met one man  like that at the teashop, in the morning, - he sat opposite me. 

And now at the hot springs there is a guy with the same kind of bone structure at the hot springs.
He is the one who talks to me the most.  Both of them had something that reminded me almost of the fierce dignity of the Masai Warriors,  a different kind of strength, what little knowledge I have of all of that.

The whole Tenasserim area is off limits for land travel, only flying is allowed, No tourist go there much .
Lonely Planet gives it one page and says it's too hard to go there.  Well not if you fly. 
But I hope it stays secluded, though I doubt it.
A 50 Billion dollar pipeline for gas/oil ??? is being built all the way from Kunming China, Dawei, to this beeeech, and a new special deep sea port is going to change the face of the coastline and the whole society for a long distance in both directions ...
I'm reminded of the Tao To Ching....

Those who look down upon this world
   will surely take hold and try to change things
But this is a plan
  I've always seen fail
The world is Tao's own vessel
It is perfection manifest
It cannot be changed
It cannot be improved
For those who go on tampering, it's ruined
For  those who try to grasp, it's gone

Allow your life to unfold naturally
Know that it  too is a vessel of perfection
Just as you breathe in and breathe out
   Sometimes you're ahead and other times behind
   Sometimes you're strong and other times weak
   Sometimes you're with people and other times alone

To the Sage
   all of life is a movement toward perfection
So what need has he
   for the excessive, the extravagant, or the extreme ?

Tao Te Ching, verse 29 (Star translation)



Dance me to the children, who are asking to be born
*- Leonard Cohen. *

06 July 2012

kind heart story: human first

kind heart story: - going to the air <<NAME withheld to protect the nice people>> office to get a flight ticket from Dawei to Rangoon/Yangon, the girl at the desk tells me...
"Oh, its quiete expensive..."
Heiko thinks: "Yep I know, it IS pricey, -- but -  I flew here, but I'm here so I have  accepted the cost as part of the price of coming.... e... my dear"  - but I said nothing just smiled.

the manager just arrived, (I was early) .... he too told me,
"Oh, it's very expensive....."
heiko thinks: "well yes, I've kinda accepted that, else I could not come here at all, I'm a rich tourist, don't worry about it.... "
but I say nothing, just nod.

"Oh ", he tells me, there is an agent that can do it cheaper, do you want that ?"
Of course.
He sends out the office boy, in pouring pelting rain-  the boy cames back with a ticket that is $7% cheaper.

I like that real humanity in Myanmar, human first, corporate robot  second.... lovely.

24 June 2012

Myanmar, (Burma) take clean new banknotes

In Myanmar:
Take cash.
Take US dollar bills.
The dollar bills must be brand new.
This means brand NEW. The tiniest smallest mark and hotels and money changers will NOT accept it.
Why ? Because they will not be able to pass it on. They will be stuck with it and and no other Burmese will accept it from them.

The same applies to strong fold marks, creases or the tiniest of nicks and tears.
I've seen Westerners argue and get upset with locals for not taking their USD $100 just because it has an insignificant, tiny mark or crease or tear.
Don't insist. If the Burmese person takes your money they will have great trouble spending it, likely they have to spend it at a big loss.
It would be like you taking $500 from someone and you know you will only get $300 for it when you spend it, (maybe less).
Westerners can always spend those dollar bills in other countries.
Burmese can't, they take a serious loss.
So at the risk of boring you: The dollar bills must be BRAND NEW.
Money Laundering - the real meaning.

The 20 dollar bill below was given to me in July 2010 as I left the country. Notice the horizontal crease ? - that alone makes this bill useless in Myanmar.  Notice the vertical writing near his right eye ? That by itself makes the bill useless in Myanmar. Together, those two things make the bill totally worthless. I double checked by using this note to pay my airport tax (US$10, cash only, pure new notes only) . As I expected it took a second before this bill was rejected as not acceptable.
I accepted this bill because I was leaving Myanmar and could easily exchange it in Malaysia. The Burmese would have great trouble spending it, and it would be a problem for any other Burmese.
So if you want to do a good deed, just before you leave the country, ask your Burmese friends if they have any unacceptable dollar notes they want to get rid of - and which you can still spend outside Myanmar. That's the literal meaning of money laundering :-)

Oh, and one more thing: Ironed dollar bills are also unacceptable. Sometimes a dollar bill gets so worn and creased people will use a hot iron to flatten it out. For a foreigner that's not a big deal. But ironed notes are also 'not acceptable'. Ironed notes feel brittle, too flat, and may be discoloured. Use your commonsense.
But most of all: don't get too paranoid: remember even unacceptable dollars in Myanmar are fine outside the country. A dollar bill would have to be pretty badly mangled to get rejected outside Mynanmar. When you get Myanmar notes you may get notes that are old, patched, sticky taped, and dirty beyond belief, they only just hang together. That's ok for Myanmar currency. You will be able to spend it.

Friends who visit Myanmar tell me of stories where foreigners are left with no money to spend, because their money is not brand new or they relied on ATM's.
Don't rely on ATM's. The situation is changing but not fast.
Cash is king in Myanmar.

The exception: if you stay in 5 star places and take limousines and pay everything by credit card and don't mind paying commissions and taxes and VAT's and biased hotel exchange rates.

 My guess at why bank notes have to be so clean and perfect - writing my own urban legend and myth.
"Master, how did this ridiculous standard in super perfect bank notes start ?"
Ah, you see grasshopper, The people who change the money for you are not going to use that money. They 'sell' the bank notes on to a higher up middle man, who in turn sells them on to the next bigger "poobah" in the food chain and so on it goes. So the story might go something like this:
In the beginning old and crappy banknotes were accepted.
At some point a standard for how soiled a bank note can be was introduced.
After all: would you accept a note that is almost torn in half and so dirty you are not sure it's real ?
At some point "normal human greed" would have used this standard as an excuse to pay the lower down person less than the full rate.
"This note is very torn, instead of $100 I'll only give you the equivalent of $95 for it.
Make sure the next ones are clean and not torn."
And so on it would go, with an ever increasing standard of perfection spiraling ever higher.
Any imperfection in the bank note would be used by the higher up guys to pay less than the going rate.
And thus, dear Grasshopper, was born the spiral of ever increasing perfection in banknotes. 

In case anyone is going to jump on Myanmar as particularly corrupt because of this: it's just my theory, based on general human nature. Secondly: You can see similar examples in any culture, any country. Any bureaucracy is usually more interested in its survival than the thing it was set up to do. (safety bodies, etc... many degenerate into rubber stamps and making money. Stamp duties were once upon a time service fees for a real service, nowadays they are simple an excuse for another tax) ... there are many such examples if you look around.

Oh, and once you have those brand new, pristine beautiful dollar notes, don't fold them. Don't treat them as you treat bank notes at home. They will get creased, sweaty and dirty and maybe a little bit nicked on the edges. Keep them flat, safe, dry, close to your body in a money belt that is inside your clothes and invisible from the outside.
Foreigners who folded their new bank notes found themselves with lots of money they could not spend.  Can be frustrating. Can lead to painful scenes.  Keep them clean, don't fold 'em.

"Change money?"
Those nice USD bills won't do much until you exchange them.
Myanmar is a safe country for tourists. The police look out for tourists.  People are honest.
In no other country did I leave all my luggage in the rickshaw/taxi while I went into a hotel to check the rooms.
In Myanmar I didn't hesitate, it felt totally ok to do that.

Change money INSIDE the Bogyoke Aung San market   
Not outside, the market. You will get lots of offers outside.
Inside the Bogyoke market it's much safer, the  rate is not as fantastic but you will get a fair deal.
If you go out of Yangon for long, do all your money changing in Yangon, better rates. Don't whinge if you get worse rates in Bagan or out of the way place. Plan ahead, this is not a western country with ATM's at  every corner, (That's why I like going there :-P  ).
Mandalay is generally ok for exchange rates.

When it comes to changing money though, in Yangon around the Sule Pagoda then be careful.
The guys there specialize in slight of hand trickery.  They are the expert magicians.
They will offer you a great rate  to get you interested, then ask you to up some stairs or some place quiet and out of the way with them.
Don't go.
If you decide to exchange money with them:
Don't give them any of your money until you have the Myanmar money. Count EVERY single note you get.
Double check every USD bill YOU give THEM, or they will turn around and claim the US$100 you gave them was mistakenly a USD$10 or $1.
Their hands will never leave the table as they show you the $10 bill you just gave them.
This is the main place to be careful of when changing money.
Read the warning notes frequently left by other travellers in guest houses.
In fact, it's better you don't change money near the Sule Pagoda at all. Your choice of course.
If you want to study masters in high pressure sales and manipulation, this is an excellent place to do it. These guys are superb at it. Every move, every word is carefully crafted.  Consider it a research project if you do go.

Lonely Planet's guidebook has some good advice on this as well. (No I don't get a commission from Lonely Planet, I like their basic and down to earth advice :-)   , hope they stay that way and not go too commercial and high brow)

Update 2012
there is now a bank, that does money exchange, and the rates are a tiny bit better than the Boyoke market. The bank is not far from the Market, in fact just over the street, next to American Otpical shop.

Guys on the street offering higher and better rates are doing that to get tourists to come with them, there is no way they can make money at over the bank rate, unless there is trickery involved.  Read the notices in guesthouses about not changing money in the street, ... often interesting and sad stories of loss.

Aswan, Egypt, Tombs of the Nobles