It was our first night in Rangoon, Burma, in the 1960s. We had arrived from a cool climate to a suffocating 100-degree F day, and our sluggishness was further aggravated by jet lag accumulated during a flight half way around the world.
We accepted the invitation of an official from the embassy who was familiar with the city to leave the hotel and go to a restaurant nearby. We walked alongside open sewers, which stank to high heaven, and turned into a street which could only be described as an alley.
When we entered a small building, I couldn’t believe we intended to eat there. Everything — the walls, tables and waiters — looked grimy. Next, we were introduced to a smudged menu which listed nothing recognizable.
Our friend ordered for us. The very first course was fish head soup. I had heard of such a dish, usually mentioned jokingly, but I had never before been stared at by one. The fish heads looked old, the eyes sunken, and they floated in a thick, murky liquid that looked somewhat like used engine oil.
Finally, I thought to say that I had eaten so much on the plane that I was not hungry. And the latter part was true.