It felt like being transported back to the old, isolated country.
YANGON, Myanmar — At 6 a.m. on Monday, my phone rang mercilessly. I ignored the first call, assuming that a Taiwanese friend had forgotten about the time difference. I was still struggling to sleep, and then I saw my mother’s name flash on the screen. My mother, who lives in Mandalay, in the middle of Myanmar, about 400 miles from Yangon, never calls that early in the morning.
A few hours later, Myanmar’s recently elected parliament was expected to convene its first session. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy had won more than 80 percent of the vote in the November elections and was about to start its second term in government. The military, which is led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, had been contesting the validity of the elections. Throughout the weekend, most of the conversations I had were with friends and family debating the probability of a coup.
When I saw my mother calling, I knew: There has been a coup.
“Go stay with your aunt,” my mother told me. Gather with your family and trust no one else. My paternal grandparents, who were from a vulnerable minority, hid in the home of various family members during the 1962 coup, when the military, led by Gen. Ne Win, replaced the civilian government of Prime Minister U Nu in a coup.
During the student-led uprising in 1988 against the dictatorship, my mother and her siblings alternated between marching in the streets and diving into sewers to avoid gunfire, facing the crackdown led by President Sein Lwin. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi formed the National League for Democracy in the aftermath of that brutal crackdown.
Despite winning the 1990 elections, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior N.L.D. officials were placed under house arrest, and the military rebranded its continued rule of the country after this coup. Another election would not be held for 20 years.
After speaking to my mother, I felt numb but slowly pulled myself together. I tried calling my aunt, but my phone wasn’t working. I was terrified. The authorities had blocked mobile phones and the internet but not completely.
Eventually, I realized that my broadband internet was working, and I began messaging friends who are journalists and activists. They told me what they knew. The military had already arrested Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, among other leaders of the N.L.D. We shared information, compared notes on rumors and consoled each other.
I feared the authorities might disconnect electricity or water after the internet and mobile phones. I pumped water into my apartment’s water tank and charged every electronic device and power bank I could find. Around 7 a.m., I stepped out of my apartment in the Chinatown district, about 20 minutes from City Hall. I wanted to speak to people. The streets seemed empty from my balcony, but I couldn’t see any soldiers, yet. I left food for my cats and stepped out.
I walked to one of the nearby wet markets, past tea shops, the traditional social networks, where you pick up the news of the neighborhood, the rumblings in the country. I walked past an old Chinese temple and some gold shops, and the banks and cafes that arrived after the quasi-democratic transition started in 2010.