The time I spent in Yangon was, in the end, a little haphazard! My first visit to the city was a bit earlier than planned, after my medical dash from Inle Lake. I spent most of this visit in a room with Netflix recovering from gastroenteritis, but after four days in self-imposed quarantine, I felt improved enough to explore Yangon a little before I returned north. From my guesthouse, I walked up to the heart of the city and the most sacred Buddhist site in Myanmar; the Shwedagon Pagoda. It’s relatively expensive at 10,000K, but I’d say it’s worth it as it’s more or less the only ‘attraction’ in Yangon, and is of great importance to the population here. It’s a huge temple complex with an elaborate covered stairway at each point of the compass. Upon arrival, I recognised the usual gold and decorated pagodas I’ve grown used to out here, but it was quite interesting in that there were lots of different smaller areas drawing locals to pray. I noticed there was a ‘corner’ shrine for each day of the week – the Saturday corner being very busy for its appropriate day – and different temples housing four supposed Enlightened Buddha relics. Shwedagon actually means ‘Reliquary of the Four.’ There’s also a small photo gallery of Shwedagon from different eras, which was quite interesting.
After wandering around the platform (and taking part again in a number of photo shoots with the locals), I walked over to the People’s Park, out west of Shwedagon. It’s a beautiful park, very well maintained with some lovely fountains, flowers and trees lining the walkways. There’s also an old plane on display in there, and a slightly random ‘hanging bridge’ which I wobbled my way across through the trees. From the park, I walked back past the pagoda to Kandawgyi Lake. Unfortunately, the walkway on stilts that snakes through the lake was closed for construction, so I stopped for a juice and a coffee at the café overlooking it instead (The Garden Bistro is fairly pricey but nice, and seemed to be something of an expat hangout judging by the other clientele!), before wandering back to the guesthouse.
In the afternoon, I walked down past the Independence Monument and along the river to the Botahtaung Pagoda, which was really lovely towards sunset. As it was a Saturday the park in front of the city hall was really buzzy with market stalls and music playing, which made for a nice atmosphere. For those with systems iron enough for Burmese street food, this would be a great weekend dinner spot. I sat listening to the tunes for a bit before I went for an early dinner and to pack up my little room, ready for my flight to Bagan the next day.
My second visit to Yangon was short, only being there for an afternoon and night between Ngapali and flying out to Thailand. As is becoming boring and predictable I was still sick, so didn’t get out to the two things I was planning on visiting when I was back there: the big Bogyoke Aung San Market, and a traditional Burmese marionette puppet show. For the latter, your hostel should be able to help you book tickets, but for the popular Htwe Oo Show you’ll need to book a day in advance for one of their two daily afternoon performances. It has great reviews – any of you who manage to go must tell me how it is!
So, something of an underwhelming post on Yangon I’m afraid, but at least I managed to visit Shwedagon and get out and about for a feel for the city. It wasn’t my favourite place in Myanmar by any means, the rural areas were much more my vibe, but I can imagine in a group (and with a full bill of health!) it’d be fun to explore at night.
Until next time,
Number of strangers I’ve spoken to today: 4, including a taxi driver who didn’t understand what I could mean when I said I didn’t follow any religion. Ruling out Buddhism and not considering anything else possible, he concluded I must subscribe to a branch of Christianity he’s not familiar with – despite my efforts to explain this wasn’t the case.
Interaction was: a bit like getting a bad school report from your teacher – but at least he still took me where I wanted to go…
One Woman and her Backpack x
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