Myanmar (Burma) was never on my bucket list. A friend of mine invited me for a trip to Myanmar. The first thing that came up in my mind was the military government. It takes a back seat before they got my nod. I googled Myanmar I found out it is an interesting place to visit before urbanization consumes her. It has untouched beauty from rapid urbanization. The glittering pagodas and the majestic colonial buildings will welcome you.
During that time, Myanmar- Thailand land border is closed. The only means of getting there was through flying. I flew from Bangkok, Thailand to Yangon, Myanmar.
Yangon has been the capital when the British invaded northern Myanmar. Last 2005, the government moved the capital to Nya Pyi Taw, but Yangon still the cultural and commercial centre of the country. Yangon (formerly Rangoon) by far is the largest city Myanmar.
The moment we reached the city of Yangon, I felt like I time travelled in the past. The city has a wide array of old colonial-era buildings. Although, most of the buildings are in a dire state of dilapidation. If historical and cultural heritage is your cup of tea, I am pretty sure you will enjoy getting lost in the city on foot.
The charm of the old colonial-era buildings and its architecture, which towers both sides of the road. It reflects the great history and heritage of the city had. The buses and car models are quite old, so as some ads along the road. It seems that you are in the 90’s.
Most men wear the longyi (it is like a wraparound skirt for men) and women wear a long skirt. It common to see that locals here put Tanaka powder on their face. It is part of their beauty regimen. It serves as their sunscreen. Most men chew a betel nut, which is why their teeth have a brownish stain.
Things not to miss
Yangon has a lot to offer but I was not able to visit all of them due to time constraint. I just choose the prominent ones.
Your sojourn in Yangon will not be completed if you will not drop at the 2,500 years old temple “Shwedagon Pagoda”. It is one of the holiest temples in Buddhism religion due to the presence of few hair strands of Buddha. Shwedagon Pagoda glitters with overlaid hundreds of gold plates, while the top of the stupa is adorned with 4531 diamonds; the largest of which is a 72-carat diamond. These jewels are for your eyes only.
Proper dress code observes in the temple premises. This is the holiest temple of Myanmar. Men are encouraged to wear trousers, longyi, or knee length shorts. Women clothes must wear elbow length sleeves and knee length skirts. All visitors must walk barefoot. Avoid visiting the temple late morning and early afternoon floor is hot.
Security in the temple is strict. Your bags will be x-rayed and you need to pay 8USD for the entrance fee.
The temple is flooded with devotees and tourist. It is a common sight that monks and devotees are washing the statues, offering flowers, worshipping, and meditating. There are many religious rituals that people are doing in the temple. You will notice that people are walking around the temple in a clockwise direction. We walk around the temple in counter-clockwise directions, which got the attention of the devotees. In Buddhism religious context, circumambulating in clockwise directions, it is believed that you will get good merits while doing the counterclockwise you will get negative karma. No wonder devotees gave us a weird look.
Yangon’s Circular Train
I missed the first trip of the train. I asked when the next trip is, I got different answers from the locals.
The train service the nearby towns and suburban area. The train was built in 1954 during the British colonial time. It is a 3-hour journey around 39 stations. I talked to a traveller who has been on the train. He said, It is a great experience, you can see a glimpse of the people in all walks of life. He mentioned, that the train experienced glitches along the way, so I decided not to take the tour because I need to catch a night bus going to Bagan. If I can visit Yangon again, I am gonna take this ride.