A man gone to Yangon

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November 4th 2015
Published: April 17th 2018
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Yangon or Rangoon? Myanmar or Burma? Despite these potentially confusing name changes, the largest city in Myanmar is actually no longer the nation's capital city, that accolade having been snatched by the planned capital city Naypyitaw in 2005. Either way, Yangon completed the Myanmar jigsaw, which some would claim is laughably incomplete without a trip to Bagan, but with the sights of Yangon pending, the time felt right to get fully immersed in the whole scene. As with Mandalay, a car plus driver is a wise move for first-time visitors to Yangon, and on this itinerary, the ports of call were numerous, varied, and downright fulfilling. Botataung pagoda was a fine starting point, an exotic jaunt through a warren of golden sparkle, and following this visit up with a trip to the Holy Trinity cathedral was a fine and fascinating contract. Onwards and upwards to Sule pagoda and nearby Independence Square, taking in a few vibes from the surrouding area, and with Sule pagoda providing a taster of the ultimate in Yangon's pagoda culture. Onto a spot of retail therapy, more than adequately provided by the nation's most famous indoor market, Bogyoke Aung San, which is colourful, surprisingly well organized, good value, varied and a joy to behold, especially when you tag onto this a jaunt around some of the independent stores surrounding the market complex. The national museum and the martyrs' mausoleum were part of the trek, and added depth to a day out in Yangon destined to become a classic of its kind in the realm of 1-day excursions. Peoples' park and Square and Yangon zoo were beginning to make this seem like this is an ideal way of squeezing variety and value for money out of a rented car plus driver, but however much it felt as if the day trip might have peaked up until late afternoon, all of it had actually been a warmer for Yangon's real star turn, the majestic magnificence of Shwedagon Pagoda, a place I would deem one of the world's top 3 sights for its sheer wow factor (!!!!) Prepare to be right royally wowed indeed, as a visit to this place is nothing which should be taken for granted in any way, shape or form. The centrepiece is the pointed pinnacle of the golden stupa, awe-inspiring in its beauty, but the nailed-on perfect nature of the complex itself and the structures contained therein is destined to etch itself on your mind for the rest of your time on earth. The only negative factor was actually leaving the place, a blow softened by a follow-up visit to Karaweik hall, and a floating barge which can be best described as an exotic wonder. Better still, within the vessel is an evening of memorable fun and fulfilment, as a colourful show accompanies a varied dinner buffet, suggesting that this is a Yangon night out which is destined to stand out in the mind for some time to come. The following day clearly had the previous day's reputation to live up to, which in terms of standard setting was a tall order, so instead of the usual planned route, a more leisurely pace was opted for to enable visits to the city's prime shopping malls, Junction Square and Taw Win Plaza to name but two, and squeezing in a visit to the huge imposing statue of the reclining buddha meant that a few of the wow factors of the previous day spilled forth onto the following day of discovery. A jaunt through the uncharted territory that is the back streets of Yangon, and the day was almost through, though it would have somehow felt incomplete without an evening time trek to an Indian restaurant which proved that fine dining can be represented by other Asian nations here too. Boarding a plane at Yangon airport came coupled with the momentary thought - has this trip peaked too early, or will the highlights of Cambodia make this an evenly-matched contest?


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