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Published: November 1st 2013
Following an early flight from KL LCCT we were so happy to see Ohnmar’s smiling face at Yangon. Ohnmar's first words to us were "are you ok, you sure?". This small question would be repeated so often it has now become our groups catch phrase.
In the car the first thing I noticed as we headed into downtown Yangon was that the driver was sitting on the right hand side and was travelling in the right hand side of the road. Just like driving a R/H drive car in the USA, very odd. It made for dangerous overtaking and lane changing manoeuvres and was doing my head in. Lucky I was only a passenger.
We checked in at the Bliss Hotel, freshened up and awaited the arrival of Mal from KL who travelled on a different flight. Once our little travel party was all together (Ohnmar, Yong, Mal, “Mum”, Lorenza and I), we walked a few blocks to “Auntie’s” for lunch and to collect our travel money. Lunch & Travel Money
Auntie lives in a typical Yangon apartment with a shop downstairs. The dining and lounge room were breezy and light filled. Auntie had prepared a great
Lunch at Auntie's place
L to R - Ohnmar, Mum, Mal, Yong & I
lunch for us, a variety of Burmese foods, accompanied by some great soup. No Burmese meal is complete without a good soup. The crunchy little fish are a bit like anchovies and go well with a beer.
After lunch we worked out some monetary affairs. When you travel here there are very few places that accept credit cards and some ATM machines have just started to be installed, I think they have strict limits on how much and how many withdrawals can be made. So, travellers have to carry their entire travel budget in cash. This is also complicated by the fact that one dollar is about MMK1000 and the largest kyat note is MMK5000.
Many local market stalls, etc. have trouble changing an MMK5000 note so it is recommended to carry as many smaller notes as possible. You can tell by the photos it is not an easy bundle to hide in a money belt. Be warned that, while the US dollar is widely accepted, locals will not take “small face” notes at all, or if some do it will be at a much worse rate than for “large face” notes.
Once we stashed our funds
a variety of food. Try the crunchy fish.
in various pockets, wallets, bags and socks we were ready to visit Shwedagon Pagoda. Shwedagon Pagoda
How do I describe the most amazing pagoda complex I have seen? It truly is awe-inspiring. Locals and Buddhists from so many countries flock to this icon and you can see and feel why. As we wandered around you could feel the positive energy of the place, so many different people paying homage at the various shrines was so uplifting. Children played and laughed, adults prayed and joined in gentle conversations.
There are shrines corresponding to each day of the week around the base of the main Pagoda. Depending on the day you were born you selected the appropriate shrine and made an offering, then showered the statues on the shrine with water. I had always thought I was born on a Wednesday morning, this being the only day of the week with a morning and afternoon shrine. I later found out (thanks to my Mum) I was actually born in the afternoon – ooops.
As the sunset at Shwedagon, the buildings were lit up beautifully by electric lights and also the close to full moon. I have been reading
“Golden Earth” by Norman Lewis, which is an account of his travels in Burma in 1949. He mentions seeing Shwedagon from the air as he came into land in Yangon (or Rangoon as he called it). He described a spectacular sight and its brightness has increased many times since he made his observations.
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