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January 15th 2018
Published: January 16th 2018
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Monday 15th January 2018

Restless night as air con went off following a power cut and things got a bit uncomfortable so not much sleep had. Decided on a day just chilling rather than pounding the streets. A few minor admin tasks to be done, firstly we made use of the B&B laundry facility and put some clothes in for washing, they should be back tomorrow. Also we sorted out our taxi to the bus station for Wednesday morning we have an earlyish start as our bus to Bagan leaves at 8:30am and we have been told that in the rush hour traffic it may take an hour to get there. So it was suggested we leave at 6:30am just to be sure. Our driver will also take us to the correct bus company as apparently the bus station is huge and if you just get dropped off chances are you will never find your bus! Also managed to arrange pick up once we arrive in Bagan. Admin sorted.

Seems like Sarah has a touch of “Burmese belly” so our choice of chilling for the day was a good one, fortunately we packed some medical supplies just in case! Mid afternoon and John headed out for a stroll, this time down to what was originally the colonial quarter. The buildings down in this area are really impressive and are all that remain of a bygone era but sadly the majority are slowly falling apart. A few have been renovated and one is being turned into what will be a magnificent looking hotel due completion later this year. However; it seems many are destined to just fade away. Such a pity but there is just not the money available to sort them out. After a wander in the colonial quarter it was back to the B&B via a few side streets - there are some many street food stalls looking for trade you wonder how they ever survive. It just seems everyone has set up there own stall either as a family or even individuals and are cooking a huge variety of items, then add to this the other hawkers selling fruit, veg, items of clothing, hardware, phone covers, dvds etc plus also those offering a service. We saw a good few with a set of scales and you can pay them to weigh yourself (!)......not sure if they offer dietary advice or tell your fortune and also there was a knife sharpener setting up his spot - all handomatic plus other stalls with lads covered in grease repairing bikes, mopeds and electric tools - all for resale. As we said before this is definitely the poorest country we have visited on our travels and it is very difficult to really understand how they get by each and every day. A quick stop at the coffee shop opposite the B& B for latte and then back indoors to check on Sarah. As requested John had returned with supplies; a bottle of coke, cold bottle of green tea with honey and some plain crackers. What a feast. Sarah seemed to be faring a little better and had been relaxing watching a couple of programmes we had downloaded from iPlayer, then afterwards managed a good few hours sleep ? so hopefully just a 24hr bug.

Tuesday 16th January 2018

A good sleep last night and time to plan the day. Off to Schwedagon Pagoda, one of the must see sights whilst in Yangon. A slow stroll along the crowded streets going via the Bogyoke market for a look around before heading out towards the pagoda which even from a distance looks impressive. It’s shoes off time again at the entrance followed by a good 50mtr walk up a very very wide staircase with small retail opportunities on the way up. Once inside the pagoda you cannot fail but be impressed. Will let the pictures tell the story. There was it has to be said an air of calm about the place as people stopped off to pray or just sit and contemplate. It is so big you would need a full day to begin to visit each of the areas, fortunately on entry you do get a very good map plus a bit of detail on each of the different areas. There is a museum full of pictures of the pagoda from the 18th century placed alongside more recent pictures taken in the last few years. Of course things have changed but even back then it was impressive. After being all temples out it was time to stroll along back towards downtown Yangon. The traffic is horrendous here and whilst the traffic lights were working there were a large number of police at the major intersections directing traffic as best they could. Motorbikes and mopeds are supposedly banned from the city centre so it’s wall to wall car and bus........not sure it helps. At least in Vietnam the 1000s of mopeds are constantly moving. A wander back thro the market and John spotted a floppy hat which was duly purchased - think we were ripped off at £2.50p but couldn’t be bothered to haggle! Further on the edge of the market there was an art gallery selling lots of oil paintings of Myanmar scenes - very good they were to. There was one picture of ladies picking tea - the scene was from Shan state, which was very nice and would kind of match a similar picture on the same theme of Vietnamese ladies carrying their wares which is hung in our place in North Cyprus. Was told by one of the shop assistants that the cost was $55 but thought that a bit much......so feined disinterest and had a wander around the gallery looking at other pictures. That seemed to put him off the scent and a chance to look at the pictures in peace. Back downstairs and the tea ladies picture certainly was one that was liked.....this time
Schwedagon PagodaSchwedagon PagodaSchwedagon Pagoda

There are prayer corners for each day of the week all around the pagoda......these are for those that were born on that day to come and pray. This is the Thursday corner....the day John was born.
the girl assistant said $50 and after some haggling it was “special price” $45! Just one last check.....if I pay in dollars is the change in dollars? Didn’t want a load of Myanmar Kyats given as change as we would certainly lose out. Of course sir said the smiling assistant.....you pay Dollar I give you Dollar.? Deal done. Picture rolled up carefully and then packaged so it was easily carried. Inside the market there were a group of about 8 well dressed ladies around a jewellery stand, they must have been important whoever they were as they were being watched/guarded by at least 20 security guys and police and once they had finished purchasing they were ushered to blacked out Mercedes cars and whisked away. These ladies definitely were something to do with the upper echelon of Myanmar society. Headed back to the B and B via a few back streets before calling in at the Black Cat coffee and bakery opposite our lodgings for a coffee. Time now for a few hours chilling.......then guess what - the Schwedagon Pagoda was so impressive it was a return that evening to witness the sunset. Grabbed a taxi and off we went in the rush hour traffic....took about 25mins to go about 3km! Pagoda was even better, more people around but everyone just chilling and watching the sun go down and the golden pagoda change colour. Lovely experience.

Time to grab a taxi again and head back to our lodgings....taxis are cheap here, don’t take the first price...even tho that is cheap, haggle and you can usually do better. Once we were dropped off we walked across the road for a quick meal in the 800 bowls restaurant, quick service and food was not bad either. Then it was time to do that last minute packing and an earlyish night as tomorrow we are up at 5:30am ready for our taxi pick up to take us to the bus station and our trip to Bagan.

So that’s Yangon done as they say. Probably 4 days is enough to catch the major sights and see a bit of the local life. As we have said before it’s by far the poorest place we have visited and we find it difficult to understand how some survive. There are street stalls everywhere selling food, ranging from a one man band with a small cooker rustling up fried rice to whole families running a stall with chairs and seating. Add to that the many people recycling/repairing anything they can to resell onwards and then there are those collecting plastic and cardboard to make a few pennies. It’s a real eye opener. The city itself is not particularly clean either which doesn’t help its image. So overall, we saw what we wanted and glad we did it but happy to be moving on to Bagan to see the temples and looking forward to our stay in the town of Nyaung U. To some it up Yangon is not for the faint hearted!

Additional photos below
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Roadside stall - YangonRoadside stall - Yangon
Roadside stall - Yangon

Squeezing sugar cane to get the juice

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