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Published: September 24th 2016
Staring at Yangon, Myannmmar
At last after 3 weeks of heat and rains in Kerala I am off on my travels again. I really enjoyed the stay in Kerala. Onam is a great time to visit here. Apart from the biggest festive season it coincides with other holidays giving most people almost a week off and the schools are closed too. The use of a decent car, a Nissan Terrano thanks to Suresh, was a boon. I had time to visit most of my relatives with Valsa Chechi, missed a few as they were away at the time in some cases. Also had time to catch up with a couple of childhood mates and see Pappu uncle before his death yesterday. 98 years is an exceptionally long life even though he was really poor over the last few months,
The AirAsia flight from Chennai was an A320-200 which was comfortable. The 4hr flight to Kualalumpur had me confused a little as with the time advanced by 2.5 hrs from IST. As a result instead of a long wait of 5 hours it was only 2.5 hours for the flight to Yangon and then in Myanmar the clock is forward
only to1.5 hrs again.
SAT Yangon Hotel contrary to my belief was not a hotel but just a hostel. The facilities were basic and had steep climbs of the stairs. How ever it was more than made up by the helpful and friendly staff. Leaving thr stuff in the room, as it was already late I just walked up and down the Chinatown area in the end finding a decent bar for a bite and a couple of beers.
My efforts to organise a tour did not work. So, after breakfast started on foot for the Sule Pagoda, The old townhall and the Circular Railway. The Pagoda was stuck in a roundabout, with little charector to it. It was also nearly impossible to get to having to dodge busy traffic. The town hall was a colonial relic from the British Raj. A lot of colonial buildings were scattered around the city in fairly good condition. With that background it is surprising that very few people understood English let alone spoke it.
The Circular Railway was a strange story. It moved very slowly maximum speed being around 30 km/hr, had steel benches for seats and no doors to
close. It took 3 hours to complete. In that time it showed us probably the real Yangon. Most station platforms were markets, People used the train to transport their wares often bought on shoulder slings. At each station the items changed as did the characteristic aroma. Unfortunately the railway sides are used as dumping grounds with rubbish piling up on both sides. There was water everywhere often in blackish green, but certain crops seem to thrive in them.
On return to the hostel my tour for the next day and my ticket for the night bus to Bagan were arranged and I was wondering what to do with the evening. I had read about the magnificence of the Shwegadon Pagoda at night, but I planned to visit it as part of my city tour. It suddenly occurred to me that I would be missing something if I did not seen it at night.
As night fell I got to the Pagoda. All descriptions and photos can't do justice to it, it was so magnificent. The Pagoda being built on a small hill one enters it through four stairways. At the top there is a ring walk space surrounding
the Pagoda and the shrines for numerous dieties where a kind of worship was going on. Everything was painted gold, lit up with yellow lights, was a spectacle to behold. Most of the pillers were delicately carved. The figures and figurines (there were some lady Buddhas as well) were quiet simple and beautiful. As I was wearing a pair of shorts (not covering my knees) had to get a Myanmar Lungi to get in.. I was lucky with the decision to make this visit, as seeing the Pagoda during day would not have been the same.
For the last day in Yangon I had arranged a tour guide to take me around city. When arranged I was told the she had her licence and take me though all the places worth visiting. I was under the impression that she will be driving me around in her car. I was a little surprised when she asked if we could c walk to the first Pagoda, on Yangon river which was a 30 minute walk.
In this Pagoda we could see the relic of Buddha, or at least the case of it. The walls of the inner sanctum was covered
in real gold. But more interesting was the alcoves created all around the inner sactum, one facing the inner sactum in the alcove was almost cut off from the outside world. It wa son the Yango river. If we had the time we could have taken a boat ride to the other side of Yangon over the river but that plan was abandoned. Next we walked through to the City Hall, The Cathedral and a lot of colonial buidings and the park while Aung filled me with their significance and history. Then we took a bus ride (very much like getting in and out of a local bus in Kochi) to the next pagoda, Chouk Hitat Kyl Buddha, which had the biggest buddha statue in Myanmar. This was a sweet and almost feminine reclining Buddha with 108 simbols under his feet. Of course I was told their significance by the guide. I was also told the Buddha in the temple opposite was not so pleasant.
Next was a call to a local restaurant and we had two excellent traditional meals for 6,000 kyats (5 Euro).
Sunil will probably like this, there are no two wheelers inYangon; or 3
wheelrs either So, even though the roads are congested the traffic is not maddening like in Kerala or Chennai. After the food we again walked to the Museum for a lesson in Myanmar history, art and civilization. This was on 5 floors, we had to cut short our visit as I had to return to the hotel for shower and change of clothes before getting a taxi to the bus station which was near the airport.
Even though sweet as a companion, Aung was probably only getting into the field as a guide. .She has licence but her knowledge of her own culture and tourism industry at home and abroad was rather limited. But I am sure she will learn quickly.
One of the things that struck me was how safe you feel when you are in Yangon. Even late in the night people was going about their business even young girls were walking around without hesitation. May be years of harsh military rule did something good. Another thing was everybody was trying their best to trade as epitomized by the footpath vendors who were trying to sell you everything especially freshly prepared food which I was a
bit reluctant to try.
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