Downtown and Shwedy

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Asia » Burma
December 28th 2016
Published: December 29th 2016
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Another day, another taxi-ride tightrope. Today I made an audible "whoah whoah whoah!". I don't want to harp on about the mayhem of the roads, but it is a key part of the travel experience. After your border control experience, it's your first real interaction with a country. Mum and Dad still talk about our taxi-ride from the airport when we took them to Budapest airport. This Hungarian guy had obviously just been watching the 2004 Hungarian GP and was driving like a lunatic. He was Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy, compared to these burmese commuters. Every car, bus and bike on these Yangon roads is driving like Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity. My audible plea came as we entered a 6-9 lane "motorway" and almost got T-boned on the passengers side crossing the 3rd or 4th lane.

This incident made me realise what part of the craziness could stem from. They drive on the right in Myanmar, but most of the taxis are right-hand drive like our cars. Being a British Colony, they historically drove on the left. But, in 1970 that changed overnight! General Ne Win made a decree and everyone had to now drive on the right! Two theories are common - one, his wife's astrologer told her they should drive on the right and two, General Ne Win thought the country needed to change direction and this was the first step. Either way, it and/or the massive population growth and developement has caused chaos. All new cars now have to be left hand drive.

Anyway, today we got amongst it on aTight Arse Tours walking tour of downtown Yangon. The map (and App) are provided by our lovely hosts and iYangon.

We started at Stran Hotel on the waterfront and wandered through the streets. 37th Street was virtually an alley way with street vendors and a the occasional rat. Quite a large rat was spotted by Deaks and may have been the highlight of the day for 3 year old Oliver (aka Hurricane Oliver). We navigated the footpath potholes and traffic jams to walk up and down Pansodan St passed the High Court. There are street vendors everywhere and we weave through their stalls to get to Maha Bandoola Park (Central Park) and onto Sule Pagoda.

Dave explained the auroma as a combination of fish sauce and urine. Deaks liked this description and everytime there was a particularly strong waft of this scent, Deaks would call it out. Milla thought it smelt more like a bad hot dog! It's not an objectional smell to Jules and I. It's a scent familiar with some amazing memories and we hope it will one day conjur the same thoughts for the kids. Once Milla takes her shirt frills from her nose.

These kids are amazing though. They adapt to the environment and strut through these streets like they're walking between Aldi and Coles at Lutwyche Shopping Centre. I recall shitting myself when I landed in Hong Kong as a 24 year old man on my first overseas trip. Deaks and Milla take it in their stride. We have started to call Deaks, Deaks the Freaker. Whenever we stop to get our barings or to check on a map or an airport gate number - Deaks is asking "are we lost?", "is our plane cancelled?". Despite his cool exterior, he's a bit of a worrier.

Anyway, we hand released some sparrows from Sule Pagoda for $1 a bird and made a wish. I fear their "freedom" may be shortlived, but it was an interesting experience for the kids. We checked out some local craftwork and a couple of local galleries. There was a particularly striking dot painting of two monks on the steps of a pagoda that caught both mine and Julie's eyes. If it rings true of the temples in Bagan, I dare say we'll be revisiting the gallery.

Lunch at 999 Shan Noodles - YUM! Dave and I had to have a second order, sooo delicious. $1.50 a bowl and we fed 3 adults and 4 kids (with drinks) for around $25.

3 hours into the walking tour and the kids are struggling in the heat and humidity. The promise of an ice-cream is the only thing keeping them going. They are troopers and the ice-cream at Sharkys on Pansodan St is well deserved.

After a relatively pleasant and relaxing taxi ride home, we chill in the air con for a few hours and neck another tallie of Myanmar's finest lager while the kids suck on an icypole and watch some tele.

Dusk is fast approaching and it's time for Shwedagon Paya.

Big, bold and GOLD! The photos don't do it justice. And despite the crowds, it is a relaxing experience to circumnavigate this impressive place of worship. The site dates back 2500 years. Yes...two thousand five hundred! The golden dome and stupa rises 100 metres and has been gilded since the 15th century. It's been through wars, foreign raids, earthquakes and cyclones. It's been the sight of political speeches by Aung San Suu Kyi in recent decades. In 1700 there were numerous earthquakes bringing down the whole top and the current structure was rebuilt in 1768. 250 years old and is something to behold. So many Buddha in all the temples. And while it probably wasn't, I like to think one of them was a chocolate Buddha.

The kids lit candles at the base of the golden dome and donged the big Buddhist bells with the big Buddhist donger. Dave and Alex picked up us in the 4X4 and it was Julies turn to ride in the back-back with the kids. As is tradition, one of Dave's kids screamed as we made our way thorugh traffic to a delicious dinner of dumplings at Chicken Dang! (not it's real name). We wre filmed by a Chinese TV news team doing a story on the only place in Myanmar that makes this particular type of dumpling. Trust me, they are worth a segment of Chinese Getaway.

Had a couple of photographic technology issues today and posting photos from the SLR is a problem. Smartphone photos are all I've got. Hope they do justice to an awesome day getting Shweddy in downtown Yangon. Looks like I've been photobombed by some Ginger Ninjas at Shwedagon Pagoda!!!


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