Raining in Rangoon

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October 28th 2016
Published: June 22nd 2017
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Geo: 16.7837, 96.1568

Rangoon is a sprawling city of 6 million inhabitants and is the largest city in Burma. It used to be the capital until an astrologer told the military generals that they needed to move to a new place. Very convenient for them, they had new roads and houses built for themselves in the middle of nowhere so that they never need see any demonstrations or unrest. Rangoon is not a pretty city with a mixture of the usual wooden shacks next door to modern buildings. The jetty to which we were moored is a rickety wooden bridge with gaps in the floor boards. However the best thing to see is the Shwe Dagon pagoda. This huge gilded edifice is set in a large complex of beautiful smaller pagodas with Buddha images galore. We walked round in a clockwise fashion - you must always keep your right shoulder to the central pagoda. All around the edge are smaller temples dedicated to the days of the week. There are 8 because Wednesday is divided into two. People in Burma are named after the day of the week on which they are born and some days are more auspicious than others. We were lucky that the sun was shining at the time of our arrival as it had rained on arrival. The sun glinting off all the gold is a lovely sight to see. The following day it was raining and we crawled through the very heavy traffic to see the Giant Reclining Buddha. This figure is 70 metres long and from the photos you cannot see how big it is but it is huge. It is housed in a massive corrugated iron building and we could hear the rain hammering down on the roof. It is worth a visit to see. This was the last time we were going to have to take our shoes off. I would recommend that if you come to Burma that you bring good soled shoes that are easy to get on and off.Next we went to see the house of Aung Sun Sui Kyi, otherwise known as the Lady. This was a real disappointment as all we saw was a large barricaded wall and couldn't see her house at all. We called at the little shop which supports the National Democratic League and they must have thought it was Christmas as we all pounced on souvenirs in order to give her support. The boat had shown the film called "The Lady" and it is a fascinating film of her life and struggle for the country at the expense of her own family life. It was our last night so we had the Captains cocktail party with some awful singing by the staff. There has been very little entertainment on board but we haven't really needed any as most of the time is spent in the dining room or lounge chatting with fellow travellers. We did end up speaking to everyone and dining with a few of our favourites, easy to do with only 68 passengers on board. One night there was a Longyi party when everyone had to dress up in the traditional dress. The Cruise director Tom and his co tour guide dressed up as the King and Queen and gave us all a laugh. They had to judge the best male and female so we had to prance about in our gear. I am afraid the garment does not suit big western men but all the women looked good.I will not miss not being able to put loo paper down the loo, not being able to drink the water and the high humidity combined with lack of a hairdresser but I will miss the wonderful crew who work long hours and for whom nothing is too much trouble. The food has been excellent and the tours have all been interesting and easy to do with the earphones so that the guide can always be heard even though their English is not too brilliant in some cases. I will also miss the lovely Burmese people and I hope they are able to finally change the country away from military oppression. Even they say it is going to take some time ,probably 20 years. Before the Lady was released from house arrest there were few visitors to this country, but since the election this has gone up to 2 million a year. So come before we tourists spoil all the naivety and friendliness of the people. I also wish I had brought more items to give away such as basic reading books and clothes. APT /Travel Marvel was an excellent company to travel with and I am also glad we did the sail from Mandalay to Rangoon rather than the other way round.

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1st December 2016

On the road to Mandalay?

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