Bustling Yangon, Burma

The flight to Yangon was uneventful but I couldn’t help noticing the plane had propellers…

I was looking forward to being overawed by my first temple but that wasn’t to be the case.  It was all rather industrial, to be fair, stuck right in the middle of the city’s main roundabout, with the most appalling traffic which in turn led to the place being quite filthy.  Don’t mind leaving my shoes behind should the floors be clean. Anyway, no gold leaf embellishment at this Paya, just a grubby yellow tin-like finish.  Lots of incense and candles.

Donation boxes adorn the Payas especially Sule Paya which I found quite discombobulating.  The Paya was circular inside and lined with small businesses some of which had no credible connection with a Buddhist monastery for example a guitar shop. Who knew?

As grubby as downtown Yangon is and it is VERY grubby, I do quite like it. I’d say the vibe is right here.  Clearly the locals aren’t used to seeing a tall (Burmese men and women are virtually all smaller than me height wise) middle aged white woman in a short skirt walking their streets but they look and smile which I find quite friendly.  My skirt was too short today, I realised that when I went to Shwedagon Paya because lots of older women were looking at me but the guards didn’t say anything at the point of entrance.

This evening there has been a government power cut which means all the street lights are out. Shopkeepers run their own generators so the path mostly was reasonably well lit but in places where there were no shops it was really quite dangerous. I cannot put into words just how frightful the sidewalks are. They are in fact not pavements at all as pavement suggests some sort of purposeful pedestrian walkway. Mostly the Burmese walk in the road which says something. Finding my feet and confidence with the traffic, I am now too walking in the road, even this evening with no street lights.

Highlight of the day was the Shwedagon Paya. It was truly magnificent and I was very glad to have made the effort earlier to go in the extreme heat of the middle of the day.  The gold leaf glittered on the great dome in the bright sunshine backed by the bluest of skies. It was busy, hot and noisy and I am thinking about going again tomorrow evening for the sunset to see a different spectacle.  There has been a temple on this site since 500BC but archaeologists think the current dome was built by the Mon people sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries.  The Paya contains hundreds of temples and shrines representing different Buddhist deities.  All the details were written in Burmese so it was difficult really to gain any insight or knowledge as to what was going on. The Shwedagon Paya is a place Buddhists pilgrimage to from all over Burma. You could witness family groups picnicking and taking naps and playing with their children.

I loved it hence I want to go back tomorrow when it’s cooler.


The streets of Yangon