Posts Tagged With: Yangon

Happy Independence Day, Myanmar!

Every January 4, Myanmar celebrates its Independence Day commemorating the end of British colonial rule. Since the capital was moved to Nyay Pyi Taw in 2005, all government-organized activities have been held there. More interesting are the celebrations held in the residential quarters. That means games and races, particularly for children,  on streets and alleyways. In Yangon, one need to just walk along the road to witness the these. If you hear someone on a mic talking loudly,  chances are there’s some sort of a game going on.

In this game,  young boys race to get the potatoes on the ground.

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Children balance empty water bottles on their palms as they walk to the finish line.

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Just outside my guesthouse in Lanmadaw street is a game of football which is quite popular in Myanmar.

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At Kawyangi Park, aside from couples canoodling behind the bushes, large groups gathered for some games.

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Walking back to my guesthouse, a large crowd had gathered around some tables where women were giving out free noodle soup.

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I was in Mandalay at last year’s Independence Day and I was just at the mall.

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Reasons To Love Yangon

1. Low Vibes City
Sure, the traffic can be quite maddening at times especially downtown but it doesn’t take more than a few hundred meters to find a quiet street.
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It’s a gentle city that still reeks of old Asia charm when life’s rhythms are punctuated by temples and markets.
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2. Tea Houses
Aside from serving up a cuppa and more, tea houses are important social places where people gather to gossip, exchange news, or simply watch the world go by. It’s refreshing to be in a place where people actually mingle and talk to each other rather than staring at a tablet or a smart phone.
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3. Those roadside cafes
They’re everywhere—under a tree or in the shadow of a building. Mornings is the best time to come here, take a seat, and enjoy a bowl of mohingya and a cup of sweet tea with milk.
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4. Shwedagon Paya
How can one not fall in love with this beautiful pagoda especially when lit-up at night. More than an architectural wonder, it is ground zero for the locals’ Buddhist faith.
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Yangon’s two other temples, Botataung by the river and Sule at the center are beautiful too.
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I am in complete awe by the fervor by which the people practice their faith in these temples. From solitary meditation to group chants.
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With their spacious grounds, especially Botataung’s the temples also function as mini-parks for families and couples.
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5. Colonial Heritage
Yangon has the best preserved colonial cityscape in Southeast Asia. You can take the walking tour in Lonely Planet and detour in a few streets to see other architectural marvels outside the guidebook’s radar.
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Some are crumbling.
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While others have been put to adaptive use.

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Go ahead, take a peek inside.
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Always remember to gaze-up and see beautiful architectural details.
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Wherever you go, down an alley or a street, you’ll find your own architectural wonder.
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6. Taxis are everywhere
It’s easy to flag-down a taxi anywhere and anytime. The usual rate is 2, 000 k. Some will ask for 2, 500 or 3, 000. Just flag-down another one. Most taxi drivers are really nice. They follow the usual 2, 000k rate and if they can speak English, engage you in conversation.

A taxi from downtown to airport costs 6, 000-8, 000 k. I left at 8am and took less than an hour, traffic included.

TIP
Have someone in your hotel write down all the places you wish to go to including your hotel address in Myanmar script. That way, you just show the address to your driver. Sights listed in Lonely Planet guidebooks have Myanmar translations. Taxis have a/c but most drivers leave it off and roll the windows down. Just ask them to turn it on. They’ll be most willing to oblige.

Yangon is a city best enjoyed leisurely. It’s charm grows on you.

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Beautiful Shwedagon Paya

The Shwedagon Paya is most iconic of Yangon. If you’ve seen the film,  “The Lady,” it is the site of Aung San Suu Kyi’s massive rally in 1998. Of course,  that was just a replica as the military junta would go cold first before they would let anyone film there.

I arrived there this afternoon around 5 pm to catch the sunset. There were many many people. When the sun did set and the pagoda was lighted all up, it was breathtakingly beautiful.

Before sunset

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Sunset

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After sunset

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Walking along the Swedagon paya you are treated to sights of people praying praying.
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There are many shrines and quiet corners for solitary respects to the Buddha.
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Saw this group of women quietly seated in front of King Tharabar’s huge bell.
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Of course, one needs a little break from all that praying.
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Practicals
1. Taxi from downtown is 2, 000 k.
2. There are many entrances. One entrance is directly across People’s Park. At each entrance is a counter where you can leave your shoes for a donation of 1, 000 k. Take note, though, as is the case of Myanmar’s temples, you already need to take-off your shoes at the bottom of the steps. Bring them with you to the second level where the shoe counter is. You can also bring a plastic bag for your shoes and bring it with you inside.
3. Foreigners fee is 3, 000 k and includes a free map.
4. There are ATMs at the entrances should you run out of cash shopping for souvenirs at the stalls lining the steps.
5. Best time to go is either early morning or at sundown. Should you go at the latter, stay until the evening (it closes at 10pm) so you can see it all lighted-up.

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Good Morning, Yangon!

I arrived at the Yangon bus station (not sure which one) at 5:30 this morning,  9 hours after I left Bagan.
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The JJ Express bus was as reliable and comfortable as ever. A mini-bus picked me up and other passengers in different hotels around Bagan then brought us to the bus station where 3 buses were waiting. I went to the counter to get my assigned bus and was given Bus No. 1.
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With only three seats a row, there was ample seating space and leg room. I got seat D3 which means row D, 3rd seat which is the solo seat.
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The luggage compartment above the seats was like an airline’s.
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It included a stop around 10:30 pm for dinner and as is always the case with buses in Myanmar, everyone had to get off.

Anyway, I took a cab (yehey for cabs!) to SAT hostel in Lamadaw road. Check-in was still at 2pm so I just dropped my bags and did the Lonely Planet walking tour. Fortunately,  the hostel was walking distance to Sule Paya which is ground zero of the itinerary.  Walking to the pagoda,  I stopped to look at some snacks being peddled. I was asking what they were when middle-aged Chinese guy on his way to the tea-shop beside it cheerily answered my question. He then invited me to join him and two gentlemen seated inside for some tea and snacks.  His treat!

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After that free breakfast, I went on my way. The sights below are in the order of the Lonely Planet walking tour.

Sule Paya

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City Hall

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Former Immigration Department
It’s now a bank.

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I didn’t take any pics of the Immanuel Baptist Church.

High Court

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Mahabandoola Garden

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The sidewalk was closed on the way to Myawaddy Bank and the former Yangon Region Office which was being converted into a hotel. So I took a detour to Merchant Road and saw this lovely building.

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And a nat shrine.

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From a side street I exited to Strand Road and to the Customs House.

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The Yangon Regional Court is one of favorites.

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The massive Port Authority

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The famed Strand Hotel. Sorry, but the other Sarkies Brothers property, the Eastern Oriental Hotel in Georgetown is more beautiful.

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No pictures at the Central Post Office. Along Pansodan are three really nice structures.

Myanmar Agricultural Development Bank

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The Inways Water Development Company

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And my favorite, the Lokanat Gallery Building whose upper floors have become residential quarters.

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Heading back to Mahabandoola Road, I passed these bookstalls.

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I didn’t make it to the Ministers Office as I was hungry. Had this chicken biryani for only about Php 90.

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I also had some stamps made bearing my name spelled out in English and Myanmar script. Had my sisters’ names made too.

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I ended my walking tour at the Bogyoke Aung Sun market.

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