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Follow her as she prepares and partakes the "bread for the stomach" in http://beforesixdiet.blogspot.com/ . And while you are full at it, she offers you the "bread for the soul" in her travels by foot and by thoughts in http://footandfire.blogspot.com/ Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Myanmar: My Travel Notes on Yangon (Part 1)


It took me a year to prepare for my summer vacation with seven other friends at this remote culture-rich ancient country. I have nothing but search engines, and backpacker's hotel are hard to find because Yangon is surrounded by five-star hotels which maintain topnotch websites. Hmmm, is this a remote country? I suspect that it is not.

As months went by, when the Mayanmarese leader forged an agreement with our president to make the travel among Filipinos in Myanmar visa-free, I was elated; I saved some dollar notes and some expense in going to the capital, Manila (This eliminated the Yangon airport exit fee of crisp ten dollars too!).

One of some interesting buildings in Yangon.

Upon arriving at the airport, we passed by the immigartion officer's counter and I observed that the Myanmarese greeters outside are visible. They reminded me of our close-family ties too. These greeters must have abound perhaps because of the upcoming Thinyan festival, their New year festivity which is primarily celebrated by splashing water all over for symbolic cleansing. This celebration is like San Juan in the Philippines but for entirely different reasons, the former is for cleansing of the misdeeds in the current year inorder to usher the new year with a clean soul and the latter is for the Christian celebration of the baptism of St. John The Baptist. The common tie is that both are spiritual celebrations.


One of some interesting buildings in Yangon.

With the big, clean and impressive airport, I once more wondered whether this is really a remote country. We had a delayed flight but the free airport pick up ride from a local budget hotel waited for us with no additional charge despite the evident approach of midnight. As we headed the hotel, my head turned left and right after seeing consistently big buildings. Despite the jet-lag and hunger, I still remember that I took time to wonder whether Myanmar is really a remote country. I slowly decided that it is not.

In the morning, we took a walk and we realized we passed by hospitals, hotels, corporate buildings, and residential apartments. The trashes are everywhere as expected from any bustling capital city and everyone, male or female, is wearing their longyi (long skirt) and their Thanaka sunscreen. There are temples with Buddhist Hti design and temples with Hindu design. The people I find in the locality are either slim, of regular height and brown-skinned or darker like Indians. There are many streetfoods too, ranging from cold desserts to prunes and some fried stuffs. In the evening, we went out-of-town to Bagan and Mandalay until we returned to resume our exploration of Yangon.



One of some interesting buildings in Yangon.

On our return, we went to the Shwedagon Pagoda, a pagoda also known as the Golden Pagoda or Great Dagon Pagoda is with very impressive crown or umbrella called Hti. It is a fact that this pagoda began as 8.2 meters and today, it stands close to 110 meters and is covered with hundreds of gold plates, with the lower stupa plated with 8,688 solid gold bars and the upper part with another 13,153. The the top of the stupa is encrusted with 5448 diamonds, 2317 rubies, sapphires and other gems; the largest of which is a 72 carat diamond as well as 1065 golden bells.

The Shwedagon Pagoda with pilgrims.

***

On our next night, we went looking for dinner and we ended up eating fruits of melon, honeydew, watermelon and pineapple and drinking freshly-squeezed sugarcane juice. We passed by many food stalls. We reached the Sule Pagoda but we did not go inside but rather contented ourselves taking its picture from the outside.


The sliced fruit vendor in the night market stalls 
set up along the major road of Yangon.

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The Sule Pagoda

Myanmarese legend has it that the site where the Sule Pagoda is standing was once the home of a powerful nat or spirit named Sularata or the Sule nat. The king of the nats, Sakka, wished to help the legendary king Okkalap build a shrine for the Buddha's sacred hair-relic on the same site where three previous Buddhas had buried sacred relics in past ages. Unfortunately, these happened so long ago that not even Sakka knew where the relics were exactly buried. However, the Sule nat, who was so old that his eyelids had to be propped up with trees in order for him to stay awake, had witnessed the great event. The gods, Nats and humans of the court of Okkalapa therefore gathered around the Sule Ogre and asked him the location, which he eventually remembered.

Nothing in Sule Pagoda is older than a little more century old but this pagoda is best remembered as the center of Yangon in terms of physical location, politics and ideology.

This must be the City Hall. They set up a stage in front of this building for celebrities 
to wow the crowd in connection with the Thingyan festival (New Year).


That night, when circled the pagoda and found Maha Bandula Park or Maha Bandula Garden crowded with merry-goers, still in continuation of the 5-day Thingyan celebration. The park has some nice fountains that refreshingly misted us and they put up a stage for singers to entertain everyone in what I can only surmise as the Yangon City Hall. The High Court of Yangon is also located just around this park. Since, it is nighttime, we had limited photos but with daylight, I believe the buildings around are interesting photographic subject. This park is named after General Maha Bandula who fought against the British in the First Anglo-Burmese War in 1824–1826, and includes the Independence Monument, an obelisk in commemoration of Burmese independence from the British in 1948.

The good catch from the river, I suppose.

*** 

Some green vegetables.

***

Fact Source:
Wikipedia, Renown-travel.com, and Shwedagonpagoda.com
  
To be continued....