Go to Razzle Dazzle welcome page. Myanmar (Burma)

Yangon (Rangoon)

Burma photo.

July, 2004

Burma photo.
1. Sule Pagoda
Burma photo.
2. Delivering ice
Burma photo.
3. Reclining Buddha
Burma photo.
4. Advertising
nul. nul.

We traveled from Mandalay to Yangon (or Rangoon) on the night sleeper train, which was an exhausting experience. We arrived in Yangon about 8:00 in the morning, had breakfast, and went to bed. We didn't do any sightseeing until the next day. We stayed at the May Shan Guest House, which is just a few meters away from the Sule Pagoda, at the heart of Yangon. (Also see photo #1, at left, and the panorama, above). We liked the guesthouse, although it was much more expensive than the places we stayed in Thailand.

The next day, we hired a taxi and set off to see the area. We were tired of the touts (erstwhile guides and salespeople) who accosted us at all the tourist sites, and on the streets. So we chose to drive out into the countryside to see the traditional rural life of Burma. On our way out of the city, we passed through a local market. Like markets all over asia, the place was teeming with people going about the business of buying and selling all sorts of products. Without reliable refrigeration, the fresh meats and fish are kept cool with ice (photo #2). Although we have been in many similar markets, there is always something new to see, for example these banana stalks. While we were there, our driver bought a garland of flowers to hang from the rear-view mirror — for good luck. Here is Jamie crossing the street to return to our car.

We did see some of the regular tourist sites, including a visit to the magnificant Shwedagon Pagoda, and the massive reclining Buddha at Chauk Htat Kyi (photo #3). The Buddha is relatively new, a replacement for an earlier statue that was in disrepair. The image is surprisingly effeminate. Here are closer views of the eyes and feet. Finally, we visited the Nationalities Village, with examples of homes, tools, and crafts representing each of Burma's 14 ethnic groups. It was not listed in our guide book, and the driver had to ask directions to find it. Not surprisingly, we were the only foreign visitors. We did meet a number of Burmese, including docents in native costume who explained the exhibits. Some of them spoke a little English.

During our travels, we saw many new and unusual things. For example, there were many small trucks fitted out with loudspeakers traveling the streets and roads advertising products or soliciting donations to temples. We even saw one trishaw equipped with a giant loudspeaker that was powered by a car battery under the passenger seat (photo #4). On the streets we saw vendors preparing cold drinks by pouring water over a chunk of ice. At night, we heard a bell sounding each hour. We found the bell the next morning, an old fire extinguisher body mounted in front of the fire station. They rang the bell as a service to people without watches or clocks, and to reassure the neighbors that the firemen were awake.

The government of Myanmar is a military dictatorship which tries hard to control the information available to its people. Although internet service is available, there are fire walls which prevent access to many subversive sites, like yahoo and hotmail. We were therefore surprised to see the huge number of satellite dishes that cover the roofs of buildings throughout Yangon. News channels like the BBC were available to anyone with a dish.

After a total of 10 days in Myanmar, we flew back to Thailand. Our experiences were a mix of wonderful and terrible. Transportation is slow and inefficient. Actually, it's awful. We spent perhaps half of our time traveling, or recovering from our travels. We would have been better off spending the money to fly. The people we met at the various tourist locations were rude and exhausting. But most Burmese are friendly and polite. They are eager to practice their English, seem to feel honored to have a foreigner take an interest in them, and love to have their picture taken. We had a wonderful time (at times), but seldom felt really at ease during our visit. We are happy that we took the trouble to visit Myanmar, but are unlikely to return.


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Jim and Jamie Richter, http://gotouring.com/razzledazzle/
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Created 7/2004. All text & photos are © 2004 Jim Richter.