Recent PostsBangkok-The Venice of Asia Surprising, Amazing, Mystical Bagan Ancient Burma-First Stop Yangon, Myanmar Asia Unplugged-First stop Hong Kong Day 26-28- Estancia El Umbu de Areco-Argentina Pampas Day 23-25 Buenos Aries Day 22- Sailing down the Beagle Channel Days 20-21 The Drake Passage and Ushuaia Day 19-Hannah Point on Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands Day 18-Lemaire Channel, Port Lockroy and Neko Harbour
Ancient Burma-First Stop Yangon, Myanmar
From Hong Kong, we fly to Yangon, Myanmar, via a short stop in Bangkok--we'll go back to Bangkok later.
Yangon is the old Rangoon of the colonial British Burma days and has just opened to American tourists--a beautiful place. We stayed at the old British Governor's Residence Hotel--still very colonial, tucked back in the embassy section of the city. It had been the capital of the country. In 2005 the capital was moved to Naypyidaw, new city still under construction, many miles away because the government determined the Yangon infrastructure "beyond repair." (Not a very popular decision.)
Full of beautiful tropical flowers. Yellow amaryllis blossoms jumpEd out at us. We had our first look at a hanging lobster claw,
And a blossoming cast-iron plant. I must have killed a hundred of these things--I had no idea they could be so beautiful if they had more love.
A woman played a traditional Burmese instrument at breakfast each morning. The ancient Burmese arched harp- saung gauk-is the national musical instrument.
First stop was the Sule Pagoda where we saw a procession of monks in their deep red robes walking in front of examples of colonial architecture.
In the heart of the city, the pagoda--all gold leaf--is over 2500 years old.
As we enter the pagoda, we are stooped by a woman with a basket of wren-like birds. We pay to free wrens --a good deed in front of the Sule Pagoda. Not sure of the karma in store the for people who captured these little guys.
Inside we take off our shoes and walk the parameter of the pagoda and see a woman visiting the stupa marking the day of the week she was born.
Eight stupas (small buildings that only hold an image) surround the main pagoda (a building large enough to enter)--the day week you are born is very important here. Wednesday, for some reason, is divided into two stupas.... There is a simple temple etiquette--remove shoes, wear modest shirts, no camisoles, and skirts or pants must be below the knee.
And we get a close-up of a woman with thanaka cosmetic face paint. Most women wear this paste, made from a bark, to protect their skin.
From there we go to Bogyoke (General) Aung San or Scott’s Market with all sorts of wonderful things. This is a huge bazaar with art, fabric, antiques, jewelry and handicrafts. Built in 1926, it was re-named after the general who led the fight for Burmese independence from British rule. He was also the father of Aung San Suu Kyi.
This was where we bought our traditional Burmese Longyis--a long skirt tucked at the waist. More on that later.... Men also wear longyis but just tie them in front. Much cooler than pants, we can see why they are so popular. (Young people often copy the western dress and wear Jeans when they go out.) Our guide wears a longyi as we walk through the market.
A man sharpens knives on the sidewalk.
One vendor sells traditional colorful Burmese jelled sweets
And these circular baskets are filled with fried crickets...
There's fresh produce and meats--everyone buys their food for the day. Most have refrigerators, they just prefer fresh food straight from the farmers. The women wear thanakha paste to protect their faces from the sun. (They all have beautiful skin so it seems to work.)
After lunch we have a traditional green tea salad. This is a traditional Mynanmar dessert and welcoming food for guests. It's made of pickled green tea and sesame oil, with crisp fried garlic, peppers and peanuts, toasted sesame, crushed dried shrimp, and preserved shredded ginger. It's quit good. We are beginning to see the traditional desserts are not be the "sweets" we are used to. Much more healthy desserts, often not very sugary.
After lunch we walk down an alley off Maha Bandoola Street in Chinatown, where we watch young men in hiked up longyis and shorts play the traditional Myanmar sport of Chinlon. Also known as cane ball, it is played with a woven rattan ball and combines sport and dance in a team sport without competition. There are no opposing teams. The focus is not on winning or loosing, but on how beautifully one plays the game.
We are just in time for the Chinatown celebration to the Fat Buddha--the whole country is preparing for a big Festival of Lights on the 19th. This celebrates the first full moon after the summer monsoons.
A mother encourages her baby to tell us "Nee hao," Chinese for "Hello. We came at a great time!
As we walk, we notice car steering wheels are still on the "passenger" side--a remnant of colonial Burma. They used to drive on the left, like the UK. After independence they began driving on the right...but continue to use cars with the steering wheel in the old position.
Next we ride a bicycle-pedicab called a trishaw through the traffic on the way to the Strand Hotel. What a kick!
Afternoon tea at the historic Strand Hotel was a nice cool break...
As we headed to the Shwedagon Pagoda.
This is the most sacred spot in the country, containing relic hairs of Buddha. The gilded pagoda and stupa is 2600 years old and dominates the skyline of the city. It is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda for the Burmese with relics of the past four Buddhas enshrined as well. The tree at the entrance is said to be from the tree under which Buddha received his enlightenment.
The pagoda is magnificent at night.
We see our first female monks here. They have shaved heads and look much like their male counterparts, except for their pink robes.
The next day we rode the Yangon River ferry to the city of Dalla on the other side of the Yangon River because we asked to go to an orphanage.
And take another trishaw ride to one of the few orphanages in the country.
We asked to see a facility that really took care of the children. We learned that many orphanages in SE Asia set themselves up as tourist attractions. The children are put on the street when they reach their teens--and nothing good can come of that. Unfortunately, this one has grown to 350 children. Monks care for small children through high school. The girls live with families because it is a male monastery. The monks often get them into trades and watch over them until they marry. We brought candy for the children but we left currency with the monks.
On the way back to the ferry we stop at a candle "factory." Everything is by hand. They're very busy filling orders preparing for the upcoming Festival of Lights.
On the ferry back to Yangon, we are treated to a beautiful sunset over the Yangon River.
Tomorrow we head north to the city of Began--a place beyond description! Wait until you see the pictures.
No comments posted.