Yangon, formerly known as Rangoon during the British occupation after the Anglo-Burmese war in 1852, is a bustling, colorful and sensory overload shock to the system. We arrived into the bus station after a four hour journey from Kinpun. We ducked behind the curtains of the bus so as to try and escape the sight of the wolf pack taxi drivers that pounce on you before you’re hardly off the transit. It’s too late, we’ve been spotted. Our first quote was double what the guide book advised us to be reasonable so we kept walking as these men are still hounding us trying to beat us to submission. I make a counter offer equally as ridiculous to them to let them know this isn’t my first rodeo.
We walked just a bit farther to find taxi drivers sitting in their cars, not hounding people and ask for the price we think is fair. The fish bites, and we hop in as the alpha wolf shouts what sounds like a threat to the guy in our car who accepted our offer. Next stop is downtown Yangon, about a 40 minute taxi for 7,000 kyat.
We walk around the area we get dropped and check out several rooms, the last place we walk into we are quoted a high rate because they only have triple rooms left. The manager sees we are not able to pay that amount and asks what we are able to afford. We quote him what the quote from the last place was that was in our price range and we tell him we may be here for a significant amount of time. He agrees to match the price and we have a clean air con room with a private bathroom, comfy bed and a balcony right outside our door. Oh, and breakfast is included. Woo hoo! The force is strong with these two.
We chose to stay in the downtown area to be close to the Embassy(originally China but our plans have changed to India) as well as the three main pagodas and many options for restaurants, beer stations, markets and getting swallowed up by a hole in the sidewalk. That is every city we’ve been to so far though. I joke that Shel Silverstein was inspired to write, Where the Sidewalk Ends, after visiting Myanmar.
The three main pagodas we visited are the Botataung, Sule, and Shwedagon. The Botataung and Sule are about the same size and are 4,000 kyat to visit per person. However the Botataung is hollow inside and you can walk through the maze of gold leaf encrusted walls that encircle a center enclosed room encasing a hair relic of the Buddah. Both of these can be visited with a short time span. You can easily explore them in 1-2 hours.
The Shwedagon is the largest of the three with the central stupa standing tall at 325 feet. It is guilded in 27 metric tons of gold leaf and has carats upon carats of fine gems encrusted in the top vane portion. Those can only be viewed in photographs. It’s costs 8,000 kyat per person to enter this pagoda and you could easily spend hours there walking around taking it all in. If you are foreign a Burmese person may approach you and ask to take a photo with you. Now you know how it officially feels to be a spectacle if you haven’t had enough people gawk at you already.
Across from the pagoda is the People’s Park, a half assed work in progress of a green space/amusement park. At only 300 kyat to enter, it’s worth a walk around. You can also see the Shwedagon Stupa rise above it all from this park as well as teeny bopper couples on every shady bench professing their love to each other and making out. If you’re jonesing for a real coffee or soft serve ice cream/frozen yogurt there’s a mall that is the entrance to the park that you can find those things at an inflated price(2,000-3,500 kyat).
Today marks one week of our arrival here in Yangon. Tomorrow we go back to the India Embassy to collect our Passports/India Visa and add our fingerprints to their collection. We then will make our way to the MTT office to finalize our permit application and be on our way creeping slowly toward the Bagan Archaeological Zone.
Im pleased to note that we will be spending the holiday in some podunk town in the middle of nowhere eating avocados with a spoon, apple bananas (both Hawaii staples)and a few a nibs of Belgian chocolate I smuggled here from America. I’m hoping we’ll find a plate of tea leaf salad to round out the feast. It’s my new favorite traditional Burmese dish. From us to you, Happy Festivus from Buzzing Travelers!