First Time in Myanmar

As soon as the plane landed at the Yangon International Airport, my heart skipped and got excited for the sights and colours of Myanmar. We stayed at one of the airports of Bangkok to wait for our departure time. Imagine the lack of sleep and haggardness in my system. But I did not mind my dishevelled hair and slightly reddened eyes. I was more enthusiastic with the temples of Bagan.

Since commuting is not really a thing in Yangon, I looked for cab operators, bought a ticket and proceeded to the dispatcher with my stub on my hand. Then we were guided to the waiting cab of a young Burmese guy. While walking to his taxi, he tried to start a conversation. Though his English is not as good as my broken English, we can totally understand each other. We dealt with the fare and pegged it at 7000 kyats (roughly equivalent to 7 US$).

I immediately told him to go straight to the Shwedagon Pagoda. Totally forgot about breakfast! Darn. Can’t get out of that habit of skipping meals just for the sake of sightseeing. While on the road, he told me that his favourite song is A Thousand Years by Christina Perri. He knows about the movie Twilight. He also shared a Burmese song. And when I asked him about the movie version of the life of revolutionary leader Aung San Kye, he told me that he likes it. He even commended the performance of Michelle Yeoh and how she was rightly chosen by the producers.

The Shwedagon Pagoda is a “gilded stupa dominating the skyline of Yangon at the height of 99 metres (325 ft). It is considered as the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar because it contains relics such as the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and eight strands of hair from the head of Gautama.” (Wikipedia)

The sight of the huge leogryps (lion figures) at the entrance of the temple complex is astonishing. When you enter the temple or any sacred place in Myanmar, please do not forget to remove your shoes and SOCKS. Always wear appropriate clothes. Educate yourself with the customs of Myanmar.

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What is really amazing with the temple complex of Shwedagon is the number of smaller temples. There are temples assigned per day of the week. And there are buildings also built for tourism purposes. There are Buddhas with signages for foreign visitors. There are also big gongs. The temples are GOLDEN.

If you want to venture out into the streets of Yangon, then equip yourself with a map and find the Aung San Bogyoke market. You can find your favourite souvenir items here, may that be an artwork, fridge magnet, jewelry or fabric.

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Please remember that the names of streets and places in maps are not pronounced like you normally pronounce names in English. I had a first-hand experience with this when I was looking for the Bogyoke market. I was pronouncing it as Bog-yo-ke. Some Burmese, unfortunately, cannot read Romanised names yet.

My take-home lesson and discoveries from wandering in Yangon? The monks in maroon robes roam the city without any footwear (the novices have slippers). The taxi drivers do not take advantage of you as a foreigner, unlike the tuktuk drivers who charge you ridiculously high fare for a ride. The local people are gentle and kind. I had better experience with the Burmese than the Vietnamese, and even much, much, much better than with the Thais.

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