Yangon, Myanmar
January 13th and 14th, 2010

Copyright 2011, all rights reserved, by Bob Frazee

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17 June 2010

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Trying to get information on Burma before we left was difficult. Because travel had been restricted by the government for over 20 years (or more) there were no travel books on Myanmar (Burma). Since returning I have discovered there is much information on the internet. Thus many of the names of places I wrote down on my trip I have been able to find described on the internet. Wikipedia is a good place to start finding out information about Myanmar (Burma). Some of the information may be out of date but the historical data is good as is the descriptions of places we have visited. Thus I often add a link to Wikipedia that the reader can follow for more detailed information. For example, a little known fact is that the military government is moving the Capital from Yangon (Rangoon) to Naypyidaw. We were told very little about this event by our guide as it appears to be somewhat of a closely held secret. It appears that a lot of Burmese names we have grown up with are British concoctions which the people are trying to move away from. Thus Burma is now Myanmar, Rangoon is Yangon, Pagan is Bagan, etc. This makes it difficult to understand the country's history but it is none-the-less exciting.

Because we had all been traveling for three days we were taken to our hotel which was on the shores of Kan Daw Gyi Lake and given the afternoon to nap, rest, or walk about, depending on our own desire. We would meet that evening for a "Welcome to Myanmar dinner."

Naturally we couldn't sleep so we took a walk along the shore of the lake and looked at awe at the Karaweik Bird Barge Restaurant which had been built in the 1970s according to the design of the Royal Barges used by Myanmar kings. The two birds would hold up the pavilion where the king would be seated.

One thing we did notice, however, was the large number of half finished construction projects. 10 and 12 story buildings which were only a cement shell and appeared to have been sitting abandoned for 10 years or so. As we were to learn later this is because of the drying up of capital after the international boycott of the military dictatorship. I frequently had the feeling that the fact we were in Myanmar is an indication that the leadership is trying to open up to the rest of the world.

Practicing my Yoga
before heading out
for the day

Thai Boxing is very popular

The Shwedagon (Golden) Pagoda

Our first stop was to visit the
Shwedagon [Golden] Pagoda. I wasn't
prepared for what I was about to learn

The Pagoda is in reality a mound to bury
Buddhist relics. It is not a building
That you can enter.

The Pagoda is surrounded by a
complex of alcoves with statues
of the Buddha and other shrines

Every 10 years to dome is recovered with gold leaf

Every alcove had a statue of
the Buddha with people praying

The faithful seek blessings
from the Monks

Monks are not allowed to
handle gold or silver so any
donation of money had to be
placed in an envelope to be
placed in a bowl.

I called this one "Having lunch with the Buddha"

There were "saffron" robed Monks
at every alcove

There is a Monk who knows the day
of week for every date in history. This
is important so you can find
the statue that represents your
birth day and pour cooling waters
over the Buddha to wish for a peaceful
life. Cool water symbolically quenches
the fires of suffering.

If you were childless, or wanted a
son you gave flowers to a celestial
figure to pray for sons or children.
A mixture of Buddhist, Nat, or Hindu
statues is not uncommon at a Pagoda.

This is one place they don't frown of photographs

Some places were more popular than others
but they all had the same purpose

It was remarkable how many places there were
to pray to the Buddha. You just find your spot
and seek your blessings.

Flowers are offered in gratitude for Lord
Buddha's teachings.
Just as flowers fade we learn that
nothing in life is permanent and enables the
faithful to face uncertainties with serenity
and composure.

Not all Buddha's are seated. The reclining Buddha
is also popular. Here the Buddha is just resting.

Not all monks are in "saffron" robes
Generally you can tell what country a
monk is from by the color of his robes,
and I forgot to ask what this color
means. And he wears a leather hat.

As I mentioned, mixing Buddhist and Hindu
symbols is acceptable. Here a Garuda eats
a Naga, starting at the tail.

Legend says that a prince once killed his father who
was a lion,, and in remorse placed lion figures
at pagodas so all pilgrims would approach the
magnificent creatures with a sense of piety.

As the sun get higher in the sky the robe
that may cover the shoulders for warmth in the
morning becomes a hat for shade in the afternoon.

It is customary to make an offering of the
sweet smelling jasmine flowers to a Buddha. They can
be bought from the local flower salesman.

A husband and wife bring flowers for Buddha

Not everyone can be a monk but everyone
and try to "make merit". Such an event
should not go unnoticed so you can ring
the bell, three times, to announce to the
world that you have made merit. Not a bad idea!

One way to make merit is construct an alcove
with a golden statute of Buddha

There are bells everywhere for you to announce that
you have made merit. Also monks to seek their blessing

In Mynmar Pagoda grounds are holy and
we must remove our shoes and socks.

It is impossible to show all the scenes and events taking place at the pagoda. We will see many more so be patient, or better yet, plan a trip to Myanmar.

Downtown Yangon

(17 June 2010)

Downtown Yangon we see a lot of
buildings left over from the "imperial
colonial period. This is the
Rowe and Co bulding - "the place" to shop

The Burmese hated the British occupation
so much they invited the Japanese in before
WWII. The Japanese were very cruel. There
are still damaged buildings in the middle of town

Steet scenes give you an
idea of a typical day. Notice
how few cars there are.

Hand carts are still a very
common way to transport goods.

Buddhism is an overwhelming force
in society. Sending your children to
the monastery for a free education is
very common. Children honor their
parents and grandparents by spending
some time as a Monk. Here a child, maybe
12 years of age, is on the street with his
alms bowl for food is a common sight.

Busy market scene

Shopping for food is a daily affair.
Just bring your produce to the city,
throw down a tarp, spread the fresh
vegitables and fruit out and you have
started a street market.

See what I mean?
Fresh watermelon, not cold but juicy.

Not many cars, some bikes. Most people
get around taking the "bus" a converted
pickup truck. Just yell when you want off.

Lots of old apartment buildings that
look like they haven't been repaired
since WWII

Very little air conditioning here
although it is hot and humid. Just
open the windows and balcony doors.

18 June 2010

The Bo Gyoke Aung San Market

Once called Scott's Market when built in 1926.

A unique indoor Oriental Bazaar with tiny stalls
selling furniture, jewelery, crafts...

colorful fabrics to make a beach cover-up

Paper umbrellas to shaded you from the sun

food from local vendor

local farmers set up food stalls
on the street outside the market

Lots of local color

People visit and sell their product

Are you looking for a puppy?

Fresh fruit, but be careful, not all
fruit tastes like oranges or apples.

(posted 16 July 2010)

The Chinese Street Market

The Chinese street markets differ from the local markets which sell fresh vegetables, fruit, and flowers in that they are more like a super market with everything from "soup to nuts". Fresh produce, poultry, meats, fish, spices, pickled almost anything (1000 year eggs anyone?) and all sorts of exotic fruit like star fruit, dragon fruit, Jackfruit, Mangosteen, and the worst tasting fruit in the world, Durian which is described on the above web page as follows: My description is as follows: Durian is terrible, it has the consistency of custard but tastes like garlic, (yuck!! but don't take my word for it, give it a try.) As one exotic fruit grower in Australia once told me, "Bob, not all fruit tastes like apples and oranges.)

Fresh fish is available in
Chinese markets

Fruit and vegetables are always availabe

Dried fish

Fresh flowers for the Buddha or home

Of course, fresh vegetables
Women bring their produce to the
narrow street markets carried on
a basket or tray on their heads.
No cars or trucks can navigate these
narrow pathways.

Fresh fish caught in the river this morning

Fresh poultry and eggs of any size
and age - 1000 year eggs available

Want meat instead, just walk down
the street to the butcher

Not everyone has an elaborate stand,
just bring your produce and put it out for sale.

Children always give us smiles

Spices and pickled fish.

Sell your vegetables by walking
up an down the street

A father proudly shows his son

If you are hungry you can
stop for a hot meal.

Here's your last chance to pick
up some exotic fruit . . .

It really is impossible to show all the great market photographs I have. I really found Myanmar to be an enchanting place and highly recommend it to anyone considering traveling in that part of the world.

(posted 2 August 2010)

We headed to the port on the Yangon River at the Wardan Jetty. The cost of living in Yangon is very high and as a result most of the street merchants we had been visiting live across the river in Dala Township. They take the boat ferry across the river every day - probably not more than a 10 minute trip by motorboat at the cost of 10 cents. The river at this point is deep enough for ocean going vessels and thus a logical place for a seafaring nation like Great Britian to set up a new capital.

The Wardan Jetty is full of ocean going
frighters and water taxies

Living in Yangon is expensive, land is
cheaper across the river and the taxi
fare is only 10 cents.

When your taxi is empty you call
out for more passengers

Kids like their pictures taken even though
the waterfront appears to be total chaos.

Young boys sit in the front of the taxi
and when it gets close to shore they jump
onto the cement jetty and pull the boat up,
help passengers off and call for new customers

Everyone lives on the the other side.

Boats heading back to the other side

Sometimes the river serves as your
bathtub as well as a highway.

When you get off the boat there is another
form of cheap transportation

Loading the bike with more than one
passenger reduces the individual cost.

(posted 5 August 2010)

Down at the waterfront ocean going
freighters are loaded and unloaded
by hand. They carry one sack from shore
to the ship and another from the ship
to shore.

If you get paid per sack you may carry two sacks each way.

During the summer while going to Hamline Univ
I worked for the Renville county highway
department. One summer we unloaded a railroad
car filled with salt in 50 lb bags. Unloading that
car was probably the hardest work I ever cared to do
and I know that one day project was more than enough
for a lifetime. None of us could do it now.

Carrying cargo to/from the ship means you stay to the right.

The taxies are all lined up along
the wharf to ferry passengers.

Anytime you want a rest or some
relaxation you can take time to
play a game. The board is drawn
on the street and bottle caps serve
as pieces

Anywhere there are men working there
are women setting up a "sandwich shop".
Rice, bread, noodles and lots of sauces.

Not everyone loads sacks of rice,
sometimes it is fresh vegetables.
Maybe not so heavy but more bulk

Lunch stands come in all shapes and sizes

Besides small taxies to just cross the
river there are larger ferries for
longer journeys down river.

I like hot spicy foods and the
choices looked great and I wished I
could have tried just one delicacy.

Of course, something to drink, not
necessarily cool, goes with a spicy meal

Get on the ferry early and set up your
vending station in a choice spot.

Mothers everywhere love to show
off their children. Here was the
first time we noticed the face
makeup which is so common in Burma

The makeup is worn by women and children

Passengers throughout the world stand
at ship's edge to watch the flurry of
activity as the boat is being loaded.

As we are literally pulled away from
this wonderful area we look to the west
and watch the sun set over the Yangon River

At the end of our first full day in Myanmar
we have our welcoming dinner in a lovely
restaurant looking down at the lighted
Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon. Needless
to say, I doubt many local people ever get
to see this sight or eat here.

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(Editor's note, 5 August 2010: This page is still under construction so come back again.)

For more information about our travels write toBelli.

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