Arrived in Yangon, Myanmar

May 2, 2012
I arrived in Myanmar yesterday afternoon, where I was met by my guide, Frankie (real name Nyi Nyi). I was introduced to Nyi Nyi by my friend, Sue, in Vietnam. He is a wonderful person, and according to Wanderlust Magazine, one of the top ten guides in the world!

After checking into my hotel, we wandered over to the Sule Pagoda…

There are some religious customs in Myanmar which are practiced, even though they do not represent the true Buddhist religion. For example, many people believe that they need a special guardian….

…to protect them from the evil spirits (or “nats”). They bring offerings to this guardian of bananas and coconuts, and various ornaments to win his favor. Another tradition is to say prayers to the guardian who represents the day of the week on which you were born, and to perform certain rituals to ensure your safety. Each day of the week is represented by a certain animal…for me, born on Friday, it is the guinea pig, which means someone who is always learning and teaching (sounds pretty appropriate for me, huh?). The pagoda is a place where people meet to rest, have a bite to eat, read the paper, gossip about boys, etc. This pagoda was used by the British to map out the city of Yangon (the British spelled it Rangoon), so everything is referred to with respect to how far away it is from this pagoda.

The country of Myanmar is 86% Buddhist. But within close proximity to the Sule Pagoda, other religions of Myanmar are represented, by a mosque…

…a baptist church….

…and there is also a synagogue close by.

This magnificent building houses the City Hall. You can’t really see it in my photo, but it is actually a lavender color! I am not sure of the significance of the color.

Further along, we ran into this building…it is the only building which was bombed during World War II, and it remains as is with the bombed out portion of the building…I.e., to the right of this dome, there is no longer any of the building remaining.

We also visited an art gallery, currently housing an exhibit with paintings of local art students. The gallery building itself had been donated by someone upon his death to serve as a rotating art gallery, but there was no money left for maintenance of the building, which is now in very poor condition, and is of great concern to the government as to the safety issues surrounding the building. But the building serves a real need of the art community, and so poses quite a dilemma. There are many historic buildings throughout the area…

…apparently the largest concentration of British architecture in Asia, most of which are in great need of repair. My concern is that, as businesses are now scrambling to locate here due to the recent more “open” stance of the government, the cost to restore many of these buildings will be seen as prohibitive, and they may not survive.

We passed by a book store which specializes in books about Burma (the British name for this county). I’m hoping I’ll get a chance to stop by there another time, as I have had trouble finding books about this country in the US.

We then stopped down by the Yangon River. We watched these water taxis as they took local people across the river, struggling to maintain course as the river has an extremely strong current as it rushes to empty into the Indian ocean.

I returned to my hotel after an early dinner, and crashed early, and I am now up and ready to spend another day exploring this culturally rich city, on the very day that Aung San Suu Kyi (or “the Lady,” as she is known here) takes office in Parliament with other members of her party, the National League for Democracy.

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Location:Yuzana Garden Hotel

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