TRADERS HOTEL YANGON
My flight doesn’t depart until 1:00 tonight (tomorrow morning, technically), giving me 17 hours to kill in Yangon today. Not an easy task.
STREETS OF YANGON
Although I found major Yangon roads around the Traders Hotel in the Central Business District void of appeal yesterday, the numbered streets connecting them fascinate me today. I walk their lengths freely, brushing against no one and encountering very few cars. These alleyways are so rundown (mildew and mold, flaking and fading paint, tangles of telephone wires and a cancer of satellite dishes) yet occasionally uplifting (colorful bunches of flowers, pinwheels turning, pops of color and children leaning over their balconies expectantly). Interesting contradictions. I’ve never been to Havana, but I’m reminded of Havana.
SEIN YAUNG CHI PAGODA
Walking up Shwedagon Pagoda Road from the Central Business District to the Shwedagon Pagoda, I walk past the Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda, then double-back for it. What’s my rush?
Tiled in green, mirrored scales reflecting the sunlight on this beautiful day, the building’s a stunner. The glass motif extends to the interior, where big, medium and thousands of small Buddhas maintain watchful eyes. I share the space with few worshippers and fellow tourists: it’s quite peaceful. I’ve never seen a structure remotely like the Sein Yaung Chi Pagoda, and I’m surprised, but not disappointed, that it doesn’t receive more press.
I pay the entrance fee, pull my skirt down so the hem hits below my knees (as instructed), remove my shoes and climb the steps to the Shwedagon Temple.
According to the Shwedagon Pagoda website, the 2,500 years old wonder of the religious world enshrines strands of Buddha’s hair and other holy relics. The Shwedagon Pagoda, it says, is the most sacred Buddhist site of the people of the Union of Myanmar. It stands close to 360 feet, is covered with hundreds of gold plates and topped with 4531 diamonds; the largest of which is a 72 carats.
The walk from Shwedagon Pagoda to the Central Railway Station takes less than a half-hour. I knew from doing my homework to bring a passport (which no one asks for) and a $1 bill to the station master’s office on platform 7. I’m one of about a dozen tourists — all of whom are equipped with better cameras than a stupid iPhone — who have gathered to take the three-hour journey encircling Yangon.
On the other hand, my iPhone plays podcasts while their fancy cameras do not. I happily listen to The Moth to stimulate my mind and observe everyday (authentic!) Myanmar life up close while still comfortably removed from it.
I see people showering, farming, playing, commuting, shopping, gathering littered plastic bags by the thousands, and often just being lost in thought. The ride beats a matinee.
Great day! I’m thankful American Airlines forced me to get to know Yangon.