Yangon is the capital of Myanmar. Whilst it is a bustling city, it kind of looks and feels a bit like it is 40 years behind the times. It’s hard to put a finger on it exactly. Perhaps it’s the concrete buildings, the lack of internet and phone access or just the way everything is just a bit dated. But to me Yangon is delightfully kitsch. Yes there’s nothing wrong with being a little dated, it’s actually kind of nice to see a capital city that isn’t trying too hard to be hi-tech.

Along with the feel, some of the sights of the town are also a little bit daggy. For example, Kandawgyi Lake is a pretty lake near the centre of town where all the locals visit to just relax or eat at one of the food stalls there. It’s quiet, it’s peaceful and it feels well.. just a bit daggy. It tries hard to be a special place, but just doesn’t quite get there.. but to me that’s part of its charm.

The biggest attraction in Yangon is the Shwedagon Pagoda. It is one of the largest pagodas in the world. The huge gold pagoda is just beautiful.

One of the odd things about it, is the special entrance for foreign tourists. It has a lift which takes the tourists up to the main level of the Pagoda. I guess it’s meant to be a way to make it easier for the tourists, but in my opinion it means that many bypass part of the experience of this gorgeous place. I chose to wander up the stairs instead, while it is lined with souvenir stalls, there are some interesting murals on the roof and a great crocodile sculpture working it’s way up the bannister.

Shwedagon Pagoda
Shwedagon Pagoda

Once you enter the complex, it is just amazing. The main pagoda takes all the attention, glistening gold in the sun. Around the complex are numerous other small temples and places of worship. One is a replica of the Mahabodhi temple in Bihar. Another houses what is believed to be a sacred hair from Buddha’s head, and another that is believed to have once housed Buddha’s sacred tooth relic which is now cared for in Kandy in Sri Lanka.

Around the Pagoda, there are corners representing each day of the week. People pray and give blessings at the day they were born. I was born on a Friday, so I stopped for a moment and reflected there.

The saddest part of the complex has to be the ATM that is located in two different parts of the temple. I understand that there is a move to be tourist friendly, but in my opinion putting an ATM in the middle of a temple is just plain tacky.

Another site worth seeing in Yangon is the Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda, which has a huge reclining Buddha.

Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda
Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda

I spent a day just wandering around the town, which was lovely. Checking out the market, visiting small modern art galleries and just getting the feel of this capital city. I liked Yangon, it felt a lot more friendly and easier to get around than Mandalay. Somewhere certainly worth spending a day or two.

A Step Back in Time: Yangon
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