Monday, December 7, 2015

Yangon, Myanmar

We arrived at our hotel in Yangon on November 9, which was the day after Myanmar's historical general elections! I was pretty excited about witnessing a country having truly free and democratic elections for the first time in 50+ years. However, Lauren was nervous there could be demonstrations or protests. At the time Aung San Suu Kyi's party was expected to win, but the results were not known until a few weeks later. (Spoiler alert: Her party did win.)

Everything went fine. There were no protests. A few of our taxi drivers happily chatted with us about the elections and proudly showed us the indelible ink on their fingers. We saw posters of Aung San Suu Kyi around the city, in shops, etc.

I am still shocked at the discovery that despite driving on the right side of the road like most of the world, cars have the steering wheel on the right side. They switched from driving on the left in 1970, but didn't convert many of their vehicles (the government is thinking about it).

Two local customs that we discovered are the fact that many women —and some men as well— have pale yellow marks on their faces: a traditional cosmetic named Thanakha. And it is common for men to wear the longyi, which is a long piece of material tied around the waist.

We went on a walking tour around the downtown area:

Of all the Asian cities we visited, Yangon had the worst traffic congestion.

Sule Pagoda in the background.

Former High Court Building...

...not being maintained, with plants growing on its walls.

In general, this is something we saw a lot in Yangon: buildings with lots of plants growing out of them.

Ministers' Building, former administrative seat of the British, currently abandoned; this is where Aung San Suu Kyi's father was assassinated in 1947.

Street market.

The most important pagoda to visit in Yangon is the Shwedagon Pagoda:

All covered in gold.

Wearing shorts is disrespectful on religious sites, so tourists can rent longyis, which I did.

Goofy-looking elephant bush scuplture in People's Square and Park near the pagoda.

We took a boat to get to the other side of the Yangon river to Dala, to explore the Baungdawgyoke Pagoda and a small town named Twantay:

Our boat.

It was very chaotic and loud on the boat, with many merchants calling out to sell their products.

Pottery makers in Twantay.

Baungdawgyoke Pagoda (Snake Pagoda) between Dala and Twantay —not to be confused with another "Snake Pagoda" in the Mandalay region.

In the pagoda, some snakes sleep on the tree and around the room (zoom in to see).

Something Lauren was not enthusiastic to try :)

Next stop: Bagan, Myanmar!

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