I felt the excited energy that runs through me everytime we enter a new country. The setting sun and pounding rain didn’t seem to slow down the bustling streets of Yangon. We were entering the wet season, but the rain was providing little relief from the humidity. I put on my raincoat and stood out like a sore thumb. It was way too hot to wrap yourself in rubber and we quickly bought a cheap umbrella. As we tried half-heartedly to stay dry we were floored by the many different faces of Yangon. Burmans, South Asian & Indian, as well as large groups of Chinese occupy the downtown neighbourhoods. Here’s a brief summary of a very complicated history.
So I say this a lot, but Myanmar is really unlike anywhere I’ve been before. The men wear longyis (sarong-like wraps), the women and children are adorned with a white paste called thanaka, and everyone is chewing and spitting betel nut on the sidewalk before flashing you a red-toothed smile. Most of the buildings are left over from the British colonial era and the friendly attitude of strangers makes you feel like you’re living in the past.
We were offered so much help and generosity with nothing asked for in return that it left us suspicious at first! We realized that the Burmese wanted to befriend us, talk to us, eat with us, learn about Canada, and teach us about their country without any sales pitch or expectations. We were grateful to be able to let our guard down and make genuine connections with people.
As the plane began it’s decent we started seeing scattered golden dots before we could make out any roads or houses. These are the many temples that are frequented by the faithful population, the biggest and most important to the buddhists is the Shwedagon Pagoda. It contains relics of the past four Buddhas enshrined within: the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Konagamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa and eight stands of hair from Gautama, the historical buddha. (Thanks wikipedia).
The circle train in Yangon circles the city transporting rural commuters to the city. For us it was a chance to see the countryside outside of Yangon. The people coming on and off the train were just as interesting as the landscape. Even more fun was sticking your head out the window at a stop and trying to buy a snack.