Yangon, Nov 2018

Myanmar

Color-wise, it's the golden pagodas, aroma-wise, it's the betel-nut juice that imprints Yangon on our heart.

Shwedagon Pagoda

We felt small but peaceful under these majestic stupas that dominate this city's skyline.


I took a short trip to Yangon to conclude a good year of 2018. For kind of getaway trips, usually it’s for people to recharge their battery after long hours of working, and resorts should be the ideal. As I see it, it’s like a dramatic spying mission, you come and go like the wind, but memories have always been there without dwindling. Every second is worth treasured, every footstep unveils a surprise.

A City Wanderer

Between calm…

A Street Vendor
A Street Vendor

We should all expect that we would see women in Myanmar had their faces covered in thanaka paste, people wearing vibrant longyi unhurriedly walked on the street to fill their bags of groceries. Some sat and enjoyed their sip of traditional tea in a good morning. What I can be so assured is that the city preserves its untouched beauty and not inundated with swarms of tourists blocking the precious views.

Corners of the City Corners of the City
Corners of the City

Monks are also noticeable on the street, along with Muslim women wearing hijab and Indian guys roaming around. The Christian churches are pretty, too, resulted from the popularization of Christian in Myanmar in early 20th century.

Tones of Culture and Religion Tones of Culture and Religion Tones of Culture and Religion Tones of Culture and Religion
Tones of Culture and Religion

Myanmar people walks a lot (and drives a lot as well). Not kind of businessman-in-suit dashing through Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, and that should be a well-fit ingredient added to this calm living pace.

Thanaka and Longyi
Thanaka and Longyi
Sule Pagoda Road Crossover
Sule Pagoda Road Crossover

…and chaotic

Chaotic in a positive way. Streets in Yangon are flocked and jammed with cars, but somehow people still figure out how to advance their odometers. Cars in Myanmar are usually the old imported ones, but this landscape may change in the next years.

A Traffic Jam
A Traffic Jam

Second, the pigeon conglomeration. It’s interesting to watch them from afar whenever someone pokes into their crowd, but you should not be that poker himself.

Pigeon Conglomeration

A Distinctive Urban

Sule Pagoda
Sule Pagoda

Needless to mention that we found peace whenever observing sunset in Yangon, especially with a pagoda backdrop. However, the integral parts that constitute the uniqueness of this city are not limited to religious landmarks. Get lost in the streets overwhelmed with colorfully painted buildings, sky-blue parabolic antennas and tangled electrical wires all over the place.

The Tangle
The Tangle

As if the city has just been waken up after a long sleep.

Colorful Walls
Colorful Walls

Other than that, the city is highly planned, with large areas spared for public recreation such as parks, lakes and squares. Old buildings still maintain the charm of British colonial architectural style, sometimes in disrepair, perhaps due to a long period of country isolation.

Remains of a Golden Time
Remains of a Golden Time
AYA Bank near Sule Pagoda
AYA Bank near Sule Pagoda
An Intersection
An Intersection
Sunset over Modern Buildings
Sunset over Modern Buildings
Maha Bandula Park
Maha Bandula Park

How a city is thriving is reflected in its nightlife, the time after dusk, when we bump into neon flashes, long weaving traces of taillights, and silhouettes of hurrying people.

A Man Dashing through a Busy Street
A Man Dashing through a Busy Street
Street Food at Night
Street Food at Night
Traces of Taillights
Traces of Taillights

Chinatown

The Chinatown of Yangon, located to the west of Sule Pagoda, is constituted from several bursting streets, with 19th Street is the main center. Pretty similar to the old town streets nearby, Chinatown bears some significant features making it stand out, such as Chinese temple and Georgian Colonial doors, similar to ones in Singapore or Malaysia.

Georgian Colonial Style
Georgian Colonial Style
Traditional Chinese Medicine Shop
Traditional Chinese Medicine Shop
Busy Market
Busy Market
Guanyin Gumiao Temple
Guanyin Gumiao Temple

Yangon Circular Train

The Yangon Circular Railway may be the most effortless way to explore the whole picture of Yangon, from the crowded central quarter to the vibrant suburb up north. The system was built back from British colonial time (with coaches are being subsidized by Japan, sometimes you can see printed boards in Japanese), not very fast and comfortable yet sizzling hot without air conditioners actually, the journey is indeed worthy for any backpacker not seeking a sumptuous vacation.

Inside the Train

Doing what a local does, I bought the ticket for 200 Kyats each trip, which was a real bargain to spectate how life was going on there. Coaches were resembling mini markets where people earned their living by bringing harvest downtown.

A Train Journey A Train Journey A Train Journey A Train Journey
A Train Journey
Yangon Rush Hour

Shwedagon Pagoda

I bet most of the cover pictures of Yangon in any brochure will depict the grandeur of Shwedagon Pagoda, presumably the oldest Buddhist stupa in the world, and the highest landmark dominating the city skyline.

Under the Magnificent
Under the Magnificent
Stupas in the Complex
Stupas in the Complex

People are required to take off their shoes before entering this sacred site, hence early morning and late afternoon will be the most suitable time. I was visiting the pagoda at sunset, when thousands of candles were lighted up, pilgrims circumambulated in the ambience of Buddhist chants, displaying a great dance of scent, sight and sound.

A Religious Scene A Religious Scene
A Religious Scene
Festival of Lights
Festival of Lights

You can take a walk to Kandawgyi Lake to have a panoramic view of Shwedagon Pagoda too.

Shwedagon Pagoda from Kandawgyi Lake
Shwedagon Pagoda from Kandawgyi Lake

Although it’s a bit off-topic, I would recommend you visit Karaweik Palace by the lake, a landmark that appears as popular as other Yangon pagodas in travel guides. Guess what, it’s not any sacred site, just simply a restaurant to fill your stomach with delicious Myanmar food, such as tea leaf salad, mohinga or Shan noodles.

Karaweik Palace
Karaweik Palace

Myanmar is a place of cultural fusion and harmony, temporally and geographically. Set yourself free, and dare to take minor risks to explore that uniqueness, while not worrying about safety for their tranquillity.

Street Finger Food

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This post is a part of the Myanmar series.

Written in Jan, 2021 © Zuyet Awarmatik.

About

Zuyet Awarmatrip is a subsidiary identity within the personal ecosystem of Zuyet Awarmatik, focusing on travel and photography.

A Vietnamese currently and not permanently based in Singapore, he usually regards himself as a carefree solo Eastern backpacker, alongside with his main profession as a UX designer & developer. His photos shall always deliver the colorfulness of this worldly reality, rather than monotony and cheerlessness.

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