On Saturday Zoe (the middle school principle), along with a few other returning staff, led our group of new teachers on a walking tour of downtown Yangon. We spent five hours traipsing around the busy streets of the largest city area in Myanmar. We started at what used to be Trader’s Hotel, one of the highest end hotels in the country, we walked down for a view of Sule Pagoda which is in the center of the city in the middle of a round-about. Turning down another road, Zoe pointed out many of the government buildings and important places including the independence monument (a symbol of Myanmar’s independence from the British).
With the country just recently opened, it is under constant construction on every corner. Literally everywhere you look there is something under construction. Here is one site we came across.
It was such a fascinating walk with so much to see around ever corner.
We came across a few stalls that were selling books which seemed kind of strange. Zoe explained that when the country was closed there was strict control over reading material of all sorts. Now that it is open and the regulations are majorly loosened, the people love to read. It is a privilege to them. So they copy books and prints hundreds of more of them (they certainly don't follow copyright laws here) then sell them at low rates so everyone can afford to read.
There were so many fantastic buildings, bunches of them left over from the time of the British rule of the country. All of them crumbling, peeling, cracking, and covered with vines and/or mold from the tropical climate.
We passed many embassies on the way to The Strand Hotel, another high-class establishment, where we rested our feet and viewed the fabulous art gallery.
Crossing several busy lanes of traffic we passed through a small wet market on our way to the riverside. Zoe showed us where we can take the ferry over to another town across the river.
Only staying near the river for a few minutes we continued through the busy Yangon. There was so much to see! At one point we saw a group of men playing some sort of game on the street. After I had snapped a photo they asked others to please not take any photos so I am lucky to have this one.
We also saw a couple "pay phones." If people want to make calls but don't have a phone they can find one of these stalls where the ladies will let you make a call for a price. These are regular house hold phones that are attached to landlines that run all the way from the street to a nearby building.
There were plenty of stalls selling all sorts of things to eat. From snacks in the form of bagged chips and what not to fried food to meat on sticks that you put in boiling broth to cook.
We meandered through the streets for quite a long while more until we came to the Indian Spice Market (I believe the true name for this is Theingyi Zay Market). It had many tiny entrances all along the walls between stalls selling all sorts of goods, I wouldn’t have even noticed how to get in if they hadn’t pointed it out. The inside of this market was pure madness. It was so cramped and had so many people in it I have no idea how people manage their way around. I barley made my way in before turning back around to come out. Kim had a similar experience went into find the spices with Sharon. It is very overwhelming being around so many people.
I had been carrying around little K who is about two years old and it is amazing how much the locals just LOVED him! Almost everyone we walked by, especially women, would gawk and smile at him. He was given many small gifts, a banana, a flower, a fruit, along with multiple people asking to hold him. Whenever we passed someone who was close enough, which was all the time, they would touch him or squeeze his cheeks. We even got our picture taken. It was a strange experience and I was very glad that he didn’t mind it because otherwise it could have been awful for him. We enjoyed looking at the produce and other foods for sale outside of the market.
After the Indian Spice Market we traveled another twenty minutes or so to Bogyoke Aung San Market. This is probably the second biggest tourist attraction in Yangon (second only to Shwedegon Pagoda). It is a huge exotic place that sprawls over a couple levels and a large area of land. Defiantly designed for tourists it has a huge expanse of shops that include high-end jewelry stores, many shops to buy fabric to be made into clothing, and so many souvenir shops including lacquer ware, shoulder bags, puppets, slippers, gems, and t-shirts. We probably won’t be returning to this market anytime soon because it had a strong commercial feel to it. Plus there were more touts here than anywhere else we had seen in the city (a tout is someone who persistently tries to get you to buy their product – they many follow you around pushing their merchandise in your face for a long period of time and are very annoying).
Right around the corner from Bogyoke we found a phenomenal Shan Noodle shop where we both had a bowl of Shan Noodles that were amazing! We also shared some dumplings that were simply to die for along with some fresh mango juice and fried tofu (that Kim especially enjoyed)! Here, drool over some pictures of the deliciousness:
We were very thankful for Zoe and the others to show us around town but it was an exhausting and over-stimulating experience. I’m glad we kind of have the lay of the land down and we will defiantly go downtown another weekend soon so we can have a (hopefully) more relaxed time getting to know the area.
Alisa & Kim
Two expats living, teaching, and eating their way across this beautiful world