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Saturday, April 27, 2013

What to See in Downtown Yangon

Myanmar Day 2

I started my second day earlier than expected. First thing I did was book a bus ticket to Bagan for that night. The inn's bus company partners were all fully booked, so I had to go to Aung San Stadium to buy my own ticket directly. The receptionist told me to hurry up because the tickets were selling out pretty fast because it was the start of Myanmar's school holiday.

my typical breakfast in Myanmar :)

After getting my bus ticket, I asked my very nice taxi driver (who patiently waited for me with a smile) to just bring me to Sule Paya next. I started exploring Yangon from there that day.

Sule Paya

Sule Paya or Pagoda is located in the center of downtown Yangon. They say it was even older than the grandiose Shwedagon Paya. According to the legends, it used to be the site where meetings about the planning of building the Shwedagon occured.

Sule Paya

It is unique from the other pagodas because of its octagonal shape. It also enshrines a hair relic of a Buddha. It is a famous landmark in downtown Yangon. It's just a small temple. You can go around in a matter of 2-3 minutes.

a planetary post

It also played a significant role in Burmese history. This was the meeting point of the pro-democracy and anti-government uprisings during 1988 and 2007. But it had also been the first place to witness the inhumane treatment of the Burmese government to the protesters. :(

a man in deep prayer

I encountered an annoying old man here. He keeps insisting that he is a religious teacher and kept asking me if I know what that means. I said yes but politely declined to let him go further. I wasn't interested to get any tourist assistance because the temple is so miniscule that paying a guide fee would not be worth it. I've read about it. There would be people in the temples who will initially show you kindness then later on charge you with a specific amount of money. The man got agitated when I refused two or three times. That only means that he was really up to something. He wasn't doing it because he is religious. I also got pissed that I decided to leave the pagoda.

Sule Paya from the outside

You can reach Sule Paya through four entrances. Entrance Fee is USD 2.00.

Independence Monument

Just across the street, you can see the Independence Monument from Sule Paya. It stood in the middle of Mahabandoola Park.

Independence Monument

It was built in commemoration of the Burmese Independence from the British colony in 1948. Entrance Fee to the park is MMK 500 (kyats).

for the birds :)

I saw these tied to the fence around the park. Bunch of rice grains which were intentionally put in there for the birds to eat. I love the thought that they care so much about the animals to feed them. :)

Colonial Period Structures

I never thought there are numerous colonial buildings in this city. I was actually astounded as I walked around downtown and saw these beautiful old structures. Apparently, Yangon has the most number of colonial era buildings in South East Asia.

The constructions of these buildings began when the British invaded Lower Burma during the Anglo-Burmese War back in 1852. They were also the ones responsible for the grid layout of the city.

Yangon City Hall

The Brits transformed Yangon in to a commercial hub. It became a flourishing city after 40 years. They also started building hospitals and schools. It became the capital of British Burma after seizing Upper Burma as well.

Yangon High Court

the back of High Court Building

Downtown Yangon is still majorly composed of these deteriorating colonial buildings. Some of them are even residential. The cheapest place I stayed at, is in fact in one of those very old buildings.

Yangon City Government formed a committee to protect these heritage buildings. They came up with Yangon City Heritage List wherein all listed structures can not be modified nor deconstructed without their permission.

I didn't get the names of the other buildings I took photos of. I don't want to put incorrect info here, so I am leaving them unlabeled. If anyone of you knew which buildings are these, kindly let me know so I can update this blog. :)

Government Telegraph Office

Only a few skyscrapers can be seen in this city unlike in other SEA cities. The heritage structures still largely dominate the capital. I only saw a few bank and hotel high-rise buildings.

Bengali Sunni Jameh Mosque

Those were the scenes I captured at the downtown area. Yangon is a very interesting city.

Another important site there is the Bogyoke Aung San Market. It is also colonial in architecture, built during the British occupation. It is where you'll find awesome Myanmar souvenirs. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of it. I always get excited when it comes to markets and shopping haha! I was so busy checking out cute stuff that I already forgot to take pictures. Sorry folks, I'm a girl after all. :)

Yangon is still far different from other Asian capital cities. Exploring it made me feel like I time traveled. There are no big shopping malls. The first one just opened a few months before I went there, but I didn't check it out. I saw a few movie theaters, but the movies being shown are so outdated. I've seen old Chinese action movies on the posters. I think everything is still highly regulated by the military government. I was not enticed to try the street food. I'm not a germaphobe or anything, it's just that, they don't look clean enough for me to try it. There are a lot more other things I can think of why this city is so different. It may not be as progressive as the other cities I've been to, but it has its own unique charm. Undeniably, I liked it for that.

“Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it.” ~Eudora Welty

This is Part 2 of my Myanmar travel series.

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