It’s time to catch up and move on to posting about Thailand , but I still have many more little things to share about Yangon. Here are some thoughts and highlights:
In a confusingly anachronistic, Vegasy way, the Buddhas at each of the compass points in Sule pagoda had bright chasing lights radiating out from their heads like some odd cross between halos and Christmas and pinball machines all mixed together. Very eye-catching, but it sort of detracted from the traditional and reverent feeling I associate with ancient places of worship.
Another aspect of the day that stood out was watching the worshippers toss cups of water or hand-bathe a different set of smaller idols throughout the paya. I later saw a photo of Hillary Clinton doing the honors, as well. The statue you wash/worship is connected with your day of birth. I like that the day has importance in this religion.
The only meaning I have for my day of birth is the old British rhyme, “Monday’s child is fair of face…”
Less happy was encountering the women selling birds outside the pagoda. Tiny little finch-like birds were packed into a basket, which the women would roughly plunge their hands into to grab a bird and thrust it at you to purchase. Essentially, you got to buy the bird’s freedom as a good deed. They broke my heart, so I bought one and let it go immediately. I’ve read about people buying every bird in the basket and setting them all free, but the catch is that you’re just rewarding the evil bird lady, who will pocket the cash and immediately procure more birds to sell the next morning. Or possibly only 10 minutes later, which is what we realized when we walked a block away, and passed a frantically cheeping crate filled with these poor little things packed much more densely than in the basket.
We took a local train trip and made it into a tourist attraction for ourselves. There’s a 3 hour circular route around the city- the journey just takes you in a wide loop, and comes right back to the central station.
Three hours is a long time to sit on a hard wooden bench, but the exposure to greater Myanmar is priceless. Even though it’s technically a “city” train, it’s not long before you feel like you’re out in the country and seeing little villages on the outskirts of the tracks’ range. Those views are quite different from the center of Yangon, and make you realize anew that the city is not really representative of the country as a whole. The train itself is pretty interesting, too. It felt really rustic and sort of like I’d imagine a cattle car might be.
The interior of the train car was filthy, and people kept bringing on things like large cartons of eggs and crates of vegetables, so the flies were a bit of a challenge for a while. But mainly, we were really struck by the daily life of those around us, and the living conditions visible from the train tracks. When you show up in a city, you can be fooled into thinking a place is more modern/urban than it really is.
Remember my post on the sidewalks in Ubud, Indonesia? Well, Yangon’s not much different. And when it rains, you suddenly discover the reasoning behind all the little bits of brick and concrete that are laid out like stepping stones in front of each high curb. They are the only thing that will get you dryly over the moat that forms during the storms. I love how the dog is watching Kim traverse the lake in the second photo…
…now stay tuned for reports of our Thailand adventures!