Just from pronouncing the word Yangon, I felt it was a place that I wanted to visit. Yangon; there’s a twang to it that subtly implies that it will provide an authentic venture into South East Asian culture. Myanmar is a country that has yet to overly succumb to the western influence of tourism and as a result a visit here provides you with a very unique experience.
Arriving from the airport our taxi driver spent over an hour trying to locate the street of our hotel, he spoke little English but tried his utmost to ensure we reached the correct location. The city seemed calmer, less congested with clearer air than Bangkok; in the darkness you could still see the stars.
The dimly lit narrow street was transformed by the following morning, layers of aged apartments with narrow wooden doors and minute balconies towered above each side. The paint on the doors was faded, clothes hung from self made lines and plants grew from amongst the concrete.
Street level was coming alive, locals had stalls outside their homes with giant sized woks cooking noodles and offering shade to sit and eat. Children scuttled amongst the by passers and I watched young monks visit businesses with large metal bowls. Each business would give the monks an offering of food or money, but mostly just simply rice.
As we approached another street corner, the stalls had now changed. There were nails, drill bits, screwdrivers, vice and many other mechanical devices. All laid out along the street, already used and ready to sell again, an open air market creating the mechanics dream.
Then there was the food market, colourful and diverse. Different fruits and vegetables placed symmetrically in piles along the road with their sellers sat amongst them. I couldn’t help but notice that the size of the fruit and vegetables was much smaller to what we are used to in the western world. I came to the conclusion that this was because the internal raw food here in Asia is grown more organically, there are no genetically modified chemicals used to speed the process or increase the size. The taste is also much better, fresher and sweeter.
Later that day we visited the Shwedagon Pagoda. Iconic, golden and peaceful the monument signifies the importance of Buddhism within this region. The name Buddhism comes from the word ‘budhi’ which means to ‘wake up’ and thus Buddhism is the philosophy of awakening. The more time I spend in Asia, the clearer the importance and relevance of this philosophy becomes. At this decisive time in the history of mankind, I think it is fair to say that we in the West can learn from the wisdom of those in the East. We have conquered ways in retrieving information but have yet gained the wisdom to utilise such knowledge in a beneficial way for the world. We are hungry in the West for what the East has in abundance.
(sorry about lack of pictures, internet connection is limited here!)