Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Burma -- golden paradise; Part 1: Rangoon

I traveled to the beautiful country of Burma/Myanmar last month on a much needed vacation.  My overall impressions of Myanmar are as follows:
  1. The nicest people on the planet live in Burma.  We are talking about people who will walk with you for 30 minutes to help you find the right bus with no follow-up expectations.  Just because they have the time and they want to be helpful.  
  2. Gold is a theme -- temples are covered in gold leaf, women and children paint their faces with a sandlewood paste that is golden, the dirt when not red is golden.  
  3. There is a deforestation problem.  If you want a really good example of why wood-burning cookstoves are a problem, go to Myanmar.  I'm not saying this as a rich, I know better than you foreigner; I'm seriously concerned for people's health in regards to all the smoke inhalation happening and their general air quality.
  4. Politically they are not out of the woods, but people are generally optimistic about their futures.
  5. Traveling in Burma/Myanmar is like going back in time to an era with no computers, no cell phones, and few motorized vehicles. 
  6. But it does not mean traveling to a time when women were mistreated.  There seemed to be a general equality happening.  The exception was at the temples, which I found odd.
  7. Cows in Myanmar have a great fear of tourists.  Terrified of us in general.
  8. This should be a wealthy country.  The amount of natural resources is astounding. 
  9. Burmese salads rock!  But the Burmese idea of what coffee should taste like is a bit disturbing.
  10. All restaurants/cafes give you unlimited free green tea.  I would like this adopted by all restaurants everywhere (except maybe a caffeine-free variety after  4p.m.).
I arrived in Yangon.  I wasn't terribly ambitious regarding photography upon arrival.  We wandered the markets and went to see the Shwedagon Paya, the most sacred Buddhist temple in Burma.  It is quite stunning.  And we stayed near the Sule Paya, sight of great protests in 1988 and 2007 and home to the city's exciting markets.

This is Sule...

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And these are from Shwedagon Paya...

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There are seven small Buddhas that people "bathe;" one for each day of the week -- you bathe the Buddha that corresponds with the day of the week that you were born on. We were told by a kind gentleman which day we were born on (as we had no idea) and told to feel free to bathe our Buddha for all are welcome, no matter your belief. We didn't do so, but it was nice to know we were allowed.

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The area around Shwedagon is a mix of Disney-like kitsch and over-priced parks (over-priced because I don't believe in charging people for open space, even when it is lovely)...

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