Thursday, November 29, 2012

Yangon a minute

If you arrived in Bangkok and found your illusions of technologically backwards Asia cruelly shattered by the ubiquity of smartphones, head to the Myanmar embassy and arrange your visa pronto, as visiting this emerging travel destination is really like stepping back in time. Specifically to about 1986, judging by some of the nostalgic Toyotas trundling along the dusty roads.

Yangon is where most flights go to, and with its mixture of painstakingly maintained government parks and appallingly run-down public buildings it gives a fair overview of this slightly mad country. You might know it as Rangoon if you're more than 100 years old or the sort of stubborn pedant who refuses to acknowledge that names change and still insists on calling Myanmar 'Burma,' Starburst 'Opal Fruits' and people with darker skin than you 'coloureds.'

There's something very distinctive about Yangon though, and it took me most of the first day to realise what it was. There are no motorbikes here. There aren't even any bicycles, apparently due to a government initiative to reduce congestion that seems to have targeted precisely the wrong end of the spectrum. After going back and forth to Hanoi a few times the previous month, where cacophonous bikes are standard issue, this was a welcome shock.


Sule Paya, inconveniently sprouting on a roundabout in the middle of the city. Most of these golden stupas look pretty much identical from outside as in, so there's really no need to pay two dollars to the government for the privilege of walking around in a tight circle and burning the soles of your feet on the sun-baked tiles. I wouldn't make that mistake again

So here's Botataung Paya from over a wall

Another pagoda. I had its name, but I lost the map. It could be any one, really. There's no reason to waste your time or my dwindling image storage space showing you another one of these, except the pedantic need to be thorough. And look, it's got lots of pigeons on it


Mahabandoola Garden. They also have the nerve to charge 500 kyat (about 37p) to enter a park that isn't even finished and see this thing from slightly closer

Some pleasing red colonial building, reminiscent of Malacca. But like in Colombo, Sri Lanka, I was too busy trying not to get run over to ask questions

Yangon River itself was pretty unspectacular, but I enjoyed the unpleasant mudskippers

I can't work out whether this is a satire by the government of health and safety gone mad, or if they're actually just nuts

Kandawgyi Lake

This pleasant park next to the zoo is insultingly well maintained, considering the state of roads, pavements and pretty much everything that doesn't directly benefit the government in this city. Still, it was nice for a stroll. Until you get to the end of the wooden walkway and find out you need to buy another ticket to access the next bit, so sulk off back to your hotel instead.

Replica Karaweik boat (probably a fancy restaurant or something) and a diddy temple

This is the weirdest temple I've been to in this country, in a good way

I don't know what's stranger: that he's got six legs, two arses and one eye, or that they've painted him like a Caucasian person.

It's the first one, isn't it?

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