Saturday, July 13, 2013

Back to Yangon, Myanmar

I arrived back at the Yangon bus station. It was crowded in the early morning and I was thankful that taxis were waiting to take me to the city.  I had planned to go on to the Mon State in southeastern Myanmar but I was tired form being sick. My body decided it needed to rest and recuperate. So, I was staying in Yangon until my flight back to Bangkok. 

I had a few things on my list I still wanted to see in Yangon.
  1. A day trip to Dala Island
  2. Evening at Shwedagon Pagoda
  3. Kandawgyi Park
  4. Fortune telling at Sule Pagoda
After checking in to the hotel, I was going for a good meal. I was excited to have food that I knew would be safe. I had been sick too many days in Myanmar. It was not a surprise, I was expecting it. Everyone seemed to have a few incidents with food poisoning.  After a delicious and quick lunch, I headed towards Dala Island when a monsoon rain started. I turned around and decided to go to the National Museum for a break from the rain. The only thing I wanted to see was the Golden Lion throne. It was magnificent. It was one of nine thrones and the only one to survive the WWII bombings. Unfortunately, the museum confiscates all of your belongings at the entry so no pictures (if you are interested ). The throne was enormous and opulent compared to the thrones of the European kings. I would describe it as a staircase and doorway rather than a throne. It is easy to see how intimidated people were when they visited the king. The museum has an interesting selection of musical instruments, sculptures and clothing from the royalty. I also liked the royal slippers encrusted with diamonds and jewels.  I suspect  Aladdin would have been envious of them too!  After I had toured most of the museum, I came back down to take another look and I met an archaeologist that was working at the museum. He took me in and pointed out some things I did not notice and he answered my questions. As we talked, he asked where I was going next. I asked if he had any suggestions. He suggested General Aung San's museum. He wrote down the name in Burmese and found me a taxi.

 The General Aung San Museum is located in his previous residence. The museum was not very good. It is basically a tour of the home where he lived with his family. I was told the building in Yangon where he was assassinated will be made into a museum in his honor also. I hope that it tells more about his life and explain to tourists why the Burmese consider him the father of Burma. This museum gave very little information. General Aung San is responsible for bringing Burma's independence from Britain but he was assassinated 6 months before independence. During my travels I saw his picture hanging in the homes and businesses throughout the country. His daughter, Aung San Suu Kyi has followed in her father's footsteps in Burmese politics in the National League for Democracy (NLD). She was placed under house arrest for 12 years between 1989 until November 2010. The Burmese people are hopeful she will be the next president of Myanmar but it is dependent on the current government. The constitution of Myanmar was actually written to prevent her from becoming president with a clause which prevents anyone with a foreign born spouse or children from becoming president. The world will be watching to see what happens in 2015.

Beautiful park
The rain had topped so I decided to go to Kandawgyi park for a late afternoon walk.  The taxi driver let me off on the east side of the park and I started walking. The park sits below the Shwedagon Pagoda. The view of the pagoda above the lake is beautiful. It started to rain and I grabbed my umbrella and enjoyed the peacefulness of the park in the rain. It was me and the die hard joggers in the park. I had planned to go to Shwedagon Pagoda but not in the rain. I was ready for a hot shower and a good nights sleep.
The Royal boat is now a restaurant.

Shwedagon pagoda at sunset.
The next morning was sunny so, I was headed to Dala Island. I met a woman from New Zealand that wanted to tag along. She had to be back by 4:00 PM for a bus to Bagan. We walked over to the ferry and bought our tickets and hired two young guys to give us a rickshaw ride around the island.

In 2008, Cyclone Nargis hit Dala Island  and killed 138,000 people (government stopped counting at this figure) and left many orphans. The island is a short 10 minute ferry ride from Yangon but seems like a different world.  Men were yelling out locations where the buses were going and women were selling foods. This was the center of activity as people passed between Dala and Yangon. Carla and I followed the young boys to the rickshaws and crawled in. We were off to see the island. The poverty in the community is evident on arrival. They have limited electricity and water sources.
The Burmese people are not bitter in this poverty. They are just looking for a way to support their families. The young men we met were happy to show us their community and teach us about their lives.  Our first stop was an old temple. First we stopped at the bell to hit it three times. Once for health, family and the world. Dong! Dong! Dong!

The boys were excited to show us a monk who died 150 years ago. His body had not decayed. I wasn't sure if it was because people had covered him in gold leaf or there was another reason. The boys told us ten (10) years ago he opened one of his eyes to warn about a coming cyclone. The photographic evidence of this is displayed beside the golden corpse. I really could not tell.

As they cycled us around the island, my rickshaw driver sang Burmese songs. He showed me where they get their water. It was a large lake in the center of town with a short dock. He told me the people use the water for bathing and cooking.  

The water is then stored in these large ceramic pots outside each families home. It is moments like this that I realize I was lucky we are in the USA.  We have poverty, but not to this extent. I never worried about my water sources. I had a roof over my head. I did not have rising water under a bamboo bungalow that was infested with mosquitos. Yet, these boys were happy and had a positive outlook for their future. They hoped tourism would continue and someday they would have $1000 USD to buy their own rickshaw. We stopped for tea and one of the rickshaw drivers wanted to buy me betel nut. My driver told me he was flirting with me and thought I was beautiful. I thanked him for the compliment but said no to the betel nut. I like my teeth and want to keep them. He laughed and shook my hand. We said our goodbyes and paid them for our tour of their island.

We returned to the ferry at the right time. It started to rain....and then the monsoon rain started. As we exited the ferry on the other side, Carla asked if I wanted to go for Indian food. Sure. Why not. We found a taxi that took us to Little India. As we exited the taxi, we were knee deep in water. Yikes! I giggled as I waded through the water. Carla and I both knew that the sidewalks were not in good shape. We shuffled along the sidewalks hoping we did not fall into a hole or twist an ankle. The rain was not letting up and we were trying to walk in knee deep water to find a restaurant someone had recommended. After a half hour, we gave up. We decided to try one with many locals. The food was good and by the time we finished eating, the rain had stopped. We waded back to our hotel in the knee deep water. I took a shower and washed the dirt out of my clothes. Ahhhh! Another night early to bed. I was tired. Then I heard a knock on my door. I opened it and there was Amy, an American girl I had met at breakfast. We had talked about doing a cooking class and she had some information. We decided to walk over to Monsoon for dinner and to sign-up for their cooking class in the morning.
Dinner with Amy was fun. She has traveled and lived in China and Azerbaijan. She had some great suggestions for travel. I shared my experiences in Myanmar and she shared hers in other countries. We signed-up for a 10 am cooking class at Monsoon after enjoying our dinner. We planned to go to Shwedagon Pagoda after dinner but we got so busy talking we lost track of time and missed it. It was 10:30 PM and we were tired. We would meet up for breakfast in the morning before class.

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