Monday, February 27, 2006

Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar)

Rangoon, Burma (Yangon, Myanmar) is run by a military establishment which has imprisoned its political opponents. Because of severe economic sanctions led by the United States and Great Britain - there is limited economic opportunity for the common person to make a living.

A typical street scene in the capitol. Surprisingly, the streets are wide, clean and quiet. I'm told the smooth, main road from the airport to the city center was an aid project by the Japanese.

Trader's Hotel 223 Sule Pagoda Rd Tel: (95-1) 242-828 Singapore invests a lot in this country. You could stay at the Shangri-La's Trader's Hotel which is centrally located, luxurious and has friendly staff. The staff can easily remember you by name. Morning breakfast is like any other hotel - served in the lobby restaurant. But it feels nicer than other places - and one can enjoy the picture windows and see the locals walk to work. (Gas is expensive and rationed.)

Schwedagon Pagoda is 100 metres high and the largest and most sacred Buddhist site in the country. It's believed to be 2,500 years old and topped with stolen gold which they stripped off Thai Buddhist pagodas and statues from the ancient Thai capitol of Ayutthaya. The Thais are still mad at this pillaging of their capitol.

If you go to the temple, don't be shocked or upset that they'll guide you to the international tourist area (go through the parking lot) and into the main hall. Just pay your $5 and some extra for the mandatory guide. Then leave your shoes and head upward via the elevator for your tour. It's actually worth the money to get this V.I.P. treatment and learn about the site.

Bogyoke Aung San Market (Scotts Market) Open Daily 0930-1630 (Closed MON) built in the 1930s by the British and just down the street from Trader's Hotel is a few blocks of old-style buildings and a large market building to buy souveniers and gems. There are three shops that I particularly liked: a.) U Maung Gyi Myanma Lacquer-Ware & Tapestry No. 1-2, Eastern (C) Block is a small narrow shop for buying lacquerware - they'll bargain if you buy a lot and they even threw in a free car ride back to the hotel, b.) a shop on the left side of the small street closest to the pedestrian walkway - sells home-made black velvet dress slippers, c.) U Kyaw Win Academy Optico No. 140/141, West Block, Bogyoke Aung San Market, Tel: 252-071 - eyeglass shop way in the back where you can get your custom lenses and store frames ready the next day. Mid-20s gets you plastic-framed prescription sunglasses and high-20s gets metal Japanese frames.

Besides seeing the big pagoda and shopping area - most people move straight onward to the northern city of Mandalay. The best souveniers include home-made black felt dress slippers, lacquerware, teak woodcarvings and jade.

There are expensive direct flights from Bangkok. One will most definently need a visa before arrival. This country is not on the A-List for tourism. Once things open, people will see the incredible Buddhist heritage on par with Cambodia's Angkor Wat or Indonesia's Borobudur. Minority religions include Christian hilltribes (American Baptist missionaries) and Muslims.

  • Does anyone know how to fix this to make the picture show on Planet Malaysia?

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