Today was our first day in Yangon after arriving late last night (2 hours delay of our flight from Kuala Lumpur). We had high expectations about what we might see, and most of them were actually met!
We started off by walking around Downtown Yangon, with our first stop being Musmeach Yeshua Synagogue that turned out to be just a few minutes walk from our hotel on 22nd street. We confirmed the time for lighting the 4th Hannukah candle, and continued our tour. Next we visited the Sule Pagoda, which is pretty much the center of the city. It is situated on a large roundabout with a lot of traffic, so it is quite loud and noisy, nevertheless, the beauty of the pagoda makes you forget about all the traffic. It is also surrounded by beautiful architecture buildings, including the Yangon City Hall, Immanuel Baptist Church, AYA Bank, and the Maha Bandula Park. Standing at the center of the Maha Bandula Park, next to the independence monument, you can see all the main sites from one spot. It is a great place to take pictures of all the surrounding buildings.
We then headed over to the Bogoyoke Aung San Market, which is right in front of the Junction City (mega) mall. The market was quite vibrant and busy, with stalls selling anything from fabric, to jewellery, to paintings and wooden sculptures, to traditional cigars. We did not try the cigars as they looked weird, but it did seem to be a popular item on sale in the market.
After looking around a bit, we found a small food court for locals behind Juice Time cafe were we decided to eat. It was definitely an experience eating there! The place was loud! And we are used to Asian markets and noise, but this place was quite overwhelming. The waitress had six or seven different menu cards, and tried explaining us all the dishes available. We chose for some Burmese chicken curry with rice and dry chicken Wan Ton with a fresh lemon juice to wash it all down. We gave our orders to the second or third waitress (they kept switching!). Our orders went flying through the hall, our waitress yelling the names of our dishes, and cooks at different stalls yelling the same back in confirmation that they received the order. We got our food quite quickly. It was not amazing food, but it was not bad either. But the lemonade… that was a tough one! For some reason it was salty! It was really quite a battle to drink it, but I persevered by hoping to get some vital vitamins from it (Anastasia had already quickly given up on hers).
During the food, we had one monk kid girl after another coming to sing us a very short song and asking for a money reward. We tried to ask around if there is some special holiday or if the young monks always did this. We gathered that it is one day a week when they go around collecting money and sing short songs. Later we heard that there are some scams to watch out for, so eventually we still don’t know whether we were tricked or if our money is genuinely being used for a good cause.
Later in the afternoon we walked (25-30 minutes) to the Shwedagon Pagoda. We stumbled upon the Maha Wizaya Pagoda, which is a very beautiful temple. It was much quieter there than in the main pagodas and we could enter it for free. It is an amazing site if you are seeing one of the golden pagodas for the first time. The Shwedagon Pagoda is very interesting as it has many different sculptures and paintings all over the place. You can spend a good amount of time exploring it, and climbing up the stairs to it. But bare in mind that there is an entrance fee. We decided to skip the 5000 Kyats p.p. entrance fee and just watch the sunset from the hill with the golden Pagoda shimmering behind us. We would definitely recommend this view as the colors of the pagoda are constantly changing with the sun setting.
We closed off the day by eating some very nice Indian food at Nilar Biryani & Cold Drink on Anwarchta road.